Sunday, December 10, 2023

Who is the Greatest? (Part 9)

By Clifton Angel
    What, then, does Matthew 18:18–20 mean? We have noted the paramount principle of keeping Scripture in context. This is necessary to understand, interpret, and make proper application of Biblical words. The passage at hand DOES NOT authorize the church to make changes to the doctrines of Christ. Let us read it again.
Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on
earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye
shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.
Again I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree
on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask,
it shall be done for them of my Father which is in
heaven. For where two or three are gathered to-
gether in my name, there am I in the midst of them (Matthew 18:18–20).
    Another primary key to understanding these three verses is the phrase “in my name” (18:20). When you write a check, you sign your name in order to authorize the dispensing of funds from your bank account to the recipient indicated and for the amount designated. Contextually, the “two or three” people who “are gathered together” are doing so for the purpose of restoring an erring brother or
sister (read again Matthew 18:15–17). If by following the methods Jesus prescribed and keeping the principles Jesus has authorized, the decisions of the 2 or 3 (and if necessary, the entire church) have the full support of Heaven (i.e., their decisions/agreements are “bound in heaven,” “loosed in heaven,” and accomplished by our “Father which is in heaven”).
    The contextual circumstance is a difficult one [especially in today’s sensitive society]. It is so difficult that many are ignorant of the proper methods to address such, and those who do know often choose not to use the proper methods. Backlash from the impenitent brother or sister, their family, the community, or even then world is possible. In recent years, the impenitent have taken to public platforms like social media, news outlets, and even television shows to seek to bring harm to Jesus’ church that has been commanded by Him to withdraw from them (cf. Matt 18:17; 1 Cor 5; Rom 16:17; 2 Thess 3:6–15). To the church that operates by His authority (“in my name”), God says: “You have Our support!”
    Two pertinent questions follow. (1) Does Matthew 18:20 permit one to forsake the assembling of the local church and worship at home? No. This is a misapplication of the passage, and it places it in contradiction with other passages (cf. Hebrews 10:24–25, et. al.). (2) Is there a contradiction between Matthew 18:17 and 2 Thessalonians 3:15? No. In part 7 of this series, we noted Jesus’ accommodative language as a form of irony. The impenitent are to be seen as the lost sinners they have chosen to be and not as those in fellowship. This does not make them our enemies; rather, it should make them a priority in our desire for saving the lost (cf. James 5:19–20).

- Clifton Angel preaches for the Coldwater Church of Christ in Coldwater, MS. He may be contacted through that congregation's website:

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