Christ promises to be present with church courts when they assemble in His Name officially to decide disciplinary matters, Christ likewise promises to be present when these same church courts officially assemble God’s people in Christ’s Name to worship Him. In these official, authorized church gatherings in Christ’s Name, we may rightly expect God’s promised presence.
In Matthew 18:20, Jesus promises that “where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them” (cf. 1 Cor. 5:4). Does this mean that two Christians gathering at a restaurant for lunch have achieved a Temple experience? Put another way, when can we be confident that God will fulfill His promise to be especially present?
The context of Matthew 18:20 demonstrates that this promise is given to the official courts of the church. Jesus is speaking about church discipline. If a professing believer will not repent of his sin after being confronted, first privately and then with witnesses, Jesus tells us to bring the matter to the “church.” But who is “the church” here? It is an organization rendering judgment on a member. This is the church as a court. But that raises another question: Who sits on that court? Should we convene all the members together to decide a discipline case? No. Rather, the Biblical practice is for leaders to judge the members of God’s people (e.g., Ex. 18:13ff; Dt. 21:1ff; 1 Ki. 3:5ff; Ezra 10:14ff; Acts 15; Acts 20:17ff; 1 Cor. 6:3-6). God has always committed the judgment of sinning members to the spiritual leaders He has appointed, not to Christians casually meeting for lunch together.