James 023 – Binding and Loosing?James 4:7 • Dr. Andy Woods • April 14, 2021 • James
Binding and Loosing
Dr. Andy Woods
…James 4, continuing with our verse-by-verse teaching of the book of James. James is written by James, his actual name was Jacob or Yakov, and I shared early on how he got the name of James, but that is too long of a story to repeat now. He was the pastor of the church at Jerusalem, and his flock had been scattered by Saul of Tarsus into the Diaspora. He is dealing with believing Jews in the Diaspora, which means the dispersion. He isn’t teaching them about how to get saved; they are already saved; he is teaching them how to live for Christ, as Christians, and how they are supposed to deal with suffering. These people were suffering as you can imagine what it would be like to be kicked out of your home into a far-flung region.
The first half of the book is about the walk of faith, how we continue to trust God through life’s difficulties — trials, through obedience to God’s Word, by resisting the temptation to show favoritism by allowing our faith to become productive in good works, and then by controlling the tongue.
James 3:13-the end of the book, there is a slight shift, and he is now dealing with wisdom. The first part of the book: the walk of faith. The second part of the book: the walk of wisdom. Wisdom, as you know is knowledge applied. He explains that in 3:13-18, now he begins to take wisdom and apply it to every area of our lives. His first major subject in the second half of the book is our spiritual walk. How do we walk in wisdom as Christians in terms of the spiritual life?
We avoid two things: wrangling and worldliness. Wrangling in James 4:1-3; worldliness in 4:4-6.
What is nice about this section is that James doesn’t just tell us what to avoid, but he tells us what to replace it with. Instead of wrangling and worldliness, he says to pursue the essence of spiritual wisdom, which involves six things, only two of which we have covered thus far:
- Submission to God (4:7a), and we take that not as a justification issue but a sanctification issue. See James 22 for a review on this.
- Resist the devil and he will flee from you (4:7b).
When we were going through 4:7, we made the point that there are a lot of people in modern day Christianity who are doing all kinds of spiritual warfare activities related to Satan. You can turn on so-called Christian television and see people screaming at Satan, giving Satan a black eye, and running him out of town. There are lot of people who are binding Satan, and since the 1980s as far as I can recall, where there are prayer gatherings, praying down territorial spirits over their cities. There are some pastors who I know of who have been praying down demons over Los Angeles for decades, and I am thinking that it hasn’t done much good considering the state of Los Angeles lately. Things aren’t apparently getting much better, but they are praying down demons over their cities.
A lot of this was brought in through the Frank Peretti novel, This Present Darkness. What I tried to do before was to make the point that that kind of activity is actually outside of biblical boundaries because the New Testament epistles which govern us really only give us two instructions:
- Resist the devil per James 4:7; 1 Peter 5:9.
- Put on the full armor of God, and those pieces of armor are defensive per Eph 6:10-20
There is nothing in the epistles about having conversations with Satan, in fact, that is what got Eve into a lot of trouble in Eden. You wonder why she is even talking to the serpent, and a lot of problems could have been avoided by her refusal to have that conversation, but many people are currently conversing with Satan and casting demons out of people; a large movement is deliverance ministries where it is argued that you must have some kind of ancestral curse over your life. For example, if you get saved but you are still struggling with a particular sin like gambling, for example, or eating too much chocolate, that being complete in Christ according to deliverance ministries, is not enough; you must get the demon of eating too much chocolate cast out of you or a gambling problem must indicate that someone in your family tree also had a gambling problem from which you must be delivered.
