Genuine Christian fellowship is hard to come by. As was made apparent by Christ previously, His sheep are far and wide to reach. After we're found, we gain interest in gathering with others who believe the truth and want to fellowship. 'For this journey takes on much more spiritual significance when we develop ties with fellow believers. To assemble together provides tremendous opportunities.
Coming from various backgrounds, we must be willing to give for the sake of the Gospel; that's what we've learned here in Matthew chapter 18. When an assembly comes together, we all do our part to build and maintain unity. 'What force anywhere could thwart the success of an assembly of believers who are unified in the true faith?! If you ever possess such a quality of fellowship, you'll learn to treat it with tremendous love and consideration.
There's a special dynamic in gathering together as brothers and sisters in the Name of Christ. Fellowship plays a key roll in supporting and encouraging kingdom success. We can build accountability and help one another much easier when we are regularly together. Here, the focus of Christ is for an assembly to get in agreement together for the purpose of faith, executing the government of God in this world.
Christ is now moving the attention from our individual Christian walk to that of being part of an assembly of believers. He first of all directs our attention to how to deal with personal problems which may arise with one another in an assembly. Since He has already taught us how to deal with our past offences, this is how He wants us to deal with them now and in the future:
15 Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. 16 But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. 17 And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican. 18 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. 19 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. 20 For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.
Christ gives step by step, how to bring success even out of our differences. If we'll do it like He says, an agreeable outcome is far more possible. It goes without saying we are always dependant upon what Christ's Spirit does within each case. Regardless, if we follow Christ's words, then we'll have done all we can to protect the unity of the assembly.
An assembly can still find direction and unity even in the midst of problems, as long as we'll listen to Christ. Amazing things can happen in our midst, because God is there. It becomes a matter of communicating our mutual faith, then pursuit together toward the will of God. Faith flourishes as we each discover and assume our role in the assembly. We see how to best handle everyone's involvement, Christ's way:
15 Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother.
As the Apostle John tells us in his first Epistle: "He that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?" THE WAY WE ARE TREATING ONE ANOTHER IS HOW WE ARE TREATING GOD. The way we handle our differences with one another who are in the assembly, puts this all on the line. Differences should be avoided but when they occur, handle them immediately. The sooner it is handled the greater the chances are for peace and reconciliation.
Handling it immediately keeps it as small as possible. Outside those directly involved, the less people brought into any problem, the better. The idea is for it to be solved just between the parties directly involved, as soon as possible. Therefore if you are offended, it is your responsiblity to go just to the one who offended you, no one else. Christ will instruct us to involve others only when it becomes necessary. We don't involve the assembly of believers as a whole, except as a last resort.
Every offence needs to be settled. There will be a possibility of division until that offence has been resolved, no matter how great or small. Neglecting to go to that one in the assembly who has offended you, jeopardizes the unity of the whole assembly, thereby creating less potential for mutual agreement and belief. Don't put it off, communicate with whomever has offended you. Don't let it drag on another day. Don't give it the opportunity to hinder your faith.
Success comes when we approach our differences with discretion and love. Brow-beating or punishing your offender is not the goal. Christ gives us His objective: that "if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother." You can not only reconcile whatever difference you have, but gain mutual respect for one another in the process. Success is always possible when we follow the words of Christ! How wonderful it is when two Christians in an assembly can work out their differences without involving anyone else.
16 But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.
So if you go to them in confidence and it isn't resolved, "then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established." It becomes necessary to involve someone else only "if he will not hear thee" when you went to him individually. Since it couldn't be settled, a trusted "one or two more" from within the assembly must be brought in. This is another protective measure that it might still be settled without the entire assembly.
Each involved party would share their side with the one or two witnesses. They would then try and help them work it out, as best they could. Christ's objective here is to help them work it out thru minimal outside help. If this measure is successful, then the assembly won't even need to hear about it.
