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Eternity 54 - Binding And Loosing

Matthew 18:18-20 LITV Truly I say to you, Whatever you bind on the earth will be, having been bound in Heaven. And whatever you loose on the earth will be, having been loosed in Heaven. (19) Again I say to you, If two of you agree on earth as to anything, whatever they shall ask, it shall be to them from My Father in Heaven. (20) For where two or three are gathered together in My name, there I am in their midst.

What do these verses mean ? What is Jesus mysteriously referring to in "binding and loosing" and what power does this give to believers? Lets look at two extremes and then find the middle.

Firstly is the somewhat magical interpretation that gives the believers almost unlimited spiritual power. Like a blank cheque to tie Satan's hands whenever we want. If this was so then all the apostle Peter needed to do was stand up on the day of Pentecost and say "I bind Satan from all activity for ever and ever"....and that would be that, the world would have been free of evil. In fact the final binding of Satan will take the return of Christ and all His holy angels. So this is no magic wand against evil - though, as we shall see, it is still a potent weapon.

The second extreme is that we can only bind and loose whatever God has already bound and loose in Heaven - which makes our actions utterly redundant and unnecessary and imposes the condition that we have to know what God has bound and loosed there. Both these extreme interpretations are unsatisfactory.

In Matthew 18, the context of the chapter is forgiveness from the heart, church discipline and the salvation of the lost. And binding and loosing here are clearly corporate acts of the church, often in a context of church discipline, where the members agree regarding some matter and have it enforced 'in heaven" by God. It is the church, acting within the bounds of its authority, to discipline members and affect the spiritual realm of which it is part.

For instance a city-wide crusade that prays for the city, with churches in unity and which believes God for a breakthrough in the spiritual atmosphere in that city and which abides in holiness would have the right to bind evil and loose revival within that city. This is a great power and has been demonstrated in the ministry of Ed Silvoso and others. Cities can be turned around by united, holy, believing and authoritative prayer.

The other area it applies is in spiritual conflict with witchcraft where curses may be unleashed against a missionary, church leader or even an entire fellowship. These spiritual powers are released "in the heavenly realms" where we wrestle (Ephesians 6:10-18) and united, agreeing believers can bind these things "in the heavens" and break curses and revoke the power of witchcraft.

Here in the Philippines this is greatly needed - and increasingly so in Western countries as the New Age and witchcraft are resurgent. (See an article on curses if you are interested in this topic).

By the way the word "heaven" is plural - there is a first heaven - where the birds of the heavens fly, a second heaven or mid-heaven where angels fly and do battle against evil powers and the third heaven where Paul heard mysteries from God. Satan influences the first heaven as "Prince of the power of the air" (Ephesians 4) and second heavens (where he is defeated) but not the third (which he has been cast out of).

The last area is in retaining the sins of believers or forgiving them in the context of a first century church court (see The Management of Sin and Sinners In the First Century for more on church discipline and church courts). The concept of loosing and the concept of forgiving are very close, in fact the word forgive means to "loose from obligation or punishment, to let go".

Thus the judgment of believers would have spiritual effect and authority "in heaven" and this may be behind some mysterious statements such as Paul handing a person over Satan for the destruction of the flesh.

This can be abused - but the abuse does not invalidate the fact that such authority exists. When Jesus said "son your sins are forgiven" to the lame man He was accused of blasphemy....but the text goes on to say: Matthew 9:6-8 ASV But that ye may know that the Son of man hath authority on earth to forgive sins (then saith he to the sick of the palsy), Arise, and take up thy bed, and go up unto thy house. (7) And he arose, and departed to his house. (8) But when the multitudes saw it, they were afraid, and glorified God, who had given such authority unto men.

The above passage points out that the authority to forgive sins was given "to men" - that is Jesus and His followers acting in unity. We need not extrapolate this to establishing the confessional or to us being able to grant salvation, but we can grant forgiveness of specific sins and we do have a certain degree of real spiritual authority - but only within the bounds God permits.

Thus binding and loosing is the careful exercise of spiritual authority to manage sin and combat attacks from evil sources and to achieve a degree of spiritual authority and mastery in the spiritual realms in which the fellowship operates. It is not a magic wand but it is a powerful corporate tool that we should learn to use as part of the spiritual warfare in which we need to engage.


John Edmiston


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