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Bind and Loose
by Wayne Blank
The "keys to the kingdom" verse is one of the most famous of the Bible. The Roman Catholic Church bases its "Primacy of Peter" doctrine very much upon it (see Did Peter Have The Primacy?), and yet, in reality, Jesus Christ gave the power (responsibility is actually a more accurate word, since only God has the power) to "bind and loose" to all of His chosen servants, then and ever since, not just the more bold and impulsive, usually-at-the-front-of-the-line, first-to-speak-and-ask-questions, Peter. How can we know that for sure? Because Jesus repeated the very same doctrinal statement a little later, in more (recorded) detail, making it very plain that He was commissioning all of them:
"If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every word may be confirmed by the evidence 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, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them." (Matthew 18:15-20 RSV)
The Keys To The Kingdom
Only God has the power to forgive or to condemn when it comes to salvation, so what is meant by God's servants binding and loosing?
In the New Testament, the translated English word bind is from the original Greek word pronounced day-oh, meaning to tie or be bound. The translated English word loosen is from the Greek word pronounced loo-oh, meaning to break up or melt.
God's servants were witnesses of the Gospel, teaching and preaching it. They were witnesses in terms of what they proclaimed, but they were also witnesses in terms of creating a record (that God alone holds in heaven) of how each person, that they came into contact with, accepted, or rejected, the Truth - the "evidence" for that individual, for good or bad, that God will examine on the Judgment Day. The Scripture example of Matthew 18:15-20 above describes this. Here are other examples that do the same even more clearly:
"Then He began to upbraid the cities where most of His mighty works had been done, because they did not repent. 'Woe to you, Chorazin! woe to you, Bethsaida! for if the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I tell you, it shall be more tolerable on the day of judgment for Tyre and Sidon than for you. And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? You shall be brought down to Hades. For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. But I tell you that it shall be more tolerable on the day of Judgment for the land of Sodom than for you." (Matthew 11:20-24 RSV)
The "keys to the Kingdom" is the Truth of the Gospel message, but the servant can only open the door; the actual power of entry is in the hands of every individual who hears it. It's up to each person, by their own free choice, to decide to accept or reject it, to enter while the door of their personal salvation is open, or to be left outside, not in the shivering cold, but in the blazing heat, after it has been shut.
Fact Finder: In terms of God's accepting the repentant for salvation, did Jesus Christ use the saying, "knock and the door shall be opened for you"?