When you get into the epistolary literature which governs the church, all of these activities lack biblical mandate. Not even any instructions for us as to how to cast out demons, of course, people say, ‘Well, Jesus cast out demons.’ Jesus did a lot of things I don’t do, for example, walk on water, etc. Jesus was walking the earth at a time when the kingdom was in play, and it could have come to the earth, and He was demonstrating through His miracles that if the kingdom comes, because first century Israel had the opportunity to receive it, then the miracles He was performing could have been replicated for the whole nation and the whole world. That is largely why He was doing those things. We are living in a different dispensation where the kingdom offer is currently off of the table, and we are in the church age. When you get into material governing the church age, all of these spiritual warfare practices that others embrace, are not spoken of in the epistles, the letters governing the church. We are told to resist the devil and he will flee and to put on the full armor of God.
Biblically speaking, the binding of Satan will not happen until the Millennial Kingdom begins. Jesus is going to return at the end of the seven-year Tribulation, and He will take Satan and bind him for 1,000 years. You see that in Rev 20:1-3, “Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, holding the key of the abyss and a great chain in his hand. And he laid hold of the dragon, the serpent of old, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years; and he threw him into the abyss, and shut it and sealed it over him, so that he would not deceive the nations any longer, until the thousand years were completed; after these things he must be released for a short time.”
Eschatologically, the defeat of Satan in terms of his binding is yet future. What you discover in the list (see slide on Satan’s Progressive Defeat), is Satan’s seven-fold defeat. He is defeated in seven phases:
- Initial eviction from heaven (Isaiah 14:12-15; Ezek 28:12-17).
- A prophecy was pronounced against him in Eden; that his head would be crushed (Gen 3:15)
- He was again defeated as he was trying to contaminate the gene pool in the pre-flood world (1 Peter 3:19-20)
- He was defeated at the Cross; and even now, he still has access to heaven — not to worship and serve as he once did as a high-ranking angel, but to communicate and accuse (John 12:31; 16:11; Col 2:15; Heb 2:14; 1 John 3:8).
- The above privilege (#4) will be taken away halfway through the tribulation (Rev 12:9)
- Beginning of the Millennial Kingdom (Rev 20:2-3)
- At the end of the Millennial Kingdom, he will be thrown into the Lake of Fire (Rev 20:10)
So, we are basically living in between numbers 4 and 5 above. Satan is a defeated foe, but his sentence hasn’t been pronounced yet. Using a legal analogy, there is a difference between the guilt phase of a criminal trial and the sentencing phase. The guilt phase is where a criminal is found guilty by a jury of peers beyond a reasonable doubt. Typically, what happens is that a criminal will come in later or even before a totally different court depending on what state he is in for sentencing. If you can picture a convict in between his conviction and sentencing, that is basically where Satan is right now. That is why we understand him as a defeated foe, but his sentence has yet to be imposed. His sentence won’t be imposed until numbers 5,6,7 above, however, guilt has been determined in points 1,2,3,4 above. That is why Satan is running loose and is desperate. If you know you are going down, which he is, your desire might be to take as many people with you that you could. That explains how he has been defeated and is concurrently running this world. It describes the ferocity of his attacks against the human race.
You can see clearly here that he will not be bound until the beginning of the Millennial Kingdom, and in the interim, we are living on his territory; we are basically on defense, and that is why we are called in 2 Cor 5:20, ‘ambassadors.’ If I am America’s ambassador to Iran, I am not in Iran for regime change; I am representing American values on Iranian soil. That is your identity as a Christian; you represent the values of a coming kingdom, but you aren’t here to bring in regime change and establish the kingdom; that is what Jesus will do. You are here to represent kingdom values, so to speak, of a coming kingdom on a foreign soil. That is the imagery of an ‘ambassador.’
The regime change won’t happen until Jesus returns at the end of the seven-year Tribulation period and sets up his 1,000 year kingdom. The first thing that He will do at that time is to bind Satan, so the binding of Satan is totally future. When you understand this, then you can see what a waste of time to bind Satan from this and that. For Christians out there binding satan, then how did Satan get loose again so quickly? The issue is that they aren’t binding anything. The proper perspective on spiritual warfare is to be on defense against Satan. I think it is legitimate to pray for protection against him, but so much of the spiritual warfare movement is offensive, and they are doing things that only Jesus can do when He returns to set up His kingdom.
