How do you view Matthew 16:13 through 20? What does it mean to you?


If you are not catholic, how could these verses possibly mean anything to you?


When I was Protestant, there were a lot of different teachings on the verse. To some extent, it came down to what one believed “this rock” is. A few possibilities I heard were:

  1. That it was faith.
  2. That it was Jesus.
  3. That it was Peter’s confession (this ties in pretty closely to #1).
  4. That it was Peter himself.

In the first three cases, it tends to be spun into a sermon about the importance of whatever the rock is, though admittedly, most sermons I heard on it were more focused on dismissing Catholicism than on offering any insight beyond why they thought it couldn’t be about Peter. Granted, given the three, it isn’t that hard to see how it ties into Protestant theology.

The fourth case was a bit more interesting. I only heard it at an SBC church, and the pastor was more interested in explaining what he thought Catholics believed. (And, in all fairness, he probably offered the most fair presentation of the Catholic belief on the subject I’ve seen from a Protestant.) However, he did argue that Jesus extended the comment beyond Peter and tied that into the Protestant version of priesthood of all believers.


That is very interesting, thank you! Only one time when I was protestant did I hear someone explain what the Catholics say Matthew 16:13 through 20 means. One thing I have noticed is when the local Baptist website mentions the financial health of their church, or the origin of their church, or the future of their church, there will be in parentheses, (Matt. 16:18). I’m like, “uh, what does that have to do with Matthew 16:18?”


The following is a paraphrase of what I think Jesus was saying:

“I tell you now, Simon, that I name you the Rock, and on you, the Rock, I shall build My Church. Against this Church the power of Hell shall fail. I give you now the authority to govern this church. You have authority to declare judgment on My behalf. What you bind is bound and what you release is released.”


I would agree with this upon adding that the holy Spirit guides the one who holds the office of the pope. Thank you for your answer!


It is talking about the power of the keys, which were given to Peter and every other Apostle and to the church as a whole. This is essentially the right of Christians to proclaim the word of God, by which we open and shut the kingdom of heaven. This would also be the theological basis for church discipline as well (binding and loosing), see Matthew 18:15-18.


This is what Martin Luther had to say about the keys:

“Christ gives both the power and the use of the keys to each Christian” (AE 40:26); “The keys belong to the wholechurch and to each of its members, as regards their authority and their various uses” (AE 40:27) and “to bind and to loose clearly is nothing else than to proclaim and to apply the Gospel. For what is it to loose, if not to announce the forgiveness of sins before God? What is it to bind, except to withdraw the Gospel and to declare the retention of sins?” (AE 40:27-28).


I haven’t seen anywhere in the Bible the mention of the keys being given to everyone. I saw the ability to bind and loose given to the other Apostles, but there was no mention of the keys.


The power of the keys and binding and loosing are clearly one and the same thing. > 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.


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.” Matt 16:19


It is within the realm of possibilities that they are different and the “and” kind of separates the two. So that kind of leads me to believe they are separate.


I have no problem agreeing that binding and loosing in Matthew 18 is meant for the Church, however I don’t see how Martin Luther is using this to make the leap to believing Jesus also meant this for each of it’s members?

Jesus sure seems to be talking directly to the Apostles, the Church hierarchy, in Matthew 18 and not to every single member of the Church. After all how could you claim that your brother sinned against you if he too has the ability to withdraw his interpretation of the Bible from you, declare that you are the one sinning and retain your sin?

Could you please explain how I could ever declare that your sins are retained?

God Bless


Luther would use John 20:22 to first establish that not only Peter but the other disciples as well were given the keys. He would then use Matthew 18, where the context is clearly directed to a wider Christian community, to establish that the entire church (not just Apostles and their successors as a group) is given the power to bind and loose, “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.” This comes from Luther’s treatise The Keys:

… It is true that the keys were given to St. Peter; but not to him personally, but rather to the person of the Christian church. They were actually given to me and to you for the comfort of our consciences. St. Peter, or a priest, is a servant of the keys . . . [LW 51:59].

I believe that there is forgiveness of sin nowhere else than in this community and that beyond it nothing can help to gain it . . . To this [community] Christ gave the power of the keys, saying in Matthew 18 [:18], “Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven.” He said the same to Peter as an individual, representing and taking the place of one and only one church, “[I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and] whatever you bind on earth,” etc., Matthew 16 [: 18–19] [LW 43:28].