17 And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican.
Everything must now be brought out in the open before the whole assembly of believers. As we see, the offender, after having been confronted by the offended, along with another one or two, still would not make things right. The offender must now decide how much the unity of the assembly means to him. If he refuses to "hear the church" by not repenting or asking for forgiveness, then a final measure must be taken.
Christ finishes this by saying, "But if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican." The offender can no longer be allowed to remain a part of the fellowship of the assembly, by his refusal to make it right. Understand, if the supposed offence is seen in the judgment of the assembly as valid, the offender then stands against the will of the whole congregation, and must be removed. The offence is no longer just between him and the other Christian, but between him and the entire assembly. This all has heavenly implications:
18 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. 19 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. 20 For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.
To be "gathered together in" His Name is to worship Him in Spirit and in truth. It is not only being aware of the truth of the racial Gospel, but being led by the indwelling Holy Spirit. To be an assembly who gathers in His Name removes selfishness, agendas, and brings to the forefront our desires under the power of God. THIS IS WHAT UNIFIES US; TO NO LONGER COME SHORT OF THE GLORY OF GOD.
Christ is showing us that if we've humbled ourselves as little children and are at peace within and with others, we are free to be in mutual agreement with an assembly of believers in the Spirit of Christ. There are no external rituals which accomplish this. Only thru inner peace and mutual unity can we function properly together in an assembly as believers.
"Verily I say unto you"- Christ emphasizes how much power an assembly of believers has under God. When one is excluded from fellowship, that person is "loosed" from the watchcare and protection of the assembly, back out into the world. The unrepentant offender is no longer the assembly's problem and is now under the direct judgement of "heaven." The door is still open for the offender to repent and return. Until then, he is loosed from what he did not seek to protect.
What remains after the offender's removal is an assembly of believers who are in unity. Christ expresses how a unified assembly of believers who are in agreement get their prayers answered by God. According to this, an assembly has the power to bind and to loose. What we bind and loose here, will be bound and loosed in heaven. Therefore an assembly of believers has the power of heaven, here on earth. An assembly of believers has a connection unlike any other gathering or institution.
"Again I say unto you" is in reference to being a witness, where "if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask" or in what the assembly desires from God, it shall come to pass. The primary purpose of an assembly of believers is to be witnesses together of what God can do, for "any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven." Therefore it's not just for worship, fellowship, and study, but to seek and execute God's power.
Notice, it only takes "two" to "agree on earth" concerning "any thing that they shall ask" and "it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven." When it comes to Christ's assembly it's more about quality than quantity. In other words, He would rather have "two or three" who are right with Him, ready to believe in Him, than a whole house full who do not want to believe because of selfish pride and unforgiveness.
We now discover God's way of success- thru mutual faith with other believers. God wants us to be witnesses together of His great power as we unify in the carrying out of His will. We agree on earth and it is done by our Father in heaven. There is real emphasis here that God can and will grant us things we ask for, as we are in agreement with other faithful Christians.
A huge part of following Christ is knowing what to let go of and knowing what to claim- binding and loosing. It's one thing to know what you need to fully serve God, it's another to be able to let go of what you don't need. As an assembly of believers, we work together to loose all that hinders us from believing, while binding what we desire from God to accomplish His will- this is what Christ is telling us we have the power to do.
Those in an assembly are successful when they mutually "agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask." No matter how large or small, when the assembly mutually agrees on their desires with one another, then "it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven."
HIS ASSEMBLY OF BELIEVERS IS ABOUT BEING UNIFIED IN SEEKING GOD'S BEST. We must desire the opportunities and resources that only our Father can provide. Loose all your fears and bind more faith to go forward in the power of His Name. For He is with us, He is in us- what have we to fear?!
Pray God will connect each of us with others we can assemble with in our new-found faith. What a joy to gather with other racially-awake Israelites who agree on the Scriptures! "As iron sharpens iron" as we unify in the power of God.