I brought all of that in last time to explain James 4:7. The binding of Satan is not something until the second advent of Christ. When I started to say that, I received several emails and electronic correspondences, with this question every time I get into this subject because some will immediately go into two verses for which they want an explanation: Matt 16:18-19 regarding binding and loosing and then in Matt 18:18 as well. Before we left James 4:7, I wanted to address those passages as a tangential study related to James 4:7 as there are a lot of questions that some have about binding and loosing. In other words, if Satan won’t be bound before the Millennial Kingdom, then why did the Lord tell Peter to bind and to loose? Why did Jesus say to the church concerning church discipline to bind and to loose? There is a lot of misunderstanding on this, so I want to cover this somewhat this evening.
Notice Matt 16:18-19, Jesus said to Peter, “And I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church (this rock is Peter’s confession of Christ — the truth of that confession, which is given earlier in the chapter); “…the gates of Hades (concerning the Church) will not overpower it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever you bind on earth shall have been found in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven.”
I would like to read some quotes because I spent some time finding people who I trust to help me understand this passage better. Then we will make some summary observations when we finish these quotes. Whenever I have a question on Matthew’s gospel, the first commentary I examine is Dr. Toussaint’s verse-by-verse commentary on Matthew’s gospel called Behold the King: A Study of Matthew. You will be hard-pressed to find a better commentary on Matthew than this one. Dr. Toussaint was a Greek scholar; he is now with the Lord. My book, The Coming Kingdom, I dedicated to him since he really helped me to understand the doctrine of the kingdom better than anyone else.
What Dr. Toussaint had to say about this in Matt 16: “The Lord is promising to Peter an exalted position of great authority in the coming earthly kingdom… Dr. Toussaint takes the same view on the kingdom that I take, rather I take the same view that Dr Toussaint takes, that the kingdom, when it is mentioned, the Greek word, ‘basilaea’, and it is speaking of the future earthly millennial reign of Christ. So, when Jesus says to Peter, “I 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.” He is speaking there of Peter’s future role in the Millennial Kingdom. Not everybody will take that passage that way; some think that it is speaking of Peter being given permission by God to open, which is what you do with a key, or unlock, citizenship in the future kingdom to people — now. They will point to Peter preaching on the day of Pentecost where 3,000 Jews were saved, Acts 2; also to the conversion of the first Gentiles in the history or the age of the Church, a man named Cornelius and his entourage or household, Acts 10. Dr. Toussaint takes it as Peter exercising authority in the kingdom; some think that the kingdom is future, but it is Peter being given permission to unlock citizenship of the kingdom to people. Peter does that twice in the book of Acts in Acts 2,10. Then Dr. Toussaint goes on to say, “In other words, ‘to bind’ (deō) and ‘to loose’ (luō) are references to the execution of Peter’s authority. The authority will be manifested in the coming earthly kingdom according to Christ’s promise.”
That is the first area where I would disagree with others using this passage. They’re using it related to Christian practices today in spiritual warfare, but Dr. Toussaint is saying, ‘No, those are promises to Peter exclusively, concerning the future Millennial Kingdom.’ He goes on to say, “A problem exists as to the meaning of the future periphrastics in Matthew 16:19 (‘shall have been bound’ and ‘shall have been loosed’)”…When you look at Matt 16:19, Jesus says, ‘I will give you the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven and whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven.’ That is what you call a perfect tense periphrastic. ‘And whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven.’ The second reference to loosed is a perfect tense periphrastic. Dr. Toussaint goes on to say, “A problem exists as to the meaning of the future periphrastics in Matthew 16:19 (‘shall have been bound’ and ‘shall have been loosed’). The Roman Catholic church bases its sacerdotal authority on this verse, together with Matthew 18:18 and John 20:23.”
The Pope will use this verse to argue that he has the authority to bind and loose; to forgive sins and not forgive sins. That is why in Roman Catholicism, one must go to a priest and confess his sins because they are claiming to have the power to bind and to loose; to forgive and not forgive. They use Matthew 16:19 for that arguing that Peter is the first Pope, which by the way, is impossible; Peter is not the first pope. They argue that Jesus built His church on Peter. Jesus did not build His church on Peter. He built His church upon this rock, which is a different word in Greek than Peter. Petros versus Petra. The gender switches, and it is the difference between little stone and big stone. The church was not built on Peter, because Peter later opened his mouth, and Jesus told him, ‘Get behind me, Satan.’ He is doing a very good job as the first pope. But the Roman Catholic church believes that Peter was the first
Pope, and they also believe that the pope, Peter, and all of the subsequent Popes, had the power to bind and to loose. They are basing that on Matthew 16:19 and John 20:23. They take those verses that they have the power as God’s instruments, to forgive sin.
Dr. Toussaint says, “However, this false doctrine is largely the result of an improper translation. Because Jerome’s Latin Vulgate version, which was made around 400 AD, many of the translators since then have translated the verbs in Matthew 16:19 as s futures…” in other words, if you were to read this in Jerome’s Latin Vulgate, it gives you the impression that Peter, and by extension, subsequent church authority, have this power to bind and to loose; that is, whatever the church authorities are doing on the earth, heaven is obligated to follow. This is why, when my wife and I went to Wittenberg, Germany, and actually went into the room and saw where Martin Luther diligently spent eleven weeks translating the New Testament from Greek into German, and the Old Testament took him, I think eleven years, if I am remembering right. This was a huge part of Martin Luther’s life — translating into the language of the German people — the Greek New Testament and the Hebrew Old Testament. When the guide was explaining this to us, I specifically asked if Luther did the translation from Jerome’s Latin Vulgate created in AD 400, and she said, ‘Absolutely not, because he did not trust Jerome’s Latin Vulgate because he saw it as a Roman Catholic Bible version.’ You can see why he thought that because if you read this in Jerome’s Latin Vulgate it looks like the priests and the pontiff have the power to bind and to loose. So, Dr. Toussaint says, “Because Jerome’s Latin Vulgate version, which was made around 400 AD, many of the translators since then have translated the verbs in Matthew 16:19 as simple futures (not as perfect tense periphrastics. When you translate them as futures, it makes it sound like Peter and the church authorities do in terms of binding and loosing is as a leash on heaven, and that heaven is supposed to follow suit. If you translate them as perfect periphrastics, the whole meaning changes as Dr. Toussaint will bring out) “Needless to say, the future periphrastics have been ignored in these translations.” (What he is saying is that everyone is following in these English translations — the Latin Vulgate, something Luther distrusted).
Continuing, Dr. Toussaint says, “It is the unanimous testimony of Greek grammarians that the perfect tense denotes a past action, the results of which endure to the present. The periphrastic form of the perfect usually emphasizes the existing state. This changes the complexion of Matthew 16:19 completely.”
“This is wrongly translated “shall be bound” and “shall be loosed,” seemingly to make Jesus teach that the apostles’ acts will determine the policies of heaven…” (This is the kind of thing you see with the modern-day spiritual warfare movement: if you loose or bind, Jesus has given you that power and heaven has to leap into existence because you have that power. Heaven has to accommodate your desires because you have that power. They are following the error of the Jerome’s Latin Vulgate and of Roman Catholicism, which Luther made a point to correct in the Protestant Reformation by not basing his German translation of the Bible from the Latin Vulgate, rather from the original Hebrew and original Greek. Why would a man spend 11 years of his life doing this unless he felt that there was something very wrong with Jerome’s Latin Vulgate?
