In His Presence

“Where two or three are gathered together in My name, there am I in the midst of them.” —Matthew 18:20

IN THE GARDEN of Eden God said, “It is not good that man should be alone.” (Gen. 2:18) While this observation was made concerning Adam’s need of a ‘helpmate’, it is nevertheless true in principle along general lines. In so far as the human race is concerned, the hermit is considered to be eccentric. Normal men and women enjoy association and companionship. It is imperative that the disciples of Christ seek association with one another, and those who have no desire to do this may well question the vitality of their relationship with the Lord himself.

We read concerning the early disciples of Christ that “they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.” (Acts 2:42) Certainly this language does not describe an isolationist attitude on the part of those first disciples, but the reverse. They had much in common, and they delighted to be together to share their hopes, joys, and to comfort one another in their trials.

This Spirit-inspired desire for association was in evidence throughout those early days of Christianity. To begin with, the brethren met together mainly in each other’s homes. These meetings were not for the interchange of news with respect to the everyday affairs of their lives. The purpose of their association was much more important than this. It was for their mutual edification as footstep followers of the Master. Paul indicates the nature of some of the meetings which were held at Corinth, writing, “When ye come together, every one of you hath a psalm, hath a doctrine, hath a tongue, hath a revelation, hath an interpretation. Let all things be done unto edifying.”—I Cor. 14:26

There were, of course, other types of meetings. Some of them we would describe today as preaching services. Paul preached to the brethren in Troas. This was on “the first day of the week when the disciples came together to break bread.” (Acts 20:7) The custom in the Early Church of breaking bread on the first day of the week was evidently in commemoration of the resurrection of Jesus. This should not be confused with the Memorial Supper, which was observed once each year in commemoration of the death of Jesus.

After Gentiles began to accept Christ and associate with the brethren, the apostles met together in Jerusalem for a general conference to determine what the attitude of the church should be toward this new turn of events, and what should be required of these Gentile converts. Peter was one of the chief spokesmen at this assembly. Paul and Barnabas also participated. James presented a summation of the findings, and recommended what seemed to him to be the wise thing to do. The record of this remarkable gathering is presented in the 15th chapter of The Book of Acts.

Matthew 18:15-18

In this passage Jesus indicates another reason for the brethren to meet together if and when the need might arise. His instructions are based on the supposition that one brother has trespassed against another brother, and Jesus explains how a difficulty of this sort should be handled. Blest indeed are those who, in situations of this kind, follow the Master’s instructions.

First there should be a sincere effort to settle the matter privately between those involved—“If thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone.” (vs. 15) There have been many heartaches among the people of God because this instruction was not followed. When we think that we have been wronged it is so like the fallen flesh to complain to others rather than to go to the one involved.

However, Jesus recognized that going to the one who has trespassed might not always result satisfactorily. If it does not, we still do not have the right to complain to all our friends. Jesus said that the next step would be, “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 should be established.”—vs. 16

But this second step might also fail. Even so, we would not even then be at liberty to make our grievance a public matter. The third and final step would be to take it to the “church,” to the gathering of the brethren with whom we ordinarily enjoy fellowship. Then, whatever the church decides should be accepted as the Lord’s will. If it were found that the accused brother had really been a trespasser, and he was not willing to apologize and make amends, then he was to be considered a “heathen man and a publican.” (vs. 17) Jesus explained that the findings of the church in cases of this kind would be recognized by God. We quote, from Wilson’s Diaglott, “Indeed, I say unto you, whatsoever you may bind on earth, will be as having been bound in Heaven: and whatever you may loose on earth, will be as having been loosed in heaven.”—vs. 18

“In the Midst”

The vital importance for association with those of like precious faith is brought to our attention in the next two verses, the latter of which is our text. Jesus continued, “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. For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.”—vss. 19,20

It is the fact that the Lord meets with his people when they come together in his name that makes their gatherings so tremendously important. Whether or not, in this context, we think of Christ, or of our Heavenly Father, being present in spirit when we meet as his disciples, both would be true. And when we think of what this means, how sacred all our gatherings should be, and how reverent should be our demeanor when we meet with our brethren for mutual edification!

