Two or Three

Neil Girrard

Scriptures Referenced in This Article:
          (Follow the Scripture links if you want to study the Scriptures for yourself.)
Mt. 18:12 π Mt. 18:20 π Mt. 24:4 π Mt. 25:5 π Acts 20:30 π 1 Cor. 3:10 π 1 Cor. 3:12-13 π 1 Cor. 6:12 π 1 Cor. 10:23 π 1 Cor. 15:45-50 π 2 Cor. 11:4 π 2 Cor. 12:4 π Gal. 5:22 π 2 Tim. 4:3-4 π 1 Jn. 2:16 π 1 Jn. 2:27 π Rev. 2:6 π Rev. 2:15

Jesus said, "For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them." ( Mt. 18:20; top )

When one begins to apply this verse to our meetings in this age of heaped up teachers who discard sound doctrine and expound fables ( 2 Tim. 4:3-4; top ), one begins to encounter the layers of deception the enemy has built up around "the meeting." The "church" most often misquotes Jesus as saying "two or more" and then uses this verse to justify their style of larger meetings. And when one tries to bring forth Christ's literal (but not legalistic) meaning here, one immediately begins to hear objections about context and practicality and efficiency. "So is it wrong to have four or more at a meeting?" is one of the first questions asked - and this betrays the direction of the enemy's defenses built around "the meeting," a practice which devolved from the gatherings found in the New Testament but which quickly assisted in all the other departures from the Way. In an age when so few really know the heart of God and so many are falling away from the faith in the name of Christ and God at "church" - in all its variations - these objections that defend a modern abominable practice begin to form a chilling pattern.

Some time back the Lord gave a me a prophetic word. I don't know that as of yet I know the full implications of it. I have set the words to music and am waiting to see how far the ramifications of it go. The Lord said (as the words are arranged after being set to music),

"I've called you to fish for men's souls," says the Lord of life.
"To love them with all you are and have and do.
Instead you write your books, your treatises and arguments and exposÚs
To show the world you know the right and only way.
Where is your concern for the widow, the orphan, the least?
You're locked in your self-concealed circle of comfort,
Congratulated and led, taught by blind leaders of the blind.
How will you know you're only spreading more disease?

Teaching men what is right must accompany walking in the light.
Life and love are never served by darkness, lies and hate.
Truth precedes freedom just as light removes the dark.
When truth is what really matters, you'll have no trouble seeing My light.
I call out to everyone but not everyone will heed My call.
If you're going to answer Me, it requires of you your all.
Partial obedience, pockets of resistance or reservations for self,
I cannot accept, tolerate nor absolve.

How will we know if we're really only spreading more disease than we are spreading Christ's true gospel? How will we know about those leaders who only come into our lives and "meetings" for short periods of time but whose lives are not openly available for our inspection? If our leaders are demonically deceived and the carriers of some dangerous scheme against our souls - as is too often true of "church" leadership, particularly at the popular levels that enjoy men's approval and claim (vehemently at times) to have God's approval (see Mt. 25:5 ) - how would we know? We do not even know well how to answer this question: If I were deceived, how would I know? How will we begin to answer whether our leaders are deceived or not? Since Christ gave deception as the primary characteristic of the time of the end of the age ( Mt. 24:4; top ), we must learn how to recognize genuinely demonic deceptions much better than our current abilities allow.

Meeting or Gathering

It is not "wrong" to have four or more attend a meeting. To the carnal Corinthians, whose gatherings - one should note well that "meeting" is never once used in the New Testament but is instead a practice gleaned from the era of Catholic "Christianity" and evolved through the medieval and Reformation periods - were characterized by division and disorder, Paul wrote, "All things are lawful for me, but all things are not helpful. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any... All things are lawful to me, but not all things are helpful; all things are lawful for me, but not all things edify..." ( 1 Cor. 6:12 , 10:23; top )

Immediately, the objection of "context" will be raised - and overlooked will be the simple fact that Paul is talking about all things. Surely, "meetings" come underneath the category of "all things." Let us apply Paul's words about "all things" to one specific thing - the "meeting."

