Binding and loosing – Matthew 16:19 and 18:18

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Many Charismatic and Pentecostal churches like to present Christ’s statement in Mt.16 and 18 as a personal reward card for claiming mammon while on this earth.  They will promulgate the idea that if one loses, or unties their faith, to receive a blessing of mammon, it will come back to the “releaser.”  Speak to it, they say.  If the disciple lacks the faith he then binds up, or ties up, his blessing of mammon.  Therefore, name it and claim it!

This of course is an erroneous teaching straight from the pit of Hell.  Contextually this scripture is about forgiveness which implies patience and the kindness God.  It has nothing to do with personal gain accept the gain of keeping alive, the solidarity of faith and fellowship between believers.

Notably, the Roman Catholic Church uses these verses properly for forgiveness, but limits the power to the sarcerdotes [priests], and not to the common member.  The application of binding and losing, however, has wide interpretation to all members of the Body of Christ.

The terms of ‘binding and loosing,’ is Rabbinical in its etymology, and presents the idea that the Sanhedrin or a group of rabbis could allow or forbid something on the basis of it being indisputable [ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Binding_and_loosing ].  An example would be; Can one kill or not kill and animal?  If the killing of animals is for food, then it is obvious that God allows the killing of “Clean” animals.  If the killing of animals was for pleasure, then it is obvious that God does not condone blood lust.

The style of living that Jesus Christ taught was to act as he would – NOT as we would.  At the heart of his sermons was forgiveness; as he has forgiven us, we are to respond in kind to others.  Forgiveness portends service to someone else.  Remember, forgiveness does not mean that we have forgotten.  It is simply a predilection of mind – an intellectual or cognizant willingness – not to pursue payment for the transgression.  The appeal is to God’s original directive in Lev.19:18, to love ones neighbor, and expanded in Mic.6:8 and Zech.7:9-10, to love mercy, and was reiterated by Jesus in Mt. 5:38-48; 6:14.

In Greek there are seven words that describe “binding.”  Jesus used the first case Greek verb, ‘deo’ meaning; to bind, fasten or tie – literally and figuratively. This word is used 35 times in the new Testament. Some uses in the New Testament are as follows:

  • Mt.12:29 – to bind up the strong man –Satan
  • Mt.13:30 – tie up bundles stick for burning
  • Mk.6:17 – John was bound into prison
  • Jn.11:44 – Lazarus came from the grave bound up
  • Ac.22:23 – Paul was arrested
  • Rom.7:2 – a woman is bound or restricted to her husband
  • Rev.20:2 – Satan was locked up for a thousand year

The word “loose” is ‘luo’ in the Greek and means to unbind or release [literally or metaphorically] and is used 25 times in the New Testament.

  • Mt.21:2 – untying a young donkey
  • Ac.2:24 – to free from the agony of death
  • Ac.13:25 – to untie shoes
  • 1Cor.7:27 – to be free of marriage
  • Rev.5:2 – to break seals
  • Rev.20:3, 7 – to release from imprisonment

As you now can clearly comprehend, these words are used in very common circumstances.  However, those Biblical circumstances, dealt with spiritual or civil legal matters and signified, to prevent or restrict movement, or allow the continuation of a specific activity, legally – by God’s law or men’s.

Now let’s look at the verse in Mt.16:19.  After Jesus asked his disciples to give the public opinion concerning the person, of the Son of Man. he then asks them who they [the disciples] believe he [Jesus] is.  Only Peter answers directly and correctly; “You are the Messiah!”

