Two by two
The basic relationship in the church is
the "pair". I am told that in Israel a disciple studying
under a master was always given a study partner to work with. They
would help each other in their studies. Jesus took this practice
and developed it further among his disciples.
We all know that Jesus called twelve
disciples. However we have missed the fact that he also combined
them together in pairs. In Matt 10:2-4 the twelve disciples are
listed in pairs. They are still listed in pairs in Acts 1:13
(although they are different). When Jesus sent the twelve out to
preach the gospel, he sent them in pairs (Mark 6:7). In fact,
whenever he sent any of them to do anything significant, they went
in a pair. Two disciples went to find the donkey for Palm Sunday
(Luke 19:29). He sent Peter and John together to prepare for the
Passover (Luke 22:8). Prior to becoming disciples Peter and John
had worked as pairs with their brothers Andrew and James. Jesus
put special effort into teaching them to function as a pair. (He
knew that James and John could not continue as partners because
James would be martyred (Acts 12:2). They went up the Mount of
transfiguration together (Matt 17:1). Jesus left them to pray
together at Gethsemane (Matt 26:37). Peter and John continued to
work together as a pair after Jesus died (John 20:2,3; Acts
Further examination of the Scriptures
reveals key men of God working together in pairs.
- Moses and Aaron
- David and Nathan
- Jeremiah and Baruch
- John the Baptist sent two disciples to
Jesus (Matt 11:2)
- The seventy were sent out two by
two (Luke 10:1)
- Paul and Barnabas (Acts 9:27)
- Paul and Silas (Acts 15:40)
- Two disciples were on the road to
Emmaus (Luke 24:13)
- Paul sent Timothy and Erastus together
to Macedonia (Acts 19:22)
There is an important principle here.
Every christian should be part of a pair. They should have another
christian who is their partner. When a person becomes a christian
and joins a church they should be matched up with another person
to form a pair. Even mature christians and church leaders should
be in a pair with another christian. The pair is the basic unit of
the church. Every christian should be a member of a pair.
Sometimes a christian will be a member of
more than one pair. For example Peter was in a pair with Andrew
his brother. He was also in a pair with John, while John was also
in a pair with James. Some people may belong to two or three
pairs, but it would be hard to function properly in more than
about three pairs.
Over time the pairs may change; for
example, Thomas started with Matthew, (Matt 10:2) but finished in
a pair with Philip (Acts 1:13). We do not know the story behind
this, but the Holy Spirit had a purpose in changing the way the
pairs worked together.
Let me explain how a pair works.
- They will study the scriptures
together. Jesus has promised that where two seek him together,
he will be with them. Matt 18:20.
- They will pray together. Jesus has
promised that when two christians pray together in unity, God
will do what they have asked. Whatever they bind in heaven
will be bound on earth. Whatever they loose in heaven will be
loosed on earth. Matthew 18:18,19. We have lost a large part
of the power of prayer, because too many people are praying
- They will serve the Lord together. Two men
who trust each other will achieve far more together, than they
can achieve separately. If John had got out of the boat with
Peter, he may have kept on walking. After Pentecost Peter and
John healed the man at the beautiful gate, and then boldly
confronted the authorities (Acts 3,4). This is the difference
when two people work together.
Two are better than one, because they
have a good return for their work. Ecc 4:9.
When christians are sent out into a new
work, they should be sent out in pairs. I do not mean a married
couple. If a man is married, he should be sent out with another
man or another couple. When Jesus sent his disciples out, to
preach the gospel, he sent them out in pairs. He knew they would
spur each other on. Together they would have confidence to try
things they would not normally do. Too many christians are
ineffective because they are trying to serve God on their own.
They would achieve more if they were part of a pair. When Paul
had a disagreement with Barnabas, he did not go out again till
he had found Silas to work with. And Barnabas went out with
When young people travel overseas for
their OE, they go in pairs. This gives them confidence to go to new
places and to do things they have not done before. Yet when the
church sends out missionaries, it usually sends them out alone.
They are often sent into spiritually hostile environments and
expected to be victorious. This does not make sense
- The pair of christians will provide
spiritual support for each other. If one is under spiritual
pressure the other will pray for him.
If one falls down his friend can help
him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him
up. Ecc 4:10.
There is real spiritual protection when
two people support each other. When a christian is under
spiritual attack, he is in a much better position if he has
someone to stand with him.
Though one may be overpowered two can
defend themselves. Ecc 4:12
One reason that the church is so weak is
that too many christians are standing against evil alone and
there is no one to provide support when they are under attack.
When King Saul fell into sin, his friend
Samuel cried out to God all night (1 Sam15:11). That is the type
of friend that we all need.
- A pair of christians who are committed
to the Lord will stir each other along.
If two lie down together they will keep
warm. But how can one keep warm alone (Ecc 4:11).
If Peter had taken John into the
courtyard with him, he may not have denied Jesus.
- The power of the pair will help prevent
christians falling into sin. If one is making a mistake, the
other will be able to correct him. We all need someone who
really cares about us, who knows us well enough to recognise
our failings, who can challenge us if we stray from the path
or get "too big for our boots". We each need some
one who will challenge us from time to time. It must be
someone trusted totally, so that they will be listened to.
