This statement can be found in two places in the Bible:
First addressed to Peter: Matt 16:19 “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven." NIV
And secondly addressed to all His disciples: Mat 18:18 "I tell you the truth, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”
Mat 16:19 gives an important additional element which clarifies what binding and loosing means. It says Matt 16:19 “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven." NIV
Note that these keys were not given to Peter alone, but to all of Jesus’ disciples!
What are those keys that permits to bind and loose? Here again they are specified to be “the keys of the kingdom of heaven”. Do we need keys in order to get to heaven? Not at all, as John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” We have access to heaven through Jesus, not through some kind of key. It is clear that the context is figurative here.
What do these keys mean then?
They can be explained by reading the following text: Luke 11:52 “Woe to you experts in the law, because you have taken away the key to knowledge. You yourselves have not entered, and you have hindered those who were entering.” NIV
The experts of the law seem to think they have the keys of the kingdom of heaven, but they “hinder those who were entering” and themselves had “not entered” it. In other words, they did not accept the gospel message, and they were trying to hinder people from accepting it as well! All through the gospels it is clear that these “experts pf the law” were opposed to Jesus and His gospel message, although His message was announced in the Old Testament (Acts 10:43 "All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.” NIV)
The keys are thus the gospel message which gives us access to heaven and eternal life, and its preaching has been entrusted to us. No wonder that Jesus before His ascension reminded His disciples and us as well: Matt 28:18-20 “Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." NIV
Through this gospel message we are binding and loosening people to the Kingdom of God. “Whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” Those who accept the message to salvation, those who reject it to damnation. This shows that there is heavenly authority behind the disciples' earthly actions.
The binding and loosing were a rabbinic notion that had two significations: to provide rules or to discipline. Both meanings are given in the direct context of the given texts.
Just before saying this statement in verse 18, Jesus talked about:
Mat 18: 15-17 “"If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.' If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector.”
Thus, the introductory context is one of sinning and what to do when someone in the church sins against you. First you go talk to your brother. If he listens to you, Hallelujah! The case is closed. If he doesn’t listen, Jesus recommends for you to take two other brothers along (P.S. we could replace the word brother with the word sister as well!) and approach him about his sin. If he still refuses to listen, the matter has to be brought to the church, which, in case he still persists in his sin, will have to discipline him.
The whole context is thus about sinning and the church having the duty to discipline such a person.
Now let us look at the context right after Mat 18:18 and see if the context is the same.
Matt 18:19-22 “"Again, I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them."
Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, "Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?"
Jesus answered, "I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.” NIV
At first we are taken back, as the context does not seem to be about sin and church discipline, but when you see Peter’s reaction to Jesus’ statement it’s again in the context of sin. He clearly understood that Jesus was talking about sin and forgiveness.
In other words, Matt 18:19-20 "Again, I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them" is not about getting whatever you want from God, as long as you have two people agreeing with you, but it’s about church discipline and forgiveness.
Peter’s question fits the context of this whole passage: “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?”
Jesus’ answer is powerful: “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times." In other words you should always forgive your brother! Discipline may be in order, but if he repents, welcome him with open arms!
This goes with what Jesus said in John 20:20 “If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.” NIV
Now are there any cases in the New Testament where the church had to use such a discipline? Absolutely:
1 Cor 5:1-5 “It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that does not occur even among pagans: A man has his father's wife. And you are proud! Shouldn't you rather have been filled with grief and have put out of your fellowship the man who did this? Even though I am not physically present, I am with you in spirit. And I have already passed judgment on the one who did this, just as if I were present. When you are assembled in the name of our Lord Jesus and I am with you in spirit, and the power of our Lord Jesus is present, hand this man over to Satan, so that the sinful nature may be destroyed and his spirit saved on the day of the Lord.” NIV
Paul had to encourage the church of Corinth to disfellowship a man who was sexually immoral, living in sin with his father’s wife. He even gives the reason in verse 5 of the importance for the church to do so “Hand this man over to Satan, so that the sinful nature may be destroyed and his spirit saved on the day of the Lord.” Church discipline is always with the goal of saving its’ members spirit from hell. Did this work in the church of Corinth? Let’s see:
2 Cor 2:6-8 “The punishment inflicted on him by the majority is sufficient for him. 7 Now instead, you ought to forgive and comfort him, so that he will not be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. 8 I urge you, therefore, to reaffirm your love for him.” NIV
In fact the church of Corinth was going from one extreme to another. First they were proud of such a sin among them and then after following the apostle Paul’s recommendation of disfellowship, they did not welcoming him back after he repented. The man repented from his sin, and according to the Bible, if this happens, welcome him back in your church, forgiving and comforting him, reaffirming your love towards him. You brother is saved! The same is true when you preach the gospel to non-believers, if they accept your message, you have just saved them from hell!
Are you living in sin my friend? Is this one of the reasons why you don’t want to go to church or do not want to hear about God? I have good news for you. Jesus wants to forgive you. He loves you. In fact He has forgiven you already, 2000 years ago. He died so that you can experience freedom and peace. All you need to do is repent and accept Jesus offer of forgiveness. Why don’t you do so by answering the Altar's call at http://www.answers2prayer.org/saviours_call.html and invite Him into your life.
According to history there were
two keys. Peter used one on the day of Pentecost to open the gate so that the
Jewish believers could enter the kingdom of the heavens (Acts 2:38-42), and he
used the other in the house of Cornelius to open the gate so that the Gentile
believers could enter (Acts 10:34-48).
Kingdom of the heavens is used here interchangeably for church, which is used in the previous verse. This is a strong proof that the genuine church is the kingdom of the heavens in this age. This is confirmed by Rom.14:17, in which the kingdom of God is mentioned in obvious reference to the proper church life.
This Gospel is concerned with the kingdom of the heavens, which is a matter of authority. The church revealed in this book represents the kingdom with its reign. Hence, the authority to bind and to loose was given not only to Peter, the apostle for the church here, but also to the church itself (18:17-18).
Whatever the church people bind or loose on earth must be something that has already been bound or loosed in the heavens. We can bind or loose only what has already been bound or loosed in the heavens.
The revelation concerning Christ with His church is always hidden from religious people. Make up your mind to change from being religious and get acquainted with Jesus, the Maker of your life before whom you will stand on the day of judgment. Having your name in the church register cannot save you on that day. You must decide for Christ and have your name written in the book of life.
Have you been redeemed by the blood of the lamb? If not' you cannot bind anything and the above cannot work for you. I urge you to repent from all your sins and accept Jesus as your Lord and personal Savior today. Tomorrow may be too late.
God bless you.
Rev Debo Adeyemo
Matthew 16:19 - Whatsoever thou shalt bind (or loose) on earth shall be bound (or loosed) in heaven. This is Hebrew translated to Greek. When rabbis translated scriptural commands, they "bound or prohibited or forbidden" certain activities and "loosed or allowed or permit" others. Using the translated meanings, the passage is stating that Jesus gives Peter the authority to make decisions in regard to the life of the church. These decisions will be honored by God.
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