The Scripture Passages
In our last study post, we arrived at the point where Jesus mentions the issue the American Church knows as "binding and loosing." I saved the topic for its own post because it is a very complex, important issue to address. It is only mentioned twice in Scripture, both in Matthew; we will look at both of those occurences, along with some surrounding verses to provide context (which is critical for their interpretation). Like some other sayings of Jesus that appear multiple times, this phrase can have multiple different (albiet related) meanings in different contexts.
15 He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?"
16 Simon Peter answered, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God."
17 And Jesus said to him, "Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven.
18 "I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it.
19 "I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven."
15 "If your brother sins, go and who him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother.
16 "But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that BY THE MOUTH OF TWO OR THREE WITNESSES EVERY FACT MAY BE CONFIRMED.
17 "If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.
18 "I truly say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven.
19 "Again I say to you, that if two of you agree on earth about anything that theyu may ask, it shall be done for them by My Father who is in heaven."
Different denominations, doctrinal groups, and scholars interpret the issue of binding and loosing to mean many different things. What follows will be my personal view on the matter, a view backed up by two solid Bible teachers whom I trust. However, I do not stand as firm on this issue as I do many of my other stances precisely because there are so many views, and so little Scriptural material from which to derive and understanding of this matter.
One interpretation of "binding and loosing" that I do stand against with firmness is the idea that every time a believer is tempted to do something, he can "bind Satan" for tempting him. There are multiple Scriptural and logical flaws with this: (1) Satan will not be "bound" until Revelation 20, at the end of the Tribulation; (2) if Christians have to keep binding him, clearly he keeps getting free...so clearly, it doesn't work and is not backed up by God's authority by which he grants Christians power to command demons; and, (3) it ignores that fact that, in addition to being tempted by Satan and his demons, we are also tempted by our own fleshly natures and by the world (Matthew 13:22, 1 Corinthians 2:12, Galatians 4:3, Ephesians 6:12, etc.). I think this practice also has the negative consequences of denying personal responsibility, distracing Christians from God because they're obsessed with the demonic realm, and damaging Christians' witness to unbelievers since it appears "crazy."
That said, however, again, what follows now is very much just my view on binding and loosing. Everything I post on this blog except the core of the Gospel I identify as my opinion, but this matter I am less firm in my stance than other issues.
Yay, Grammar (but it's Important)!
I really like how the NASB translates these verses, because rendering the verb tenses correctly, even at the cost of easy readability, is imperative when it comes to this matter's interpretation. Let's look at Young's Literal Translation (which stives for pure literalness, not readability at all), and then a modern rendering of it from another Bible teacher I trust:
...whatever thou mayest bind upon the earth shall be having been bound in the heavens, and whatever thou mayest loose upon the earth shall be having been loosed in the heavens.
...whatever you shall bind on earth shall have been bound already in heaven, and whatever you shall loose on earth shall have been loosed already in heaven.
Now, let's look in the original Greek:
"Bind" is deo, meaning to bind or forbid.
"Loose" is luo, meaning to loose or allow or destroy.
So that gives us:
...whatever you shall bind/forbid on earth shall have been bound/forbade already in heaven, and whatever you shall loose/allow/destroy on earth shall have been loosed/allowed/destroyed already in heaven.
And finally circling back to interpreting our Scripture passages... :-)
As we discussed last time in a bit more detail, Jesus was stating that Peter's faith was remarkable, that that type of faith would be the basis of Christianity, and also that Peter would be a Church leader. That genuine type of faith would never be overcome by the devil.
In Matthew 16, I believe binding and loosing refers to Jesus transfering His authority and backing to those with Peter's faith in their witnessing efforts - basically, He's saying He is pleased with that faith, and was planning to use it to further His kingdom. Where do I get this? Context, and a whole lot of verses using the same wording, such as these examples:
Acts 2:24 KJV
God has raised up, having loosed the pains of death.
He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.
I will seek the lost, bring back the scattered, bind up the broken and strengthen the sick.
So, God is the ultimate One who looses pains, cords, chains, etc., allowing them to go free, and binds up their wounds, forbidding their sin to rule them. With the literal renderings of today's verses, He has already done these, but will use us to accomplish that on earth.
In Matthew 18, the context is about Church discipline - if you see a Christian living in sin (not struggling with it - living in it), you're to approach him about in alone first; if he doesn't repent, bring a couple other solid believers with you, and if he doesn't repent after that, bring the matter before the Chruch (not in a gossippy manner - with the American Church setup, I personally, generally recommend bringing the matter to the Church leadership, who can bring the manner before the Church in a more controlled manner than a layperson can). If he doesn't repent even then, fellowship is cut off (he's "excommunicated" - no longer treated as a believer). This process is outlined repeatedly in the New Testament.
Forbidding and allowing obviously fit in here, pertaining to partaking of fellowship with other believers - you allow or forbid them to continue fellowshipping with believers. So, this variation of the same issue is that when God cuts off His own relationship with someone because they openly reject him by unabashedly living in unrepentant sin, He gives His Church the authority to cut off fellowship as well, and when He has a relationship with someone, the Church is to welcome them as well.
Tying Them Together
So, binding and loosing in both Matthew 16 and 18 are different variations of the exact same issue: When God creates or cuts off a relationship with a human, He gives authority to His followers to manifest physically/on this Earth what He's already done.
Questions for You
That's my take - but what are your thoughts? I want to know! :-)
Or, if you haven't really thought about this issue before (because, admittedly, the verses are a bit easy to gloss over in reading), was there anything I didn't make clear?