They must be close enough so that they can see through any
pretence or mask.
When King David fell into
adultery, his friend came and confronted him (II Samuel
11,12). This is a good example of a pair in operation.
In recent years a large number of
christian leaders have fallen from grace. One reason is
that they have become isolated from people who are close
enough to challenge them, when they made their first
Many soldiers, who fought together in a
war, have learnt the importance of being part of a pair. They
would often become mates, who watched out for each other. They
would do everything together. Surviving an intense battle together
would strengthen the bond between them. This provides a good example
for christians to follow.
This type of relationship between two
christians will not easily develop in a church. At a typical
worship service a christian will speak to a couple of people
before the service and perhaps two or three after the service.
Quite likely a different set of people will be spoken to each
week. This type of contact cannot produce the type of
relationships that developed between Jesus disciples.
Perhaps more surprising, this type of
relationship will not even develop easily in a typical home group.
A home group focuses on getting all the members of the group
relating to each other. However this type of relationship is
usually more shallow than is required for a pair.
A body is not built by joining every part
to every other part. Rather it is built by every part being
totally joined with the part of the body that is next to it. If the
foot was lightly joined to the eye, the hand, the head and the
backside, the body could not function. The foot must be perfectly
joined to the leg, to fulfil its function. When the foot is fully
joined to the leg and they function as a pair. The connection to
the leg is more important than the relationship with any other
part of the body. Accordingly, it is more important for a
christian to have a strong relationship with one other christian,
than to get to know all the members of a home group.
The development of the relationship
between a "pair" of christians will require them to
spend a significant amount of time together. The depth of sharing
that is needed for a pair to be strong will not occur in a large
group. These relationships will more likely develop in more
informal settings. It may be meeting for a cup of coffee; or going
out to share the gospel together; or watching a game of rugby
together. There may be times when they meet specifically for
prayer together, but these may be at any place or time that is
convenient. The pair-building contact will often take place over
the telephone. Commitment is more important than proximity. The
reason most church relationships are so weak, is lack of
commitment, not lack of proximity.
The best way for two men to become a pair
is to work on a task together. The tougher the task the stronger
the relationship will be. Preaching the gospel together or some
activity where they confront evil together will really strengthen
the pair. That is why Jesus sent his disciples out two by two. For
women, pairs will be established more by talking and providing
emotional support for each other. I suspect that women find it
easier to be a member of more than one pair than men do.
Every church member should be a part of a
pair. This is the basic relationship in the church. However there
will be a number of other important relationships as well.
- Every member should relate to a more
mature christian. The more mature christian will disciple the
newer christian. Often a pair of christians will be discipled
together. In addition to building a relationship with God,
they will be taught to relate to each other.
- Every christian should have a
relationship with one of the elders in the church, usually one
of the pastors. (These young prophets may relate more to the
prophetic elder, similarly the young evangelists may relate
more to the evangelist).
- Each christian should have a
relationship with a prophetic elder. This will ensure that
correction and direction will be available when required.
- The elders should have strong
relationships with each other.
- Some of the elders will be pairs.
Pairs provides good spiritual
protection (see Personal
- Each christian has someone to stand
with them against evil attack.
- They have a friend to challenge them if
they take a wrong turn.
- They have a pastor/elder to help them
overcome besetting sin.
- They have a prophet to warn against
We face two dangers: sin and Satan. This
model provides two levels of protection against each. If the
friend (pair) fails, there are elders watching who can step in
The relationships in the church should be
"One Another Stuff" is more important than the
Most if it will take place within pairs.
In contrast, in the conventional church,
all the links go through the centre.
Matthew 18:20 is a very well known verse;
it is quoted frequently. Yet we have failed to notice what Jesus
was really saying.
Where two or three come together in my
there am I in the midst of them.
We take this to mean that Jesus is present
wherever his people are meeting. In the holidays when a lot of
people are away from our services, this verse encourages us that
He will still be present. We also treat "two or three"
as a quorum, the minimum number that must be present for a meeting
to be legitimate. These things are true, but it is not what Jesus
is saying in the verse.
We miss the point, because in our hearts
we really believe that Jesus presence is greatest in a really
large meeting. One hundred is good, but a thousand is better.
However this is not true. Big meetings have their place, but they
are not necessarily better. Actually the opposite is true. The
power of the Holy Spirit does not get divided up between
christians, so it is not multiplied if more christians are
present. In fact, because there is likely to be less unity in a
large group, his power will be diminished. On the other hand, one
person alone is not enough, because there is no unity.
In Matthew 18:20, Jesus is saying that
"two or three" is best. He is saying that when two or
three Christians are working together for him in unity, his Spirit
will be with them in all his fullness. They have the total
power of God. Therefore, two or three people moving in the power
of the Spirit is as good as it gets. If we really want to know the
presence of Jesus we must get together in twos or threes. This is
why pairs are so important. By not understanding the importance of
pairs, we have been missing out on the blessing that Jesus