"Whatever you bind on earth"

“whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” Matt 16:19, Matt 18:18,

What exactly is this power of binding and loosing? In Matthew 16, Our Lord gives this power to St Peter along with the power of the keys so it seems the two powers are related.

In Matthew 18 however, when Our Lord mentions this again it is in a very different context. he calls together the “disciples”, I’m going to assume that this means the 12 disciples specifically. It doesn’t seem like a “power” being bestowed but a fact stated, and in this case it is given to all the 12 so this cannot be linked with the power of the keys. So, I thought, He must be talking about hearing confession. But this reading is following from the Gospel reading we had on Sunday, where He is talking about correcting faults in the Church. The context does not imply confession but rather correction of faults within the Church, something all lay people are called to.

What is it to bind and loose?

What you should see in both contexts is the authority of the church. In Matt 16 we see Peter being given the primacy among the 12. He is the final arbiter of dispute in the church after Christ ascends. He has the keys to the kingdom meaning his action can unlock the gates of heaven to people. He also has the power to bind and loose. This is like a judge having the power to pronounce a sentence or set one free.

Then in Matt 18 we again see the authority of the church to bind and loose. If there is a sin amongst the people they take it to each other, then 2 or 3 others, and ultimately to the church for decision. The church with it’s power to bind and loose then settles the matter definitively. The pronouncement is binding for those who do not listen are set out of the church.

The power to bind and loose can relate to confession as seen in John 20. All bishops, as successors to the apostles have the power to bind and loose. They can pass this power to their designated priests for confession.


The keys of the kingdom

**551 **From the beginning of his public life Jesus chose certain men, twelve in number, to be with him and to participate in his mission.280 He gives the Twelve a share in his authority and 'sent them out to preach the kingdom of God and to heal."**281 **They remain associated for ever with Christ’s kingdom, for through them he directs the Church:

As my Father appointed a kingdom for me, so do I appoint for you that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom, and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.282

**552 **Simon Peter holds the first place in the college of the Twelve;**283 **Jesus entrusted a unique mission to him. Through a revelation from the Father, Peter had confessed: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Our Lord then declared to him: “You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it.”**284 **Christ, the “living Stone”,**285 **thus assures his Church, built on Peter, of victory over the powers of death. Because of the faith he confessed Peter will remain the unshakable rock of the Church. His mission will be to keep this faith from every lapse and to strengthen his brothers in it.286

**553 **Jesus entrusted a specific authority to Peter: “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.”**287 **The “power of the keys” designates authority to govern the house of God, which is the Church. Jesus, the Good Shepherd, confirmed this mandate after his Resurrection: “Feed my sheep.”**288 **The power to “bind and loose” connotes the authority to absolve sins, to pronounce doctrinal judgments, and to make disciplinary decisions in the Church. Jesus entrusted this authority to the Church through the ministry of the apostles **289 **and in particular through the ministry of Peter, the only one to whom he specifically entrusted the keys of the kingdom.

In short, the Apostles were furnished with Christ’s divine authority, and Peter was the head of those Apostles.

:heaven: When Christ died on the cross, resurrected, then ascended, he fulfilled his promise to Peter; now that the newly-founded church will prevail against the gates of Hell, Peter’s god-given authority is assured.

The Power to bind and loose is (to me) the teaching authority of the Church. Read Mt 18:15-18 and then read Acts 15. Mt is a set of instructions and Acts is those instructions put into action.
the “Sin” referred to in Mt 18:15 can just as easily be the teaching of a wrong doctrine as it could be the sin of lying to or cheating another. The word for sin used here in Greek is Hamatarno (sorry that is probably spelled wrong) and it means, not just breaking a commandment but to be on a wrong path - to miss the mark - to err.
So you are right in supposing that the passage here is referring to more than just confession.


SirEwenii #1
“whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” Matt 16:19, Matt 18:18,
The context does not imply confession but rather correction of faults within the Church, something all lay people are called to.
What is it to bind and loose?

Essentially, not “correction of faults within the Church” but faults of members of the Church, for the Church is ‘held, as a matter of faith, to be unfailingly holy’ [Vatican II, *Lumen Gentium, art 39].

