Binding and Loosing
A Biblical View
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.
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.
The topic of binding and loosing has for the most part been relegated to the arena of spiritual warfare, in particular, it used in reference to the binding of demons and the loosing of angels. At least this seems to be the usual practice in most Charismatic circles. However, we must ask ourselves one very important question. "Is this the intent and teaching of Jesus, as regards this issue of binding and loosing?" The short answer is No. We do not see Jesus or the disciples, at any time, binding demons but casting them out. We also don't see them practicing loosing angels (unless you count Revelation). Let us look at this issue within the context which it was spoken and in which it was meant to be understood.
The context of this statement by Jesus is His question to the disciples, "Who do you say that I, the son of man, am?". Peter's response, "I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of the Living God", was the revelation that was given to Peter, and in which Jesus said he was blessed. After giving to Simon the name of Peter (petros), he then makes the above statement.
He is giving to Peter the "keys of the Kingdom of heaven". We need to understand this phrase first, before we move to the next.
KEYS = authority to lock or unlock.
KINGDOM OF HEAVEN = the Gospel of Kingdom, i.e., the good news that God has sent his Son to pay the debt of man's sin, so that man may enter into fellowship and into the Kingdom or Rule of God. This Kingdom can only be entered into through the New Birth, i.e., being Born Again or Born from Above. Jesus said, "Except a man be born again, he cannot see the Kingdom of God." Then later in John 3, he said, "Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God." So a person cannot SEE or ENTER into the Kingdom of God, except that he is Born Again.
So this phrase means the authority and ability to lock/close or unlock/open the Kingdom of God/Heaven to others. That this is the meaning of Jesus should be clear, when we see that he accused the Pharisees of closing up or locking away the Kingdom of Heaven, so that others could not enter in, and also so that they themselves would not enter in (Matt. 23:13). So because Peter had exhibited the Key that unlocks the Kingdom, i.e., the revelation from God that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of the Living God, he was given the ability and authority to open the kingdom for others. Where do we see this happen? Glad you asked.
Peter was the one out of 120 or more disciples, who stood up on the Day of Pentecost, and preached the Gospel of the Kingdom to those Jews who were present, from all over the world ( Acts 2). Peter was also the first to open the door of the Gospel to the Gentiles, by preaching to Cornelius, a Roman centurion. So Peter was the first to Unlock or Open the Kingdom of Heaven to both the Jews and to the Gentiles, after the death and resurrection of Jesus. Remember, he was also the only disciple to outright deny even knowing or being associated with Jesus. And here he is given the grace and the privilege to be the first to preach the Gospel to the Jew and to the Gentile. Oh, the depths of the Grace and Mercy of God toward us all. Amen.
This should have addressed the idea of the Keys of the Kingdom of Heaven. Now we will move on to the binding and loosing issue.
The concept of "binding and loosing" comes from the rabbinic practice of making lawful (loosing) and unlawful (binding). This terminology has been somewhat misapplied in some circles today, as having to do with spiritual warfare and the binding of demons or Satan himself.
Nowhere Are We Told To Bind Satan or Demons!
We see no example in the Scripture of either Jesus or the disciples binding Satan or any demon. They never "bound" them, but cast them out. The Scripture speaks of a time when Satan shall be bound with a great chain for a thousand years, and cast into the bottomless pit (Rev. 20:1-2). This binding which Jesus speaks of has nothing to do with this.
This binding and loosing has to do with what is permitted and what is forbidden in the life of the Church. This authority the rabbis exercised over Israel in the days of Jesus, but here Jesus gives this authority to the disciples. This is given to all 12 disciples, not just Peter (cf. w/Matt. 18:18).
However, this is not to be understood that heaven goes along with whatever the disciples decide. Actually it is just the opposite. The Greek verb usage in this passage doesn't come through very clearly in the English translation. When Jesus says, "Whatsoever you bind on earth, shall be bound in heaven", the literal Greek reads, "Whatsoever you bind on earth, shall already have been bound in heaven." The binding or loosing occurs first in heaven, with God, then the disciples are to follow what the Spirit of God dictates, by binding or loosing on the earth.
The best example of this is seen in Acts 15. This is the scene of the first Church Council, held at Jerusalem. The question before the council was what was to be done with the Gentiles who were believing on Jesus, and how were they to be received into the Church. The Pharisees who believed, wanted the Gentiles to first become converts to Judaism through circumcision and the keeping of the Torah according to their tradition. But Peter stood up in the midst, and said,
brethren, ye know how that a good while ago God made choice among us, that the Gentiles by my mouth should hear the word of the gospel, and believe. And God, which knoweth the hearts, bare them witness, giving them the Holy Ghost, even as he did unto us; And put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith.
