Commonly Misused Bible Verses: Matthew 18:19–20

Both Christians and unbelievers are guilty of misusing Bible verses by ripping them from their original context.

This is post #4 in the Commonly Misused Bible Verses series. So far I have commented on 2 Chronicles 7:14 and Jeremiah 29:11. These two verses are often pulled out of their contexts by well-meaning Christians. Matthew 7:1 is a very popular verse for unbelievers to misuse. Click on the links for more information on any of those articles.

For today’s post, I want to take a look at another verse that is frequently misused by well-meaning Christians. Bear in mind that I am not trying to pick on anyone or attack them for misusing these verses. Most of the time they are misused because we have heard someone else misuse them and we’re used to hearing the verse in a particular (but wrong) context, so we repeat the same error. This series is designed to encourage people to take a close look at Scripture before repeating what we’ve heard.

Commonly Misused Bible Verse #4: Matthew 18:19–20

Think about how many times you have heard someone quote or summarize this passage during a prayer or immediately before praying.

“Again I say to you that if two of you agree on earth concerning anything that they ask, it will be done for them by My Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them.” (Matthew 18:19–20, NKJV)

The idea that is commonly promoted is that if there are two or more people gathered together who agree on something, and they ask God for it in prayer, then Jesus will be present and God will answer their request.

If you’ve read any of the other posts in this series, then you know that we need to look at the context to see what is wrong with the way many people use this verse. However, before we do that, can you see some problems with the idea that God will grant the request of those who come together and are in agreement in prayer? First of all, Jesus said “where two or three are gathered” in His name, so how could this apply to settings of four or more? Also, why would it take two or three believers to be gathered together for Jesus to be in their midst? Isn’t He already present in each and every individual believer? So even if one Christian prays, isn’t Jesus already there?

So there are already a couple of problems with the common use of this passage. Now let’s take a look at the context. This section deals with a subject that most churches completely neglect: church discipline. Jesus said that if you have a brother who sins against you, then you need to go to him and try to work it out. If he refuses to acknowledge his fault, then you bring one or two more witnesses to help work things out. So including you, that would make two or three witnesses—recognize that phrase? Not only is it repeated in these verses, but it comes from the Old Testament (Deuteronomy 19:15 and more). Legal cases needed to have two or three witnesses to establish a matter.

Back to Jesus’ story. If the sinning brother did not make things right in the presence of two or three witnesses, then the case was to be brought before the church. If he refused to listen to the church’s decision, then he was to be thrown out of the congregation. I know that sounds harsh in our day because precious few churches practice discipline as Jesus instructed, but that is what we are commanded to do.

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Tim’s latest book is a practical apologetic on the Resurrection of Jesus. See for more details.

It is with this in mind that Jesus said that the Father would grant the request of two or more who gather together in Christ’s name and are in agreement. Agreement on what? On disciplining the erring brother. That’s what this passage is about and yet so many Christians use it as though Jesus promised to answer their prayers when offered in certain situations.

Before I finish this post let me stress what the Bible actually does say about prayer. The Apostle John wrote, “Now this is the confidence we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him” (1 John 5:14–15). John also wrote, “And whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do those things that are pleasing in His sight” (1 John 3:22).

So we can have confidence about God answering our prayers when we are obediently following Him and praying according to His will. If you haven’t experienced answered prayer, then perhaps you aren’t living in obedience and/or praying according to His will (or maybe He did answer it and you didn’t recognize the response because He often answers in ways we don’t expect).


Commonly Misused Bible Verses: Matthew 18:19–20 — 289 Comments

    • Hi Chris,

      That’s interesting. I just tried posting it and it wouldn’t show up. I wonder if someone complained about it because they didn’t agree with it. If so, that’s pretty sad that someone would do that, and it would be quite sad if FB did block it for such a reason since there obviously isn’t anything hateful on here. It could be that someone was sharing it too often so FB just blocked it. I’m not really sure what the deal is. I’ll see if there is a way to contact them about this. Thanks for letting me know.

  1. Tim Chaffey,
    Thank you for the excellent biblical statements on these verses. Unfortunately context is often irrelevant and outrageous doctrines are developed and taught. To think that anything other than church discipline is being spoken of here is to miss the entire point and to attempt to make God more into some type of genie, ie: “okay, lets touch and agree with 2 or 3, say Jesus’ name and he’ll give us ____.” That people are becoming angry at what the texts does say says more about their FEELINGS and desires and what they want to believe rather than what is actually being communicated here. The question asked as to whether you are saved or not is a weak attempt to obscure their own lack of understanding of the verses noted and the bible in general… which is very sad. The next explosive attempt to “correct” you will probably be, “I’ve experienced this and it works.” As if an experience will supersede God’s perfect Word.

  2. Hi Tim,

    Thanks for a couple things: One, for taking the time to explain your thoughts on this verse. I know it is a widely misunderstood and misused verse. I appreciate you sharing your insight on what it means.

    Secondly, I appreciate the grace with which you handle people’s negative comments and attacks. It’s a difficult thing to post ideas online about what you believe about the Bible. It makes it even more difficult when it seems to bring out the worst in people that are supposed to be on the same team.

    Keep learning, growing, posting and sharing, and most of all, keep up the faith and becoming all you can for the Lord!

  3. Hi Pastor Tim. I fully agree with you the importance of understanding the context of a verse. We must just allow the Holy spirit to teach and lead us. If people (children of God) starts to backslide, the first thing they do is to argue against His word, and that is what’s happening to some of those who commented on the explanation of this verse. I like what you are doing, keep up the good work, and keep on exploring the word of God. Also pray that God opens a door for me.

  4. To support Mary’s comment:
    I am a Canadian living in US. I act as a Canadian, I wear a Canada shirt some days, but that is far from acting in the Name of Canada. Same principle in this verse. Consider that a group of my Canadian friends get together – the only basis of getting together is our Canadian identity, and the name Canada may be prominent on our clothes, and we try to tell others about Canada, but we in no way qualify to act in the Name of Canada.
    So to with our verse. Me and a few Christians do not qualify for acting in the Name of Christ, without recognizing the entire Word of God, and so much instruction in it about collective conduct, including the function of the Holy Spirit to act in the assembly.

  5. I agree. It would be best to have a mind like those of the Berean church in Acts and pray for the Holy Spirit to teach and guide us.

  6. It always amazes me how people, even professed Christians can lean on their own understanding and complicate Jesus’ words to for their desires. The scripture Tim is referencing is Jesus saying ” When 2 or 3 or gathering IN MY NAME…”
    Are we at all concerned about what QIALIFIES as in Jesus’ name ? When people called themselves prophesying and casting out demons claiming it was “In Jesus’ name “, did Jesus not say “Depart from me for I do know you ” ? Did Jesus not also say “You cannot call me Lord Lord, but fail to follow my commands ” ? Why is this such a dispute if we are reading the bible in its ENTIRETY ? It is truly sad that as professed Christians, we still have not layed down our own understanding.

    • Hi Nancy,
      While I agree with the danger of the teaching done by some health & wealth folks (“you were not healed because faith was not strong enough”), that is very different than what I wrote. The Bible is very clear that a person’s sin can hinder the effectiveness of their prayers (see Psalm 66:18; Proverbs 28:9; Isaiah 59:2). I didn’t say anything about a person not having enough faith.

  7. Thanks brother for your wisdom. You keep defending the faith! I encourage everyone to read what this brother posts with an open bible. You will see he speaks the truth as it was intended, not what we might want it to say or have been wrongly taught to believe. I often tell people a phrase I borrowed to use 20/20 vision when reading the scriptures. Read the 20 verses before and after the passage in question to make sure they have the proper context.
    Philippians 4:13 is another familiar misused passage of scripture. I can do all things through Christ (really) all things? Read the 3 verses before and you will see the context of what Paul was speaking. Remember, a scripture out of its proper context is a pretext for what ever we want it to say.

  8. You sir don’t know God the way I do. The Bible is clear that When two or more pray in His name that prayer will be answered. To say someone is disobedient if their prayer has not been answered Is FOOLISH. the Bible has stories where people went CONSTANTLY to ask for help. Some didn’t even have complete faith as the msn who’s don needed healing from demons. “Lord I believe help me in my unbelief”. The women Who bothered the judge. The man who kept knocking on his friends door. All these show that sometimes it takes God a while to answer our prayers. THE BIBLE SAYS KEEP ON ASKING. KEEP KNOCKING ON GODS DOOR. I FIND your way of interpretation of Gods word just that. YOUR INTERPRETATION. I AM SO GLAD YOU ARE NOT MY PASTOR.

    • Hi Sue,
      Thanks for taking the time to read the post and comment. However, I think you may have misunderstood the post and your comments are rather over the top. So you disagree with something that I’ve said, and suddenly that means that I can’t know God the way you do, and that I would make a bad pastor. I don’t know enough about you to know if I’d even want to be your pastor, but based on your comment alone, I certainly wouldn’t want to deal with this kind of attitude whenever someone disagreed with something I said. That being said, let’s see if what I said matches Scripture or if you even accurately described what I said.
      Here’s what I wrote: “If you haven’t experienced answered prayer, then perhaps you aren’t living in obedience and/or praying according to His will (or maybe He did answer it and you didn’t recognize the response because He often answers in ways we don’t expect)” (bold added). I didn’t say that God will never answer the prayer of a person who is disobedient. I said that if you aren’t experiencing answered prayer, then “perhaps” the reason is that you aren’t living in obedience to God. This is entirely biblical, so it was foolish of you to falsely accuse me of teaching something different. Take a look at the following verses:
      “If I had cherished iniquity in my heart, the Lord would not have listened” (Psalm 66:18).
      “If one turns away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer is an abomination” (Proverbs 28:9).
      “But your iniquities have separated you from your God; and your sins have hidden His face from you, so that He will not hear” (Isaiah 59:2).
      These are just a few of the many passages that speak of this concept. Your examples of people being persistent in their prayers and requests do not negate what I’ve said. Both are true. Yes, God wants us to be persistent in our prayers, and He also wants us to be obedient. There is no contradiction here. Yes, sometimes God’s answer to our prayers is, “Wait.” My final sentence was not intended to be an exhaustive list of reasons why we may not experience answered prayer.

