Gathered in His Name
Not long ago, I was talking to a man about the church and I invited him to worship with us on Sunday, and even offered him a ride there and back. He said, “I don’t believe it is necessary to go to church in order to go to heaven.” Then he said, “Do you know why?” I, of course, wanted to hear his answer because it is hard for me to imagine one looking forward to heaven, but not wanting to worship with other believers on earth. So I said, “No. Why?” He said, “Because Jesus said, ‘Where two or three are gathered in My name, I am with them.’” He was quoting Matt. 18:20 and worded what Jesus said correctly. The NKJV words it, “For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them”. He had the verse worded correctly, but he didn’t have a good understanding of what Jesus was saying.
First of all, Jesus was saying that there needs to be a gathering, even if it is just two or three. One person who is able to get around, and does so quite well when he is motivated, chooses to stay home on Sunday morning and “watch church on tv” can hardly say he is with a gathering. It is surely not a gathering in the “name of the Lord.”
What does it mean to be gathered “in His name”? Col. 3:17 says, “Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.” Phil. 2:9, 10 say God has given Him a “name above every name”. He reigns today as King over His kingdom, which is His church today. To do anything in the name of any king is to do it with his authorization. To be official, it has always had to be in writing. To do anything in the name of our King who is Christ Jesus the Lord, is to do it with His written authorization in the Bible. To keep commandments made to us by Him is to do it in His name.
In Matt. 22:19, when Jesus instituted the Lord’s supper, He said, “Do this in remembrance of Me.” In Acts 20:7, after the church was established in Troas, it tells how they had continued keeping His commandment on the first day of the week. Also, 1 Cor. 16:2 tells us they gathered on the first day of the week. All through history, since the day of Pentecost in Acts 2, the Lord’s church has gathered in His name, by His authority, on the first day of the week. It has been for the main purpose of keeping His commandment to take the Lord’s supper in remembrance of Him, and worship Him in spirit and Truth, the way the Bible says.
Jesus said wherever two or three are gathered together to keep His commandments, He is in the midst of them. On the first day of the week He wants us gathered together to eat the unleavened bread that represents His body, and drink the fruit of the vine that represents His blood that He shed as the “once for all” sacrifice for the sins of “all those who obey Him” (Heb. 5:8, 9; Eph. 1:7; Gal 3:27). Heb. 10:25 says we are not to forsake the assembling of ourselves together as is the manner of some”. We are to “exhort one another” and “encourage one another to stir up love and good works”. We can not do this when we believe we can stay home and away from the faithful and believe we can do it in His name. It is those who keep His commandments who can know He is in their midst, even if it is just two or three gathered together.
Timothy A. Sundlie
Evangelist - La Crosse church of Christ