“…They should be translated “shall have been bound” and “shall have been loosed.” This makes the apostles’ acts a matter of inspiration or heavenly guidance.’ A good translation is given by Williams, who exercises great care in the translation of the Greek tenses,…” (Here is the way the verse is supposed to read, and I read earlier out of the NASB, which does a fairly good job, but Williams’ translation is even better): …‘and whatever you forbid on earth must be what is already forbidden in heaven, and whatever you permit on earth must be what is already permitted in heaven.’” See the difference? That doesn’t put man in the driver’s seat; it places heaven in the driver’s seat, and man only has authority when he declares what God has already decreed. If you miss this and don’t understand that these are perfect tense periphrastics, then you will get the impression that whatever you bind and loose on earth, based on whatever decision you have made, that heaven is obligated to capitulate.
“…Williams, who exercises great care in the translation of the Greek tenses, ‘‘and whatever you forbid on earth must be what is already forbidden in heaven, and whatever you permit on earth must be what is already permitted in heaven.’” “Therefore, the verse is a promise to Peter of a place of authority in the future earthly kingdom. With this promise the Lord gives Peter the basis of the decisions which he shall make. Peter is to discern what is the mind of God and then judge accordingly.” Rather than these verses saying that you are in a position to loose or bind, they are actually saying that Peter will have authority in the future Millennial Kingdom. His authority will only come from discerning what heaven has already decreed. If he is operating according to what heaven has already decreed, then in the future kingdom, Peter will have tremendous authority. If you believe that Peter is exercising those keys in the book of Acts, which many do, then it is the same idea. Peter’s authority in the book of Acts came only from the fact that he had discerned what the mind of God already was and that he operated according to that. That is the difference between making these simple futures and translating them that way — the way the Latin Vulgate and the modern-day spiritual warfare movement do versus the correct way of translating them as a perfect tense periphrastics. See the difference? This is why Greek and Hebrew are actually a big deal: they shift the whole meaning of something in some cases.
What do we do with this passage in Matt 18:18-20 which is related to church discipline where Jesus says, “Truly I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven. Again I say to you, that if two of you agree on earth about anything that they may ask, it shall be done for them by My Father who is in heaven. For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst.” This is translated or interpreted in the modern-day spiritual warfare movement is ‘Get some of your buddies together in your house and command things out of existence. Command an abortion clinic out of existence and God is obligated to remove it. Or, command a pornography place out of existence and God is obligated to remove it because after all the Bible says that ‘whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.’ They are taking that passage the same way they take Matt 16:19 putting man in the driver’s seat, and that is not the meaning of it. These are not simple futures; these are perfect tense periphrastics. What he is saying is that your authority, as you exercise church discipline in the church, will only come from discerning what God has already revealed and acting according to that revelation. It isn’t saying that two or three can agree on anything and that God is a cosmic bellhop who leaps into serving you. When people are actually binding Satan, these are the verses that they take out of context.
Concerning Matt 18:18-20, Dr. Toussaint, in his book, Behold the King, his verse-by-verse commentary in Matthew, says “Verses 18-20 speak of the principle which is to be followed in the [church] discipline. The injunction of verse 18 concerns the same principle as that of Matthew 16;19 except it is here addressed to all of the disciples...” In Matthew 16:19, Jesus was addressing Peter in his kingdom role, now Jesus, using the same language, is addressing all of the disciples as they carry out church discipline. “…in Matthew 16:19 it was spoken only to Peter. The Lord is indicating to His disciples that, in the church, divine guidance is to be the rule to follow. To Peter, the King [Jesus] promised authority in the kingdom, assuring him of guidance in the use of that authority. Now [Matthew 18] the Lord instructs His disciples concerning the subject of discipline in the church and promises divine direction in their decisions.
So, either in the book of Acts or in the future kingdom, Peter would only have authority when he discerned God’s mind properly and functions according to that. He was in no position to be loosing or binding things on the earth, mandating that heaven was to comply immediately. That is a total misunderstanding of these verses. By way of extension, when the Lord’s disciples were to carry out church discipline in the church, they will only have authority to do so when they’re functioning according to the mind of God and His revelation. When they go off and do things their own way, they are in no position to be binding or loosing anything.
That is Dr. Toussaint’s take on this topic, and then I looked up another one of my favorites, Arnold Fruchtenbaum, in his publication, Yeshua: The Life of Messiah from a Messianic Jewish Perspective. I wanted to see what he had to say about what the Lord said to Peter in Matt 16:19 concerning binding and loosing; also what the Lord said to the disciples concerning church discipline regarding binding and loosing. It is interesting that when you compare the works of these excellent teachers, that they are complementary, though each will bring out that the others don’t. Notice what Fruchtenbaum says, “Yeshua (the Hebrew name for Jesus, concerning Matt 16:19) gave this special authority only to Peter at this time. After the resurrection, He extended and limited this authority to the other apostles exclusively…” Fruchtenbaum says that the concept of binding and loosing is only for the apostles. “…In modern days, this verse has been pulled out of context to signify something other than what is meant in the Jewish frame of reference. It has often been applied to spiritual warfare and demonology and loosing of Satan and his demons (that is why I am bringing this up regarding spiritual warfare as these are the passages that everyone wants to use in the area of spiritual warfare). “However, neither Satan nor demons are found in this context. Rather, the context is the establishment of the Church, and the issue at hand is apostolic authority.”
When you drag binding and loosing into modern-day spiritual warfare, the problem is that Matthew 16:19 is not about spiritual warfare; it is about the establishment of the church. Nor is Matt 18:18, binding and loosing, about spiritual warfare. It is about the exercising of church discipline. So, when people grab those verses, which they do all the time, trying to make a case for binding and loosing Satan today, they are ripping verses completely out of the context in which they were given.
Fruchtenbaum goes on, “The terms ‘binding’ and ‘loosing’ were commonly used in rabbinic writings. In fact, bindng and loosing was authority the Pharisees claimed for themselves (akin to how the Roman Catholic church claims it for itself), but which God never gave them. He did however give it to the apostles (authority for binding and loosing). There were two basic concepts of binding and loosing in rabbinical thinking… (here is where Fruchtenbaum is very good because as a Hebrew Christian scholar, he knows about all of the rabbinical writings and of extrabiblical literature in Judaism, and he can tell you what these terms mean in rabbinical Judaism of the time). “Legislatively, to bind meant ‘to forbid,’ and to loose mean ‘to permit.’ Judicially, to bind meant ‘to punish,’ and to loose meant ‘not to punish,’ or ‘to set free from punishment.’…in rabbinic Judaism the expressions related ‘to humanly administered discipline in leadership rather than ultimate spiritual or moral authority…” “…Such typical statements found in rabbinic literature concern matters of permitting, forbidding, punishing, and not punishing certain actions. That was how the rabbis used ‘binding’ and ‘loosing’ in the context of the Second Temple period, and the usage of these terms in the Gospels must be interpreted in light of first-century Israel…” He is looking at how these terms are used in what is called Second Temple Judaism, which is the time period when there was a second Temple. Remember the first Temple was built by Solomon in 966 BC per 1 Kings 6:1 and destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 BC, and then the Jews went into the 70-year captivity and they came back from Babylon after this, and according to the books of Ezra, Nehemiah, Haggai and Zechariah, they began to rebuild Temple #2. That was a little over four centuries before the time of Christ, and that was the Temple functioning at the time of Christ. Herod took that Temple and renovated it, and that was the Temple functioning when Jesus walked the face of the earth; the Temple that He was taken to as a young man where He confounded the religious leaders with His wisdom. The same Temple that He drove the money changers from; the Temple that Satan took Him to the pinnacle to test Him to throw Himself off. It was the same Temple that was destroyed by the Romans in AD 70. What Fruchtenbaum is trying to figure out is that in the rabbinical writings of that second Temple era, how were the terms, ‘binding’ and ‘loosing’ understood?