      • Pastor, altho I see She’s comment appears combative toward you, I truly wished you hadn’t entered the perceived combat with such defensiveness, it was unbecoming of one imparting knowledge to others.

        Nonetheless, I wanted to ask about the scripture you quote in your defensive response. I notice it is all OT Law, yet we are discussing NT whereas Christ has been made our sacrifice to God so we are forgiven all sin past, present, and future. Therefore, even tho I enjoy and respect your posts, I would have to agree with Sue on the interpretation of this subject.

        As a parent, I’m going to answer my children’s petition whether they are disobedient or not. It may not be the answer they want, but their disobediant behavior would not silence me from them. I do not believe Father would turn a deaf ear toward me just because I may have been disobedient. I also believe we no longer live under the OT Laws, rather we live by Grace.

        • Hi Deb,
          Thanks for taking the time to respond. You are free to disagree with me and to view my response to Sue as defensive. However, you say that you agree with Sue on this one, except that she even admitted that God often doesn’t answer the prayers of a person—they may have to persist for some time before He replies. This is no different than what I said, particularly in my response to her where I said that exact thing (God’s response may be to say, “Wait”), so I’m not sure why you are disagreeing with me.
          Also, you claimed that the three verses I cited were all “OT Law.” Actually, they were from Psalms, Proverbs, and Isaiah. The Law that you are referring to is given in Exodus through Deuteronomy. Old Testament believers were also forgiven of all sins “past, present, and future” the moment they trusted in God. It is true that we are not under the Mosaic Law, and neither were many other people in the Old Testament (everyone prior to Moses and all non-Israelites) yet these people could still call out to God and be heard. The point here is not whether one is a believer under the Mosaic Covenant or under the New Covenant. The point is that the Bible very clearly makes a connection between our faithfulness and God’s willingness to answer our prayers, even in the New Testament. Why would James 5:16 state that it is the effective fervent prayer of a righteous man that avails? If God is going to answer no matter what, then why mention fervency and righteousness here? Jesus told His disciples not to use vain repetitions in prayer as the heathen do who think they will be heard because of their many words (Matthew 6:7). Obviously there is an implication of obeying this instruction here. If someone just repeats the same words over and over again, thinking that they are accomplishing something through their many words, why would you think that God would have to answer such a prayer when Jesus specifically said not to pray this way?
          Again, as I told Sue in my response, I didn’t say that if God hasn’t answered your prayer it is because you were disobedient. I said that “perhaps” it is because of disobedience or that He has answered and you didn’t recognize it because He often answers in ways we don’t expect. My one statement at the end of the post was not meant to be the exhaustive list of reasons why one’s prayers may seem to go unanswered.

          • Tim, both of your responses (to the charming and gracious Sue and to Deb) were well considered, methodical and a faithful representation of scripture IMHO. I certainly did not see your reply to Sue as defensive or unbecoming (though with the ferocity and lack of grace accompanying her answer, I would understand a little defensiveness), so be encouraged that I see you as displaying the kindness, patience and long suffering bestowed to us as fruits of the Spirit. I don’t as yet have that level of spiritual maturity and would struggle to be so kind in my reply. Keep up the good work. Blessings.

            • Thank you Michaela. It certainly wasn’t my intent to come across as defensive to Sue, but I guess it can be hard to recognize someone’s tone in writing. I did intend to be rather direct in that response, largely due to her response that lacked grace.
              Thank you for the kind words. I used to be rather combative and competitive in arguments, but I’ve learned from the examples of godly men how important it is to have a shepherd’s heart when dealing with people. The goal cannot be to win an argument but to honor our Lord Jesus Christ in all we do, say, and think about, and that often means humbling ourselves and loving and respecting those who do not deserve it (much like Jesus Christ did for us).
              God bless!

          • 2 Timothy 3:16
            All Scripture (Old Testament, New Testament) is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness

            Parenthesis mine

    • God is not obligated to answer your prayers b/c 2 or 3 or gathered.. And actually the Bible is clear that unanswered prayers are b/c of lack of faith or doubting as well as many Biblical other reasons.. Such as wrong motives, unconfessed sin, unforgivness, being hypocritical- etc… Or simply b/c He wants to bring greater glory to Himself… This is why He is God and His will is best. Whether were able to see it humanly or not. You don’t need a good pastor to tell you this.. We don’t have to get defensive. Read His word and allow the spirit to lead you. He’s faithful at revealing things to us.

    • Emily,
      I truly hope this is not how you interpret the Bible—yanking a verse from its context to make it mean what you want. If that’s the case, then let’s look at a couple of other “anything” statements to see how absurd this is.
      Luke 19:47–48, “And He was teaching daily in the temple. But the chief priests, the scribes, and the leaders of the people sought to destroy Him, and were unable to do anything; for all the people were very attentive to hear Him.” So if we use your rule of interpretation, the chief priests, scribes, and leaders of the people must have dropped dead right then because they couldn’t do anything. They couldn’t even breathe, so they must have died.
      Let’s try this in the Old Testament. 2 Samuel 15:11 says, “And with Absalom went two hundred men invited from Jerusalem, and they went along innocently and did not know anything.” If we use your method of interpretation, then we should conclude that these must have been the dumbest people ever to walk the earth. They didn’t even know their own names or what 1+1 equals because they “did not know anything.”
      Obviously, this is not the correct way to interpret either of these passages. The “anything” in the first passage is in relation to harming Jesus, which is what they sought to do. The “anything” in the second passage has to do with the men not knowing anything about Absalom’s plans to usurp his father’s throne.
      The context is of utmost importance. In the same way, Matthew 18:19 must be understood in its context or you can make it mean whatever you want. If two or three agree to pray for a billion dollars, is God obligated to give it to them based on your interpretation of this verse? What if two or three agree to pray that someone should be killed in a horrible car accident—would God have to honor that? No and No! Because context matters, and the context of these verses is about the proper way to correct a brother who has sinned against you, so the “anything” must be understood in that context.

      • hayayay!! The lord richly bless you sir. These are very sentitive bible passages that many preachers especially here in africa hold on to, causing their followers to do same. without understanding the real meaning. Would love to read more of such.

        • Hi Tammy. Yes, I am a born-again believer in Jesus Christ—that He is fully God and fully man, was born of a virgin, lived a sinless life, died a sacrificial death on the Cross for our sins, was buried, and then rose from the dead victoriously on the third day.
          I believe this fact is quite apparent in my writings on this blog. Peruse a few of the articles, and you’ll see that I unashamedly proclaim the gospel and defend the authority, accuracy, and authenticity of Scripture. Thank you for your concern.

      • Wow Tim, The way you began your answer to Emily was bit insulting and arrogant (Romans 12:3). Emily, I recommend that you ask God to give you the wisdom to understand the scriptures (James 1:5). Don’t depend on some imperfect, self-righteous human.

        • Hi MDM,
          It’s unfortunate that text often does not convey the full intent and attitude of the writer, because my response was not intended to be insulting or arrogant. I don’t believe your comment is meant to be insulting, arrogant, or self-righteous, but it could easily be taken that way, and then I could accuse you of hypocrisy.
          Unless I have good reasons to believe otherwise, I try to give the writer the benefit of the doubt. In this case, I am thankful for the reminder to avoid being self-righteous, insulting, or arrogant in how I respond to people. Also, if you would have given me the benefit of the doubt (especially given that there are well over 200+ comments on this particular post and you can see the very kind and civil interaction between me and others throughout—even when sharply disagreeing), then you would have seen that my response indicated my sincere hope that Emily did not interpret the Bible in such a cavalier manner. Then I gave two examples to show how misguided it is to focus on one word of a sentence without paying any attention to its context so that Emily could easily see just how dangerous it is to use the Bible this way. In fact, it is the height of arrogance to try to make the Bible say what you want it to say rather than carefully studying it to understand the author’s intended meaning.
          I agree that we should depend on God, and that we can ask Him for wisdom. However, His response may not be exactly what we’re looking for. He may send an imperfect human to you, another imperfect human, to help explain the Scriptures. I often encourage my readers to check everything against Scripture, so it does not bother me if someone uses Scripture to challenge what I have written. However, if they are misusing or abusing Scripture then I’ll point that out, and I’ll do my best to do that with gentleness and respect—even when the response contains a strong critique.
          Thanks for reading.

  9. So are you telling me that if I live right I can ask God for anything and he would Grant it to me if I ask him for $1000000 I can get it from God is that what you’re telling me if I have cancer and I asked God to heal me from cancer but I died with it I thought I read according to his will

    • Robert,
      Was your reply intended as a response to something I said or to someone else? If it was for me, you should re-read the last two paragraphs of my post, because that’s not at all what I said. I stated that when we pray in accordance with God’s will, then He will give what we ask. Is it God’s will for Him to give you a million dollars? Not likely. In the last paragraph I stated that those who are living obediently will experience answered prayer, but the answer isn’t always what we expect. Oftentimes, His answer is “No.” It might be “Not yet” or “I have something much better in mind for you.”

  10. Tim, thank you for clarifying Matthew 18:19-20. I am reading the book of Matthew and when I read this verse, it did not make sense. Therefore, I decided to research and fortunately I discovered your blog. As a result of reading your blog I have a better understanding of what this verse means. Keep up the good work!

    • I will agree with Tim, God’s Holy spirit is with us whether it’s one, two or a multitude once we are gathered in his name. Look at Abraham, Jacob, Samuel, job, Elijah, David, Peter, Paul, and many other biblical persons were alone and the spirit of God did bless and do mighty works through them.its time God’s people stop taking every verse we hear other persons parrot out of context and parrot them ourselves. Thanks bro. Tim for your God inspired wisdom that you are sharing.

      • Tim, thank you so much for obeying the Holy Spirit and letting Him teach you and also sharing His truths with your brothers and sisters in Christ. As Christ said, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them and they follow me;…” Praise God!!! Sincerely

  11. Tim, I’m teaching bible study on “How To Understand Your Bible” by T.Norton Sterrett at our church. The one thing my husband, who was our Pastor until his passing a few years ago, stressed to us was to interpret scripture soundly and correctly using biblical hermeneutics. Even the songs we sung had to be biblically correct.