Now let us see how these pious people treat the holy words of Christ in this case. Christ says to St. Peter, (Matthew 16:18) “Thou art, or art called, Peter; and on the Petram (i. e., on the rock) I will build My Church. And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth, shall be bound in heaven, and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth, shall be loosed in heaven.” From these words they have claimed the keys for St. Peter alone; but the same Matthew has barred such erroneous interpretation (Matthew 18:18), where Christ says to all in common, “Verily, I say unto you, whatsoever ye shall bind on earth, shall be bound in heaven, and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth, shall be loosed in heaven.” It is clear that Christ here interprets His own words, and in this 18th chapter explains the former 16th; namely, that the keys are given to St. Peter in the stead of the whole Church, and not for his own person. Thus also John, in the last chapter, (John 20:22), “He breathed on them and said, Receive ye the Holy Ghost; whosesoever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them, and whosesoever sins ye retain, they are retained.” To maintain the sole authority of St. Peter, when there are two texts against one, many men have labored in vain. But the Gospel is too dear, and they have had to admit until now that in the first passage nothing special was given to St. Peter for his own person.


Luther would reject the idea that his theology called for a "Wild West" type scenario where every Christian is going around binding and loosing and retaining and remitting willy nilly. For Luther, the authority to bind and loose, forgive and retain sin is rooted in the Word. It is "a declaration by man of what God has decreed in heaven and not a ratification by God of what man has ruled on earth" (Roland H. Bainton, Here I Stand: A Life of Martin Luther). When the church goes beyond what God has declared, it is acting without authority and no longer using the keys.

For Luther, binding and loosing (and the other functions of priesthood) were "the common property of all Christians, no one individual can arise by his own authority and arrogate to himself alone what belongs to all…[rather] the community rights demand that one, or as many as the community chooses, shall be chosen or approved who, in the name of all with these rights, shall perform these functions publicly" (AE 40:34).

So, in the scenario you provided, you follow Matthew 18 and bring it to the church, which has presbyters chosen by the church to lead it and exercise the church’s public ministry. The local church would then be tasked with carrying out church discipline as appropriate to lead the offending brother back to repentance. But it’s important to keep in mind that for Luther and other Protestants, ministers do not have an exclusive ability to exercise the power of the keys. They simply exercise an authority common to all on behalf of all.

If you see me living in sin with no sign of repentance then you can declare confidently to me, in love of course, that my sins are not forgiven, I am endangering my immortal soul, and I need to repent.

How does retaining sin work in the Catholic Church? When does a priest retain sin?


If you put these statements side by side it sounds like Luther’s theology changes with the topic at hand.

If he wants to minimize the the authority of the Apostles and their successors by interpreting when Jesus said “when two or three gathered in my name” claiming this was speaking to the “wider Christian community”. Then this would have to also apply with his second claim. Sure no “ONE” person can arise to an authority above Luther but 2 or 3 have to have that ability, since Luther already stated that 2 or 3 are able to claim authority over the successors of the Apostles.

I realize this is Luther’s opinion, but how do we know who’s interpretation of the Word it should be rooted in?

Don’t you see the contradiction here? In the first sentence you said it is a deceleration by MAN. The you said when the church goes beyond what GOD has declared? Didn’t Luther just admit that he himself a MAN declared it?

Don’t agree. Where did Jesus ever say the authority to lead is to be chosen by it’s members?

If everyone has the keys then no one needs the keys, because the door has no way of being locked.

God Bless


Since pastors are not a sacramental priesthood set apart from the people but are chosen by the people to act on behalf of the whole church, then yes a congregation can exercise oversight over its pastor and even remove him if necessary. Lay people are called to judge and test doctrine, otherwise how are we to distinguish between the true and false teacher? (1 John 4:1). At the same time, we are called to obey church leaders (Hebrews 13:17). It is possible to do both.

When it comes down to it, we all have to be guided to the truth by the Holy Spirit. We pray for understanding and “not my will but Your’s be done.”

Luther’s biographer wrote “The drastic point was with regard to absolution, which he said is only a declaration by man of what God has decreed in heaven and not a ratification by God of what man has ruled on earth.” God decrees a thing in heaven, and the church declares it on earth. The church can declare forgiveness of sins because God has already decreed it. Likewise, the church can declare retention of sins when God so decrees.

Jesus never spoke about how church leaders were to be appointed. Scripture does say that it is God who calls and ordains ministers within the church. In choosing a minister, the congregation discerns such a divine call.

Every Christian has the keys and can use them in their private ministry. When it comes to public ministry, the keys are used by those called and ordained to the public ministry. To use a drastic example to make a point, I as an individual Christian could not excommunicate someone just because I think they should be. I would be assuming unilateral authority over who can and cannot receive Communion. Excommunication would be within the realm of those called to lead the congregation.


Sorry I ran out of time and couldn’t get to this before lunch. Let me see if I can answer your question by comparing it to your example.

Let’s keep in mind here that what we are talking about is Luther claiming that all members of the Christian church were given the authority to bind and loose.

So when we apply this to your example for binding, I would ask how is it possible that you can, as Luther claims, DECLARE that my sins are not forgiven. If you can follow me here, I’m not saying that you can’t declare that it appears that I have sinned. That is possible you can do that. You can also declare that you personally haven’t seen any sign of my repentance, but you don’t know my heart. You have no objective evidence as to whether or not I am repentant of my sins I am just struggling with stopping . You are only working with your own personal subjective evidence, you have no objective evidence, and more importantly, were given no authority to judge the state of my soul to declare whether or not my sins are forgiven.