He says, “That was how the rabbis used ‘binding’ and ‘loosing’ in the context of the Second Tempe period, and the usage of these terms in the Gospels must be interpreted in light of first-century Israel. Thus, the Messiah gave to Peter, and later to all the apostles, the authority to bind and loose both legislatively and judicially. Since there is no such thing as apostolic succession, (the Bible has a crystal clear definition of an apostle, and it is someone who was there from the beginning of Acts 1:21-22, roughly; the test that was laid down when they were trying to replace Matthias with Judas who had committed suicide; when they said that they were going to replace him so whoever we replace him with has to be with us from the beginning of the ministry of Christ, right up to His resurrection. So, you had to have been an eyewitness to those events. Paul is the apostle abnormally born because he came to Christ after those events through a vision that God gave to him on the Damascus Road in Acts 9. That is why Paul repeatedly identifies himself as the ‘apostle untimely born; the least and the last.’ Following that, there were no more apostles. If there were more apostles following these guys’ deaths, the books of the Bibles would still be in the process of being written because apostle has a technical meaning, and since the apostles died 2,000 years ago, the canon of Scripture is shut, and there are no living apostles today. That is disappointing for many church leaders to learn when their entire ministry presence is built on their identity as Apostle ___, and their Church of the Apostles, and their claim to be something that God says they cannot be. Eph 2:20 says that you build or lay the foundation of the church with the apostles. How many times do you lay a foundation in construction? One time. The foundation of the church was laide 2,000 years ago; God is not re-laying the foundation. He is building on the existing foundation. I would argue that God is installing the roof to the building because it looks as though the building project is almost complete — that is my human interpretation. You do not have apostles, or the foundation would be re-laid; it would not make any sense.” “…Since there is no such thing as apostolic succession, the authority was not passed on beyond the apostles.”
Fruchtenbaum is essentially saying that binding and loosing was something exclusively given to Peter and to the apostles, no one else. “Later, in the Epistles (the letters), the apostles exercise binding and loosing, meaning they permitted things that were formally forbidden, and they forbade things that were formally permitted. Legislatively this authority was limited to the apostles only. The church has no authority to bind and loose legislatively. It has no authority to bind, meaning to issue further rules and regulations for believers to follow. Likewise, it has no authority to loose, meaning to release believers from the rules of Scripture.” The apostles could do that, but we cannot today because we are in a new age, and the rules for our age have already been established by God as revealed through the apostles.
“One example of how the apostles practiced their authority in the judicial sense is found in Acts 5, when Peter passed the death sentence upon Ananias and Sapphira, (two believers had lied to the Holy Spirit by misrepresenting their generosity when they sold a piece of property, which was theirs to sell and to keep the proceeds as they wished. They gave some of the proceeds to the church, though they weren’t required to do. The problem was that they told the church that they gave everything from the sale of their property to the church even though they hadn’t given all of it. They experienced maximum divine discipline right on the spot because the church at that point was in its infancy, and anyone knows that with an infant, that any virus could kill off an infant, thus through the apostles, God was very aggressive in His church discipline. Thus, Ananias and Sapphira were killed; that would be an example, per Fruchtenbaum, of Peter binding and loosing. “…Because they had lied to the Holy Spirit, he bound them for punishment, and they each dropped dead at his feet. The church (today) has a limited authority to bind and loose in a judicial sense, but not to the same degree as the apostles. The apostles could impose a death sentence, while the church can only excommunicate the sinner, a point made later, in Matthew 18.”
So, if we are binding and loosing today in any sense in this year of 2021, then we can get together and excommunicate someone from the life of the church, but we don’t have any real permission to impose a death sentence of anyone. We don’t have the authority to point a finger at someone where they would drop dead as Peter had, only as he discerned the mind of God first, not on his own authority.
