Special Presence of God

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Calvinist Lee

Puritan Board Freshman
Is there a special presence of God when Christians gather together in worship as a church on the Lord's day? If yes, what are the supporting verses to it?
"Where 2 or 3 are gathered together.." God is omnipresent of course, but he is especially present among gathered believers say the Scriptures. How is this? I don't know, but the Bible says it....so....
"Where 2 or 3 are gathered together.." God is omnipresent of course, but he is especially present among gathered believers say the Scriptures. How is this? I don't know, but the Bible says it....so....
What about those who object that Matthew 18 is refferring to church discipline in its context?
Is there a special presence of God when Christians gather together in worship as a church on the Lord's day? If yes, what are the supporting verses to it?
1 Cor. 11:23 For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body, which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” 25 In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.”

1 Cor. 10:16 The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ?
I know of some who interpret this passage as speaking of worship. I am undecided on it.

For you have not come to what may be touched, a blazing fire and darkness and gloom and a tempest and the sound of a trumpet and a voice whose words made the hearers beg that no further messages be spoken to them. For they could not endure the order that was given, “If even a beast touches the mountain, it shall be stoned.” Indeed, so terrifying was the sight that Moses said, “I tremble with fear.” But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel. See that you do not refuse him who is speaking. For if they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, much less will we escape if we reject him who warns from heaven. At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, “Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.” This phrase, “Yet once more,” indicates the removal of things that are shaken—that is, things that have been made—in order that the things that cannot be shaken may remain. Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire.
Hebrews 12:18‭-‬29
You should consider Psalm 22:22-31, in which the speaker joins in the praise of the congregation of God's people. Given the New Testament's assertion that Christ is the speaker in this Psalm, and the way Hebrews 2:11-13 and Hebrews 12:22-24 speak of the congregation/assembly in present-day language and connect to this Psalm, one could conclude that when we gather to worship Christ is spiritually present with us in a special way—a participant in our congregation. There are also other ways to see it, of course. It might mean worship in the age to come, or it might be a present-day presence that's no different from Christ's everyday presence. But you asked for verses to look at, and these are some to include.
This is from a discussion I had regarding the correct interpretation of Matt 18:20, whether it apply strictly – only – to the previous verses on church discipline, or whether verse 20 may include other aspects of Christian gathering besides matters of discipline.

Mt 18:20 “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.”

There is no question but that this does apply to verses 16-18 preceding it; on the very face of it it includes the discipline procedure; yet I hold it goes beyond that, i.e., it may stand alone, and is broadly applicable.

It is a precious promise – a gem – I would not want taken from the treasure store of God’s people.

I do see it coincides with what John MacArthur appears to teach (I don’t have access to his full commentary), that is, it pertains only to the discipline pericope.

While the following views of respected commentators are not determinative, it does show that skilled and godly expositors do agree on verse 20 going beyond the initial context of church discipline.

[Some emphases in the following are added]

John Calvin


Matt 18:19. Again I say to you. He confirms the former statement; for not only will God bestow the spirit of wisdom and prudence on those who ask it, but he will also provide that not one thing which they shall do according to his word shall want its power and effect. By uniting agreement with prayer, he reminds us with what moderation and humility believers ought to conduct themselves in all religious acts. The offender must be admonished, and, if he does not receive correction, he must be excommunicated. Here it is not only necessary to ask counsel at the sacred mouth of God, so that nothing may be determined but by his word, but it is proper at the same time to begin with prayer. Hence appears more clearly what I have formerly stated, that men are not allowed the liberty of doing whatever they please, but that God is declared to have the sole claim to the government of the Church, so that he approves and ratifies the decisions of which he is himself the Author. Meanwhile, when believers assemble, they are taught to unite their prayers and to pray in common, not only to testify the unity of faith, but that God may listen to the agreement of them all. So then, as God frequently promises in other passages that he will graciously listen to the private requests of each individual, so here Christ makes a remarkable promise to public prayers, in order to invite us more earnestly to the practice of them.

