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What does it mean, "I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom," and "Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven"?


a.gif (1659 bytes)   Looking at the context of Matthew 16:19, this is what we read. "13 When Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of man am? 14 And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets. 15 He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? 16 And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. 17 And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. 18 And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. 19 And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. 20 Then charged he his disciples that they should tell no man that he was Jesus the Christ. 21 From that time forth began Jesus to show unto his disciples, how that he must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day. 22 Then Peter took him, and began to rebuke him, saying, Be it far from thee, Lord: this shall not be unto thee. 23 But he turned, and said unto Peter, Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offence unto me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men. 24 Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. 25 For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. 26 For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?"

    The context begins with the question of who Jesus really is, in verse 13. They tell Jesus of many ideas in verse 14, but Jesus makes the important distinction between what people say, and what individuals really believe personally, in verse 15, "But whom say ye that I am?" Peter quickly speaks up, that he believes that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God, in verse 16.

    Now, Jesus begins His statement to which you referred, in verses 17-19. The question is, "Who or what is the rock against which the gates of hell shall not prevail?"

    We know that it cannot be Peter, because of what immediately takes place. Look at verses 20-23. Jesus begins to tell the disciples how He is going to go up to Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the religious leaders, and be killed, and then rise again. To this, Peter responds in verse 22, "Then Peter took him, and began to rebuke him, saying, Be it far from thee, Lord: this shall not be unto thee." Now Jesus responds to him in verse 23, "But he turned, and SAID UNTO PETER, GET THEE BEHIND ME, SATAN: THOU ART AN OFFENCE UNTO ME:: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men." So Peter is not the rock to which the Lord was referring, because the gates of hell did prevail against Peter very quickly.

    The "rock" is clearly Jesus, and Jesus is the foundation of the church. I Corinthians 10:4 says, "And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and THAT ROCK WAS CHRIST." I Corinthians 3:4-11 shows that Jesus is the "rock" or the "foundation" of the church. "4 For while one saith, I am of Paul; and another, I am of Apollos; are ye not carnal? 5 Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers by whom ye believed, even as the Lord gave to every man? 6 I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase. 7 So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase. 8 Now he that planteth and he that watereth are one: and every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labour. 9 For we are labourers together with God: ye are God's husbandry, ye are God's building. 10 According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise masterbuilder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon. 11 FOR OTHER FOUNDATION CAN NO MAN LAY THAN THAT IS LAID, WHICH IS JESUS CHRIST."

    These verses in I Corinthians 3 show us that the keys have nothing to do with man having the authority to "grant" or "take away" salvation. It is God that gives the increase. John 6:37 says, "All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and HIM THAT COMETH TO ME I WILL IN NO WISE CAST OUT." And anyone who comes to Jesus Christ for salvation, can never lose it. John 6:39 says, "And this is the Father's will which hath sent me, that OF ALL WHICH HE HATH GIVEN ME I SHOULD LOSE NOTHING, but should raise it up again at the last day."

    So we have seen that Jesus is the "rock," and that He is the foundation of the church. In that sense, the church then has a certain authority, because Christ is its foundation. I Timothy 3:15 says, "But if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is THE CHURCH OF THE LIVING GOD, THE PILLAR AND GROUND OF THE TRUTH." The church is responsible to uphold the truth of God’s Word in this world. That means that someone in the church has to have the authority to say, "The Bible says this, and this is what we must do in this situation."

    We are told in the Scriptures that there are two God-ordained offices or positions in the local church — pastors (bishops) and deacons. These two positions and the qualifications of those positions are listed in I Timothy 3:1-13, " 1 This is a true saying, If a man desire THE OFFICE OF A BISHOP, he desireth a good work. 2 A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach; 3 Not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous; 4 One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity; 5 (For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?) 6 Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil. 7 Moreover he must have a good report of them which are without; lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil. 8 LIKEWISE MUST THE DEACONS be grave, not doubletongued, not given to much wine, not greedy of filthy lucre; 9 Holding the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience. 10 And let these also first be proved; then let them use the office of a deacon, being found blameless. 11 Even so must their wives be grave, not slanderers, sober, faithful in all things. 12 Let the deacons be the husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well. 13 For they that have used THE OFFICE OF A DEACON well purchase to themselves a good degree, and great boldness in the faith which is in Christ Jesus."


