What did Jesus mean when He talked about binding and loosing?
Binding and loosing is a Jewish legal phrase giving authority to someone to determine whether something is allowed or forbidden.
Jesus uses the phrase in Matthew 16:19 when talking to Peter, but within hearing of the other apostles. "I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven."
Jesus was telling Peter that he would have the right to enter the kingdom of heaven himself. The keys symbolized general authority. Preaching the gospel would be the way to open the kingdom of heaven to all believers and shut it against unbelievers. Peter, preaching at Pentecost in Acts 2:14–40, opened those doors. Jesus intended Peter and the other apostles to continue His ministry of bringing the kingdom of God to earth by preaching the gospel. All Christians have a part in this effort, as we are taught to pray in Matthew 6:9–10. We are also included in the Great Commission in Matthew 28:18–20.
Diving deeper into the Greek words and verb tenses in Jesus' words to Peter, we find that what Peter is given authority to do does not originate with him. The verbs used clearly communicate that whatever Peter binds or loosens on earth has already been bound or loosened in heaven (see Matthew 16:19 as above, and 18:18 where Jesus teaches about church discipline).
Peter was not given authority to admit people into God's kingdom or to choose what he wanted to allow and disallow. Rather, Jesus gave authority to Peter and the other apostles to correctly interpret God's message and to share it with others.
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