“This authority was given to the apostles alone, and they kept it until the end of their lives. The church also has the authority to bind and to loose in a judicial sense, but not to the same degree as the apostles, who could issue a death sentence. The church can bind and loose to the point of breaking or not breaking fellowship with a sinning believer…” If we can bind and loose today in any sense, that would be the only way it could be authorized, and we can only do that because heaven has decreed that we do so in the area of church discipline and if we are following the instructions of heaven. Peter had a greater authority to do so because he could actually impose a death sentence, as he correctly discerned the mind of God — as in the case of Ananias and Sapphira. I am rather relieved that we aren’t allowed to do that today, think of how many funerals we would be having. “…It can excommunicate or not excommunicate. Notice, therefore, that this does not refer to binding Satan or his demons, so the context is not spiritual warfare, but Church discipline.”
That is a lot of reading, wasn’t it? What are the five takeaways concerning binding and loosing? I tried to distill from Dr. Toussaint and Dr. Fruchtenbaum the five major points, and the only reason I am bringing this up is because I said last week that we don’t bind Satan, and I received a flood of emails challenging Matthew 18 and Matt 16 where it clearly tells us to bind and loose today. That if we aren’t binding Satan today then what do we do with those passages? Five things, to reiterate, from two of my favorite teachers (see slide on Binding and Loosing Takeaways):
- Matt 16:19 involves Peter’s future kingdom role. When Jesus gave Peter the authority to bind and loose, it was related to what Peter would do. Toussaint says that in the Millennial Kingdom, others say that what he did in the book of Acts concerning winning citizens of the coming kingdom.
- Those on earth are to follow what heaven has already determined (not visa versa). That is what is lost in Jerome’s Latin Vulgate that Roman Catholicism is built on. Roman Catholicism and the modern-day spiritual warfare movement wants you to believe that this power rests with man and that what man determines, heaven has to follow. This is based on a mistranslation of those verbs as simple futures: they are NOT simple futures; they are PERFECT TENSE periphrastics, and when you understand them in that sense, then you can see that the authority given to those exercising this power only comes from discerning God’s will correctly first, and then operating accordingly. Not decreeing something that heaven is obligated to accommodate.
- Spiritual warfare is not found in either context. So, what does binding and loosing have to do with spiritual warfare? Absolutely nothing! Yet everyone wants to quote these in the context of spiritual warfare. See the context for yourself: neither of those passages have to do with spiritual warfare or the binding and loosing of Satan or his demons. It has to do with the establishment of the church, Matthew 16, and Peter’s authority; then it has to do with church discipline. Nothing about binding Satan or demons.
- The authority to bind and to loose was only given to the apostles. I do not have the power to impose the death sentence as Peter did in Acts 5.
- The Church has a more limited degree of authority to bind and to loose. What is our authority? Our authority comes only when we exercise church discipline and the leadership’s decision to implement church discipline. Example is when so and so, is actively sinning and is unrepentant, so they are to be disfellowshipped from the church, and everyone else is instructed to stay away from them until they are shamed into repentance. The church has the authority to bind and to loose only in that sense, and only because that is permission that the Lord has already given to the church. In other words, if the church just woke up one day and said, ‘Why don’t we do this?’ They would have no authority to do it at all. The only reason they have the authority is the will of God in written form gave the Church that authority.
So, last week I said that we only covered one verse; this week, we haven’t covered any verses because we spent the entire time trying to explain binding and loosing. I hope you found it enjoyable. Just consider it an amplification of James 4:7 based on questions I received last week concerning the two verses in Matthew.
Next time, we will pick it up in James 4:8.
Let’s pray: Father, we are grateful for Your truth, Your Word, and help; us to know what our authority is and what it isn’t, so we don’t step outside of Your parameters for us. Help us to be good students as we try to rightfully interpret Your Word. We will be careful to give you all the praise and the glory. We ask these things in Jesus’ Name, and God’s people said, Amen!”