Why Two or Three Does Not Constitute a Church

"Christ is in the midst of us when two or three are gathered together."

Evidently these verses have absolutely nothing to do with what constitutes a church. It has nothing to do with the minimum number of people required to be a church and nothing to do with whether you have a church based on the number of people at any given meeting. The context has everything to do with church discipline and nothing to do with number of people required to make you a viable church.

 

It is a common enough trope around churches to hear somebody throw out the line, ‘where two or three are gathered…’ and go on to insist that two or three people in a room together definitely constitutes a church. I have dealt with the fact that the context of these verses has absolutely nothing to do with what constitutes a church before. You can read those comments here.

But there is a more immediate problem. There is a ground on which we can deny a church exists even without going into the detail of what Matthew 18:19f is talking about. It is what Voddie Baucham calls ‘the common sense problem’.

You see, those verses are explicit that Christ is in the midst of us when two or three are gathered together. Now, if Jesus is in the midst of us when two or three are gathered, we have something of a problem when we get up in the morning and start to pray because Jesus won’t be there! If we legitimately have a church because Christ is in the midst of even two or three, then it follows that Christ will not be there if there is only one of us. And that has huge ramifications for all of us whenever we are on our own.

It gets worse because this causes some problems when it comes to Jesus’ own words at the end of Matthew. When Jesus said, ‘lo, I am with you always even to the end of the age’ (Matthew 28:20). If Jesus is only there when two or three gather, how is he with us even to the end of the age? If Matthew 18:19f means that Christ is present when two or three gather together, Jesus is wrong to say he is with us to the end of the age. He isn’t even with us when we roll out of bed!

But, as we then begin to consider the context, things get worse still. The preceding verses in Matthew 18 tell us, when a brother is in sin, we are to go privately and resolve the problem. If they don’t listen to us, we are to take one or two others along to establish the facts of the matter. Now, if you insist that two gathered together constitutes a church, we are struggling. There is you with your problem, there is your brother against whom you have the problem (my maths makes that two people) and this verse insists you need to take at least a third person with you to establish the facts.

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