We often quote the words of Christ: “where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in the mist of them.“ (Matt 18:20) I don’t think that this is just a reference to the presence of the Holy Spirit manifesting Jesus in the body of Christ, although of course it is that. But I think it also points to the underpinning of truth found in the law, where a matter has to be established by two or three witnesses. (2 Cor 13:1) Where two or three witnesses are gathered in His name, His presence is a proven reality and is a fulfilment of the law.
But we cannot just leave this as an article of faith. “The just shall live by faith.” (Habakkuk 2:4) Our faith is not just a given set of principles that we believe: it is the source and fabric of our lives. Faith colours and directs what we do. It’s a reality: “the evidence of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1) The presence of Jesus “in the midst” when two or three are gathered in His name is a reality to be experienced, evidence that testifies to the truth of His existence. It is the testimony of Jesus.
The qualifier that I think we can pass over rather too easily is the need to be gathered in His name. The ancient idea of “name” is so much more than an identifier or a label: it is the whole of a person’s identity, it is the reality of who they are. To be gathered “in the name” of Jesus is not to be together in one place that has the name of Jesus on a plaque outside; it to be gathered in submission to His will, open to His power, and as vessels for His love. If we gather in the name of Christ it is with our desires and our agendas laid at His feet.
When we fulfil these requirements the Holy Spirit can come and make Jesus an experienced reality among us: we are gathered in unity, the blessing is commanded (Psalm 133), and the prayer of Jesus quoted in John 17 is fulfilled. The spirit of prophesy is evident. If we do not lay down our agendas we are being double-minded, and cannot therefore “expect to receive anything from the Lord.” (James 1:7) If we bring them to the gathering with us, the only requirements that are fulfilled are ultimately those of “confusion and every evil thing” (James 3:16) and of religion that “has a form of godliness but denies its power.” (2 Timothy 3:5) And we know what the Scriptures say about that.