What is Biblical binding and loosing?
For us to gain an accurate meaning of binding and loosing, we need look at the text first referred to in the Old Testament, Isaiah 22:22, then go to the New Testament.
Isa 22:20-22 'Then it shall be in that day, that I will call My servant Eliakim the son of Hilkiah; I will clothe him with your robe and strengthen him with your belt; I will commit your responsibility into his hand. He shall be a father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem and to the house of Judah. The key of the house of David I will lay on his shoulder; so he shall open, and no one shall shut; and he shall shut, and no one shall open.
- Eliakim is given the key to the House of David. To Bind and loose” he was the function of a gatekeeper” or “steward” (oikonomos) over the household. He would have the keys so he could go into the temple area having access to the presence of God.
In the New Testament this was first used in Matt. 16:13-20 -- Jesus asked the disciples a direct question of who they say He is. Peter is then given a revelation from the Father calling Him the Christ, the Son of the Living God. Jesus then states He will build His Church upon Peter's statement of who He is. (Meaning the deity of Christ is what the Church is built on -- this is the fundamental confession of faith.) And the gates of hell will not overcome this church, EVER. In Vs. 19 We see the term we are looking into, Jesus speaks to Peter and gives him the keys of the Kingdom. “Whatever you bind on earth is bound in heaven; whatever you loose on earth is loosed in heaven”.
Giving keys to a person signified an entrusting with him to do an important task, in the scriptures they are used a symbol of authority and power.
Here are a few examples
Luke 11:52 "Woe to you lawyers! For you have taken away the key of knowledge. You did not enter in yourselves, and those who were entering in you hindered."
Other Examples of Keys used: Revelation 1:18 Jesus has the keys of death and Hades. It is he who controls live and death and judges the intents of the heart.
Rev 3:7 "And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write, 'These things says He who is holy, He who is true, "He who has the key of David, He who opens and no one shuts, and shuts and no one opens": Jesus addresses the faithful church of Philadelphia. He, Jesus, has the Key of David (rulership - Isaiah 9:6-7). And is able to open and shut doors for His churches.
Rev 9:1 Then the fifth angel sounded: And I saw a star fallen from heaven to the earth. To him was given the key to the bottomless pit. (this star is an angel Rev.20:1) Revelation 20:1-3 - Satan is bound after the second coming by an angel for one thousand years. This angel is given the key to the bottomless pit by Jesus’ authority.
The key to "bind and loose" is first given specifically to Peter for his role in the beginning of the church, but not to Peter alone.
Binding and loosing were used in two different manners judicially and legislatively. The traditional meaning of the term in Judaism was used in a -judicial sense “to bind” meant to punish, “to loose” meant to release from punishment. Used legislatively “to bind” meant to forbid something, “to loose” meant to permit.
The terms of binding and loosing were used by the Rabbis as legislative authority in interpreting scripture. The Pharisees used this authority to permit laws that were forbidden and forbid laws that were permitted. By doing this they elevated their own authority adding their laws to be equal to the scriptures which became tradition.Jesus rebuked them stating they sit in Moses's seat (Mt.23:2)
We see Peter using the keys in the book of Acts. The day the Church is born he used his authority to open the door to the Jews proclaiming the gospel asking them to separate from the accursed generation. In Acts 2:5-41 his first sermon was to the Jews on Pentecost, where 3,000 Jews were saved (the Jewish people are given the Gospel first as the natural branches in the olive tree, the church being is then formed consisting of both Jews and gentiles believers in one body. Eph. 2:14-17).
It was Peter who opened the door to all three groups to enter the newly formed body of Christ. He used the keys legislatively (loosing), to permit that which was formerly not permitted, the non Jews were then allowed be part of the Body of Christ, the Church. In Acts 8:14-17: to the Samaritans, who were half Jews and Gentile.Philip preached, they believed. vs. 12 Peter then came and laid hands on them, vs..17 (both Peter and John).
During this period we also find Peter using the keys in a judicial sense, binding punishing Annanias and Sapphirra for their lying to the Holy Spirit,pronouncing judgment on them for the body of Christ.
Peter also used these keys in a legislative sense of ‘loosing” something. After he has the vision in Acts 10:9-48 the Lord told him to eat what was seen on the sheet. Peter refused because it was forbidden to eat unclean animals under the Mosaic Law. After three times of the Lord saying, eat because they are now clean, Peter then begins to contemplate what the vision meant. This had a two-fold meaning; what was once forbidden as food is now permitted, and from this Peter concluded that the Lord had cleansed all people by his blood as he is led to bring the Gentiles into the Body of Christ. In Acts 10:44-48 - Peter used his authority to permit the Gentiles who believed into the body of Christ, by recognizing God's work that was done by Spirit baptism. (1 Cor. 12:13)
There is also another application of binding and loosing used in the application of Church discipline (Matthew 18:15-20. The master of the house gives the keys to the steward, but it may not be just one, but many. This promise was renewed and given to all the disciples Mt.18:18. This particular use of binding and loosing about church discipline, is valid and current in today's church. We are told in this text that when one brother commits a trespass to another brother, the one offended is to go to the offender the first time to try and reconcile, v.16. If he does not listen, or agree with the offended brother, then the offended brother is to take one or two more as witnesses to work this out. If there is still no cooperation, the one who offended the other is to be placed under church discipline as the church leadership agrees (Excommunication until he comes into reconciliation.) This is a progression of steps to be taken forward until reconciliation occurs . The goal is always to be restoration.
Verses 18-20, Notice it says “whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven...Again I say to you that if TWO of you agree on earth concerning anything they ask...” The two or three in agreement, asking the Father in Jesus' name is in the context of counseling brothers for reconciliation. Jesus is in the midst of them, as the Counselor-Peacemaker. If you are gathered in His Name, His will is to bring peace to all situations. (Whatever we touch and agree on, v.19.)
The keys included doctrine, called the key of knowledge. As the apostles were instructed by Christ they taught others, and by the teaching of the Holy Spirit. “Since the power of binding and loosing, which is here conferred upon Peter, is ascribed (Matt 18:18) to the apostles generally, the power conferred upon the former is set in its proper light, and shown to be of necessity a power of a collegiate nature, so that Peter is not to be regarded as exclusively endowed with it, either in whole or in part, but is simply to be looked upon as first among his equals” (Meyer on Matt 16:19; 18:18).