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Authority of Binding and Loosing

The church for years (since 1960) has embraced the Charismatic movement which was begun officially by “Father” Dennis Bennett of St. Mark’s Episcopal parish in Van Nuys, California. Included in this revival movement were the gifts of the Holy Spirit as enumerated in 1 Corinthians 12:8-11. These nine gifts are: wisdom, knowledge, faith, healing, miracles, prophecies, discernment of spirits, speaking in tongues, and interpretation of tongues. None of them includes “binding and loosing.”

So what did Jesus mean when He told His disciples that they would have the power to bind and loose?

“Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven (Matthew 18:18 NIV).”

For many in the church today and stemming back to 1960, it referred to power over spiritual activity here on earth and in heaven.

Jesus did say that the demons were subject to His disciples in His name, as evidenced in this scripture.

Luke 10:17 says: The seventy-two returned with joy and said, “Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name.”

Notice two things about this scripture. First, it applied to seventy two disciples sent out, not just to the twelve in His inner circle. What He gave to them, He also has given to us.

Second, the demons were subject in Jesus’ name, NOT in any power the disciples had. This is a privilege of true believers who carry the Spirit of God in their hearts. Remember what happened when an unbeliever tried to use Jesus’ name to cast out demons?

Then some of the itinerant Jewish exorcists undertook to invoke the name of the Lord Jesus over those who had evil spirits, saying, “I adjure you by the Jesus whom Paul proclaims.” Seven sons of a Jewish high priest named Sceva were doing this. But the evil spirit answered them, ‘Jesus I know, and Paul I recognize, but who are you?’ And the man in whom was the evil spirit leaped on them, mastered all of them and overpowered them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded (Acts 19:13-16 NIV).”

Casting demons out of people is something that every believer should be able to do in Jesus’ name. It is only His name that the demons respect, not the words we speak from our own thoughts or even our hearts. Remember that even Michael the archangel did not accuse Satan directly.

Jude 1:9 tells us:“But even the archangel Michael, when he was disputing with the devil about the body of Moses, did not himself dare to condemn him for slander but said, ‘The Lord rebuke you!’”

So is that what Jesus meant?

Were we to bind and loose spirits on earth and in heaven?

If you take a Scripture in context, you have to look at who’s speaking, who’s being spoken to, how they would have understood the words spoken, and in what setting all this speaking happened.

Remembering that this was a Jewish Messiah speaking to Jewish disciples, it makes the most sense to look at it from a Jewish perspective, does it not?

In the context of teaching His disciples, this scripture is not talking about authority to bind and loose evil spirits. Why on earth would they ever loose an evil spirit? Or for what reason would an angel be bound?

Jesus was discussing the sin in the church right before this verse.

If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses. If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector (Matthew 18:15-17 NIV).”

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At the time, rabbis decided issues of Jewish law. The power vested in them through the Torah allowed them to “bind” or “loose” a specific action. The Hebrew word לֶאֱסוֹר (translated bind) means to forbid, and מוּתָר (translated loose) means to permit. These terms in the original Greek are translated the same way, with δήσητε (you shall bind) meaning to obligate, compel or bind and λύσητε (you shall loose) meaning to free, unchain, release, or loose. These were legal terms that the Hebrew disciples would have fully understood. These kinds of “bindings” and “loosings” show up thousands of times in the Jewish scriptures and rabbinic writings. The 

passage below illustrates exactly what Jesus was describing.

“If one sage declared something as bound, he should not ask another sage who might declare it loosed. If two sages are both present and one rules something unclean and the other rules it clean, if one binds and the other looses, then if one of them is superior to the other in learning and number of disciples, follow his ruling, otherwise, follow the stricter view. (b.Avodah Zarah 7a).”

That was then. But Jesus uses the future tense when He says whatever they bind on earth will be bound on heaven, and whatever they loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.

So what was He talking about, exactly?

Jesus was referring to the era when He will reign on earth as Elohim, HaMelech (God the King) and He will at that time give the keys of the Kingdom to His twelve disciples along with the authority to bind and loose. In other words, they will rule with Him.

“Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel (Matthew 19:28 NIV).”

But His words also had an immediate context as well, as did most of what Jesus taught. In the time of the Apostles, they had the authority to make decisions as judges concerning judicial matters of the newborn church. Following Jesus’ teaching, they used their authority whenever and wherever it was needed.

“But to stop this thing from spreading any further among the people, we must warn them to speak no longer to anyone in this name.” Then they called them in again and commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John replied, “Which is right in God’s eyes: to listen to you, or to him? You be the judges! As for us, we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard (Acts 4:17-20 NIV).”

The Apostles also exercised that authority when some Jews were telling the Gentiles that they had to follow the Mosaic Law and  be circumcised. They “loosed” them from the yoke of the whole Torah even though it continued to apply to unsaved Jews. Nevertheless, they “bound” them in certain restrictions.

“The apostles and elders, your brothers, To the Gentile believers in Antioch, Syria and Cilicia: Greetings. We have heard that some went out from us without our authorization and disturbed you, troubling your minds by what they said. So we all agreed to choose some men and send them to you with our dear friends Barnabas and Paul— men who have risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore we are sending Judas and Silas to confirm by word of mouth what we are writing.  It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us not to burden you with anything beyond the following requirements:  You are to abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality. You will do well to avoid these things. Farewell (Acts 15:23-29 NIV).”

So were they abolishing the law?

Absolutely not. This binding and loosing did not extend to nullifying the commands God had spoken, nor did it authorize them to make new commandments. Jews were still bound to the laws as God had given them, until they became believers in Yeshua HaMashiach (Jesus the Messiah). Even after coming to faith, Jewish believers in Messiah continued following the Torah commandments.

Do some Messianic Jews today observe the old law?

Once again, you need a Jewish perspective on the law. The Torah was not given as a burden. It is a cherished gift from God that shows Jews how to live a life pleasing to God.  Of course, the law also provides punishment for disobedience. So when a Jewish believer in Christ celebrates the Feasts or rests on the Sabbath, he does not think he is garnering favor with God. He knows he is already beloved of God. Instead, he is worshipping God with his entire life.

“So then, the law is holy, and the commandment is holy, righteous and good (Romans 7:12 NIV).”

Since Paul recognized that the law was good, we should understand that we are not bound by the law of the Torah so that it is a burden, but in thankfulness for the immense gift bestowed upon us by a gracious God, we are loosed to delight in the law and celebrate the Torah and God’s appointed times, whether you are Jew or Gentile!

Photo courtesy of Amos Bar-Zeev on Unsplash

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