‘Where two or three are gathered together in my Name, there am I in the midst of them’, Matt. 18. 20
What a tremendous statement this is – expressing a seemingly impossible promise, a unique Person and an overwhelming presence!
A Seemingly Impossible Promise
If any other individual were to make such a statement, how would it be received? He would be at once denounced as mad or a liar, and his claim totally rejected.
How could any human being be present with thousands, nay millions of followers in groups of two or three, at any one place, anywhere in the world, at any one time, at the same time, past, present or future, even for 2000 years? The claim would be totally dismissed. Nobody would listen twice to such a statement from the President or Prime Minister of any country. The only natural consequence would be that he would be removed from his office!
No founder of any religious group in world history has made or would dare make such a statement. Even his most ardent followers would question such a possibility and leave him, except for the very gullible.
But when the statement comes from the lips of the Lord Jesus Christ Himself, it is totally believable, every word of it!
For the 2000 years that believers have gathered in any number of more than two or three, or dozens or even hundreds they have been fully and keenly aware of His presence in their midst. No believer ever doubts the truth, meaning, genuineness or sincerity of His statement, whether the meeting in AD 100, or 1000 or 2000, whether in Singapore, London, New York, Beijing, or Sydney. We all know Him to be present among us, literally, actually, spiritually, at the same time and anywhere, simply because of who He is and what He has done – His deity, and His redemptive work, resurrection and exaltation.
His presence is considered absolutely natural, utterly breathtaking yet expected, and in fact wholly necessary as the two or three gather together in His Name.
The Uniqueness of His Person
The only reason for such faith in His promise is the reality of His Person – He is God and man. This is why all the doctrines concerning our Lord Jesus are so important, so vital.
The disciples to whom He gave the promise accepted it naturally, because they had come to the realization that He was (and is) both God and man. Nobody questioned the possibility because they had seen His miracles, heard His teachings and witnessed the many things He did that no ordinary human being could do.
The Bible teaches clearly concerning His deity – Self-existence, Eternity, Infinity, Immutability, Omnipotence, Omniscience and Omnipresence. It also tells us every aspect of His redemptive work as Saviour, and also now as Mediator, Great High Priest, Advocate, Intercessor, King and Judge.
Because of who He is, the Eternal God, it all becomes possible and we are able to fully appreciate His presence.
His Overwhelming Presence
In ritualistic and denominational Christendom the reality of His presence cannot be appreciated because form has crowded out and replaced the essential substance. Instead of ‘worshipping God in the Spirit’, Phil. 3. 3; John 4. 23, 24, there is a dependence on ornate architecture, elaborate ritualistic ceremonies, professional clergymen, and a man-made order-of-service, all instruments to appeal to the emotions and the mind. But it is to the quickened human spirit that the Lord’s presence is fully discernable, through His Holy Spirit. It is only by His Spirit that the believer’s spirit, soul and body become truly appreciative of the Lord’s presence.
Assemblies of saints, returning to the simplicity of the New Testament, guided by the Lord’s promise of Matt. 18. 20, and obeying the Spirit’s injunction through Paul’s instruction in the first letter to the Corinthians chapters 11 to 14, have come to realize the Lord’s wonderful presence among them. Having rejected ritualistic orders-of-service and all the trappings so necessary in man-led worship, saints – in liberty and subject to the leading of the Holy Spirit with their whole being focused entirely on the Lord Jesus – have come to know Him to be present as Host and President in their meetings in His Name.
Although true and blessed on every occasion when the people of God meet together in Christ’s Name, it becomes almost uniquely precious as they gather together to remember the Lord Jesus in the Breaking of Bread. The brothers with their heads uncovered and sisters with heads covered to express the glory of God, in an attitude, attire and atmosphere expressing reverence for the presence of the Lord, each one acknowledges his or her role and responsibility in coming together. Sincerely and with deep personal meaning, solemn and reverential worship is offered. This is the believers’ highest occupation, given to the Father, through the Holy Spirit and presenting the Lord Jesus as the Perfect Lamb of God, seeing Him in all the types, prophecies, and promises of Scripture – the Burnt Offering, the Meal Offering, the Peace Offering, the Trespass and the Sin Offerings, as well as the Passover and the Red Heifer.
Thus the time is quickly filled as His power, glory, love, holiness, grace, and mercy occupy and fill the minds of worshipping saints. Brother after brother rises to give out a hymn and then is joined by the whole congregation in singing, a psalm is read, a doctrine expounded, a prayer uttered, comment on the Lord’s worth and work, every aspect of our appreciation of Him relevant to worship combines to fill our hearts to overflow in adoration. All the worshippers participate either actively and vocally, brothers taking turns, or passively and silently, saying ‘Amen’ to the prayers and Scriptures. Thus do the saints richly, clearly, deeply and personally feel and know the reality of His presence among them. As the bread is taken and the cup drunk after thanks have been given, we truly 'proclaim the Lord’s death till he come’. Sometimes the reality of His presence is truly overwhelming.
With such spiritual intensity, involvement and devotion, truly the saints do experience the reality of the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ in their midst, for, as He said, ‘Where two or three are gathered together in my name there am I in the midst of them’.
Our Constant Reponsibility
The sad reality is that the presence of the Lord Jesus in the midst of His people today is rarely felt or known in power or even looked for. How then can we combat this dreadful dearth of knowing Him to be ‘in the midst’? Are we not aware that to settle down to something less is to begin a decline that can only end in dead formalism?
For Christ to be present and appreciated as the Centre of their coming together, translates this and every such occasion into a dynamic and soul changing experience for the people of God. Hear the early morning cry of the apostle John as, after such a dreary and unprofitable night, he recognizes the figure on the shore and declares, ‘It is the Lord’. All now begins to change. They find in His being there a new direction and purpose to their lives. He has food ready for them to eat and words of encouragement, direction and rebuke. He is in charge again and with renewed vigour they find anew the pathway of service and sacrifice. What a change He makes!
I ask again then, how do we make His presence in our midst a powerful reality as we come together in His Name? The following guidelines are simple and proven to be the way back into this longlost blessedness:
There are three responsibilities in this matter and each is vital to having the experience in full measure. Elders are responsible to keep this reality right in front of the saints every time they meet. The company as a whole is responsible to know and understand what it is that they expect when coming together. You and I as individuals are responsible for our part as we prepare and then present ourselves at the meeting with nothing as far as we are concerned that would hinder the joyous experience of knowing the Lord in our midst.