Today’s Scripture – February 19, 2017

Matthew 18:18-20 (NIV) “I tell you the truth, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.  Again, I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven.  For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them.”

Jesus again confers on His closest followers, the heirs of the kingdom, the authority to judge what is and is not required of those in the kingdom.  (See Matthew 16:19 for the first time He did this.)  Even though the disciples were not ready to even enter the kingdom because of their pride, their competitiveness, and their mixed motives (see verse 3 earlier in this chapter), Jesus knew that after the crucifixion and resurrection, and especially after the pouring out of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost, they would after all inherit and have to lead the kingdom on earth.

But note that they were not to do this as individuals or free agents.  Verse 19 follows immediately after verse 18, and outlines the requirements of wielding that authority:  they had to do it together.  It is not that Jesus is not present or doesn’t answer prayers where a single disciple of His is alone.  It is merely that, in order to lead wisely, the concurrence of at least two disciples needed to be present.  That would, at least among spiritually mature individuals, prevent someone from going rogue in their judgment or decision making.  The other one (or, preferably, more than one) disciple would act as a check on any one person’s authority.

The early Church understood this and, on important questions, tended to call many leaders together.  (See the Jerusalem Council in Acts 15 for a biblical example of this, and the Councils and Synods for post-biblical examples.)  Of course, even in this, the hearts of the decision-makers had to be clean, their ears tuned to the Holy Spirit’s voice, and their minds open to His leading.  If that was the case, and all involved heard the same thing, then they could be sure that it was God leading, and not their own minds.

That was also the understanding behind the idea that if two on earth agree about anything asked for, it will be done.  Of course, the prayers of even a single righteous man or woman are powerful and effective (James 5:16b).  But if two or more are listening, and are both moved to pray for the same thing, that is an assurance that the request originated in God’s heart and not in their individual minds, and those requests will always be answered right away.

Father, this is obviously why You saw it as a good thing to put us into community with each other, instead of each of us operating independently.  When we are together, we can not only sharpen each other (Proverbs 27:17), but we can also act as checks and balances to ensure that no one person runs with his own thoughts, believing that they are from You.  It’s a great plan.  Help us to live within it.  Amen.

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