18:20. For where two or three are assembled in my name. This promise is more extensive than the former; for the Lord declares that he will be present,

wherever two or three are met together in his name,
to guide them by his counsel, (Psalm 73:24,)

and to conduct to a prosperous result whatever they shall undertake. There is therefore no reason to doubt that those who give themselves up to his direction will derive most desirable advantage from his presence. And since it is an invaluable blessing to have Christ for our director in all our affairs, to bless our deliberations and their results; and since, on the other hand, nothing can be more miserable than to be deprived of his grace, this promise ought to add no small excitement to us to unite with each other in piety and holiness. 570 For whoever either disregards the holy assemblies, or separates himself from brethren, and takes little interest in the cultivation of unity, by this alone makes it evident that he sets no value on the presence of Christ.

But we must take care, first of all, that those who are desirous to have Christ present with them shall assemble in his name; and we must likewise understand what is the meaning of this expression; for we perceive how ungodly men falsely and impudently, as well as wickedly, cover their conspiracies with his sacred name. If therefore we do not wish to expose Christ to their ridicule, and at the same time to overturn what he has here promised, we must know first of all what is meant by this phrase. It means that those who are assembled together, laying aside every thing that hinders them from approaching to Christ, shall sincerely raise their desires to him, shall yield obedience to his word, and allow themselves to be governed by the Spirit. Where this simplicity prevails, there is no reason to fear that Christ will not make it manifest that it was not in vain for the assembly to meet in his name.

Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible


Ver. 19,20. Most interpreters agree there is a connection betwixt these verses and those immediately preceding, as if it were a further confirmation of what God had said concerning his binding and loosing in heaven whatsoever they should bind or loose on earth; and say, the asking mentioned in this verse supposes that no church will adventure upon so grave an act as excommunication, without asking his direction or counsel; nor undertake such a thing as absolution, without the like serious asking of God pardon for the repenting sinner. Now, saith he, let the church be never so small that so joins in prayers on this occasion, what they ask of God shall be done. Whether it hath any such reference or no, or be an independent promise of Christ’s presence with his church, I shall not determine. Those who think this text hath such a particular reference, yet do also grant it a more general promise of Christ’s presence with his people. Whenever they are met by his authority, or upon his account or command, whether it be for counsel, or judgment, or prayer, or the celebration of any sacred institution of his, he is in the midst of them, to protect and favour them: what they ask

Matthew Henry commentary

Matt 18:20 Every believer has the presence of Christ with him; but the promise here refers to the meetings where two or three are gathered in his name, not only for discipline, but for religious worship, or any act of Christian communion. Assemblies of Christians for holy purposes are hereby appointed, directed, and encouraged.

[1.] They are hereby appointed; the church of Christ in the world exists most visibly in religious assemblies; it is the will of Christ that these should be set up, and kept up, for the honour of God, the edification of men, and the preserving of a face of religion upon the world. When God intends special answers to prayer, he calls for a solemn assembly, Joel. 2:15, Joel. 2:16 . If there be no liberty and opportunity for large and numerous assemblies, yet then it is the will of God that two or three should gather together, to show their good-will to the great congregation. Note, When we cannot do what we would in religion, we must do as we can, and God will accept us.

[2.] They are hereby directed to gather together in Christ’s name. In the exercise of church discipline, they must come together in the name of Christ, 1 Co. 5:4 . That name gives to what they do an authority on earth, and an acceptableness in heaven. In meeting or worship, we must have an eye to Christ; must come together by virtue of his warrant and appointment, in token of our relation to him, professing faith in him, and in communion with all that in every place call upon him. When we come together, to worship God in a dependence upon the Spirit and grace of Christ as Mediator for assistance, and upon his merit and righteousness as Mediator for acceptance, having an actual regard to him as our Way to the Father, and our Advocate with the Father, then we are met together in his name.

[3.] They are hereby encouraged with an assurance of the presence of Christ; There am I in the midst of them. By his common presence he is in all places, as God; but this is a promise of his special presence. Where his saints are, his sanctuary is, and there he will dwell; it is his rest (Ps. 132:14 ), it is his walk (Rev. 2:1 ); he is in the midst of them, to quicken and strengthen them, to refresh and comfort them, as the sun in the midst of the universe. He is in the midst of them, that is, in their hearts; it is a spiritual presence, the presence of Christ’s Spirit with their spirits, that is here intended. There am I, not only I will be there, but I am there; as if he came first, is ready before them, they shall find him there; he repeated this promise at parting ch. 28:20 ), Lo, I am with you always. Note, The presence of Christ in the assemblies of Christians is promised, and may in faith be prayed for and depended on; There am I. This is equivalent to the Shechinah, or special presence of God in the tabernacle and temple of old, Ex. 40:34 ; 2 Chr. 5:14 .

