Twisted Scripture Number 7: Matthew 18:20 Does NOT Teach The Holy Spirit is Only Present When 2 or 3 Are Gathered

By Brannon Howse

The Scripture: For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them.

The Twist: If you have heard this verse used in a church service, you have probably heard a pastor say something like: “As we gather this morning, isn’t it a blessing to know that ‘where two or three are gathered,’ He is in our midst?”


The implication is that if you are by yourself, having a cup of coffee in the morning and reading your Bible, God is not there. You’ve got to get at least another person or two in order for God to join you. The biblical truth is that a believer is indwelt by the Holy Spirit, so God the Holy Spirit is with the believer all the time, even when he or she is not with other believers.

The correct context of Matthew 18:20 is church discipline. To see this, we need to examine verses 15-16 of Matthew 18:

Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother. But if he will not hear, take with you one or two more, that “by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.”


The two or three being discussed in Matthew 18:20—“where two or three are gathered”— is the same two or three mentioned in verse 16, “by the mouth of two or three witnesses, that every word may be established.” The two or three are people involved in church discipline. In verse 20, the Lord states that when church discipline or church accountability is being conducted biblically, then the Lord approves. He confirms His approval by declaring, “I am there in the midst of them.”

Step one in the Matthew 18 process calls for one brother to go to another and to humbly ask him to repent of his sin. If the brother does not repent, then the next step is to take one or two witnesses to him. Step one is private; step two is “semi-private.”

The ultimate desire would be to see that the brother (or sister) repents of the sin and that his reputation, credibility, and testimony are preserved. That’s why only one or two more witness are involved in the step-two process. If the offending Christian does not repent, then the one or two additional witness will affirm the biblical process to that point and move on to step three. Step three, of course, is bringing the matter before the New Testament church of which these individuals are members.

     Perhaps one reason the Lord mentions that He would be among the two or three involved in step two is that a Jewish tradition known as minyan said that a quorum of ten or more men was required for public worship. While experts argue whether such a requirement was merely preferable or completely mandatory, the tradition of a minyan is well documented, and Jesus had to address His audience’s understanding of that practice.

     So the next time you hear someone use Mathew 18:20 out of context, perhaps you can use the “extra witness” of this discussion to unwind the twist.

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