In His Name or just a Claim?
There are many Christians today who profess to gather only to the Name of the Lord Jesus, as over against some party badge or doctrine. A Scripture commonly cited in this connection is Matt.18: 20: “For where two or three are gathered together unto my name, there am I in the midst of them”. Now to claim a thing is all very well, but can we be sure that we have what we claim? What is the true interpretation of the Lord’s words here? Do we really gather to His Name, or is it only that we think that we do?
Now before we examine the Scripture, let us clear up one or two misconceptions. One of these is the frequent coupling of this verse with the Lord’s Supper, although there is clearly no direct connection in the context of the verse. I do not doubt the sincerity of those who make such an application, neither would I label it wrong. However I would have to say that such a direct connection does not come from Scripture. This passage actually refers to a gathering for prayer— the Lord's Supper had not even been heard of at this point in time, for we do not read about it until ch.26 of this Gospel.
Secondly, the assumption is made by some that the verse somehow has a particular relationship to the last days of the Church’s history, and it has thus become almost a motto for an ecclesiastical position. No doubt the passage is rightly a source of comfort to the few faithful souls in a day of declension, but there is no indication that it has reference to any particular stage of the Church's history on earth. It is a general principle that applies right from the Apostles day until the present moment, wherever saints are so gathered.
Misguided as these ideas may be, they are not however in the same dreadful class as one obnoxious view held by some Christians. This is the totally false notion that wherever Christians gather, the Lord is held to His promise by this Scripture, and becomes present in their midst. Apart from the awful presumption of such an attitude, there is also a manifest failure to appreciate the conditions required in order for Him to be true to His promise!
Let us look at these requisites one by one:
(1) This verse applies to a gathering of saints. We cannot cite this verse in relation to anything individual, it refers to what is collective.
(2) The verse applies to those gathered together, not merely gathered, but gathered together. This clearly implies that in order for the Lord Jesus to be in the midst there must be unity amongst those saints thus gathered. Simply gathering does not necessarily mean that the saints are united, gathering together does.
(3) Finally it must be unto His name which involves accepting His absolute authority. It does not mean merely a formal, and outward gathering to the name, but supposes at least a measure of spiritual reality, (compare 1 Cor. 12: 3). I would say that, whatever may be claimed, if there is no reality it is not a gathering unto His name at all!
Some will no doubt tell me that only a few, in any given gathering of saints, enter into the realisation of the Lord's presence among them. This may be true but there is no indication that this verse even supposes such a situation. The promise is to a united gathering of saints, not to any particular section or sections of that company. Where two or three are gathered together unto my name, there am I in the midst of them! It is also worth observing that the very word “midst” surely supposes that He is the centre of the whole company. He is the object of attention. Not a doctrine, not a creed, not even the Assembly, but Himself. So are we really gathered to His Name? Let us not reject such a query out of hand but soberly consider it. Before we condemn others for meeting on sectarian grounds, let us ensure that what we profess to have, we do in fact possess!