    One example given of that authority is seen in the other passage about which you asked, Matthew 18:18, "Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven." Now consider the context of this statement. Verses 15-22, " 15 Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. 16 But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. 17 And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as a heathen man and a publican. 18 Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. 19 Again I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven. 20 For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them. 21 Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times? 22 Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven."

    What we see in this passage is "church discipline." If one church member has a problem with another, he is to go to that person alone, and try to get things settled (verse 15). If that does not correct the problem, then he is to take one or two more people with him, and try to get the matter resolved (verse 16). If that still does not work, then he is to bring it before the church (verse 17), and if he does not listen to the church, then "but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as a heathen man and a publican." A "heathen man" cannot be a member of the local church, so that Christian is put out of the membership of that local church.

    Who dares to take such an action? Who has the authority to do so? The leaders of that church have that authority, based upon the Word of God. What they "bind upon earth shall be bound in heaven." If they have followed the order of Matthew 18:15-17, then what they decide is recognized in heaven. Even if there are only a few who will gather together and follow the Scriptures, Jesus promises, "For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them." (Mathew 18:20). What is so great (and possibly so hard) about following church discipline? I Corinthians 5:3-5 says, " 3 For I verily, as absent in body, but present in spirit, have judged already, as though I were present, concerning him that hath so done this deed, 4 In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when ye are gathered together, and my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, 5 TO DELIVER SUCH AN ONE UNTO SATAN FOR THE DESTRUCTION OF THE FLESH, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus." That is not an easy step to take with someone you dearly love, but that is what the Bible commands to do. There may be many people in the church that refuse to follow the Word of God in this, but God will back up the leaders that follow His Word. (This is not talking about losing salvation, but about being chastened, if need be, even unto death). If the church gathered together (even if there is only two or three) makes this decision to deliver such an one over to the destruction of the flesh if the person will not repent, then God in heaven will honor that decision.

    We see this authority in action in Acts chapter 5:1-11. "1 But a certain man named Ananias, with Sapphira his wife, sold a possession, 2 And kept back part of the price, his wife also being privy to it, and brought a certain part, and laid it, at the apostles' feet. 3 But Peter said, Ananias, why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost, and to keep back part of the price of the land? 4 Whiles it remained, was it not thine own? and after it was sold, was it not in thine own power? why hast thou conceived this thing in thine heart? thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God. 5 And ANANIAS HEARING THESE WORDS FELL DOWN, AND GAVE UP THE GHOST: and great fear came on all them that heard these things. 6 And the young men arose, wound him up, and carried him out, and buried him. 7 And it was about the space of three hours after, when his wife, not knowing what was done, came in. 8 And Peter answered unto her, Tell me whether ye sold the land for so much? And she said, Yea, for so much. 9 Then PETER SAID UNTO HER, HOW IS IT THAT YE HAVE AGREED TOGETHER TO TEMPT THE SPIRIT OF THE LORD? BEHOLD, THE FEET OF THEM WHICH HAVE BURIED THY HUSBAND ARE AT THE DOOR, AND SHALL CARRY THEE OUT. 10 THEN FELL SHE DOWN STRAIGHTWAY AT HIS FEET, AND YIELDED UP THE GHOST: and the young men came in, and found her dead, and, carrying her forth, buried her by her husband. 11 And great fear came upon all the church, and upon as many as heard these things." That is a good example of what the church leadership carries out according to the Word of God, and how God honors those decisions in heaven.

    Remember, it is not the authority of a mere man that we are talking about here, but the authority of the local church. God honors the decisions of the leadership of the local church, when they are in compliance with the instructions in His Word. We are reminded in Hebrews 13:17, "Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you." The leadership of the local church has to be willing to step out on faith and obey the Word of God. When they do, God will honor those decisions which are made by that local church. This does not mean that God will honor corrupt decisions made by an unspiritual church or its unspiritual leadership. Proverbs 26:2 says, "The curse causeless shall not come."

    Read over this explanation several times. This does not make a "pope" out of the preacher or deacons. We are talking about the God-given authority and recognition of the local church — EVERY SCRIPTURAL LOCAL CHURCH — not some religious headquarters somewhere. There is a big difference.

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