It is noteworthy that Jesus asked this question while he stood at the entrance to the “Grotto of Pan,” located at Caesarea Philippi – 20 miles south of Mount Hermon.  The grotto was a cave structure from, which the head-waters of the Jordan River Flow.  Pan was associated with Satan, since Pan was a hooved goat-man – a satyr – who played a flute to entice through melodic sounds.  Pan was worshiped in the mountains and was associated with nature – hence though his moniker is of Greek origin [Faunus of the Romans] he is tied to the Phoenician Baal of the orchards with his whimsical orgy worship and therefore sins of the flesh, which include, slander, lying, theft, evil speaking, debauchery, adultery, fornication and lecherous activity. The word “pantheism” is from the Greek “Pan,” [such as pantos = wholly or entirely] which means ALL, and “theos” which means god [in philosophy].  Hence, identifying God with, or included in, the material universe – materialism.

Pan of the Greeks  Pan of the Greeks the Grotto of Pan at Caesarea Philippi the Grotto of Pan at Caesarea Philippi

 It is also noteworthy that this particular statement is found only in Matthew – a book written to the Jewish mindset of law and penalties.

In the Greek, literal received text, the statement of Jesus is written;

“Thou art Peter, and on this – rock I will build of me the Church, and [the] gates of Hades will not prevail against it. I will give thee the keys of the kingdom of the heavens, and whatever thou bindest on the earth, shall be – having been bound in the heavens, and whatever thou loosest on the earth shall be – having been loosed in the heavens”

— Mt.17:19

At this point we know that Jesus has granted to Peter and as well the other disciples keys [plural], which loose and tie up legally, but what those keys loose and bind, we do not know yet. [see Keys: Rev.1:18; 3:7, 20 – there is a juxtaposition of thought between God’s ability to unlock doors, and of men’s ability to unlock the door of their heart]

The answer to the key’s authority is to be found in Mt.18:15-20. In this passage we find Jesus teaching his disciples about personal forgiveness.  He starts with; “If your brother [sins,] or sins against you…” [Mt.18:15].  The application of binding and loosing has to do with sin, and specifically those of the flesh, as previously presented.  Jesus gives them a process of restoring a wayward brother or sister [Mt.18:15-17].  The process starts with an offended party going to the offender, privately to discuss the problem – followed by an increase in demand by a second visit with witnesses – to establish the protocol of testimony [Deut.19:15; 2Cor13:1; 1Tim.5:19, Rev.11:3].  Should the offender refuse these private interactions, the disciples were told to take this individual before the Church – that is, the body of Christ – the whole congregation.  If he refuses the whole of the fellowship, then treat him as you would a tax collector or pagan.

A collaborative and corroborative effort is in focus here; “Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed” [Prov.15:22].

Jesus chose the tax collector tax and pagan as a simile.  Since tax collectors had the reputation of extortion, and pagans were idolaters, Jews would not fellowship with them, because they were unbelievers filled with vice. Jesus was directing the congregation to shun the congregant.  This means that they would only respond to that person cordially, and not share their intimate knowledge of God’s work in the church, or his work in them personally, or share close conversations of fidelity and friendship.  This removal of grace would also extend to the shroud of protection, and good health that the elders and congregation would ask in prayer for one another.

Then Jesus reiterates the statements again;

“I tell you the truth, whatever you bind on earth will be bound….etc.”

— Mt.18:18

However, he adds;

“Again, I tell you that if two or more of you on earth [the witnesses] agree about anything [concerning church discipline] you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three [witnesses] come together in my name, there I am with you”

— Mt.18:19-20

The keys therefore are the protocols and authority to judge rightly and to pursue repentance and restoration, NOT a chicken in every pot, and a wad of cash in every pocket!

The idea behind the keys being effective on earth and in the Heavens – plural – has to do with Satan’s loss of authority and vigor. He is the prince of the “power” of the “air.”  The heaven of the earth’s atmosphere is the “air.”  Satan is the one who comes before the throne daily, to accuse the saints.  But if the keys [authority] of right judgment, forgiveness, patience, and discipline are in the hands of the church, not individually, but to all the church members, then Satan’s condemnation falls upon deaf ears – in that the offender has been forgiven or restored.  The point is justified by the power given; how far Satan has fallen from his lofty place, and how high Christ has seated us [on thrones] in heavenly places.

