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Another passage in the Bible where many Christians have difficulty understanding what it is really about.

There are all sorts of theories about it. Some think that we can "tie or untie" certain situations, others think that we can bind or unbind certain people, others think that God is going to agree with everything we declare with faith.

Together we will see what Jesus meant when He said these words.

When Jesus was talking about the fact that everything we bind on earth is bound in heaven, and everything we loose on earth is also loosed in heaven (Matt 18:18), He was talking about a very specific subject.

We can find this passage for example in:

Matthew 18:18  “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”.

In context, this passage follows an instruction from Jesus about the discipline to be applied in the Church. Here we are talking about people who behaved wrongly within the Church (the body of Christ, not the building). Jesus therefore asks that the problem be dealt with according to His recommendation.

We will see that the fact of binding or loosing goes quite far in its application, that is why Jesus was careful to give quite precise instructions before coming to binding or loosing things.

We are therefore in a context where it is a question of disciplining a person in the Church who would act inappropriately.

Binding here means keeping a person in the local church group, surrounding him/her with advice and prayers despite his/her bad behaviour, so that he/she can change. 

Loosing means banning a person from fellowship in the local church for a while because of his refusal to change despite having helped him for a long time. Loosing a person must be done in the presence of 2 or 3 witnesses.

That is why I was saying that these are actions that go very far, and they are not to be used lightly. Jesus was very careful to recommend that this should never be done by one person alone, but with two or three witnesses. This is simply so that no one would use this means for personal purposes on the one hand, and that it would be confirmed by the Holy Spirit as being the right thing to do in the specific circumstance on the other hand.

It is therefore a question of "banishing" a person who refuses to listen to reason about some of his evil attitudes contrary to the Gospel.

This is what Paul calls "Delivering such a one to satan" in 1 Corinthians 5:5.

It is not a question here of giving a person to satan, but of leaving that person in his sin with all its consequences so that he can realise his mistake and change his behaviour.

To bind a person on earth is in practice to pray for that person who is in a serious fault, and to help him become aware of this sin so that he will abandon it. In this case, the prayer we pronounce will also be effective in the spiritual world. That person will therefore benefit from the prayer and advice of his brothers and sisters in this matter. As a result, he will suffer only part of the consequences of this sin, being supported by the advice and prayer of his brothers and sisters. We then say that we bind this person to the body of Christ through our prayers and help. 

When a person who is in an important misconduct, refuses in spite of help and prayer to understand that he or she must change, then Jesus shows us that the only solution is to loose that person. This person, for a time, will no longer benefit from the prayer and advice of the church, leaving him or her with the consequences of his or her sin. This action will remove the protection of his brothers and sisters from the human consequences of his sin. As a result, that person will be left to his or her own decisions and their consequences, and will unfortunately fully experience the negative consequences of his or her sin.

This is done in the hope that this person will realise the harmfulness and evil that his or her sin is causing, and that he or she will quickly pull himself or herself together and regain a full place in the local church.

It is very important to act correctly when one decides (with several others) to loose a person and "deliver him to satan" as the Bible says.
It is not a question of banishing a person and cutting off our love. It is rather a question of letting them experience for themselves the consequences of their bad attitudes.  It is understood that the door must absolutely always remain open and that this person must have the assurance that when he has repented (changed his way of thinking), his brothers and sisters will welcome him with open arms.

During this process, it is also important to maintain a minimal fraternal bond so that this person knows that the door is always open.

Jesus also quoted this same word 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.”

This word of Jesus is along the same lines as the one we have just quoted in Matthew 18:18.

If we look at the context of Jesus' sentence, we can see that earlier in the text Jesus asks His apostles the following question.

Matthew 16: When Jesus came into the region of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His disciples, saying, “Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?”

No one among the people had recognized their messiah. They all thought they saw Elijah, John the Baptist, Jeremiah, but no one recognized him as the Son of God.

Only Peter said to him:

Matthew 16:16  Simon Peter answered and said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

In response to that, we come to the passage we are interested in. Jesus said to Peter:

Matthew 16:17-19   Jesus answered and said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.  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.”

At that time it is interesting to note that Jews often used this expression. They considered that everything that was done on earth was also done in heaven.

In the everyday language of his time, to bind meant to forbid, or not to allow. To loose meant to allow, or to permit.

It should also be noted that Jesus told Peter that He would give him the keys to the kingdom of heaven, that is, the ability to proclaim the truth that gives access to the kingdom of heaven. Jesus goes on to say that what Peter will allow must be allowed in heaven, and what Peter will forbid must be forbidden in heaven.    

Here Jesus gives Peter, and subsequently every person who has the responsibility to teach, the responsibility to be vigilant about this truth that is proclaimed. So Peter had to be vigilant about what he was going to allow or forbid according to the Gospel.

To bind or loose, to authorize or forbid, does not mean here that God will accept in some way everything that Christians will declare free or not. It does not mean either that God will automatically yield to everything that Christians or teachers will declare authorized or forbidden.  

Fortunately God does not abide by any declaration or any authorisation or prohibition of Christians. If this were the case, then God would become an accomplice to all the errors of doctrine that can be given in the various teachings that can be heard.

It is thus a question here of being careful that everything we declare as bound, or forbidden, is bound in heaven as well. But also that everything we declare loose or authorised is also loose in heaven. In other words, we must be careful that everything we declare is approved by God.

Jesus told Peter that the keys of the kingdom which will be given him, that is, the true teaching of the gospel, the ability to proclaim this truth, will be sufficient for him to remain in the truth. Peter will have everything he needs to be perfectly in tune with the mind of God when he goes to bind or loose a person or a situation.

Bye for now...

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