    If this type of teaching were applied in churches today (as the Bereans did) three fourths of the comments below would not be. People must understand that the scripture was given to us in common language so that all could understand. God’s intent wasn’t to have someone write some words and every person could interpret it the way they wanted. It’s quite evident when God tells us what is required He doesn’t leave it to our imagination or to our very own interpretation but He is precise and intentional in what He says.

    When God said “don’t eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil…” did He mean something different to Adam and something else to Eve? Abraham & Sarah misinterpret what God said about conceiving a child and we have half-brothers (Jews & Arabs) fighting amongst themselves even today. When we read “faith w/o works is dead” does that mean we have to work for our salvation? The incorrect interpretation could have a profound impact on our destiny and salvation. It is imperative that we interpret scripture soundly and correctly.

    If we are to understand what we are reading then the rules of communication (laws of language) must be applied or followed. We must recognize that meaning is singular, not plural. There have been many interpretations of Matt.18:20 given below. Are they all right? Can that be possible? NO! All interpretations are incorrect except for one. The interpretation is determined by the writer or speaker. Though we all have the right to interpret the Bible for ourself, we do not have the right to make up our own interpretation or rules.

    Therefore, brothers and sisters, let us do as II Tim.2:15 instructs “Study (not conjure up or imagine) to show thyself approved unto God (not ones self or others), a workman (it requires work) that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth”.

    Do we really want to know what the scripture says to us? Do we really want to hear from God through His Holy Spirit regarding Himself? Can we put aside our own thoughts and beliefs regarding the interpretation of scripture so that we may be able to give an answer (a correct answer) to those who ask? If the answer is yes, may I suggest that you start off with a book called “How to Understand Your Bible” by T.Norton Sterrett. He gives no denominational leaning but simple, everyday instructions of how to apply the laws of language to Biblical interpretation. The blessings that await us through His word are many. We can have confidence in the knowledge of scripture knowing that we can give an answer to those who ask for a reason of the hope that is in us IPet.3:15.

    Thank you Bro. Tim for your diligence to search the scripture for true understanding and to share those gems of wisdom with us all.

  12. Hi Tim,
    I was just about to include this passage into a wedding ceremony I’m preparing for this afternoon. Now I’m just going to say something like the spirit of Jesus is with us.

  13. Thank you! I teach 6th grade Bible class and referenced this Scripture as I was talking about how we need to have the right attitude during prayer. (Guilt tripping my kids to not look around and have silent conversations during prayer time) A student raised his hand and said, “So does that mean He isn’t with us when we are alone?” I was stumped because I’ve never had any one question the verse about when two or more were gathered…because I had heard it misused my whole life and never questioned it. I fumbled my way through it but now I will go back to that class and explain it’s context and that I had missed it.
    Thank you again.

  14. Hi Tim. I have been so confused about this verse. I live alone and except when I’m at work I am almost always alone. I joined church in 2012 after my mother died. I read the Bible all the way through and have to admit I still do not know much about it. But this verse stuck in my head perhaps because I hear it almost every week at church from the pastor. I pray every day but now am wondering if God really hears my prayers since I am alone. It is disheartening to think that he does not.

    • Hi Gloria,
      As I mentioned in the post, you do not need to be in a group setting for the Lord to hear your prayers. That isn’t what this verse is about. If you are a genuine believer in Jesus Christ, then you can be assured that God does hear your prayers. Nothing in the Bible indicates that He only hears us when we pray together. He will hear your prayers when you are alone and when you are in a group. But the great thing about being a believer, and this is what I was trying to communicate in the post, is that God is always present with you—not just when two or three gather in His name.
      I hope this helps. As you read and study, be sure to ask the Holy Spirit to teach you.

      • Hi Tim! Oh Tim!!! Guilty as CHARGED!! I was always confused of the statement ” when ever 2 or more r gathered!!” However, I used it often!! It made me sound like I was biblically Savvy! Like a (cool) CHRISTIAN, ETC!! Well, I just about wrote it down on a txt to a friend! ( & all her Facebook followers!) As I mentioned, I was confused! As like Gloria mentioned how she was often alone! I too am usually physically alone!! Oh Boy Howdie!! I’m so glad I found ur page!! See, my friend & a majority of her friends are NOT christians! So, as a human, I thought, to myself! ( u know since I’m alone!! Lol! ” thought to myself!” Lol! ) I could go ahead & txt this guote, of a part, of a scripture! Oh, Nobody will ever know that actually, those words make No Sence! But it’s ok cuz their not Christians! But it makes me sound good! & maybe it will have some of her friends want to be a Christian like me!! OH MY FLIPPEN GOODNESS SAKES!! That’s when it hit me! NOOOOOOOOOOO! I don’t wabt them to be a Christian like me!!
        With all kidding aside!! I think it was No accident that I found this site! Thank u sooooo much for being there for all us non biblical savvy humans!!!! I learned a lot today! I Praise GOD & I Thank You!!

  15. I understand that Matthew scripture vs. 19 “Again I say to you that if two of you agree on earth concerning anything that they ask, it will be done for them by My Father in heaven” may have been about a brother sinning against another brother, but why was the word “anything” put in this verse? Doesn’t that word imply that not just this particular situation, but “anything” they (more than one) ask. In addition, I am not trying to argue, but to understand the scriptures fully as God would want, and I appreciate you taking your time to answer each question.

    • Hi Lurlene,
      Thanks for reading and for your comment. Even when someone uses a word like “anything” the context still determines the meaning. So if I am correct about the context of this passage being about discipline, then “anything” would be limited to that context.
      For example, if someone were discussing a really good batter in baseball and they said that the guy could hit “anything” the pitcher throws at him, they wouldn’t be talking about throwing cats, weights, books, cars, etc., the context limits “anything” to the types of pitches a pitcher throws.
      I hope this helps.

      • What a reply! Love ya bro. Stay strong in the Lord. The challenge is now to apply this in my situation… I find people dont want to be a whitness! They say ‘oh i would feel awkward’ or ‘oh i dont wanna be involved’ No one wants Yeshuas standards do they, they prefer envy/malice/pride/strife/debate/gossip/lust/envy and in my world they form little colonies that facilitate them to do so. Help us Abba!

      • Thank you for clarifying this misused verse. I’ve recently gone back to church to get closer to God and have seen amazing changes in myself! It has helped tremendously after losing my husband 4 years ago to a brain tumor, he was 54 yrs old. I didn’t question God one time but it was because I didn’t think about Him. Anyway, when people use scripture out of context it can have very adverse affects on newer Christians. I was confused because I believe God is with me every moment & hears all prayers. When referring to 2-3 gathered it made me feel like my prayers, while alone, were worthless. I’m going to read the other scripture you referenced. Thank you for clarifying!!

      • Hi Tim, I saw you response to Lurlene. I was wondering what you thought about the part concerning what would “they be asking for” refer too, so that we would ask the Father for them and it would given?

        • Hi Raymond,
          Since I mentioned to Lurlene that “anything” should be interpreted in light of the context of the passage, then I would say that what they would be asking for would be in reference to the church discipline situation. In a sense, He is telling them that the decision of the church in this situation (if done properly) would carry His endorsement.

      • Thank you Tim for serving. I understand your interpretation and respect it. However, I have to disagree with your thoughts. While God has answered my prayers based on his will, rather than if requested by a group of believers or 1 believer, you seem to imply that praying in groups holds no greater value than praying alone. Jesus prayed to the Father among the apostles as he did alone in the wilderness. We pray alone on a one-on-one relationship with God, but also gather in groups to worship, praise Him and pray for his helping hand. An example in scripture talks about 1 stick can be easily broken but that same stick is hard to break when bundled together with multiple sticks. If we felt so confident that praying in groups held no greater value, we would not gather with prayer groups, prayer chains and congregate with fellowship at places of worship. Praise God for the gift of Scripture that can be interpreted as we choose provided that he listens, acknowledges and answers. There is no wrong in believing that 2 or more will be heard by Him just as there is no wrong in believing He will listen if one prays alone.

        • Hi Ricardo,
          Thanks for taking the time to read the post and leave a response. I certainly don’t have any problem with multiple people praying about a given situation. I encourage people to pray together, and I don’t think it’s possible to have too many people praying over matters. I didn’t imply that one person praying about something is better or just as good as having numerous people pray about it. The point of the post was to correct a misuse of this passage, it wasn’t to lay out a case for solo or group prayer. But after looking at my wording, I can see where I could clarify that some more. I may add a sentence or two to make that clear. Thanks.
          God bless!

  16. Wow, I’m amazed at the dispute of this passage of scripture. What about this one?
    5 If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. James 1:5King James Version (KJV)

    If you really want to know what the Word of God means ask the Holy Spirit, this is not the Gospel according to Tim.

    • Hi Maria,
      You are correct, this post is not “the Gospel according to Tim.” It is a post with plenty of civil discussions (and a handful of not-so-civil comments) in the comments section about the proper interpretation of a well known passage. I’m all for people asking the Lord for wisdom, and I often encourage them to be like the Berean Jews who searched the Scriptures to make sure Paul’s teaching lined up with Scripture. If they were commended for checking Paul, then you’d better believe that my writings should be checked and double-checked.
      For the record, “the Gospel according to Tim” is identical to the “the Gospel according to Paul” (whose writing of the following passage was inspired by the Holy Spirit:

      Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.
      For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures… (1 Corinthians 15:1–4, NKJV)

      • Tim I have heard that said before praying and heard it said during prayer & have also said this during prayer. im sorry but i absolutely believe that when a group of people are grether together in the name of Jesus Chirst that he will here and answer our prayers and the more people that are in agreement with that prayer the more prayer he hears that’s just my opinion but have felt Gods holy presence stronger when everyone is is agreement.

  17. We are all trying to pursue the truth. Please be careful how we respond to each other’s errors in trying to find our way. Do not judge people for we are all a little lost still. Let’s be considerate and be gentle to each person we find having an opposite approach to Christian living. In God’s time we will see things clearly. Let our words be an inspiration to unbelievers. I don’t think how some people’s response here could reflect our life with Jesus Christ and lead them to God.

