Binding and Loosing - 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.” (KJV)
Having been raised in a traditional evangelical church it was customary, during altar service, to hear this scripture used as we bound Satan and his minions from creating chaos in our lives and the lives of others. We bound that devil in the name of Jesus! This scripture proved that God had given us the authority, in the name of Jesus, to bind Satan and to make him powerless here on earth.
Well, one thing that I never could understand was why we kept having to bind him over and over. Somehow our binding just kept coming undone because that devil just kept getting loose.
Maybe it was because we had mistranslated this scripture as we had done with many others? What did Yeshua mean when He talks about “binding and loosing”? To understand it is necessary to have a better understanding of the Jewish background and culture of the first century.
What exactly did Yeshua give His disciples the authority to bind and loose? First, let's examine the scripture in context to the surrounding scriptures. Let's read:
Matthew 18:15-20 “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. 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. 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. 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. 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. For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” (KJV – Italics and bold added)
Notice, that Yeshua makes this statement after giving instructions about a brother who has sinned against another. First, the person was to go to the offender alone and try to correct the problem. If that failed then he was to take one or two more witnesses and go again to the brother and try and reconcile the problem. If that failed then the offending brother was suppose to be brought before the congregation and judged for his wrong doing.
We should be able to see from these instructions that the “binding and loosing” is of a legal matter and has nothing to do with a spiritual warfare of binding and loosing Satan.
Yeshua explains that the person should take one or two more so that “in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.” This is a quote from Deuteronomy 19:15:
“One witness shall not rise up against a man for any iniquity, or for any sin, in any sin that he sinneth: at the mouth of two witnesses, or at the mouth of three witnesses, shall the matter be established.” (KJV)
Again, this involves a legal preceding in a ruling of court, or in this case, a congregational leadership ruling.
In the Jewish court system, at least three judges had to be present to make a ruling. A majority had to agree to the decision. So, two of the judges had to agree for a sentence to pass. Hence, they would have understood what Yeshua meant when He said “if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask”, He was referring to the majority of judges agreeing on the judgment of an individual within a congregation. Contrary to what is practiced by most congregations today, it is Biblical to judge unruly members within the assembly.
In Hebrew the terms “binding and loosing” mean forbid and permit. With this in mind the scripture in Matthew 18:18 would read:
Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall forbid on earth shall be forbidden in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall permit on earth shall be permitted in heaven.
So, the correct interpretation of this scripture would be that if a brother or sister within the congregation refuses to repent of their wrong doing, then the church should “forbid” them from fellowship. However, if the brother or sister repents, then they will be “permitted” to remain within fellowship of the congregation. Yeshua states that the decision reached by the proper authorities will be recognized in heaven.
We should be able to see from this example that it is always important to quote and use scripture within the proper context. To understand that context we must study the context of the scripture and the Jewish culture from which it was written.
Yeshua never gave his apostles the power to “bind” Satan. If so, how does he keep getting loose? NO, Yeshua gives His disciples the same authority that His Father had already given in the Old Testament (TaNaKh) and that was the authority to legally judge matters within the congregation. When this judging is done correctly, as outlined by the Holy Scriptures, then God will recognize in Heaven the decisions made on earth.
For more information on this topic, please visit my page, “Where Two Are Three Are Gathered In My Name”.
I hope this has added clarity to the Jewishness of Messiah, His disciples, and the New Testament Writings.