Thursday, July 8, 2010

Binding and Loosing

What did Jesus mean when He said, first to Peter and then to the disciples, that whatever they bound on earth should be bound in heaven and whatever they loosed on earth should be loosed in heaven (Matthew 16:19; 18:18). How does this apply today?

This statement was made to Peter, not based on his office, but his profession of faith (Matthew 16:13-17). It was later promised to the disciples in general (Matthew 18:1). The logical conclusion is this is promised to the true disciples of Christ, those who have genuine faith in Christ. There are those who see this promise as passed down mechanically by an unbroken chain of ordination. But there is no Scriptural basis for the idea that any authority or privilege is passed down to an individual based on who they were ordained by.

This promise is given in a context of church discipline (Matthew 18:15-17). It is followed by statements saying if two agree together, it shall be done by God, and where two or three are gathered together, Christ is in their midst (Matthew 18:18,20). This is used in regard to prayer and may have an application there, but in context it speaks of doing the work of the church. Therefore, whenever true believers gather together and agree, they have the authority to do the work of the church. (This can be a tacit agreement and does not necessary involve voting, which is based on a ambiguous word in Acts 14:23. Perhaps God intended to leave it ambiguous.)

But church discipline involves more then removing a name from the church roll; 1 Corinthians 5:5 speaks of turning the person over to Satan. Also, Matthew 12:29 speaks of binding the strong man (Satan) to rob his house. Could it be that binding and loosing involves a spiritual transaction? This means that the decisions of the church bind or loose spiritual forces. If we allocate money for missions, we also release spiritual power with it. If we refuse to minister to poor people, God's power is not released in this area. Now God is building His church, and His purposes will be accomplished (Matthew 16:18), but He has allowed us to participate in the carrying-out of these purposes.

I find this a little scary. It is easy to believe spiritual power is involved when the word is preached and the sacraments administered and prayer and worship are offered to God. But there is nothing that so easily degenerates into silliness as a church meeting. Are we like children playing with spiritual hand grenades? The only remedy is to carry out such meetings with a conscious realization of the divine presence in our midst (Matthew 18:20) and to do things based on His word and the principles and attitudes He requires. For our decisions have far reaching effects.

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