    Thank you for this article and the people who took time to give light to God’s word. We should all pray for guidance in using the Word of God.

  18. I have always misquoted this verse and today in my study, I saw it differently, like you have explained. I found your blog looking for the true meaning of actually verse number 18. Can you tell me your thoughts of the binding and loosing? In the context that most Christians use it, it is when referring to binding spirits of darkness and loosing God’s power to work, but in this context, it almost sounds like a binding and loosing of a person from God. That is very different than anything I have thought or heard. Can you tell me your thoughts?

    • Hi Tammy,

      You’re right that many Christians use this terminology with reference to evil spirits. However, given the context, I think the binding and loosing probably has to do with the discipline carried out and/or forgiveness and fellowship given by the church.
      Thanks for reading.

    • The context is a fellow believer’s failure into sin. In Achan’s sin, the congregation suffered. The congregation in the new testament is warned about sin accepted among them. In these verses the binding and loosing is in connection with the assembly sharing responsibility, or having to separate from the person. If the assembly continues with evil (binds it upon itself), it will feel the Lord’s displeasure. If the person has confessed and forsaken the sin, the assembly ought to continue with the person – the sin is loosed from the person, and bound to the assembly.

  19. I am compelled to disagree, here, sir. I don’t disagree because I want a long, drawn out arguement, but because I have seen, with my own eyes, the opposite of what you’re saying.
    What I am saying is, I was a Bible college student, back in 1982, when I needed money to stay in school or for school books, clothes, food, etc. When I had a need, I would go and find a brother or sister, with whom I would pray, believing that the Lord would provide these things.
    This even works, when praying for healing, mind you. Unless the person, praying, is anointed with the Spiritual Gift of healing, the people, praying, have the added advantage of praying in numbers and believing.
    That, alone, brings healing to many individuals.

    Right now, I’ve struggled, with a pressure sore for more than 18 months and someone mailed me an 18″ square knitted prayer cloth. I was told the lady, who makes these, prays as she does and then a church, intercessory prayer ministry prays over them before sending them to people, whom they know, have physical prayer needs.
    I have slept on this blanket for the past two nights and my pressure ssore is deminishing, already.

    Now, to end this, allow me to share, with you, my testimony:
    In April, 1971, I was stricken with meningitis and, because medical assistance wasn’t sought for two weeks, Dr. Scott’s initial prognosis was that I wouldn’t live “more than two weeks.” He added that they really didn’t think I would live one week.
    When this news was reported at a little baptist church, the members began praying and didn’t stop until I was out of a 10-week coma, out of the hospital and, although I was (and, still am) Deaf, I had lived.

    In 1998, I had the privelege of seeing Dr. Scott, downtown in a restaurant, where his chin dropped, when he realized that half-dead 10- year old was not only fully alive, but also walking.

    I can only wonder what would have happened, had people not prayed, in 1971.
    You can add to that, 1974, 1997 and 1999, when I should also have died from complications to the original meningitis.

    • Hi Gary,
      It’s wonderful that you have experienced these answers to prayer. In light of your comments, what do you say to Christians who have lost loved ones to terrible diseases even though they prayed fervently and had hundreds, or even thousands, of other faithful believers praying for that person to be healed?

      • I’m not Gary but no one can know the mind of God. The important thing is to pray for his will. See, my daddy had leukemia in 1996, the church was praying for him. The sunday school teacher on a particular sunday asked if anyone had a request. I asked the sunday school teacher to let everyone pray for my daddy to be healed. He stopped short. He said we could do that, and God can heal him, or we could ask God’s will in the matter. I looked at him and he explained “Your dad is closer to God than he has ever been, should God heal him and he backslide and be lost, that would be terrible” So let’s pray for God’s will.
        That was the hardest prayer to pray because God knew what I wanted. But I knew that he knew best. In the end, he *was* healed, he was taken from the pain of this world and suffered no more and was in Heaven.
        In the years since that prayer, I didn’t understand at first. I had to see things unfold, and I believe with all of my heart that my daddy would have backslid on God.
        Knowing the mind of God is paramount.

        • Your Story Is so close To what happened with my father.. When I was 10 my father Had Cancer. And the Preacher and some others was Praying for my father At a house and The Spirit Of God ( a White Dove ) they seen. And at the same time my father was in the Hospital he was watching Tv and he seen the dove fly over. They took it that dad was going to be physically healed But God’s Plan was much Greater. A week before he went home to Heaven he said to us. ” Did you see that man standing there and we said no. Dad replied that the man said he’s coming back to get him Saturday or Sunday. I’ll never forget the Joy, Love and Peace Dad had. He would tell us he was going home and sure enough on Saturday morning my mother and Sister Prayed ” Lord I’m giving this to you. Lord your will be done and just after they Prayed my father went home to heaven..

        • To echo Mike’s comment, backsliding is a term which needs to be defined. Most people use the term backslidden to mean someone who has walked away from their faith in Christ: he has lost his salvation. The bible teaches no such thing. The Holy Spirit doesn’t flit in and out of a person depending on his behaviour. Once we come into saving faith, we are sealed by the Holy Spirit until we go to be with Christ. Someone can be disobedient and live contrary to the word of God for sinful reasons, and for that he may suffer a sense of disfellowship with the Lord, but if he had a genuine conversion, he remains adopted into the family of God albeit a disobedient one suffering the consequences of that. I’m sorry you lost your dad, but you have the right attitude in trusting God for His perfect will. :o)

    • God is good. At the same time the people in which prayed for you were true believers. If they had not been I believe the results would’ve been different. Just anybody can’t pray over you as was said.

  20. I cringe when I hear people misuse this one because years ago someone tried to justify their not attending or belonging to a church by using this scripture!

  21. Regarding church discipline to the point of disfellowship is that to be applied to all sins? For someone who is gossiping or known to lie or has a falling out, disagreement with a brother or sister in Christ, has slandered some one, or other sins that are not sexual in nature?

    • Hi Jeanne,
      Theoretically, yes, I believe church discipline can be applied to all sins, at least all sins in which one sins against a brother or sister. In practice, this is very difficult since so many of our sins are committed in our own private thoughts. But gossip, slander, lying, etc., can all have devastating effects on the body of Christ, and I believe they should be dealt with in the manner prescribed in Matthew 18. Sometimes, the first two steps may be unnecessary. For example, in the case of gossip, a person may have already spread rumors throughout the congregation and the elders may need to step in immediately to address the gossip and deal with the gossiper. It wouldn’t be wrong for you to go to that person one on one and try to work things out (I would encourage that), but their actions may have already moved the issue beyond the first and/or second steps.

      • People tend to think gossip and slander as a little sin. It was this sin that the serpent used with Eve.

        Besides if we are unfaithful in the few we are already unfaithful in the many.

        As a small spark sets a forest on fire and as a spark is easier to put out so to big sins are prevented when ALL sins are dealt with.

  22. “Again I say to you that if two of you agree on earth concerning anything that they ask, it will be done for them by My Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them.”

    Does this mean if God does not answer when 2 to 3 gathered and prayed not according to His will, God is a liar?

    • Hi Jung,
      No, it would not mean that God is a liar. This would be an example of ripping the verse from its context, which is the point of the blog post. The context explains that Jesus is speaking about matters of church discipline. After the first two approaches have failed in correcting an erring brother (one-on-one attempt to reconcile, then a meeting with 2 or 3 others), then the issue becomes a matter for the church to decide. Within this context, Jesus is telling His disciples that the agreement of the 2 or 3 witnesses who have been part of the process will carry His authority to carry out the necessary discipline within the church.

      • Great commentary on the understanding of this scripture within it’s proper context. I was stunned into silence recently when speaking to a person about taking care to understand the meaning of of a particular passage of scripture within it’s proper context when she said: “Scripture can mean something wholly different to you than it does to me, so this is how I interpret it.” I then asked her if it was important to her that what she said be understood within it’s proper context; ie. what she meant by what she said? This only made her angry and she said I was talking down to to her. It’s frightening to me that people actually believe they can twist the meaning of scripture to fit what they want it to say. Why would we do that with God’s Word when we wouldn’t do that with the things that our friends say? This seems to me to be very disrespectful of God and His communication to us. He is not being vague in what He has said. Words have meaning and the meaning must always be understood within it’s proper context or we are left with chaos and incoherence.

        • Mitzi,
          I love this comment and your response to the person you were talking to. This is precisely how I would respond, and of course, we must do it in a respectful manner.
          It truly is sad that people demand their words to be taken in a straightforward way in the context of what is being said but then refuse to allow others, including Scripture, the same level of respect. Great job!

  23. I have a non-denominational friend who references Matthew 18:20 along with Acts 7:48-50 to imply that there is no specific church. He says Jesus is referring to us individually as the church and all that matters is our own personal relationship.

    I’m curious as to your response.

    • Hi Steve,
      I find that interpretation to be highly unlikely. It’s true that the church hadn’t started when Jesus made this statement, but He knew what it would become. In the first three chapters of Revelation, Jesus addresses seven local congregations through the letters He told John to write. He did not deny the idea of a local church. We see consistency with Christ’s teachings and the teachings of the apostles. Many of the epistles were written to instruct local congregations how they should function.

  24. Thanks for this!! I appreciate your passion towards understanding the bible in context, and you also explain it very very well. Thank you, and keep up the amazing work you are doing!

  25. Quoted from the article:


    “Again I say to you that if two of you agree on earth concerning anything that they ask, it will be done for them by My Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them.” (Matthew 18:19–20, NKJV)

    The idea that is commonly promoted is that if there are two or more people gathered together who agree on something, and they ask God for it in prayer, then Jesus will be present and God will answer their request.


    Uh, well, yeah, that “idea” is precisely what the passage states. The persistently abused “context” argument used in the article fails miserably. This article is actually a better example of how the context argument is misused, rather than how the verses are misused.

    The true context is crystal clear — couldn’t be any clearer, actually. The parallel is between two or three witnesses strengthening a case, which in this *particular* case involves “church discipline.” Having “two or three witnesses” who *agree* strengthens *any* case, church discipline or not. So……the context involves having multiple witnesses that agree to support a case in general, not just church discipline in particular. Having two or three witnesses who agree in prayer make a strong case to God, just as having two or three witnesses who have agreeing testimonies in court make a strong case there. It couldn’t be clearer.