The “Truly I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven” – is explained as “giving them thereby supreme power in all spiritual matters: their laws, judgments, sentences or remissions would all be ratified and sanctioned in Heaven.” Apologetics and Catholic Doctrine, Archbishop Michael Sheehan, revised by Fr Peter Joseph, The Saint Austin Press, 2001, p 134].


In addition to the various theological comments here, it is interesting to note that “bind” (δεω) and “loose” (λυω) were common terms in classical Greek magic, to which Matthew’s gospel has a few other connections (e.g., the magi, the gates of Hell). In that regard, the statements which Jesus makes to the apostles are endowments of power, such power being demonstrated in the miracles which they performed. Perhaps Matthew was also writing for benefit of the magi, and their followers, to show them who Jesus was.

Interesting idea…

Something that might be just a bit off track, but I think is important is this - -
Whenever we hear the terms “power” or “authority” in these kinds of conversations we need to think “service” and "responsibility.
Yes Jesus Gave the Apostles this “authority” but with it comes great and grave responsibility. If I recall correctly, this was touched on in the first reading at the mass mentioned in the OP. The Prophet was to speak out and if he did not, he would be held responsible…Don’t have time to look it up right now…maybe someone can get the exact quote from last Sunday’s mass.

I sometimes think that too many of us forget the point of responsibility that always goes along with authority – especially in conversation with protestants.

Just a thought.


Matthew 16:19

D-R Bible, Haydock Commentary:

Ver. 19. And I will give to thee the keys, &c. This is another metaphor, expressing the supreme power and prerogative of the prince of the apostles. The keys of a city, or of its gates, are presented or given to the person that hath the chief power. We also own a power of the keys, given to the other apostles, but with a subordination to St. Peter and to his successor, as head of the Catholic Church. — And whatsoever thou shalt bind, &c. All the apostles, and their successors, partake also of this power of binding and loosing, but with a due subordination to one head invested with the supreme power. (Witham) — Loose on earth. The loosing the bands of temporal punishments due to sins, is called an indulgence: the power of which is here granted. (Challoner) — Although Peter and his successors are mortal, they are nevertheless endowed with heavenly power, says St. Chrysostom, nor is the sentence of life and death passed by Peter to be attempted to be reversed, but what he declares is to be considered a divine answer from heaven, and what he decrees, a decree of God himself. He that heareth you, heareth me, &c. The power of binding is exercised, 1st. by refusing to absolve; 2nd. by enjoining penance for sins forgiven; 3nd. by excommunication, suspension or interdict; 4th. by making rules and laws for the government of the Church; 5th. by determining what is of faith by the judgments and definitions of the Church. (Tirinus) — The terms binding and loosing, are equivalent to opening and shutting, because formerly the Jews opened the fastenings of their doors by untying it, and they shut or secured their doors by tying or binding it. (Bible de Vence) — Dr. Whitby, a learned Protestant divine, thus expounds this and the preceding verse: “As a suitable return to thy confession, I say also to thee, that thou art by name Peter, i.e. a rock; and upon thee, who art this rock, I will build my Church, and I will give to thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven, the power of making laws to govern my Church.” (Tom. i, p. 143.) Dr. Hammond, another Protestant divine, explains it in the same manner. And p. 92, he says: " What is here meant by the keys, is best understand by Isaias xxii. 22, where they signify ruling the whole family or house of the king: and this being by Christ accommodated to the Church, denotes the power of governing it."

Thus says the LORD:
You, son of man, I have appointed watchman for the house of Israel;
when you hear me say anything, you shall warn them for me.
If I tell the wicked, “O wicked one, you shall surely die, ”
and you do not speak out to dissuade the wicked from his way,
the wicked shall die for his guilt,
but I will hold you responsible for his death.
But if you warn the wicked,
trying to turn him from his way,
and he refuses to turn from his way,
he shall die for his guilt,
but you shall save yourself. (Ez 33:7-9)

Thanks ahs…Yes that is it.

So often in conversation with non-Catholics the issue of “authority” and “power” comes up. But it seems that many times people do not seem to embrace the concept of how much responsibility goes along with that authority…that Stewardship. I believe this is something worth emphasizing when we are talking with others.


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