Authority, Prayer and His Presence

Text: Matthew 18:18-20 {NASB}

18 Truly I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven. 19 “Again I say to you, that if two of you agree on earth about anything that they may ask, it shall be done for them by My Father who is in heaven. 20 For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst.”

INTRODUCTION

Matthew 18 begins with the disciples question concerning…”Who is greatest in the kingdom of Heaven?” and Jesus called a little child and put him before them as an object lesson and says, “Anyone who becomes as humble as this little child is greatest in the kingdom of Heaven.” From here Jesus precedes to warn again offending a child and then He speak of offences in general within the church. He moved from there into Church discipline and the restoration of those who have made a mistake. In verse 18, it gets more difficult to interpret. There are two school of thought: the binding and loosening has to do with the church’s decision on the rebellious member that refuses to adhere to the authority of the church. This is the Catholic point of view and thus you have their history of excommunication. They believe the holy Catholic church has the power to forgive sin or withhold forgiveness. There are some who believe this was a promise made to the Apostles but not to all believers.

Eugene Peterson says it like this in the Message… Take this most seriously: A yes on earth is yes in heaven; a no on earth is no in heaven. What you say to one another is eternal. I mean this. When two of you get together on anything at all on earth and make a prayer of it, my Father in heaven goes into action. And when two or three of you are together because of me, you can be sure that I’ll be there.”

No matter what translation you read, you can see Jesus moving to the subject of PRAYER in verse 19…“Again I say to you, that if two of you agree on earth about anything that they may ask, it shall be done for them by My Father who is in heaven. I will say this, verse 18 in very similar to Matthew 16:19, “And I will give you the keys to the kingdom of Heaven. Whatever you forbid on earth will be forbidden in heaven and whatever you permit on earth will be permitted in heaven.” Matthew 16:19 is addressed to Peter where Matthew 18:18 is addressed to all the apostles. Let me confess that I am in over my head, I can not find the bottom in this text which is really nothing new so allow me to talk about what I do understand.

In verse 17 Jesus mentions the ekklēsia [the church] and the disciples make up the embryo of the church, the body of Christ. Not only is the church the body of Christ is this dimension or realm {world} but Christ is its Head. There are two realms at play here: the earthly and the heavenly, the physical and the spiritual and these two realms are functioning  simultaneously: earth is in time and heaven is in the eternal realm but they are both active at this time.

I. SO THE FIRST PRINCIPLE I SEE HERE IS AUTHORITY

The church not only has the authority to discipline, we have the authority to direct heaven, the spiritual realm. Do not jump to the faulty conclusion that I am speaking of men dictating their will to God are earth commanding heaven from a carnal point of view. We are talking about the Church of which Christ is the Head and a CHURCH that is in perfect harmony with it’s HEAD {Christ}. I don’t pretend to understand it but it seems that God’s plan is prayer. James said, “You have not because you ask not.” Either James was wrong or there are things available to us that we will never have unless we ask for them. The Law of Prayer is to ASK. Jesus said, “Ask and keep on asking.” There are some rules that we have to abide by if we are to exercise this tremendous authority we have in prayer. Our request must be in accordance to the will and wishes of the Head who is Christ. The prayer we pray has to have His stamp of approval or His signature. This is the first safe measure but there is another: we have to be in agreement. The word for ‘agree’ in verse 19 is symphōneō. It is the word that we get symphony from, it is an agreement is sound, voice. It is more than standing together, it is singing the same song, hitting the same note, it is perfect harmony. Finding the will of Christ in any given matter may not be so hard because we have His word to guide us but getting the members of the church in harmony is a miracle that can only be achieved by the power of the Holy Spirit. We need not fear the abuse of authority granted by Christ in Matthew 18:18. Our authority is bound up in our praying in harmony with His will and the church and this is talking about the church, not an individual.