Paul wrote, “Let all things be done unto edifying.” (I Cor. 14:26) We can apply this to all our gatherings regardless of the particular form they may take. Paul also admonished that all things should be done decently and in order. (I Cor. 14:40) We are confident that this is the desire and aim of the brethren everywhere, and it seems to us that we will be more on the alert to have it this way by remembering that when we do come together the Lord is in our midst. There are, perhaps, many things we would do, or fail to do, if our brethren alone were involved, but remembering that the Lord meets with us, we try to be more watchful, not only of our words and deeds, but even of our thoughts.

The Unseen Guest

There is a very meaningful motto which many Christians have on display in their homes, which reads, “Christ is the Head of this house, the unseen guest at every meal, the silent listener to every conversation.” We could just as truthfully say of every gathering of the Lord’s consecrated people that “Christ is the leader of this meeting, the unseen observer of all that takes place, and the silent listener to everything that is said.” Yes, even more than that, he is able to read the thoughts and intents of our hearts.

Since the Lord does thus meet with us, and occupies such a prominent position in our assemblies, we of course desire to assemble with the reverence that is due to him, and to the Heavenly Father whom he represents. If we keep this in mind it will have a bearing on our demeanor from the very moment we enter the door of the assembly room. And even before this, it will induce us to make proper preparation for the meeting, through prayer and otherwise.

Stepping into a room, small or large, where a group of the Lord’s disciples are gathering in his name, how would we conduct ourselves if the Master were visibly present to conduct the meeting? Would we begin talking with this, that, or the other brother or sister about the weather, or about our infirmities, or perchance our family troubles? Would we be so intent upon discussing these trivial things that we would fail to hear the chairman of the meeting announce the opening hymn?

If we were a little more conscious of the fact that the Lord, although invisible, is an observer at all our gatherings, would we be habitually late, and therefore a disturbance to the Lord’s people at every meeting we attend? For reasons best known to each of us, there is often a reluctance on the part of the brethren in going into a meeting to occupy the front seats. Now this would not be particularly serious if everyone attending the meeting arrived on time. But since there almost always seem to be some late corners, these have to disturb those who were on time, and distract the speaker, in order to occupy one of the empty seats that are nearer to the front.

He Sees and Hears

Would there ever be a situation like this if everyone concerned kept in mind Jesus’ promise, “There am 1 in the midst”? We think not! The fact that we do not see him does not change the situation. The reason we would be more careful if he were visible to our human eyes, is not because we see him, but because we would thus be so acutely aware of the fact that he sees us. But let us remember that he sees us anyway. Yes, he sees and hears.

Those who conduct meetings made up of the Lord’s devoted people with whom he promised to be present should keep in mind their responsibility to him as well as to his people. We doubt if any minister of the Gospel, or any teacher of a Bible study meeting, would be likely to consume time in speculating, and in doubtful disputations, if he actually saw the Lord occupying one of the front seats at the gathering. What a feeling of reverence and sense of responsibility this would give to all who serve in the church as elders. But even though we do not see him, Jesus’ promise still stands, “There am I in the midst.”

Consciousness of the Lord’s presence at our meetings should also have a profound bearing on how we listen to what is being said, whether we are being exhorted to faithfulness to the Lord and his service, or whether we are being taught one or another of the precious doctrines of the truth. At times a speaker feels called upon to express a word of warning against some false doctrine, or wrong practice. As we listen, do we search our own hearts with the view to making a personal application of what we hear, or are we thinking of how timely the remarks are for someone else?