We find three characteristics listed here that are precisely what "church" "meetings" accomplish routinely - in direct opposition to what the purported, even stated and taught goals of the "church" claim. The meetings are not normally helpful to the life of the spirit, they bring the people not into the liberty of the Spirit of God but under the power of the flesh or the demonic and, above all else, the body of Christ is not edified or built up. Three strikes, the body of Christ is "out" at "church"! We must wonder what it is about the human nature that prompted the demonic to lure the humans to devolve from the New Testament pattern of gathering (Greek, sunago [4863]) to the "church" pattern of "meeting," another of those subtle but significant shifts in practice that keep us from attaining to the body of Christ in the will of God.

As a footnote, we should also recognize that, apart from the gospel writers referring to obedience to the Mosaic laws and Luke in Acts using it in reference to obeying various customs and laws, no other writer of the New Testament uses this word "lawful" (Greek exesti [1832], derived from ek "out of" [1537] and eimi "to be, exist" [1510], the word from which we derive the label "existentialism") ever as a part of our walk with the Lord, and Paul himself uses it only to say that the things the man who had a vision of the third heaven (Paul himself?) saw things not lawful for a man to speak about. ( 2 Cor. 12:4; top ) "Lawful" simply is not to be our standard of whether a thing should be practiced or not. The headship of Christ is.

Primary and Secondary Nicolaitanism

It is difficult to know exactly which sin came first historically but surely Nicolaitanism ( Rev. 2:6 , 15; top ) - lording over the people, the exercise of supposedly delegated authority from God (which does not exist in the New Testament) for the "benefit" of the people ruled over - has to be one of the first. And though we have no difficulty - especially we tyranny-conscious Americans - in rejecting the heavy-handed authoritarian approach, we most often fail to recognize that "lording over" has two aspects - 1) lording and 2) over - and that the Nicolaitan's solitary, unilateral decisions (to hold the meeting at my house, on Tuesday night, and "I'll sit here with my guitar over everyone else," etc.) cause unwary people to support and even participate in his sinful usage of his "delegated authority" (which does not come from God). And most of us (Americans, that is) will readily reject outright the idea that anyone is better than anyone else (egalitarianism) but we spend a huge chunk of our lives trying to demonstrate that we are better (stronger, faster, smarter, better researched, wealthier, "wiser," etc.) than the others and when they quietly and attentively sit at our feet, we are comforted and made to feel that we have arrived or attained to something. In reality, nothing is further from the truth. This is how easily and how effectively we can deceive our selves and open up our lives - and the lives of those we are trying to serve and help - to the very real influence and power of the demonic.

Again, the real nature and work of the demonic is not what most of us immediately conjure up in our minds when we hear the word "demonic." If we immediately drew up in our mind an accurate picture of what they are and what they do, they wouldn't be very good at deception, they would not be expert con artists - in reality, they are excellent liars and con artists, expert in the "art" of misdirection. Many "Christians" fail to recognize that we fight a dangerous and wily adversary who has for millennia concocted and enacted multiple layers of deceit designed to ensnare unwary followers of Christ - many, even genuine believers, mock and ridicule and ignore Satan as a "toothless old tiger" and, in so doing, demonstrate mostly that they are simply another unwary follower of Christ and, to one degree or another, a victim of Satan's deceptions and schemes.

The demonic spirits work long and hard to get us to look only at "heavy-duty evil" or to blame the faulty piece of machinery that just broke down on us as "being possessed" (all of which is not really the demonic) and it wants us to never see the subtle lies that make us feel better about ourselves (which really is the core work of the demonic) and then to pooh-pooh the idea that the demonic is even at work among us. The demonic is a lot better at its job than we regularly give them credit for - and many things we do in the name of Christ and God show clearly how well they've done their job, much better than most give them credit for.