Now therefore why tempt ye God, to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear? But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved, even as they.
Peter was not against the Gentiles observing the Law of God, but what he was against and makes reference to is the yoke of the traditions of the elders, which would put the Pharisees in a position of dominance. Peter's response to this is that it is the Spirit of God that has chosen both Jew and Gentile to believe. That is, it is by faith that both must come to God, not through works of the Law, as the Pharisees would teach.
After Paul and Barnabas added their voices in consent to Peter's, James, the brother of Jesus, agrees and sends a letter to the Churches beyond Jerusalem giving the council's decision.
27 We have sent therefore Judas and Silas, who shall also tell you the same things by mouth.
28 For it seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things;
29 That ye abstain from meats offered to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication: from which if ye keep yourselves, ye shall do well. Fare ye well.
Notice he says it seems "good to the Holy Ghost and to us..." This shows that it was first good to God, then the apostles agreed and carried out the decision. This is exactly the intent of what Jesus said as explained above.
There is one other passage that should be addressed here, as it is often quoted and used in connection with the binding of Satan in spiritual warfare. First I will quote the verse itself, and then I will show the verse in its context.
The verse itself,
Mark 3:27 No man can enter into a strong man's house, and spoil his goods, except he will first bind the strong man; and then he will spoil his house.
Now the whole context,
Mark 3:22 And the scribes which came down from Jerusalem said, He hath Beelzebub, and by the prince of the devils casteth he out devils.
23 And he called them unto him, and said unto them in parables, How can Satan cast out Satan?
24 And if a kingdom be divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand.
25 And if a house be divided against itself, that house cannot stand.
26 And if Satan rise up against himself, and be divided, he cannot stand, but hath an end.
27 No man can enter into a strong man's house, and spoil his goods, except he will first bind the strong man; and then he will spoil his house.
28 Verily I say unto you, All sins shall be forgiven unto the sons of men, and blasphemies wherewith soever they shall blaspheme:
29 But he that shall blaspheme against the Holy Ghost hath never forgiveness, but is in danger of eternal damnation:
30 Because they said, He hath an unclean spirit.
In this context, Jesus is answering an accusation, not holding a seminar on how to cast out demons. He is speaking to those scribes who "came down" from Jerusalem, to accuse him of operating by the power of Satan or Ba'alzebub. Imagine being so diluted by your own righteousness and religion, that you are accusing God in Flesh, of working by the power of Satan.
This all happened due to the fact that Jesus had just cast a demon out of a man, and the news of it had reached the religious authorities in Jerusalem. They came down to cast accusations against Jesus, so as to put doubt in the minds of the people, whether he really was of God. JESUS WAS CASTING OUT DEMONS, THE RELIGIOUS WERE CASTING ACCUSATIONS. Such was the case then, and such will it ever be. Those caught up in their own righteousness, will always be casting the stones of accusations at those who are doing the real work of the Kingdom. Remember, if you are walking in the light as He is in the Light, then they will hate you for they hated Him.
Jesus then begins to answer their accusation, with pure and simple logic. A logic that even the simplest of minds would understand and grasp. "How can Satan cast out Satan?" This question demonstrated the absolute stupidity of their position. How can any kingdom expect to stand, by working against itself in such a manner? The answer of course, is that it cannot.
He then gives another illustration, that would be easy for anyone to understand and that comes again, from the simplest logic. If you are going to rob a man's house, especially the house of a strong man, then it will take someone of greater power to rob it. The strong man is not going to sit still, while someone comes into his house and robs him. So first, you must bind up or restrain the strong man, so that he will not interfere with you while you pillage his goods.
The exact point of Jesus here, is that it takes someone stronger than Satan, to be able to take that which is under his control. And of course, that Someone Stronger is Jesus, the Son of God. This was just another witness to these religious men, that Jesus was the Messiah, the Son of God. And they were accusing him of working in cooperation with the Devil.
This point moves Jesus to his next statement, concerning blaspheming the Holy Spirit. In short, attributing the works of God to the hand of the devil, is speaking against the Holy Spirit. This sin has no forgiveness. Why? Jesus had just said, ". . .All sins shall be forgiven unto the sons of men, and blasphemies wherewith soever they shall blaspheme." But not the blaspheming of the Holy Spirit.