    One glaring omission in the article is the failure to address the first word: “Again.” It’s clear from this that Jesus has stated this before — likely many times. His frustration comes through loud and clear; it’s like He’s saying, “Come on, guys, don’t you get it yet? I keep telling you, but you just don’t get it.” It’s quite likely that in the earlier cases He used examples other than church discipline to illustrate the point.

    The “two or three” question is more of an expression, simply suggesting more than one person is praying (in agreement, of course). Why more than one, when other passages teach that one person alone in his/her prayer closet is heard? I don’t know the answer to that one, nor do I know why the “prayer of agreement” doesn’t get answered in many cases. At least I admit that I do not know, rather than try to twist something with such an obvious meaning into something not even close to the passage’s intent, in a feeble attempt to make the passage line up with reality. It reminds me of James White taking hours to twist John 3:16 from saying, “For God so loved the world…” to “For God so loved the ELECT…” Sheesh….come on, man.

    • It’s interesting that you think the true context is crystal clear and yet disagree with me. I would agree that it is crystal clear, and what I laid out in this very brief article is in line with the majority of Christian commentators on the book of Matthew. See my comment here detailing several of these:
      Also, the word “again” was discussed in several of the comments following the article. The reason He says “Again” is because He had just talked about two or three in verses 16–17. Here’s a link to one of the comments that discusses this in more detail: Your proof for your understanding of “again” is pure conjecture (we have no record of Him teaching these things prior to this), yet verses 16–17 show us why He says, “Again.”
      I think it’s interesting that you compare a very short article (845 words) to James White taking hours to twist John 3:16 to make “the world” mean “the elect.” How exactly are 845 words similar to hours of explanation? For the record, I haven’t heard James White on this, although I have heard people try to make it mean “the elect” and I absolutely agree with you that to do that is to distort John 3:16 for no other reason than to fit one’s theology. The meaning of the word “world” in that verse is abundantly clear by looking at what it means in the following verse where it is used three times.
      Finally, the reason that the “prayer of agreement” isn’t always answered in the way the “agreers” want is because that is not the meaning of this verse. That’s the same reason why other verses teach that God hears the prayer of one person praying in private—because this verse is not about a so-called “prayer of agreement.”

    • @Woober Goober

      Wow! You are the perfect example of a Christian who twists the Bible into saying whatever it is you want it to say.

      Here’s the full context From Matthew 18:

      18:15 “If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother.

      18:16 “But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that BY THE MOUTH OF TWO OR THREE WITNESSES EVERY FACT MAY BE CONFIRMED.

      18:17 “If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the assembly; and if he refuses to listen even to the assembly, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.

      18:18 “Truly I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven.

      18:19 “Again I say to you, that if two of you agree on earth about anything that they may ask, it shall be done for them by My Father who is in heaven.

      18:20 “For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst.”

      Jesus, as does Paul and John, was referencing the laws of fairness in court that is found in the Torah:

      Numbers 35:30
      “‘Anyone who kills a person is to be put to death as a murderer only on the testimony of witnesses. But no one is to be put to death on the testimony of only one witness.

      Deuteronomy 17:6
      On the testimony of two or three witnesses a person is to be put to death, but no one is to be put to death on the testimony of only one witness.

      Deuteronomy 19:15
      One witness is not enough to convict anyone accused of any crime or offense they may have committed. A matter must be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.

      John 8:17
      In your own [torah] it is written that the testimony of two witnesses is true.

      2 Corinthians 13:1
      This will be my third visit to you. “Every matter must be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.”

      1 Timothy 5:19
      Do not entertain an accusation against an elder unless it is brought by two or three witnesses.

      Hebrews 10:28
      Anyone who rejected the law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses.

      This couldn’t be more clear.

  26. Oh Brother Tim, what a blessing you are. I sincerely do NOT want to take your reward away, and hope I don’t, but what an awesome job. Praise God! I commend you on your patience, loving tone, apparent sincerity and your apparent respect/value of the Word. Amen.

    Just to add my holy spirit two cents. I really don’t know how anyone could confuse these verses to have ANYTHING to do with prayer. If there is any confusion to these verses all confusion is lost when following its direction of how it starts “Again I tell you…” If you were not clear, just look at the verses directly before. Yes that is context but additional context is that it was the beginning of the “church”, Jesus charged the disciples reveal the Kingdom of God, and that the Father would send the Holy Spirit for them to remember all things. In this case, (the losing and binding) its directing the disciples and what ever they pray (old English for ask) on is xyz an error or not, the answer to that question (pray) will be given by God.

    Follow up point/question if you would be so kind. I have heard these verses being used for two propositions 1) Catholics claiming the Pope is vicar of Christ and these verses are the “authority” for that; and 2) to give strength and/or credibility to group pray.

    I use to be a Catholic but….. I don’t want to speak ill (especially after your example of gentle communication) lets just say, I disagree and leave that one.

    However, on group prayer. This issue did come up in a Christian group several weeks ago. The issue being Matthew 6 – one group saying Matt 6 is clear “you pray in secrete” and the other group citing Matthew 18 “two or more …”.

    Is there anywhere in the bible that edifies the seemingly unambiguous words of matt 6?

    Any insights for our further Berean study on this issue would be greatly appreciated.

    God Bless

    Oh, PS – I know you were only trying to get others to understand; however (and this comment is for others/not you), commentaries, pastors, etc are “interesting’ and often provide some “help” and maybe insights on a direction for you to study and search the scripture but NEVER “follow” on commentaries or a certain commentator. Like citing .. “commentator x,y, z says _____” means anything, like its evidence of the truth. It is NOTHING but a man making a comment and proves NOTHING but might add as an insight for you to see if the Word says it. (I wish I could cap the period lol)

    • But since He does answer prayers your statement is not an option. Also, your statement isn’t even in the realm of possibility because if God did not exist then we would be in a materialistic universe, which would mean that logic would not and could not exist since it is immaterial. The same would be true for morality.

      • The three….do you believe we are three, for example me, myself and I? Do you feel we are contstantly trying to sink the three so we can succeed and so we can move foward and live harmoniously? If one of the three, wishes or makes a request for somethings but the other two doesn’t or won’t agree, or..doesn’t believe,.. will we ever accomplish anything? Would or Will God reward us if we half heartingly believe in him or in ourselves. Or do we have to be one with God to become God like ?…But we are all Gods aren’t we? But only if we become one with what we believe and what we expect with pure faith then nothing is impossible. That’s what I think was meant with “the two or three of you”. The father, the son and the Holy Spirit?… What are your thoughts on this?

        • Alberto,
          No, I do not believe we are three. Are we made up of three components, such as body, soul, and spirit? Perhaps. I believe we are definitely made up of the physical body and something immaterial, but I’m undecided whether the soul and spirit are two different components or part of the same immaterial. In theology, there is a debate whether we are dichotomous (two parts—body and soul/spirit) or trichotomous (three parts—body, soul, and spirit). I’m undecided between the two.
          Also, I do not believe we are all gods. Even if I have pure faith, I cannot create a universe from nothing. I cannot raise the dead, give sight to the blind, cleanse the leper, or restore hearing to the deaf. It doesn’t matter how pure my faith might be, I cannot do these things because I do not have those abilities. Is it possible that God would choose to use me to do some of these things (not create a universe)? Perhaps, although I doubt it. He did use the apostles to do some of these things.
          I don’t think this passage has anything to do with whether man is dichotomous or trichotomous, and I don’t think it is speaking about the Trinity. Jesus is very clear when He said that “if two of you” in reference to His followers. So the idea has to do with two or three believers agreeing about disciplining a professing believer for unrepentant sin.

    • Or it could be that you are reading this because you are being led by the spirit to find that He does exist and eiloves you.

  27. Thanks for all your text. I’m soo glad to read your text on this matter….
    But please I have questions to ask not on this topic really but other topic, if you can help me out…
    The questions is….
    1) where in the Bible that said ‘if one prayed alone chase 1000 demons and if two prayed together chase 10000 demons?
    2) where in the Bible that said ‘Folding of hands when praying is a taboo or you are tieing your destiny????
    I over heard my Pastor said that and Husband to My aunt also, keep on telling me what I could not see in the Bible….
    My Believe is; if you want me to know something new in Christ please bring Bible reference, due sign of coming of the son of man written in Matt24…
    Please help me out I search the scripture with all my little understand but couldn’t get such verse.

    • Hi Cy,
      Thanks for your questions. I hope my response will be helpful for you.
      Deuteronomy 32:30 asks, “How could one chase a thousand, and two put ten thousand to flight, unless their Rock had sold them, and the LORD had surrendered them?” So it seems like this is the place where you heard this wording, but the passage is not talking about demons here. The passage seems to be asking how a small force could have sent so many Israelites running…there’s no way that could happen unless Israel’s God had allowed it to happen. There were a couple of battles that the Israelites should have been able to win without much trouble, but they lost because they were not obeying the Lord. I don’t know of any passage that uses similar terminology referring to demons.
      Second, I don’t know of any place in Scripture that speaks of the folding of hands while praying as being taboo. There are two proverbs that use the phrase “folding of the hands” in a negative sense. But in both passages (Proverbs 6:10–11 and 24:33–34) it is talking about a person who sleeps too much (i.e. a lazy person). They both say the same thing: “A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep—so shall your poverty come on you like a prowler, and your need like an armed man.” I think the point of these passages is that a sluggard will bring poverty on himself through his own laziness. It isn’t about folding hands in prayer.
      I hope this helps.

  28. You said if two or three are gathered in his name and are in agreement concerning the disciplining of the offender that God will grant their requests. If that were true then why doesn’t God grant their requests? You even said few churches practise discipline in the way that was instructed by Jesus. Im confused.

    • John,
      Thanks for taking the time to respond to the post. The statements you cited don’t contradict each other, so I’m not quite sure what the cause for confusion is.
      How do you know that God doesn’t grant their requests? There have been plenty of situations where the erring brother repented and was restored to fellowship. However, I think the main point here is that when the situation reaches the stage where there are 2 or 3 witnesses and it has been made a matter of the church, the disciplinary decision made by the church has the backing or stamp of approval of Christ.
      Hope this helps.