II. THERE IS THE PRINCIPLE OF POWER

I think we are all in agreement that electricity is a mystifying and powerful energy. We do phenomenal things through the power of electricity. We have learned over the years that there are physical laws that regulate this amazing power and we have to respect these laws are the power of electricity can be destructive. You don’t handle a wire that is carrying 440 volts. You don’t stand in water and handle 110 volts. You can but you’ll only do it once. Electricity is an amazing power but it must be used in the proper way are it becomes deadly. Jesus used the wind as an illustration of the spiritual realm but electricity works as well: we can not draw electricity on paper, we don’t know what it looks like because it is invisible to us but we do know it is real. I have felt it lately while changing bulbs in the gym. I was on an electric lift some 20 plus feet in the air. I ask one of the workers to switch the lights off but she hit the wrong switch and I got a charge. A good shock gets my adrininal going but I prefer being on the ground when it happens. I know beyond a doubt that electricity is real. I am sitting under an electric light right now. I would be a fool to deny the power of electricity. Prayer is like electricity in that it is of an invisible realm, a spiritual realm. When I look outside, I don’t see prayers going up to heaven but that doesn’t mean that prayer is not in the atmosphere. I don’t see electricity in the atmosphere either but I know it is there.

I am not a scientist or an electrician but as I understand it, electrical power is the result of electrons forming a current and jumping from atom to atom. Scientist have learned how to charge the electrons and get them moving in the same direction. When you get electrons moving in the same direction, you have current. The current needs a conductor and the most common one is wire. The power comes from the electrons moving in the same direction. Here is an image to help you get the concept in your mind…

electrons2

 Electrons can be made to move from one atom to another. When those electrons move between the atoms, a current of electricity is created. The electrons move from one atom to another in a “flow.” Notice the electrons {red dots} are all moving in same direction and this creates current. The power of prayer works on the same principle: where two of you on earth agree on anything you ask. Remember the word ‘agree’ is symphony. When the church gets in harmony, the power of prayer increases dramatically. We just have to get all the arrows moving in the same direction. The power is in our unity.

There is an interesting verse in the O.T. about Israel fleeing in the face of the enemy, How could one chase a thousand, and two put ten thousand to flight, unless their Rock had sold them, and the Lord had given them up? I admit that this is talking about Israel being put to flight but did you see the geometric principle here: one man puts 1,000 to flight, two men puts 10,000 to flight. This means that if two work together, they can accomplish 5 times what they could accomplish alone. Henry Ford grasped this principle and formed the assembly line with is a lot like electrical current, one man adding something and then passing to another. I visited a car assembly plant several years ago and they produces 360 cars per day by working together on the assembly line. If you divided them up and let each worker build a car it cut production drastically. There is power in unity, in harmony, in moving in the same direction.

III. THE THIRD PRINCIPLE IS THE PROMISE OF HIS PRESENCE

 For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst. The visible manifestation of Christ to the world is seen through His body, the Church, not through individual members. A lot of folks are unhappy with God’s decision but He has arranged things in such a way that we need each other. Christianity is not something you can do alone. My index finger can do a lot but only if it stays connected to the hand. My hand which is five fingers working together can accomplish even more but only if it stays connected to the arm. The LORD never intended for you to do your own thing. Was the LORD not with David when he was running from Saul? Yes, but David was not forsaking the assembly. He wanted to be in church. He was running for his life. In 1974 while pastoring a small church in rural Mississippi, I met a sweet lady by the name of Gladys Milner. She lived in a nursing home and spent her time between a bed and wheel chair. Rheumatoid arthritis had twisted her little body and she was in constant pain but she never complained. She was a firm believer in Christ and her room was like a sanctuary. It was a very small church and I visited her on a weekly basis and I never went into that room that I did not feel the mystical presence of Christ as if I were at church. It was amazing. God in His grace makes exceptions for the afflicted, the persecuted and those in prison like John the Baptist but if you and I want the Lord’s blessings and to feel His presence, we are going to have to come together. Yes, I do enjoy my Q.T. and my alone time but I am dependent on you for the real blessing of His presence. Ten of the Disciples experienced the wonderful presence of Christ on the first Sunday night after the resurrection but one did not: he stayed away. I do not know where he was but he was not with the others, he forsake the assembly and he did not feel the presence of Christ. Try having your own personal communion service and see what happens.

We need one another: God made it this way. When we come together in harmony and one accord, Jesus is going to show up and show out. If we don’t get our act together, our world is not going to see Jesus because when and if they do, they will see Him in His body the church.

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