HEAVEN, AUTHORITY, AND POWER:

To reiterate, all of the aforementioned statements of Christ were accomplished at Caesarea Philippi, at the Grotto of Pan.

The “Grotto of Pan” was representative of the worship of false gods, and as well, false philosophic views, of fellowship and civil behavior.  Yet, Pan would invoke fear into the hearts of local residents – after the sun set.

The term “Pantheism” comes from the god Pan.  Pan was a goat god with a flute that he used to lure unsuspecting victims into sexual sin.  The sexual sin was in the form of reproductive worship – usually connected with orchards and prominent hills, as with Baal of Peor, which the false prophet Balaam used as an enticement of Israel [Num.22-24; Deut.23:4-5; 2Pe.2:15; Jude 11].  Hence, the idea of Pantheism is to worship God by worshiping nature [Rm.1:22, 25].  Therefore God is to be found in the rocks, and sky, and water and trees, etc.

Pantheism, is what we are commonly observing today, in the Geo-Political world – with its sacred goal of honoring “Mother Earth’s air and water, bugs and grass etc, etc.  Note that in Pantheism the earth is to be honored above human life, and so we become slaves of creation, when in fact God has made us to rule over creation [Gen.2:19-20; 9:1-4, 7].

However, the keys given into the hands of all loving and careful disciples, should invoke safety and encouragement – to Christians in need of spiritual help.  Sin overtakes us all at times, and how good to know that there are elders and a whole congregation that would carefully sift another’s predicament, and extend profitable advice and a helping hand [Gal.6:1-5].

It must be added that the offender may not have offended, but someone mistakenly took offense for erroneous reasons.  This would obviously come out in the presence of two or more witnesses, and for certain, before the whole assembled church body.

The terms, “binding and loosing” are considered rabbinical terminology, meaning “forbidding” and “permitting” in relation to doctrinal principles.

The implication, for possession of the keys, is extended in Rev. 1:18; 3:7, where Christ is the holder to the keys for Death and Hell, and the keys of David – both signatures of complete dominance and power – effecting who may enter heaven, and who may not.  It is Christ who can open doors that no one can shut, and shut doors that no one can open.

Paraphrasing the Christian commentator, William Hendriksen, on this topic; “the keys, in the hand of disciples, automatically open the doors to heaven or close them for people, when they hear the Gospel message.  The proclamation of Christ’s forgiveness ensures that everyone has heard and therefore has no excuse to retain their sin.  Those who refuse God’s grace cause the doors to shut.” [see N.T.C., Gospel of Matthew, by William Hendriksen, pg. 650 – 651]

Additionally, the two witnesses in Rev.11:3-6, are the gospel proclaimers in the City of Jerusalem, during the Tribulation.  They are to profess the works of Jesus Christ and call to obedience any who would come to God for forgiveness of sins.  The world considers their testimony as “torment,” yet, they will inflict injury by fire, only to those who would desire to harm them.  Their ministry is for those who have not taken the Mark of the Beast, predominantly the recalcitrant Jewish population.

This again implies the operation of the keys to bless or curse, to open or close.

The call for the use of keys, [the authority] is for church discipline and for restoring a wandering or failing brother or sister.  It is not for the pastor’s vendetta.  The activity is to be done with kindness as is expanding in thought by Peter’s own inquiry that followed this particular scripture;

“How many times must I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?”

— Mt.18:21

The keys’, fulfillment on the earth, and in the heavens [plural], reflect the direction of the Lord’s Prayer; “forgive us our debts as we forgive others,and the ability to reach the portals of God without interference of Satan.  Our power is such that we pass our desires and petitions right through Satan’s kingdom.

Satan’s power was in his accusations and indictments.  Our power is in our patient forbearance, forgiveness and yoke of fellowship – a very nice reflection of God indeed.

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