  29. The bible says in 2 Timothy 2:15..Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.
    Bro Tim…God bless ur work for HIM…
    There are even some songs of praise and worship we sing in churches that are not relevant for today
    It takes patience and humility to discover the truth of God’s word..(2 Cor 3:6.. Who also hath made us able ministers of the new testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life)..
    From ur exposition, u have only done ur best to open our eyes to a deeper relevance of God’s word(Matt 18:19-20)
    U re bless

    • Praise God for the wisdom He imparts with you Bro. Tim. I hope you take the time to answer my question. Would it be wrong to sing songs of worship to God that do not seem to have biblical basis (i.e. “You didn’t want heaven without us, so Jesus You brought heaven down”). Thank you so much in advance.

      • Hi Tuesday,
        Thanks for the kind words.
        I think it is important for us to be sure that the songs we sing to the Lord are consistent with His Word. Whenever our church introduces a new song, I usually don’t sing it the first time through until I’ve thought through the lyrics. I’m sure that I’m a lot pickier than most in this area because of my background and training in theology, biblical studies, etc. For example, a couple years ago, we sang a song one Sunday morning with some great lyrics, except that at one point, the words were something like, “I bow my knee only to Jesus.” That sounds great, but (and I know this will sound bad at first glance so bear with me) it reflects an overemphasis on Jesus at the expense of the Father and Holy Spirit. What about Paul’s words in Ephesians 3:14—”For this reason I bow my knees to the Father [of our Lord Jesus Christ]”? The bracketed words do not appear in many ancient manuscripts. So if Paul specifically says that he bowed his knees to the Father, why would we sing that we only bow to the Son (not that there is anything wrong with bowing to the Son)? So after the service I pointed this out to one of the folks in charge of the music. (For more about what I mean by an overemphasis on Jesus, please see my earlier post, “Too Much Jesus: Is that Even Possible?“)
        Like I said, that may be overly picky. In the example you cited, there are potentially a couple of problems. Many might see this as focusing on man rather than God. Think about it, the song seems to imply (at least in the words you cited) that we are so valuable that God did something for us. I believe the biblical way to see this is that we are so valuable because God did something(s) for us—He made us in His image, He sent His Son to become one of us, He sent His Son to die in our place, etc. So the focus seems to be a bit off. Also, it reflects a very common misunderstanding of our future destiny. Too often we think that our final destiny is some ethereal “heaven” where we will be spiritual beings like the angels. However, the Bible is quite clear that there will be a new heavens and a new earth, and the New Jerusalem will come to the new earth, and we will dwell in the new earth in glorified, resurrected bodies. One might see this concept in the words “You brought heaven down,” but my guess is that in the song, that has little or nothing to do with what will happen in the future, and is instead about what Jesus already did by coming to earth.
        With all that being said, I believe that God is looking at our hearts. Can someone sing some lyrics that aren’t 100% biblical and still be worshipping God? I think so. God knows the thoughts and intents of our hearts, and He knows whether they are seeking to honor and glorify Him, even if our words may not be 100% precise from a theological perspective.
        I hope this helps. God bless!

        • If God required perfect phrasing in our hymns, I would hesitate to sing any, because who am I to judge perfection? But, I know in part, and I prophecy in part, …, and I sing. But if the thoughts expressed are inconsistent with what God has shown me in His Word, then I can’t

          • Dave, I think you misunderstood my response because it seems we are in agreement. It’s true that none of us are perfect in our understanding. My point was that we certainly should examine the words that we are singing, all the while recognizing that God knows our thoughts and intents. He knows if we are truly praising Him or if we’re just going through the motions. I didn’t say that God required perfect phrasing in our hymns, althoug I did admit that I’m probably pickier than most because of my background. And if we recognize that something is contrary to Scripture, then we should rightly be concerned about it.
            I would point out what I see as an inconsistency in your comment. That is, you don’t mind critiquing articles and/or comments from fellow believers, so why would you hesitate to critique words written for a song by fellow believers?

    • Hi Bobby,
      Thanks for the kind and encouraging words. There are many songs sung in churches today (both hymns and choruses) that do not correctly reflect biblical teaching. As you mentioned, we need to follow the instruction of 2 Timothy 2:15, striving to be accurate in what we sing, believe, and teach.
      God bless!

  30. I suggest anyone who claim that matthew 18:20 cannot be used outside the context of church discipline read the commentary in “The Gospel of Matthew (New International Commentary on the New Testament). R.T. France” (ISBN 978-0802825018. p.697). to gain a more insightful understanding of the verse. This commentary is written by theologian and such commentary is widely respected by the Christian scholar community.

    • Bradley,
      Thanks for the recommendation. I don’t have access to that one at this time, but I’ll try to remember to check it out when I see it. I know I don’t agree with France on many issues in Matthew, particularly his views on the end times, but I’d like to see what he has to say on this passage. The commentaries I listed were also written by widely respected scholars, theologians, or pastors. As I’m sure you know, it isn’t about finding a commentary you agree with, which is what many Christians seem to do. They look for a commentary that says what they want it to say and ignore all others. I didn’t cherry-pick commentaries that taught my view, I just listed the ones that I had access to on my shelf or on my Bible software.
      Our goal must be to carefully study the passage to discover what it actually teaches rather than what we want it to teach.

      • The gist is there is no absolute right or wrong on this particular topic. There are people from both side of the camp on this topic. I did not say my interpretation is the absolute truth and you shouldn’t as well. Either interpretation did not perverse the core beliefs of Christianity. Such debate is a typical example of the story of different people touching different parts of an elephant and form their own narrow opinion of the shape of the object that they are touching.

        • Bradley,
          I strongly disagree with you that “there is no absolute right or wrong on this particular topic.” There most certainly is an absolute right way or wrong way to interpret this passage. The absolute right way to interpret this passage is to understand the words the way that Jesus intended and it would be an absolutely wrong way to interpret them in any other way. The real question is whether or not we have rightly understood the Lord’s words, and it is there that we need humility. I have not claimed to be absolutely right and I have not condemned anyone for disagreeing with me.
          I also disagree with your elephant analogy. While God’s Word goes deeper than we will ever dive, He is definitely capable of inspiring the biblical writers to communicate His message in a way that we can understand it. As such, we must strive to do our very best at interpreting Scripture properly. As I’ve mentioned many times in these comments. There is one right interpretation, but there may be many different ways to apply it.
          I do agree that neither of the two main interpretations of this passage pervert the core beliefs of Christianity.

          • I think the overwhelming majority of Christians would agree that there is no absolute right or wrong way to interpret every verse and passage in the Bible. This may sound wrong when we listen to it out of context. But the Bible is God’s living word. The Word inspires different people differently otherwise it is no more than a reference book. If we say that there is one and only one way that the Word should work then it is so absolutely wrong on so many levels. You say there is a right way to interpret the verses but from your post and comments, I can sense that you are saying more than that, you are saying YOUR way is the right way because you consistently reject other biblical interpretations. Christian fellowship is not a debating society but you are treating it as one. In my long life as a Christian, I have never seen a person won over to Christ in a theological debate, on the contrary it turned many away. I have seen many hardcore sinners turned to Christ because of the compassion and empathy shown by other Christians. We have too much self-righteousness and not enough compassion. As long as the interpretation does not contradict the core beliefs of Christianity, accept it as the mysterious power of how the Word can work in ways beyond our comprehension. The litmus test to whether to engage in such debate is do we want to win a debate for our own ego’s sake or do we want to win a soul for Christ.

            • Bradley,
              With all due respect, there are many problems with what you have written. It seems that you do not understand the distinction between interpretation and application. The Bible is not a book that we can tweak and twist the meaning to fit whatever context we want it to fit. It is God’s Word and must be handled with respect. Even if I’m right and there is one right interpretation (what the text means) and there are many applications (how it can be put into practice in each of our lives) it would not mean that it is nothing more than a reference book. And yes, there are definitely many absolutely wrong ways to interpret the Bible. It would absolutely be wrong for me to interpret “Love your neighbor as yourself” to mean “Jesus said that we should worship Satan.” Obviously, that’s an extreme example, but it makes my point: there is absolutely a wrong way to interpret Scripture.
              I didn’t say “there is one and only one way that the Word should work.” This is where you are confusing interpretation and application. I said that there is one right interpretation. But the way “the Word should work” (presumably in our lives) would be application, and I’ve said all along that there are many ways this might be done.
              Based on what you’ve written, you seem to have a postmodern way of looking at the text. It’s as if you think meaning is found in the mind of the reader, but it isn’t. It is found in the mind of the author. Therefore, our goal must be to figure out to the best of our ability what the author intended to communicate to us. Communication would be impossible if meaning is based on what the recipient wants. If that idea were true, then my response to your latest post would be, “I like pancakes too.” After all, if I get to interpret your words however I want to, then maybe you really were just telling me how much you enjoyed pancakes. Again, I realize that’s another extreme example, but I used it to make a point. I don’t get to twist your words to mean what I want them to mean. I should do my best to understand what you actually mean by the words you have written. Your elephant analogy in your last post had another serious problem. All of the guys in that little tale were wrong because none of them described the creature as an elephant.
              Furthermore, I wrote a post to challenge Christians to study the context of a passage so that they don’t use Scripture out of context. I have carried on multiple friendly discussions in my comments section with those who disagree. Yet you have come on here and tried to debate me on points while accusing me of trying to turn Christian fellowship into a debating society. Not only have you have attacked my motives, but you also attacked my character by claiming that I’m saying MY way is the right way. Never have I said that. Obviously, I think I am right in how I interpret these verses—otherwise, I would change my view. But the same can be said for those who disagree with me. They think they are right. If they didn’t, then they would change their view. So why am I the egotistical one in all of this? Couldn’t I just as easily say that you are claiming it’s all about YOUR way to interpret (and your way would be that there isn’t just one right way)? Why can’t Christians have friendly discussions/debates on issues without having their motives questioned?
              I would assume that the people who are commenting on this post are fellow believers, at least for the most part. So it isn’t fair to imply that I am trying to lead someone to Christ through theological debate. The way to lead someone to Christ is through the declaration of the gospel (death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ), and we often need to earn the right to be heard through the way we treat those we are trying to reach.
              I agree with you that there is too much self-righteousness in the church and not enough compassion and empathy. There is too much bickering and arguing and not enough concern for living godly lives. But there is also far too much flippancy in our approach to Scripture and we must strive to rightly divide the word of truth (2 Timothy 2:15). That last statement is the goal of this blog post, and the others in the commonly misused Bible verses series that I’ve written here.
              Frankly, I don’t care if I win or lose a debate. I care whether I have properly interpreted Scripture, and if I have not, then I invite anyone to show me from Scripture (used in it proper context) where I have gotten off track. That is why I thanked you for the commentary recommendation and said I would take a look at it when I got a chance (which I might be able to later this week since I’ll be visiting a seminary that may have it). If I truly acted as you say that I do, then I should have written something like, “France is wrong because he disagrees with me.” If I get a chance to look at it later this week, then I will post a follow-up comment here with my thoughts about it. Until then, I won’t have time to respond since I’ll be on the road.
              [Update on 9/19/15: I was able to look at an older commentary on Matthew by RT France (The Tyndale NT Commentary from 1985). On page 276, he wrote, “No doubt the primary application is to their prayer for the sinner of vv. 15–17, but the principle of Jesus’ presence among his people, and therefore of the efficacy of their agreed request, can hardly be confined to that specific situation (even though, like other such promises in 17:20; Jn. 15:12–14; etc., it is not to be regarded as an automatic formula for success where prayers are agreed which are not compatible with the one in whose name they are uttered).”
              Prior to that he compared the Lord’s statement to Rabbinic teaching about the Shekinah glory being present when two are sitting together. So France does interpret this passage more broadly than I do, and more broadly than the other commentators that I cited. So although I don’t agree with him, he still recognizes that the primary application has to do with the erring brother.]