This brings Matthew 7 to mind.

7 “Judge not, that you be not judged. 2 For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get.

Personally, I have no desire to have the authority that Luther claims I have. Why on earth would I want to go around declaring someones sins are not forgiven? Just imagine showing up at judgement day and Jesus saying well I was going to judge you and forgive your sins based on My rules, but you sure loved going around judging everyone that their sins weren’t forgiven based on your own rules, so how about we judge you based on your rules and only bits and pieces of the whole story. Ouch bet that will leave a mark. :wink:

Will answer your question in the next post…

God Bless


This is an excellent question. I don’t have all of the answers here, but from my own understanding…

From talking in the past as you probably already know as Catholics we believe that we can confess our sins directly to God. However, we also believe that Jesus gave us the Sacrament of confession because confession, penance and reconciliation have always been a part of God’s plan. We believe there is a difference in sin some venial some mortal. We believe Jesus gave us confession, so when the Priest proclaims that we are absolved of our sins we have an outward sign of our inward healing. Something we can’t get when we go directly to God. There is no outward sign, all we are left with is an inward feeling, which I am sure you would agree that our inward feelings aren’t always correct?

Anyway, that being said let me try to answer your question with an example.

I go to my Priest for confession and say I committed sin X. He absolves me of my sin and gives me a penance. Let’s say that penance is something he believes will strengthen me to not commit this sin anymore.

I come back to the Priest and say Father I was weak I did X again. He asks me if I did my penance and how did it work. I say I tried but it was to hard. He tells me to try hard this time absolves me, gives me the same penance and sends me away.

This same thing keeps happening over and over again. So finally he says OK let’s talk this through tell me exactly how you went about trying to do this penance. I reply well Father I didn’t really try that hard, I kept forgetting to do it or didn’t really think about it.

Guess what just might happen this time? SIN RETAINED. The Priest say my son it does not seem to me that you are trying to reconcile yourself to God. I fear that you are endangering your immortal soul based on the OBJECTIVE, not SUBJECTIVE evidence you have shown me with your lack of repentance and your unwillingness to amend for your repetitive sins and your lack of working towards removing yourself from the situations that lead you towards this sin. I would like you to work towards showing me you have a desire to avoid this sin at which time I will offer you forgiveness.

I’m sure there would be a lot more detail the Priest would want have before retaining someone’s sin, but I this kind of shows you that it is not something we take lightly. It’s not like the Priest walks down the Church aisles and with no rhyme nor reason says forgiven, forgiven. forgiven, retained, forgiven, retained, forgiven, etc…

God Bless


Sorry, I am having a hard time seeing how a congregation can obey a church leader when at the end of the day, if they no longer agree with him they have the oversight to tell him he is wrong or even remove him. The definition of obey that I use means to submit to an authority, if you have power over the one you are submitting to then you are not truly obeying their authority.

And based on our human understanding we decided who we are willing to obey.

Once again I am not understanding the point Luther is making here. In trying to object to Catholic Confession he is claiming to know what God has already decreed. How does Luther know who’s sins God has decreed to be absolved in heaven?

Once again what objective evidence do you have that the church knows God decreed Jim’s adultery to be forgiven? Yet know Bob’s adultery wasn’t?

Please don’t take this as a shot directly at you because I don’t think you ever said it, but the first thing that came to my mind was …And the Catholic Church gets accused daily for following the traditions of men? :wink:

You start here with a powerful scriptural statement,but then you follow it up with a man made opinion…

All I ask is on who’s authority? Luther might reject the “wild West” type scenario but that is exactly what this is. A few people get together and “willy nilly” discern Pastor Bob’s divine calling. On what bases? They like him? He sounds powerful at the pulpit? He’s personable? He preaches fire and brimstone? He doesn’t preach fire and brimstone? etc…

And if the leaders don’t excommunicate Bob the individual Christians can gang up on the leaders and appoint new leadership who are willing to get the job done.

Someone always has to hold the keys, someone always has to have the final say or yeas it is as you say the Wild Wild West.

God Bless


Heh. Well, nonCatholics proselytizing on this board is a no-no. And I have a whole bunch of answer to you from the point of view of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but it would probably come across as proselytizing.

So let me just say that my fellow saints and I could go on for hours about what those verses mean to us and our faith.


If an anonymous priest can objectively determine whether someone has repented or not, why would it be impossible for a godly Christian who knows you to call you on your bull and declare the Word of God to you?

But as members of Christ’s body, we are to judge those who claim to be Christians and members of the church. 1 Corinthians 5:9-13:

I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people—not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one. For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judges those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you.”

And just in case you might say, “He’s talking just to the bishops and priests,” Paul addressed his letter to “the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours” (1 Corinthians 1:2).

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit