The "Real Presence" of Christ in Gathered Worship
It seems to me that our concepts of "Christ in us, the hope of glory," and our interpretations of Christ's statements that "where two or three are gathered together in his name, that he is in the midst" are marred by philosophical conceptions. By using the term "philosophical," I'm think of the big omni's, such as omnipresence, omnipotence, etc. We think we understand these words, and by thinking that we understand these words we unwittingly mask off what the Bible really says about God's Presence.
Therefore, it is with singular interest that we ought to look at what Christ says in Matthew 18:20, in the midst of his teaching on forgiveness. I give the whole context:
Matthew 18:15-20 15 ¶ " Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother. 16 "But if he will not hear, take with you one or two more, that 'by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.' 17 "And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church. But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector. 18 "Assuredly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. 19 "Again I say to you that if two of you agree on earth concerning anything that they ask, it will be done for them by My Father in heaven. 20 "For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them."
We notice that the authority of the church to "bind and loose" sins on earth, in such a manner that the binding and loosing is also valid in heaven, is based on the presence of Christ in the midst of the church when the ultimate decisions to bind and loose are made. "For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them."
This "presence" of Jesus Christ in the midst of them is of course accomlished through the power of his presence that he has throughout all his creation -- a power we are accustomed to call "omnipresence." But, the term omnipresence does not convey the full gist of what our Lord said in verse 20. He is there "in the midst" in a special way when the judicial session of the church is active. He is "really there" in a way that he is not there under ordinary occasions, even though he is still omnipresent!
Now, there is no reason to conclude that Christ is only present with us in a gathering of the church when the church is gathered for the solemnities of a disciplinary procedure. He is also there in gathered worship.
It is the thesis of this note, that understanding the significance of the "real presence" of the Lord in gathered worship will revolutionize worship.
May God fill us with the knowledge of his presence as we worship, so that our worship will be in spirit and truth, more glorifying to the Father, Son and Holy Spirit who deserve it all, and giving us a real sense of participation in the privilege of standing in his temple to reflect back to Him the glory of the only creating and saving God!