  31. Thanks Tim for the post. I was trying to explain this to the wife, and forgot exactly what that scripture meant. I recently started studying the word expositorly and its like a detective working a case, once you get started you can’t stop. The people kicking and fighting againist what the Word is saying is suffering from what the world is suffering from…..biblical illiterarance (sp) and that is an area we need to help correct. Keep up the good work, and may the Lord keep you…..(Ralph)

    • Hi Ralph,
      Thanks for the encouragement. I really appreciate it, and I’m glad to know that the post was helpful for you. I like your analogy about a detective working a case. Our goal must be to uncover what the text is really saying, using every tool at our disposal (language, history, culture, etc.). I think some of the people who have objected to this post confuse interpretation with application.
      God bless!

      • I have really enjoyed your commentaries and replies. I go to the only expository Bible teaching church on the island of Guam and I am so blessed by our Lord for leading us there to really really learn the word of God. And I am also blessed by the sharing of your commentaries. Please continue to do the work of the Lord. I am inspired. May God bless.

  32. Someone once pointed out to me I misused Matt 18:20 when I used it in my opening prayer for a meeting. I have heard/read many preachers/writers used this verse in the context that I used it in and it never occurred to me it cannot be used in such context. The reason the person told me is the same reason quoted by you. I therefore looked up the proper usage of this verse in many different credible Bible commentaries and they all permit the verse to be used in the context of a general gathering/service/meeting. I think you and people like you are being too narrow in your view.

    • Hi John,
      Thanks for taking the time to read the post and for your response. I don’t know that I’ve seen a commentary that states the passage has to do with general gatherings. I don’t doubt that they are out there, but that’s rather irrelevant. The point of my post isn’t to see how the passage can be applied, but to study what it actually teaches. If you want to expand the application of this passage to your general gatherings, I’m not going to tell you that you are sinning in doing that. I’ll simply repeat what I stated in the original post and in numerous follow-up comments. The context of this passage has to do with the reconciliation of a brother who had sinned against another.
      Will Jesus be present in your prayer meetings and general gatherings? If someone is a believer in those meetings then of course He will be there since He indwells every true believer. So there is not even a need to cite this verse in the way you have done it.

      • I am suprised that you have not seen commentaries that this verse can be applied to a wider context. There are many credible sources you can find. To list one of them – New Bible Commentary 21st Century Edition. ISBN 9780851106489 Pg 928″. I did not see any credible and independent reference and sources that you have given to support your argument.

        • Hi John,

          I would cite the Bible first and foremost for my source. A basic exegesis of the passage will demonstrate that the context has to do with the discipline of the erring brother.
          Also, I didn’t say that I haven’t seen commentaries that mention this verse can be applied to a wider context. I stated that “I don’t know that I’ve seen a commentary that states the passage has to do with general gatherings.” The commentaries I’ve seen often state that the passage is misused, and others state that it is about disciplining the erring brother but may be applied in a broader context.
          Even though I believe the text is rather straightforward, it is helpful to see how scholars have viewed this passage. Let’s begin with the one you cited.

          Here is what the New Bible Commentary states regarding the verse in question:

          The idea that the church on earth may bring the authority of heaven to bear on their situation is continued in vs 19–20, where the continued presence of Jesus among his people ensures that their united prayer will be effective. In the context this refers primarily to prayer for the ‘brother who sins’, but the principle may also be applied more widely. It is not, of course, an automatic guarantee that any petition will be granted, but only such as are compatible with gathering in my name. (D. A. Carson et al., eds., New Bible Commentary: 21st Century Edition, 4th ed. (Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press, 1994), 928.)

          That sure sounds like what I’ve been saying all along. In context, “this refers primarily to prayer for the ‘brother who sins’,” but then they add that the principle may be applied more widely. That’s what I’ve been saying. The proper interpretation of this passage has to do with the erring brother, and I’ve said all along that we can draw principles from this passage and apply it. But to quote this passage out of context gives the wrong impression to those who hear it misused.
          If you would like another commentary that talks about it being misused, here is what Craig Blomberg had to say in the New American Commentary on Matthew:

          18:19–20 Sadly, these verses have often been taken out of context and misused. It ought to be obvious that God regularly does not fulfill a promise like that of v. 19 if it is interpreted as his response to any kind of request. In this context v. 19 simply restates the theme of v. 18. The word for any “thing” (pragma) is a term frequently limited to judicial matters. Here Jesus reiterates that actions of Christian discipline, following God’s guidelines, have his endorsement. This remains true even if they come from a very small fellowship, including but not limited to the “two or three” gathered in vv. 15–16. (Craig Blomberg, Matthew, vol. 22, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), 280–281.)

          Here is the Cornerstone Biblical Commentary on the same verses:

          If two of you agree here on earth concerning anything you ask, my Father in heaven will do it for you. The promises in 18:19–20 of answered prayer and God’s presence also refer to the solemn matter of the sinning brother. It is possible that the two who agree in 18:19 are two members of a three-member court that represents the community (m. Sanhedrin 1:1; Hagner 1995:533). During the discipline process, the church may be assured that their deliberations on earth will be confirmed by their Father in heaven and that Jesus is present with them throughout the difficulties. (David Turner and Darrell L. Bock, Cornerstone Biblical Commentary, Vol 11: Matthew and Mark (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 2005), 240.)

          How about John MacArthur’s Commentary?

          This verse is also frequently misinterpreted, though not with such serious error as in the misinterpretations of the two previous verses. To use this statement to claim the Lord’s presence at a small worship service or prayer meeting does not fit the context of church discipline and is superfluous. Christ is always present with His people, even with a lone believer totally separated from fellow Christians by prison walls or by hundreds of miles. John MacArthur, The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: Matthew 16–23 (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1988), 139.

          Here’s the Holman New Testament Commentary:

          18:19–20. These two verses are among the most misunderstood in the Bible. They are traditionally taken to mean that God pays special attention to the prayers of believers when two or more gather or agree together. But such an interpretation is wrong for two reasons: (1) it takes the statements out of the context of church discipline and the pursuit of the straying brother; and (2) the conclusions that it leads to regarding prayer is contrary to Scripture. (Stuart K. Weber, Matthew, vol. 1, Holman New Testament Commentary (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2000), 294.)

          Three out of these four (not counting the one you cited) commentaries specifically mention how these verses are misused. All of these commentaries clearly state that the passage is about disciplining the brother who sinned. So it looks as though my post is very much in line with what scholars teach on the topic.
          I hope this helps.

          • Thank you for providing the reference. It would have helped if you had provided the reference in your original post to give credence to your point, as it is the standard practice in any serious writing. No doubt many text in the Bible have been used out of context. however, I think using this verse in the context of an opening prayer for a meeting is not wrong, which was what I was being told. I would agree if people used this verse to support the view that God is not with us when we are alone, or God always provide what we ask for when prayed with 2 or 3 people, then it is obviously wrong. From my understanding this line of explanation is what most of the commentaries that you have quoted presented and I agree with them. But the Bible and commentaries also did not specifically say such principle should not be used outside the context on Matt 18. I think we all ought to exercise wisdom and discernment instead of making sensational blanket conclusion.

            • John,
              It is actually not standard practice to provide references to commentaries in blog posts. If this were originally a research paper, then you would be sure to find plenty of documentation. I agree that we all must exercise wisdom and discernment instead of making sensational blanket conclusions. Are you accusing me of doing this?
              The wisest thing we can do is to stick with what the Bible states and to be very careful in how we interpret and apply it. We must remember to distinguish between our interpretation and our application. Like MacArthur stated, I think using this passage at the beginning of a general meeting is superfluous and gives those in attendance an inaccurate understanding of this passage.

  33. Hello,

    I realize you posted this article a few years ago now but I stumbled upon it in my search to a question. I help out with a youth group and one of the kids asked me about this verse… apparently both her and I have understood and heard this verse out of context because we were both confused about what it meant!

    I just wanted to say thank you for the clarity and now I can share with her an answer that actually makes sense! What a difference it makes when we understand the context of Scripture rather than twisting it to fit our own needs! (Though all of Scripture can fit our every need… just not always in the way we expect or want!) Thank you for the article and for your thoughtful & gentle responses to the additional comments.


    • Hi Mauri,
      Thank you for taking the time to read the article and comments and to leave your very kind response. I truly appreciate the encouragement, and I’m glad to know that my post was helpful for you. Also, thanks for your ministry in a youth group. I pray that the Lord will bless your efforts there.