Those who have come to see the error of the "church" do not have much difficulty in recognizing the primary Nicolaitanism of the local "pastor" over his "church" - of which there are as many variations on that theme as there are local "churches," including house "churches"! But what many fail to recognize is the secondary Nicolaitanism that is practiced primarily at denominational headquarters. That is, there is a denominational "head" or official who directs the activities of the denominational "pastors" - the man hired to lead (or at least corral) the "leaders" of the local "church." Such an official, even should he find some way to come out of the "church," may still try to raise up other Nicolaitans (he will not label or think of them as such but that is what they will become if they submit to him) who will do what that official deems best or right and the official, because he has come to see himself as a "boss of bosses," will do this in the context of whatever kind of gatherings the official can insert his influence. He will "suggest" or "teach" things that are contradictory to the way the Lord is leading (not overtly sinful or "wrong" things but things that corrupt the group away from the will of God for that group nonetheless) but they will seem right because he is the over-"pastor" and the things he says seem wise and right because he has power or charisma or age or "experience" - the exact same original sin of the bishops over the other elders. (see Acts 20:30; top ) This is routine business in the "church" and it can easily be carried along in one's exodus from the "church" as "leftover baggage" by any who held such a position and who is not as surrendered to the will and way of God as he believes himself to be.

Such an official will "fellowship" with the leaders of small groups and small "churches" and will seek to direct and control (probably using the term "instruct" or "educate" or "teach") the activities and teachings of the small group or "church" by his interactions with the leaders, upon whom he will spend time, perhaps a lot of time. But this official will not want to spend much time with the people of the small group or "church" - at most only an hour or two, as much as is "necessary" - exhibiting what has been described in others as a simultaneous love for humanity combined with a revulsion and avoidance of people. This official's "instructions" will call for larger meetings, more "life" in the meetings, more visible or measurable results, etc. - all the things that seem good to and gratify the lusts of the religious flesh which is not of the Father ( 1 Jn. 2:16; top ) - and will ridicule the idea of even needing to seek the will of God on all details and matters about meeting.

Such a one will equate "fellowship" with these leaders with their agreement with him and his instructions. Anyone who will not come under his leadership or at least into agreement with him is one with whom that official cannot "fellowship," even though they might both be Nicolaitans of the same stripe and flavor. As is customary with most "church" "pastors," any rogue "prophet" (even though he be a true prophet of God) who might call into question this official's right to influence the leaders in this way, is likely to be instantly dismissed, ignored or slandered.

The truly scary part about all this is the official may be a sincere, God-loving (as he understands Him, at any rate) man of quiet nature who seems to know the Bible well - indeed his position as over-"pastor" requires him to know the Bible well. But there will be a second side to the man - perhaps one of extreme impatience or anger or arrogance or rudeness when his authority or position is challenged or threatened - a side available and observable only to those who actually get to know the real man behind the quiet, peaceful mask he is careful to display on almost every occasion. This man will not even know what demonic disease he carries among the people of God - until God shows him, that is.

And this is but one expression of the deep nature of the schemes set in place against the people of Christ - more evidence that our foe is much more crafty than we give him credit for!

Safeguards

There are some simple safeguards that we can implement in regards to whether or not we should be gathering, safeguards that the genuine leaders (the truly more mature members of the body of Christ) should be sounding forth. These are not "laws" that we should enact in our midst but they are standards that we can use and directions we can move in to protect the whole of the people of Christ around us, however few or many that might be.

  1. In His name. If we are gathering a group in His name, we are using His authority to accomplish His purpose. If we cannot specify what purpose of Christ and God we are obeying in calling for a meeting of more than two or three, we do well to cancel the meeting. There are many purposes that are legitimate for which we might call for a larger corporate meeting - but these are the exception and, especially in this time and culture that uses meetings to avoid the will of God for our lives, we need to handle them with extreme caution much as we would treat alcohol at an AA meeting.

