Gospel Gazette Online
Volume 20 Number 11 November 2018
Page 6

Are We Binding and
Loosing as God Has?

Brian R. Kenyon

Brian R. KenyonThe question in the title of this article is very important. One thing that separates the church of Christ from the denominational world—and the entire religious world—is that the faithful church of Christ only binds and looses what God has bound and loosed. The moment we cease binding what God has bound and/or loosing what God has loosed, we cease being the faithful church of Christ.

God Has Already Bound and Loosed

Shortly after Peter’s monumental confession that Jesus was “the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16), Jesus told him, “Whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven” (Matthew 16:19). Later, that same instruction to “bind and loose” was given to the rest of the apostles (Matthew 18:18). Understanding the tense of the verbs is necessary to any study of binding and loosing. It is not the case that Jesus was saying that whatever Peter and the apostles bound or loosed on earth would be later ratified in Heaven, as if they were the ones deciding what should be bound and loosed. Rather, the verbs behind the translation, “will be bound in heaven…will be loosed in heaven,” are what is called future perfect in the original language.

Upon first reading, one might think that “will be bound” is from one verb, and “will be loosed” is from another verb. However, it is an interesting pairing of verb tenses. Each part consists of two verbs with different tenses. The verb translated “will be” in both parts is the future middle form of “to be.” The “bound” and “loosed” are from perfect passive participles, translated “bound” and “loosed,” respectively. The perfect tense “describes an action that was brought to completion and whose effects are felt in the present” (Mounce, Basics of Biblical Greek 223). Because there is no exact equivalent of the Greek perfect tense in English, most English translations do not convey the precise meaning. To translate with the full force of the verbs, the verse actually reads, “Whatsoever you may bind on earth will have already been bound in heaven, and whatsoever you may loose on earth will have already been loosed in heaven.”

By using this future perfect tense construction, the Lord was giving Peter and the other apostles the authority only to teach and to preach the God-given terms by which one was admitted to or excluded from the kingdom. The apostles had no right to communicate anything different from that which God had already determined. For this reason, they were given the supernatural power of the Holy Spirit to guide them into “all truth” (John 14:26; 15:26-27; 16:13). Being inspired to communicate all truth, of course, did not guarantee their sinlessness (cf., Galatians 2:11-14), but it did guarantee that the message they preached was 100% accurate, the Word of God (1 Corinthians 2:6-15; 2 Timothy 3:16-17). The “will have already been bound in heaven, and…will have already been loosed in heaven” principle was so serious that Paul later wrote, “But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed” (Galatians 1:8-9)! If not even an apostle or an angel from Heaven could teach something different from what God had already decreed in Heaven, then no preacher, elder, Bible class teacher or human being living today has a right to bind what God has loosed or to loose what God has bound!

Liberalism Is Loosing What God Has Bound

The word “liberal” in religious academia is usually reserved to refer to those “Bible scholars” who deny the supernatural inspiration of the Scriptures. Here, however, liberalism refers to “loosing what God has bound.” Thus, liberals are those who loosen the standards that God has set through His inspired Word.

Consider two New Testament passages that exemplify loosing what God has bound. First, Jesus said, “Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:19). The word translated “breaks” is from a Greek word that means to “loose.” Who are we to say what are the “least” commandments? Are not we to live by “every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4)? We cannot please God by “loosing” what we consider are His “least commandments” when God “bound” them!

Second, Jesus said, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone” (Matthew 23:23). The verb translated “have neglected [“omitted” KJV]” is from a Greek word that has the basic meaning of to “let go, or release.” Sometimes the word is translated “forgive” (Matthew 6:12, 14-15), because forgiveness is the “release” of sins. The verb is even translated “divorce [“put away” KJV]” (1 Corinthians 7:11-13), as in the “letting go” of a spouse. However, in the verse quoted above, it refers to releasing or letting go part of God’s law. The “weightier matters” refer to what should have been obvious—justice, mercy and faith! What these Pharisees were doing was making sure they had minutely taxed the people, yet letting go the very attributes that should have regulated their tithing. This did not mean that their tithing was not important, for Jesus said, “These you ought to have done”! However, they also should have been practicing justice, mercy and faith. The point is that we cannot pick and choose which of God’s commandments we will keep and which we will loose. If we love Him, we will keep them all (John 14:15)!

Anti-ism Is Binding What God Has Loosed

In contrast to liberalism, anti-ism or anti-biblical expediency may be defined as binding what God has loosed. People of this persuasion make the standards of God stricter by binding doctrines that God has not bound. This writer has found from his experience in talking with these brethren that the doctrines bound most by them are in the area of expediency—matters of judgment that are helpful in carrying out God-given responsibilities. For the most part, these brethren take matters of judgment and bind their opinion as if it were what God had already bound in Heaven!

A New Testament example of binding where God has loosed is found in 1 Timothy 4:1-4.

Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons, speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their own conscience seared with a hot iron, forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from foods which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. For every creature of God is good, and nothing is to be refused if it is received with thanksgiving.

These two instances of binding where God had loosed was likely a reference to some form of incipient Gnosticism, which held that all flesh was evil and only spirit was good. Thus, the more one denied oneself of fleshly appetites, the more spiritual he or she became (cf., Colossians 2:20-23). However, God did not bind celibacy on Christians (except the spouse guilty of fornication in a scriptural divorce, Matthew 19:9). To the contrary, God said that “Marriage is honorable among all, and the bed undefiled” (Hebrews 13:4). True, there were circumstances in which it was best not to marry (1 Corinthians 7:7-8, 26, 28), but even if one married in those circumstances, Paul said, “you have not sinned” (1 Corinthians 7:28)! It is one thing to say that it is better not to marry (1 Corinthians 7:38), but it is anti-ism to say that one must not marry.

Likewise, eating “meat” was allowed by God, even though some were commanding it was sinful (1 Timothy 4:3). In that same context where Paul said God created meat to “be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth,” he also wrote, “For every creature of God is good, and nothing is to be refused if it is received with thanksgiving; for it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer” (1 Timothy 4:3b-5). It took a heavenly vision for Peter to learn that truth (Acts 10:9-16), but truth it was, and truth it still is! True, there were some circumstances in which one sinned by eating meat—namely, if eating meat caused a brother to stumble (1 Corinthians 8:7-13) or if eating meat violated one’s own conscience (Romans 14:20-23). However, it is one thing to say that there are certain occasions where one ought not to eat meat, but it is anti-ism to say that one must never eat meat. We must not bind what God has loosed! We must follow God’s Word in order to be pleasing in His sight!

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