For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them. (Matthew 18:20, NKJV)
There is a context to this statement that informs our understanding and its application. It is not an unrestricted statement giving two or three Christians carte blanche to do anything they decide is in Christ’s name. Here and in other Scriptures, apostolic authority must exist for Christ’s approval and fellowship. The immediate context of today’s passage addresses dealing with sin by a Christian against another Christian (Matt. 18:15-17). Heaven’s approval for the forgiveness and retention of sins rests upon the teachings the apostles receive from heaven (Matt. 18:18). That is, what the apostles bound and loosed on earth was already determined by the Lord. The inspired apostles revealed heaven’s will, and they were united in faith and practice in the name of (by the authority of) Christ (Matt. 18:19-20). Christ was “in the midst of them” (His apostles) as they revealed heaven’s will. When we follow their teachings, we are following heaven’s will by heaven’s authority (Col. 3:17). Doing so assures us of fellowship with the apostles and the Lord God (1 Jno. 1:3). Two or three Christians gathered together do not establish what God’s will is. What the apostles taught is the authority we have to act in the name of Christ as individuals, as several saints, or as the local church.