You've heard the phrase "heads you lose!" [The assumption is tails wins.] With a "two-headed coin", either side coming up, YOU LOSE. There is a "two-headed coin" often tossed, when studying Bible verses that leaves the Bible student the loser REGARDLESS of which side of the coin lands up. With EITHER side of this "two-headed" coin there can be no, "Winner, winner, chicken dinner," as a favorite friend of mine loves to say when the Thunder or OU wins. EITHER side of this coin__ in bible study__you lose!
Let me explain the "two-headed" coin first.
One side of the coin ["heads" of course] is FRAGMENTING a verse. This means taking a small portion of the verse or taking a verse alone, without it's context, and applying it to situations, or worse, quoting it TO someone as if it's the answer to whatever is troubling or discouraging them. A case in point is that Matthew 18:20 verse where Jesus said, "Where two or three are gathered together, there am I in the midst of them." This is usually used to assure people, preachers are especially guilty here, that when only a few people show up for church services, be assured God is there, so all is well. I'm sure He is present since He is, in fact, Omnipresent. But that isn't the meaning of THAT verse, in context, AT ALL. More on the meaning of it in a moment.
The other side of the coin [normally called"tails" but we'll call it "heads"as well] is what is called "isogesis" which means "to read INTO a verse" something NOT intended by the writer, as opposed to "exegesis" which means "to take FROM a verse" the meaning that is there in language and context. Isogesis is really nothing more than introducing one's own presuppositions, agendas, or biases into the meaning a verse instead of taking out of the verse what the language and writer are actually saying.
In Bible study or interpreting the scripture, were you to flip this "two-headed coin,"either side, you COME UP A LOSER.
Now to the meaning of the Matthew 18:20 verse. The real meaning is found in the context [verses 15-20] which is where someone as a believer has "ought against" another believer and has been willing to personally confront the person and they don't respond very well. But the grievance is so serious the confronter is willing to take someone with them as they go again to the problem person. Matthew 18:20 is saying in THAT context God is with you and in a very meaningful way. If you've ever been in that situation, and I have, it's really encouraging to say the least.
No one is saying that God ISN'T where two or three believers have gathered to worship. He really is, and it isn't WRONG to assure the people that HE IS. Just DON'T quote the Matthew 18:20 verse AS IF it's the Bible PROOF He's present in a poorly attended meeting. It means something far deeper and grander than that.
That one can ACHIEVE "anything," when trusting God as their strength, is taken as an absolute promise by some people. To prove that they quote Philippians 4:13, which happens to be my life-verse by the way, "I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me." The problem is this verse is NOT dealing with ACHIEVING anything. People are usually thinking about scoring touchdowns or charging things on a credit card trusting God for the ability to pay later or making an effort to get someone to change their bad behavior because they desire them to and are helping them. "Because God is my strength, I can do this" is their thinking!
But that ISN'T in the ballpark of what Paul was saying. He was speaking of those hard times he'd faced, many times, and had found that he really could endure them. Whether it meant being rich or poor, hungry or filled, and in context, in prison or not in prison, no matter what THE CIRCUMSTANCES WERE he found the wherewithal to FACE them because of the Lord being his Life. For Paul, the issue wasn't "I can achieve anything," but one of "I can endure anything." What a difference the context makes.
No one is saying the former thought, achieving some good thing, is a WRONG thing. [On second thought maybe it is if you're thinking you can sow wild oats and NOT reap a harvest.] It just can't be proven with this verse and will cause a missing of the true meaning of what is being said by Paul in Philippians 4:13.
For THAT you HAVE to see it in context.
Heads OR heads, with this kind of bible study coin__you LOSE!