By George Rassovsky
Context is extremely important for any literary work. However, when it comes to the Word of God, it is vital! A verse, or a part of one, taken out of context, can have enormous and eternal consequences. Despite this being the case, the fact is that the Bible is perhaps the most misinterpreted book. Below are some of the most commonly misinterpreted and misunderstood verses of the Bible.
“For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them.”
Matthew 18:20 [NKJV]
Most of the time, this verse is used as an encouraging assurance of Christ’s spiritual presence among every little congregation of believers. In its context, however, this verse speaks about Christ’s affirmation of the way things are dealt with among His people when His counsel was sought (“in My name”). This verse wasn’t intended to be a promise of His felt presence among the congregation. Christ’s presence is guaranteed to believers both individually and collectively by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in all true believers and the whole Church (see John 14:15-18).
What is the actual context here? From verses 15 to 35 of this chapter, Matthew records teaching from the Lord Jesus on forgiveness, conflict resolution among God’s people, and the principles of church discipline – excommunication and restoration. So here Jesus says that whatever two or more of His disciples agree upon concerning a guilty party, it will be done, provided it is in line with His character and teaching (vv. 18-19). In other words, Christ has permitted His true Church to judge by His authority, as if He Himself was making those decisions. This establishes the practice of local church government and leadership, which are expounded on later in the New Testament by the apostles.
Next – #5 – Thoughts of Peace – Jeremiah 29:11