“For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them,” so said our Lord. Usually, this passage is cited when a small number of people have gathered for some spiritual purpose. It’s a way of saying that the crowd’s size doesn’t matter because God’s with us, which is true, by the way, but is that what he meant when He said this?
Leading into this passage was Christ’s instructions on handling when a fellow believer had sinned against a person. Jesus gave a three-step process where the first attempt was that the believer goes to the person and attempt to rectify the matter in private. If that step failed, they were to take two or three witnesses to help adjudicate the case. If that failed, the ordeal was to have been brought before the assembly (church). Were the person to ignore the church’s ruling, the offender was to have been excommunicated.
Following this, Jesus said that whatever they bound on earth was bound in heaven. Whatever they loosed on earth was so regarded in heaven. This is a continuation of judicial thought from the previous verses (15–17). Jews then believed that the Jewish high court had the authority on earth of God’s tribunal in heaven so that whatever they did on earth was done with God’s approval. Using His law as their guide, they were His representatives on earth and acted with His authority. The binding and loosing were understood as either imprisoning or releasing.
By the time we get to verse twenty, the two or three referred to the witnesses of 18:16. At a Jewish ex-communication case, a prayer of denunciation was offered for the person who was to be removed from fellowship. Prayer was also provided in the case of one who had repented. In Moses’ Law, the witnesses were first to execute the court’s judgment (Deut. 17:17). Here they are first to pray, so there was a great responsibility upon them. These weren’t always titled people within Israel or the church. However, faithful followers of God took part in this. When Christ says where two or three are gathered, He isn’t speaking about crowd sizes, but either the putting away or receiving back of an erring believer.