Scripture Sabbath Challenge—Matthew 16:13–19

The Holy Bible


During the Blogging 101 course I recently completed on WordPress, one of our assignments was to take part in a “blogging event”; another was to create a regular feature on our blogs. So, to kill two birds with one stone, today I am introducing what I hope will be a weekly feature. Participating in the “Scripture Sabbath Challenge,” I will share some thoughts on a Bible passage that spoke to me during the week. I pray that these meditations will be a blessing to all who read them.

Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, He was asking His disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” And they said, “Some say John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; but still others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven.” (Matthew 16:13–19. Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.)

This is one of those verses that generates much controversy between Christians and churches, because many people do not read it in its context. We need to remember that Jesus speaks as a first-century Jew, not as a 21st-century American. Particularly, many Christians misunderstand what Jesus means by “binding and loosing.” In many churches, we talk about “binding Satan” and “loosing God’s blessings” or “loosing healing” upon ourselves or those we care for.

In rabbinic Judaism, “binding and loosing” meant essentially “forbidding and permitting” (see the Jewish Encyclopedia). As Lonnie Lane observes, “The people to whom {Jesus} spoke understood that He was talking about what was consistent with Torah and what wasn’t. This matter of binding and loosing wasn’t unique to Yeshua. It was entirely familiar to them all because it was how the rabbis would sanction something or ban it according to the teachings in Torah.” For example, the Old Testament law told Jews that they cannot boil a kid in its mother’s milk; rabbis, by binding and loosing, extended this rule to prohibit eating cheeseburgers.

In other words, Jesus is giving Peter divine authority to speak and proclaim God’s will on His behalf. Jesus extended much of this authority to the rest of the disciples later, in Matthew 18:15–20: There, “binding and loosing” is directly connected with fellowship in the church. It is as if Jesus is telling the disciples, “When someone shows no sign of remorse or repentance, treat them like they don’t know Me.”

It is true that this can be abused. Some will use Matthew 18 as an excuse to decide that other people are going to hell. Some will follow Matthew 18’s prescriptions as a checklist: you followed these steps, now you are free to excommunicate this person, to ostracize them, and to call them heretics and pagans.

However, we should always consider the full context of the mission Jesus gave His disciples: “repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His name to all the nations” (Luke 24:47).

Jesus’ final instructions to His disciples involved authority to proclaim the Gospel to the world. In Matthew 28:18–20, He authorizes them to make disciples and baptize. In John 20:21–23, it is an offer of authority to forgive sins: “So Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with you; as the Father has sent Me, I also send you.’ And when He had said this, He breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, their sins have been forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they have been retained.’”

This is the believer’s authority: To offer God’s forgiveness to a lost and dying world. To proclaim to sinners that Jesus died for them and offers eternal life to all who will come to Him. We are not called to proclaim condemnation, but to offer life and hope.

This post copyright © 2016 Michael E.
Lynch. All rights reserved.

One response to “Scripture Sabbath Challenge—Matthew 16:13–19”

  1. Thanks for sharing, and for participating in my challenge! I look forward to future posts. I love the verses you shared, and the verse that your blog title is based on. There is so much we don’t know, or misunderstand. Much of that misunderstanding, like you said, comes from not understanding the context of the teachings. Jesus knew these people well enough to know how to teach them in a way they would understand. So many seem to have lost sight of that today.


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