  34. Some people would rather debate and prove that they are right, instead of seeking God and the Holy Spirit for guidance. We are never too old to learn, and instead of being curt or flippant, why not pray for one another so we all can gain correct wisdom, understanding and knowledge.

    Learn to not be so defensive, just because someone doesn’t think or believe as you do. We are all human, not one on this board is perfect. Non-believers are always watching for a believer to make the ultimate mistake and that is to not demonstrate love toward our brothers and sisters.

    Sometimes it’s better to refrain from speaking if the words will sting or bruise.

    God may be trying to tell you something and you are not listening, maybe you are interpreting the scriptures incorrectly but you are too busy trying to prove a point, you can’t and will not acknowledge your error.

    May our Heavenly Father bless us all!!

  35. I agree we need to explore the content and context of the Word.I don’t agree with your view or opinion on prayer agreement. My example of unity and answered prayer that too me shows the significance of agreement is the upperroom.They were in one accord.New Testament Church.Not this weak one here in America.

    • Hi Dave,
      I have nothing against people praying in agreement. Without trying to sound flippant, I think the more people that are praying for something, the better it will be, although there is still no guarantee that hundreds of people praying the same thing will bring about the desired result. Sometimes God answers with a “No.” Just ask parents who have lost children to horrible diseases like cancer.
      I’m glad you agree that we need to explore the content and context of Scripture, and I don’t mind that you disagree with me. These things happen in the church, and we need to show the world that we can disagree on things and still work together to make disciples. My main concern with your comment is that after you mentioned that we should look at the content and context of Scripture, you sought to find an example in a passage that is descriptive rather than prescriptive. What I mean by that is Acts is primarily a book of the history of the early church. It describes what did happen, but doesn’t necessarily prescribe what should always be done or what we should expect from God if we do the same things as the disciples. We can certainly try to follow their examples, but that doesn’t mean we need to start in Jerusalem, move out to Judea, then to Samaria, and then to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8). It also doesn’t mean that we should expect the Holy Spirit to come with a mighty rushing wind and tongues of flame. Can we pray together? Absolutely. But the book of Acts doesn’t tell us that we should always expect the results we seek if we are praying in agreement. It does show us that God answered the prayer of the disciples in the upper room.
      Thanks for reading.

  36. Very interesting to say the least. I had always read it as Jesus telling everyone that you don’t have to be in a huge crowd or gathering to have Him there with you. Like a small bible study. I figured it went back to him telling us not to praise and pray out in public but to go and anoint our own heads and pray and ask in a closet. I always thought he was saying that no matter how small the group as long as you were gathered in his name for the right reasons he was present.

    • Hi Carol,
      I am right if I have accurately interpreted this passage. If I have not rightly interpreted it, then I am wrong. If you read some of the comments below you’ll see that Mark essentially asked the same question recently. Here is how I responded to him:

      I would agree with the majority of commentators who view verses 18–20 as a continuation of 15–17. Most Bibles that use section headings group all of these verses together too. There are reasons for this. The word translated as “Again” in verse 19 is the Greek word palin, and it indicates that He is repeating something He has just told them. Well, the “two or three” verbiage is also found in verse 16, so these two sets of verses are linked grammatically.
      They are also linked thematically. The word translated as “thing” (pragmatos) or “anything” (pantos pragmatos) in verse 19 is frequently reserved for legal matters, which of course would go right back to verses 15–17.
      I don’t believe I am being arrogant or conceited here. I am not bashing or ridiculing anyone who disagrees with me. I am simply encouraging people to take a closer look at the context of a passage before quoting it and applying it to situations that it probably was not intended for. As I mentioned in the post, I don’t disagree that God is present whenever two or three (or more) are gathered together, but I believe the context of this passage limits this discussion to disciplinary matters. Since most commentators that I’ve checked agree with me and some even talk about how these verses are misused, then I don’t think it is fair to ask what makes me correct and everybody else wrong.

      It isn’t about me being right and others being wrong. The goal of this post and the others in the Commonly Misused Bible Verses series is to encourage Christians to take a close look at the text rather than simply repeating what they have always heard. Is that a bad thing?

      • I agree with you Tim, we must read the entire scripture to receive understanding, we can’t just pick and choose certain scriptures that sounds good or makes us feel better about our sin.

      • Your post did make me take a closer look at the verses and i found your post wanting in both content and delivery. If you have written the post with the intention that you claimed to have written it with, the post would not be in its current form. It would have a different tone had it been written with pure good intention. I sensed ego, glee in seeing things people missed. And none of the fruits of the spirit.

  37. I totally agree with you. We should read the entire chapter to understand what each verse is talking about.

  38. Tim Chaffey, thank you for putting the verses Matthew 18:19-20 in context for me.

    I have a question on the last bit you wrote about prayer (1 John 5:14–15)and how He might have answered us but we don’t recognise it?
    I am really struggling with this because I have been praying about something for a long time now and sometimes I think He has answered and said yes, but then I wonder if it’s just me, wanting to hear a yes.
    How do I know I am praying according to His will? How do I know if there is a sin or disobedience that displeases Him and I have to repent from it before He answers me?
    How do I pray and ask The Lord and have Faith that He will give me what I ask, if I pray but wonder if it’s not His will, He will not answer?
    How do I know if I must keep praying and believing He will answer my prayer, He just needs to know I have the Faith to keep believing and keep praying? Because I have heard of prayers being answered after 6 years, or even 10 years, and we are not supposed to give up, for example Daniel’s prayer was answered on the first day but it took 21 days for the message to come to him.
    What if He has answered and said no, but I have not realised it and continue to pray about, and there really is no point if He has said no or it is not His will.
    Finally, through everything, through all my questions I know with all my being, that no matter what He answers me, I trust in Him, I love Him First, all my hope is in Him and whatever happens, He works all things to the good of those that love Him AND I truly feel deep down in my heart, in my spirit, I know that He will answer my prayer and reconcile and restore what the enemy came to destroy.

    • Hi Sumeiya,
      Thanks for reading and taking the time to leave a response. You have asked some great questions, and I’m not sure if there is a “one size fits all” answer to them. I think your final paragraph is really the key to all of this. No matter what the outcome of the situation(s) you are dealing with, trust God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength. You may not understand why something is happening or why He allows it to continue, but He sees the end from the beginning, and He will work it out in the long run for your good.
      Jesus told parables of the persistent friend (Luke 11:5–10) and the persistent widow (Luke 18:1–8). While these seem to discuss different situations, there is a similar point: God is not upset with those who diligently call on Him. Unless the thing you are praying for is contrary to something spelled out in Scripture, then I believe God will make it very clear to you if His answer is “No.” Until that time comes, continue steadfastly in prayer, spend time daily in the Bible, and be sure to live according to His principles. If the matter can be shared with others, then ask them to pray along with you.
      Back in my early 20s (too long ago already) I kept praying for God’s guidance: “Lord, what do you want me to do?” I prayed that on a regular basis, and yet it seemed like He wasn’t going to answer it. Then I made the commitment to spend time every morning reading the Bible, praying for His guidance, and getting involved in ministry at my local church working with the youth. In less than three months, I knew exactly what He wanted me to do. Will your answer come that quickly? I can’t know that. But I do encourage people to commit their ways to the Lord, and I believe He will guide their steps (see Psalm 37:4–5).
      I hope this helps.

  39. You are way off base as the church did not exist at that time.It did not exist until Acts 2 Jesus had to purchase our right to have the spirit by his death burial; and resurrection.(John 7:39) It is a right to have church service! Why would he teach people Jews to be specific about church matters. I suspect you may be reformed and they love to rebuke people.

    • Manuel,
      I would agree with you that the church did not officially start until Acts 2 when the Holy Spirit came upon the disciples at Pentecost. However, I am not the one who came up with the idea of using church in this passage. It’s there because that’s the term Jesus used according to Matthew’s Holy Spirit inspired text. Even if you want to say that this was originally for His Jewish followers, then why shouldn’t the same principles of reconciliation apply in the church? They seem like great procedures to follow. In Matthew’s Gospel, prior to chapter 16, Jesus seems to direct His teaching to the Jewish people, giving them a legitimate offer of the kingdom. The leaders, by and large, reject His offer, and beginning with chapter 16 (“I will build My church”) the focus shifts to His coming death, burial, and Resurrection and the building of the church.
      According to your logic, you must be Reformed, since you are rebuking me for my blog post that calls attention to what nearly every commentary says about this passage. If you would look at another one of my posts on commonly misused verses, you will clearly see whether or not I fall into the Reformed camp.

  40. I have been to four countries and ten states and have never seen a church willing to love his brother 70 X 7 in a day. Once I manged to get a two person meating which they called a mediation meeting it took some time but my brother rpented – but like Pharoah he soon took it back and began to slander me again. So i asked for another and they told me “YOu just need to change churches” ME? so a kid is bullied at school and the solution is to embolden the bully by changing schools? Doesn’t anyone care about the bully? Its not about me being wronged its about my friends soul is ill!

    I have been to foursquare, Calvary Chapel, Vinyard, Presbeterian, Baptist, Vinyard, Peticostel, Apostolic Penticostel and over and over God people use his tool of influence for evil and manipulation and Not for love. When asked to do it for love they say it is harsh, without grace, even legalistic.

    I once asked a lady if she could help me with a friend and she replied “you just want to be right!” No I want to know my mistake if any having you look at my blind spot in the presence of my friend but if you do not wish to help because you want to avoid judging then why did you JUST judge me unjustly?

    When my son asks his sister for help with their brother she NEVER replies “you just want to be right” she listend to both sides and helps them to reconcile.

    Someone tell me is there any out there???

    • Brian,

      The church in Philadelphia, Rev 3, kept His Word, and did not deny His name. I am sure that it includes Matthew 18. But it is not constituted in the Roman Catholic or Protestant fashion. (Rev 2 and 3 give a prophetic/historical outline of church constitutions from Pentecost to the Tribulation) Like you express, many people would classify them as ‘you just want to be right’, but in reality there is wisdom in following exactly what scripture instructs. Look up Bible Truth Publications or email me,

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