To Bind, to Loosen
July 20, 2021
Assuredly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven (Matthew 18:18).
Similar words are found in Matthew 16:19, And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.
The phrases ‘to bind’ and ‘to loose’ were used by the Jews to indicate what is prohibited and what is permitted. To ‘bind’ a thing was to forbid it. To loose it was to allow it to be done. Two of the great Rabbis of the day were almost always diametrically opposed in their interpretation and application of Mosaic Law. Hillel was more liberal in his interpretations and applications while Shammai was more conservative. Regarding the gathering of wood on the Sabbath, “the school of Shammai binds it (forbids it) while the school of Hillel ‘looses it’ (allows it).”
These words are found in the context of church discipline. Jesus was not teaching the disciples that they can tell or manipulate God into doing what they really had no authority to do. He did not say what the apostles forbad or approved would have divine authority, what they permitted or commanded would have God’s stamp of approval. The Greek words used and the construction of the words in the verse are to be understood as meaning, ‘when people yield their will to God’s will, He will endorse and empower their obedience’. Because the verbs are in the future tense, passive voice, and perfect mood, the verse should read “Truthfully I tell you, whatever you forbid on earth will have already been forbidden in heaven, and whatever you permit on earth will have already been permitted in heaven.”
If a person repents and is forgiven by the church for the sins he/she has committed, they can be sure that forgiveness will have already been affirmed in heaven. How so? Because spiritually mature Christians will have received that affirmation from God. If a person refuses to repent and does not receive forgiveness from the church for sins he/she continues to hold to, they can be sure that forgiveness has already been withheld in heaven and the guilty person remains in broken fellowship with God. How so? Because spiritually mature Christians will have received that nullification from God.
In Acts 5 is the story of Ananias and Sapphira and their deceit in lying to the Apostles regarding the sale of a piece of property. Rather than give the full sale price to the Apostles for the relief of the poor (like they promised), they kept back some of the money for themselves. Peter rebuked them for their deceit and they died. It was not on the authority of Peter that Ananias and Sapphira were judged and met their fate, but on the authority of the Holy Spirit whom they lied to. Such is the meaning of the words of Jesus even to us today.
“Lord Jesus, may we never assume that such authority is ours to pass judgment on another individual when our responsibility is to confront the sinner in his/her sin for the purpose of securing repentance and forgiveness of sin. In Your name I ask, Amen.”