Though but two or three are met together, Christ is among them; this is an encouragement to the meeting of a few, when it is either, First, of choice. Besides the secret worship performed by particular persons, and the public services of the whole congregation, there may be occasion sometimes for two or three to come together, either for mutual assistance in conference or joint assistance in prayer, not in contempt of public worship, but in concurrence with it; there Christ will be present. Or, Secondly, By constraint; when there are not more than two or three to come together, or, if there be, they dare not, for fear of the Jews, yet Christ will be in the midst of them, for it is not the multitude, but the faith and sincere devotion, of the worshippers, that invites the presence of Christ; and though there be but two or three, the smallest number that can be, yet, it Christ make one among them, who is the principal one, their meeting is as honourable and comfortable as if they were two or three thousand.

John Gill commentary

Matt 18:20 For where two or three are gathered together,.... This seems to be said in opposition to a Jewish notion, that a number less than ten, is not a congregation (a); whereas, though the number is ever so few that are met together to pray to God; or to hear his word, attend on his ordinances, or do the business of his house, or transact any affair that is for the glory of God, and the good of souls, in my name, says Christ; that is, by his authority, depending on his assistance, calling upon his name, and making use of it, and seeking the glory of it:

there am I in the midst of them; presiding over them, ruling in their hearts, directing their counsels, assisting them in all they are concerned, confirming what they do, and giving a blessing and success to all they are engaged in…

William Hendriksen commentary

In confirmation of the words of verse 19 (notice “for”) Jesus continues: 20. For where two or three are gathered in my name there am I in the midst of them. The expression “two or three” is a development of “two” in the preceding verse. The Lord again assures his disciples that the gathering of believers for prayer and worship need not be one of “crowding worshipers.” Even two or three will receive a blessing as long as they gather in his name, that is, in close fellowship with him; hence, with his atoning work as the basis of their approach to God, at his direction, and in harmony with that which he has revealed concerning himself. For the concept “name” see also on 6:9; 7:22; 10:22, 41, 42; 12:21; 18:5.

The promise is, “There am I in the midst of them.” The expression “Jehovah (“God” or “I”) in the midst of you (“her,” “us”)” is in Scripture generally associated with the impartation of strength, direction, protection, and consolation: “to help, to comfort, and to bless.” See such passages as Ps. 46:5; Isa. 12:6; Jer. 14:9; Hos. 11:9; Zeph. 3:5, 15, 17; Zech. 2:10. Similar is “I am (“will be”) with you” (Gen. 28:15; Deut. 31:6; Josh. 1:5; Judg. 6:16, etc.). We can safely conclude therefore that in the present passage the meaning is the same. It is in that favorable sense that Jesus is spiritually in the midst of his people gathered for prayer and worship.

Most comforting is also the fact that Jehovah—and this holds also for Jesus Christ—though great and infinite, in his tender love condescends to that which is small, weak, humble, and by the world generally despised (Judg. 6:15, 16; 7:7; Ps. 20:7; Isa. 1:8, 9; 57:15; Zeph. 3:12; Matt. 18:10; Luke 12:32; 1 Cor. 4:11–13). This explains “where two or three are gathered, etc.” See also on Matt. 1:23, p. 141.
In the gathered body of Christ – that is, in local church assemblies – is where the Spirit of God manifests the presence, majesty, and power of the risen Jesus Christ. "There is a river, the streams whereof shall make glad the city of God, the holy place of the tabernacles of the most High. God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved: God shall help her, and that right early" (Psalm 46:4, 5).

In Paul's prayer to our Father that He would grant us to be strengthened by His Spirit with might in the inner man, and that Christ, by faith, would dwell in our hearts, rooting and grounding us in love, so we "May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God." (Eph 3:14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21)

As we each – that is, the elect – have the anointing of God within us, when gathered as His house or temple, He dwells in greater might than in our separate hearts. You will note, that it is with all saints we are able to comprehend this remarkable prayer and the reality Paul asks for in our behalf.
Psalm 87:2 - The gates of Zion being the assembly of collective worship; the dwellings of Jacob being our private dwelling places. And surely what God has more love to, he will manifest himself more in.
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