If you have put the works of God into the same class as the works of the Devil, then you have just shut the door on any hope of salvation for yourself. The Holy Spirit is the One who convicts of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment. It is the Spirit of God who brings us into the Kingdom by means of the new birth. It is by the Holy Spirit of God, that we are sealed unto the day of redemption.
The Spirit of God is man's contact point with God. If we slam the door shut on the Spirit, by saying His work is the devil's work, there is never any hope of forgiveness, i.e., salvation.
There is one final passage that should be dealt with, in connection with this topic. It is found in Matt. 18. The full passage context goes like this.
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 an 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.
Again, in this passage, we have the statement concerning binding and loosing, found in verse 18. But what is the context in which it is used? It is not the context of binding and loosing evil spirits, but again, it is dealing with what is forbidden and permitted in the Church.
In the beginning verses, Jesus is dealing with when brothers are at odds and fellowship is broken. Jesus is dealing with the reconciliation of brothers. If a brother sins against another, the one sinned against is to go to the other and tell him of the fault or sin between them. If the sinning brother will listen, then a brother has been gained, but if not then the matter is to be dealt with again in the presence of two or three witnesses, so that every word may be established and the matter clearly understood. If the brother still will not be reconciled, then the matter is brought before the whole assembly. If he still refuses to be reconciled, then the brother is to be treated as a "heathen man and a publican." This simply means that he is to be treated as one outside the fellowship of faith, but to be gained and won back through the preaching of the Gospel.
Jesus then makes the statement about binding and loosing. It is spoken in the context of the determination made about the unrepentant brother, and his being put outside the circle of fellowship. This is a very serious matter that Jesus is dealing with here. Few things can steal and destroy the peace and harmony of the fellowship of the Church, than brothers who are at odds with each other, and sin in the fellowship that has the potential to cause division in the Body. This is why this matter is so serious. It has the potential of causing a rift not just between the two brothers, but can spread like a cancer throughout the whole body. It must be dealt with.
Jesus then makes the statement regarding the agreement of two in anything, it will be done of them by the Father in heaven. This passage has usually been lifted from its proper context, and used as a blank check in prayer. But what is the context in which it is spoken? It is in regard to placing an unrepentant brother outside the circle of fellowship, and seeking to win him back to the gospel. We will find that this agreement of two has a very certain application in the rule of law, in the life of the Church.
The last statement Jesus makes really is key to this whole passage. He says, For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them. Verses 19-20 have been taken together and used to say that if even just two or three meet together in the name of Jesus, He is in their midst. And this is certainly true, but it is not the meaning of the passage. Allow me to explain . . .
In the life of Israel, they had a court system set up to address the problems and issues that faced the everyday life of an Israelite. The largest and highest court in the land, was of course the Great Sanhedrin in Jerusalem. But the smallest court and the one that truly dealt with the everyday affairs of the people was called a Bet-din , or "house of judgment". This smallest court was comprised of two or three judges. When these judges met to hear matters, it was believed that the Glory or Shekinah of God rest upon them. It was for this reason that they were regarded as "elohim" or mighty ones. This will throw some light on another misunderstood passage found in John 10:34-35. They were called 'mighty ones' or elohim, because when they were in session, with the Shekinah present, it was believed that they spoken for God. Their decisions were the decisions of God. What they forbid (to bind), was what was forbidden by heaven, and what they permitted (to loose), was permitted by heaven. What they bound on earth, had already been bound in heaven, and what they loosed on earth, had already been loosed in heaven.
So when Jesus says that where two or three are gathered together in his Name, that He, the Glory of God would be in the midst of them, to shine the light and wisdom of God upon them. There was already present in the thought of first century Judaism, the idea that the Shekinah of God was just another name for the Messiah. The Messiah is the Glory of God.
We have traveled the long way around the mountain, just to show that this issue of binding and loosing, is not spoken with regard to binding evil spirits and loosing angels. It is used in the judicial sense, of making decisions that affect the life of the Church, and keeping the rule and kingdom of God in the center of its life.
Allow me to make an important point here. There is a saying in the world of real estate. "There are three things that are most important: location, location, location." There are three things that are of the utmost importance in Biblical Study: Context, Context, Context. The vast majority of teachings that are out of line with the Scriptures, are usually due to this error: taking a verse or passage out of the context in which it was given. If you wish to properly interpret a verse or passage, LEAVE IT IN THE CONTEXT IN WHICH IT WAS GIVEN. The context may be a whole passage, a chapter or the whole book itself. When you come to study a verse or passage, first ask yourself "what is the context?" What do the verses say before it and after it. If you will do this, it will go far in bringing you to the truth of the Scriptures.