2. STEP TWO — Word Relations: Word studies are enlightening and fun, but words do not stand alone. Rather, they are related to the words around them. We call these relationships grammar or syntax (“to place together”), and studying them is crucial to learning the meaning of Mat. 18:20 and its surrounding context. For example, the very first word (“For…”) expresses a relationship. It is small and usually ignored or given very little thought, if any at all, but it is an important conjunction. It informs us that this verse does not stand alone but is directly related to what has just been stated. It establishes the reason or cause for the preceding information, etc. Two other words that show grammatical relationship are the adverbs “…where…” and “…there…”. The “where” pertains to the developed clause, and the “there” to the independent clause. The independent clause contains the main idea of the part “…I am…” which identifies the action. Thus, the personal and powerful presence and ministry of Yashua Messiah will be experienced (main clause) where the gathering is functioning according to His directives, in His name. This being the case, we are motivated in our search for meaning to take the third step in the process.
3. STEP THREE — Context: It has sometimes been said that there are three rules for understanding the meaning of a text: The first rule is context; the second rule is context; and the third rule is context. This overstatement makes the point clear enough. So, let’s DO it!
Basically, there are three areas of context to study: a) the immediate context; b) the chapter and book/letter context; and c) the entire Bible context. Let’s examine each of these:
a) “The Immediate Context” — Taking our cue from the causal conjunction “For” in v. 20, we begin moving backwards in the immediately preceding context. Notice the reference to the “two” (v.19) and the “again”, which precedes it? Well, keep moving back and find the original reference to “two or three” (v.16). Now, at this point, the words of Yashua Messiah take us back to the Old Testament context of Deut. 19:15: “One witness alone shall not rise up against a man for any iniquity or for any sin, in any sin that he sinneth: at the mouth of two witnesses or at the mouth of three shall the matter be established.” Both refs. are for a principle of settling disputes.
Now you are gaining awareness of what the “gathered” is referring to at Mat. 18:20. Still, note the contrastive conjunction “But” (v.16) that begins all of this, for it sends us back to v.15, where we encounter the TOPIC SENTENCE, which begins the paragraph and starts the immediately preceding context for our v.20, and so now you have the subject matter of this whole section — namely a breech of relationship between believers: “…if your brother sins against you…” (v.15). And so this passage is telling us how members of Yashua’s family settle disputes.
Now we will look at the context immediately following v.20, where Peter poses a question to Yashua Messiah, demonstrating that he knew exactly what our Lord was talking about and he applied it to himself: “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Unto seven times?” (v.21)
Now, in the context of v.20 Yashua is presenting the process for dealing with sin and maintaining unity in the Church (v.17), which had yet to be established. This process starts with ‘one-on-one’ confrontation in v.15, and then moves to group adjudication in v.16 — ‘two or three’ — and is finalized by the entire local body of believers in v.17. This is, according to Scriptural adherence, proper (cf. I Cor. 5:1-8); which is where we find the apostle Paul instructing the Corinthian Body of Believers, as a whole, on how to deal with a sinning brother. And such is like our Supreme Court today, in that when a matter is taken before the local Body, they act as the highest court of appeal for Spiritual accountability. In vv. 18-19, Yashua strongly reinforces the legitimacy of this ‘process-of-discipline’ in the Body by stating that, when it is done properly, they will be accomplishing on earth that which has already been determined as the Will of Yahweh in heaven. And, thus, in v.20, Yashua summarizes this whole process of discipline by affirming that, when it is carried out according to His directives, it has the power and authority of His presence; as if “…(He) is in the midst of them.”
b) “The Book Context” — We will now move from the immediate context to the context of the whole book context of Matthew, and here we will find that Yashua spoke of the ‘future’ church, actually, only one other time in the gospels (Mat. 16:18). I n this ref. He spoke if its nature: “…and I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.”
The church was to be a future (“will”), personal (“My”), permanent (“Hades…not prevail”) project of Yashua (“I”). By way of comparison, in Mat. 18:15-20, Yashua presents the procedure of governing and maintaining the unity of that church, which would first be established at Pentecost (Acts 1:4-5; cf. I Cor. 12:13).
(3.c. “The Bible Context,” will begin in S.1.3. See ya there).
All praise and glory to our Father, Yahweh, and to our Lord and Savior, Yashua Messiah. Amen.
Categories: Mark Blain, religion
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