  2. In one accord. If all the genuine followers of Christ who are expected or asked to attend cannot agree in unanimous agreement that the Lord wants a larger meeting called or cannot unanimously agree that the intended purpose of the one(s) prompting the meeting is the Lord's purpose, then we do well to cancel the meeting.

    The most-often heard objection to this is founded in pragmatism and impatience. Most "leaders" of groups of people who come together in the name of Christ 1) don't even ask the people to participate in each and every decision that comes up, 2) don't wait for the people to come together in unanimous agreement according to the will of the Lord (those who do involve the people often rely on a simple majority rule) and 3) make the decisions for them in "the best interests" of the people and adjust accordingly if too many people object to any decision made. All this is Nicolaitanism - but this is not the way of the Lord.

    Those who don't have time to be sure that all one hundred of the sheep are in the fold ( Mt. 18:12 ) and who simply don't have time to painstakingly and lovingly build the body of Christ as a wise master builder ( 1 Cor. 3:10 ), simply are not Christ's shepherds and leaders among His flock. These ought rather just go back to "church" and waste their time there. But if we're going to build with eternal gems, gold and silver ( 1 Cor. 3:12-13 ), we must make the time to attend to these "details" - patience (or longsuffering) is still a core fruit of the Spirit of God. ( Gal. 5:22; top ) Impatience is only a sign of operating according to the flesh and requiring all genuine members of Christ's body with whom we are asked to gather to be in agreement before we act is the safeguard that keeps false or deceived teachers from luring us to give ground to the deceivers of our souls.

  3. Life and equipping. It is not enough to come with the right facts about Jesus. It is not enough to know the functions of how to become recipients of eternal life. It is possible to know these things and have a life-quenching spirit of deception or religiosity or even lawlessness (what is right in one's own eyes) and not have the life-giving spirit of the second Adam who came to bring us into the fullness of being the sons and daughters of the living Most High God. ( 2 Cor. 11:4 , 1 Cor. 15:45-50; top ) Any larger meeting (more than two or three) must also be about equipping the people in some way for their individual two to three size encounters. Even in evangelistic or apostolic meetings, there must not be one "teacher" who dominates the discussion by delivering a monologue "sermon" - real body interaction requires dialogue. Knowing all the "right answers" and yet not bringing forth the life of Christ in others is only yet one more way we deceive our selves and open up our lives - and the lives of those we are trying to serve and help - to the very real influence and power of the demonic.

Those who would complain that these safeguards would make any "teaching ministry" virtually impossible are absolutely correct - at least where carnal methods are employed! And these who would sound this complaint also betray that they know virtually nothing of the real life that is to be found in obeying and hearing the Spirit of Christ for one's self! We must then make a choice - we must decide whether today's widespread teaching practice is an aberration, a false practice, a fulfillment of prophecies about the apostasy of the last days, or else we must decide that John's statement that we do not need that any man should be regularly and continually teaching us ( 1 Jn. 2:27; top ) is just another lie - just as then would be his first letter, all his letters and gospel and even the whole of the New Testament also be a lie.

Logic and reason, aided by spiritual understanding, demand that we choose which of these choices is the true one - they simply cannot both be true. Either John lied or was mistaken and we really do need teachers to follow Christ or else the New Testament is true and the apostasy with its heaped up teachers is upon us and men most commonly call it "church." Which are we to believe? And, yes, obedience to these simple safeguards above would effectively shut down the ability of the false and deceived teachers to simultaneously soothe and stimulate our ears. Which do we want more, the soothing, stimulating ear scratching of men and demons or the precious but costly voice of the Spirit of truth and God?

The body of Christ has been robbed of many of the precious things of God by the traditions of men. The ability to gather according to the will of the Lord by the leading of the Holy Spirit to accomplish the purpose of God (to build His family) is a fundamental aspect of our corporate life that has been surrendered to the schemes of the devil. This must be regained if we are to be the spotless and blameless bride of Christ ready for our Husband's return.

Let he who has ears hear.


I'd love to hear comments and/or questions from you! Email me!

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