In presenting these thoughts in this manner it is merely with the desire of reminding ourselves of the realities associated with our fellowship as brethren in Christ. To meet with the Lord’s people one or more times a week is a great privilege and a high honor. It means much more than to remark at the close of the meeting that “we heard a good talk,” or, “we had a good study.” Or, in the case of a prayer, praise, and testimony meeting, to observe that “Sister So and So gave a very revealing testimony.”

Has that good talk penetrated into our hearts so deeply that it will affect our lives throughout the days and weeks ahead? Are we determined, as a result of what we have heard, that we will more diligently than ever seek first the kingdom of God by increasing our zeal to sacrifice more faithfully in any and every way we can? Does that good talk move us to action—just as though we heard Jesus say the same words? It should, for the brother was representing the Lord and spoke what is contained in the Word of the Lord.

‘Nominal’ Church

We often speak of the nominal church, which means ‘in name only’. But if we should forget what it means to be disciples of Christ and the purpose of our meeting together as his followers, we could easily become nominal in our attitudes, especially in the matter of attending meetings. All throughout the country today, by radio, by television, and through the public press, people are urged to attend church on Sundays. The admonition is to go to the church or synagogue “of your choice,” but go.

The implication is that by attending church once a week our religious responsibilities are fulfilled. We should be careful not to think of attending meetings as a ritual—and that by the once a week observance of this ritual we will be living up to the terms of our covenant of sacrifice. Assembling with the followers of the Master is one of the means the Lord has provided for our upbuilding and strengthening as New Creatures, that we might lay down our lives daily in his service. The assemblies of the Lord’s people are ‘feeding grounds’, from which, nourished and refreshed, we go forth as ambassadors of Christ, holding forth the Word of life “in the midst of a crooked and perverse” world in which we are commissioned to shine as lights.—Phil. 2:15,16; Matt. 5:14-16


“They that feared [reverenced] the Lord spoke often one to another,” Malachi wrote, “and the Lord hearkened, and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before him for them that feared the Lord, and that thought upon his name. And they shall be mine, saith the Lord of hosts, in that day when I make up my jewels: and I will spare them, as a man spareth his own son that serveth him.” (Mal. 3:16,17) This precious passage of Scripture emphasizes the importance of the Lord’s people meeting together for mutual encouragement and edification.

The presence of the Lord at such gatherings is also assured by Malachi. The Lord ‘hearkens’ and he ‘hears’. If we did not know of the Lord’s love, his mercy, his sympathy, and his understanding, we might at times be terrified to realize that he hears, not only what is said at our meetings, but that he is a silent listener to every conversation of his people. But he does understand. He knows how imperfect we are, and in his book of remembrance he is recording the thoughts and intents of our hearts, rather than the imperfect way in which we give expression to what is in our hearts.

Let us then, as Paul wrote, “draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised); and let us consider one another to provoke unto love and good works: not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more as ye see the day approaching.”—Heb. 10:22-25

The Approaching Day

These words: “And so much the more as ye see the day approaching,” are more important to us today than ever before in history. There are evidences all around us that the “day” of the millennial kingdom is fast approaching, which means that the time is indeed short in which to prove our worthiness to live and reign with Christ. If we are to be one of the ‘jewels’ in that royal diadem, we will need to make faithful use of all the means of grace which the Lord, in his love, has provided for us, and one of these is the assembling of ourselves together.

May we avail ourselves of every opportunity of assembly that is offered to us. There are the gatherings of our home ecclesias; the local conventions; the larger district conventions. And there is the annual General Convention. There are many of the brethren who, through no fault of their own, are so situated that they are unable to attend any meetings. For these the Lord has ways and means of compensating for their lack of fellowship with his people. In this we rejoice!

But for those of us who can attend meetings, may we continue doing so with appreciation, and with hearts prepared to receive the blessings which the Lord provides for his people when they assemble in his name. And may we attend with reverence, ever remembering ‘Jesus’ promise, “There am I in the midst.”

Dawn Bible Students Association
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