Tuesday, September 16, 2014

“Where Two or Three are in Agreement” – Debunking a False Teaching



So Jesus said to them again, “Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.”  And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.  If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” – John 20:21-23
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

It encourages me to know that God will seek to make His word known to me, and to remove all false teachings that I’ve had cloud my knowledge of Him. 
This past week has been one of great disappointment.  I was taught, and I’m not sure by who or where, that the verse in Matthew 18:19-20 meant that if you ask any thing of God, and are in agreement with “two or three” it would be done.  The verses read “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.”  Being under that understanding, I fully expected my sweet friend’s daughter, Marquitta Jacobs, to recover and be healed.  After all, her mother and I were in full agreement that this is what we wanted. 

When that did not happen I became very disappointed in God, very hurt that the pray was not answered.  I wasn’t angry, for who can truly be angry at God when you know He loves you with an unending love?  But I was very disappointed, and confused as to why this promise was broken.
But my God who loves me would never leave me questioning His love.  Today while continuing a long study in John I came to chapter 20:21-23.  God sent me to read my favorite commentator’s thoughts on the verses to determine why we’re allowed to forgive each other’s sins.  Adam Clarke’s commentary then in turn sends me to read comments on Matthew 18:19-20, the verses that were on things being done when two or three are in agreement.  As I read the words, I loathed them.  It felt like salt in an open wound.  But as I read the passage and Adam Clarke’s teaching, I understood.

The fact of the matter is that the verses that are often claimed to hold the key to getting anything you can come to agreement from out of God have been taken completely out of context.  Think about it! If it were true that these verses meant that any two people in agreement for anything on earth could ask God for it and get it – every couple who read it would be millionaires.  Every couple would have children.  The world would be a perfectly imperfect place due to our own selfish wants and wills.  But that is NOT what these verses mean. 
The passage is in regards to forgiving each other here on earth, forgiving each other’s sins, and then God forgiving them as well.  Only God can forgive sins because they are committed ultimately against Him. Yet, we have the power to solicit that forgiveness from God. The entire passage reads:

"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.’ And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church. But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector. Assuredly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. 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.”
There is no disconnection of thoughts here.  Jesus is speaking to one audience on one subject – dealing with a fellow Christian who has sinned against you.  In fact, the verses that follow this passage are also about forgiving one another, as Peter then asks “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” (Matthew 18:21).

When verse 19 says that where “two of you agree” and verse 20 says “where two or three are in agreement” it is preceded by verse 16 saying “by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established”. The verses are not the handle to the great slot machine of God’s blessings!  The meaning is that if we forgive each other for our harms against each other, then “whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven”, as the binding of a criminals hands, or “whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven” as the freeing of a captive.
But don’t stop there.  The fact is we are to NEVER leave anyone bound.  When Jesus answer’s Peter about how many times he should forgive, he says “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.  Jesus continues by telling the story of a man who was unable to pay a debt, but his master forgave him the debt.  Then the debtor goes out and seeks repayment from someone who owed him money, and then refused to forgive the debt.  Jesus’ words in the parable to the one who would not forgive the sins of his debtors was “ Should you not also have had compassion on your fellow servant, just as I had pity on you?” (Matthew 18:33). 
Jesus has forgiven us all, and we are to have compassion on each other and forgive all sins against us as well.  There is never a time when you want to leave a brother or sister “bound” to the sins they have committed against you.  Jesus says in Matthew 18:35 that if you do, “So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses.”  Friends, we need God’s forgiveness far too much to allow our bitterness toward each other to condemn ourselves.
The lesson in all this is a simple one.  Read God’s word, and listen to His voice as you do.  His word is true, His promises are eternal, and He will not disappoint you.  Though I don’t have answers for the loss of my friend’s daughter, I know my God is merciful, gracious, long on forgiveness, and loving in all He does. 
 
 
 

2 comments:

  1. Fathie, this is a wonderful word of truth. And I'm so sorry for your loss.

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    Replies
    1. Thank you Victoria. Please ask God to give comfort to the family of Marquitta in the days to come.

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