Is “Two or Three Gathered” an Ecclesia?

No. The Ecclesia can function for a specific application of its authority with two or three kingdom citizens doing Ecclesia business, but the Ecclesia cannot be defined as “two or three gathered in His Name (or authority).” That phrase is not a misquote but the assumption that it defines “ekklesia” is a misapplication of the phrase.

Jesus is discussing how the Ecclesia deal with disunity in Matthew 18. While most modern believers ignore the passage altogether in terms of actually applying it with a serious determination to make it work, Jesus makes this activity fundamental to the health and character of His Ecclesia. By setting out a pathway of confrontation, communication, and connection, Jesus makes it clear that He intends for the Ecclesia to be watchful and intentional about healthy personal relationships. Notice that the discussion is about “personal” relationships within the Ecclesia, however, not about Ecclesia as the called together assembly on assignment.

If the breach of relationship occurs between two people, and those two people can resolve the breach, the subject and application of the process ends right there. The stepped process ceases at the point at which the breach is healed. If the breach cannot be healed between two people, other people are asked to involve themselves in the healing of the breach. The breach is still personal, and the process remains private. “Take two or three witnesses to establish the communication” because the process cannot stop while the breach remains, and a foundation must be laid for the completion of the process. The “two or three” of the passage is defined: witnesses gathered together in His authority have the full function of the Ecclesia’s responsibility to heal breaches. In other words, if this can heal the breach, the process ends.

If this does not heal the breach, the process continues to the Ecclesia as a whole, clear indication that the Ecclesia isn’t “two or three gathered.”

In any case, the Ecclesia cannot allow the process to begin without a healing of the breach. The Ecclesia must make judgment about the breach if personal and private don’t bring healing. Then the breach must be made public, and the person refusing to “do the right thing” must understand the nature of the Ecclesia and its relationships. The breach must be publicly defined so that breach never become normative for the Body.

The Ecclesia cannot abide unhealed wounds.

Perhaps the reason the personal communication cannot heal the breach arises from a disagreement about whether or not the breach even occurred. This is the first step that removes most breaches: most breaches arise from misunderstandings. Communication produces understanding, and the breach dissolves.

However, when disagreement about the breach cannot be resolved personally, one on one, then the issue remains private in the sense that only two or three enter into the discussion for the sole purpose of establishing the communication, to answer the question, “Is this a legitimate issue? Did a breach occur? Is the person at fault (someone is by what Jesus describes in His treatment of this subject) willing to make this right, to change, to heal and be healed?

In any case, Jesus says breaches cannot be ignored. Time heals nothing. He isn’t talking about slights and imagined, childish expectations unfulfilled, adults acting like children. He is talking about breaches of relationship that would short circuit the Body’s full function. He’s talking about strained ligaments and pulled muscles, a cavity in a tooth, or an open, bleeding wound. These must be addressed personally and privately because they affect the entire Body.

So, by addressing the functionality of “two or three” in this process, Jesus isn’t defining the Ecclesia as a Starbucks Bible study. He is making a point about the serious nature of breaches of trust, that He will personally authorize the two or three witnesses, the private small “gathered together” to heal that breach without the “whole Ecclesia” whenever possible. Nonetheless, Jesus says if the whole Ecclesia must reset their relationship with this unrepentant person, starting all over with them as if they are a non-functional kingdom citizen, seeking to reinstate them at any moment they are willing to change to be changed, then the Ecclesia must take this action. Breaches are just that serious.

Abuses and misuses of these clear statement abound, but the fundamentals remain. The discussion here isn’t about whether or not a person has committed sin or has a bad habit the church rules forbid. The discussion here is completely about breaches in internal Ecclesia relationships between believers that cannot be properly dealt with by outside judgment or decision making. Believers judge because judging is making decisions, and the authorization to make such decisions involves Jesus even the Ecclesia as a whole isn’t involved.

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