The concept of “binding” and “loosing” simply means to forbid by an indisputable authority, and to permit by an indisputable authority. Many believe it relates to spiritual authority to restrict and permit spiritual entities on earth and in heaven. This may include spiritual forces; some suggests it may refer to verbalizing blessings and curses. The concept of “binding” and “loosing” for Christians is rooted in the texts of Matthew 16:19 and Matthew 18:18-20.
In terms of the Old Testament, there’s a spiritual principle about the relationship of blessings and curses in heaven and on earth as found in the Abrahamic covenant (Genesis 12:3). Some find implications on binding and loosing from Isaiah 22:22 and the key to the House of David given to Eliakim as the steward of the house. Binding and loosing is also referenced in the Jewish Targum. Isaiah 58:6 speaks to fasting as a tool to loose the chains of injustice and to set the oppressed free.
Pertaining to the New Testament, Christ speaks directly about this subject. Scripture says:
“And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” (Matthew 16:18-19)
Some would suggest that binding and loosing is the meaning of giving authority (the keys to the kingdom) mentioned in this Matthew passage. Others would suggest that the keys (authority) for establishing the church are given to Peter and this is not about binding or loosing.
“Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. Again, truly I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” (Matthew 18:18-20)
The second passage follows instructions about discipline within the church (Matthew 18:15-17). This speaks to authority and to the process needed to purify the Church and address sin.
One related question is: “To whom is this authority (or keys) given?” Some suggest that this authority was given to Peter and the apostles only; others suggest that it is given to all people set apart (ordained) for spiritual ministry. Others suggest that the authority to bind and loose is given to all followers of Jesus; in this view, it is the believer’s ability to forbid and/or permit things on a physical and spiritual level because of the authority and power given by Jesus Christ himself (Matthew 28:18-20). It’s important to note, in the Matthew 18 passage, that confidence in one’s authority increases when two or three believers are in agreement, and it appears this authority is for all believers.
Another related question is: “Over what or whom do individuals have spiritual authority?” Some have suggested that there are multiple levels of authority for believers. At the lowest levels, humans have authority over animals (Genesis 1:28; Psalm 8:6-8). We also find that humans at times have authority over other humans (Genesis 1:26; I Timothy 2:1-2).
Scripture makes it clear that believers have authority over spirits (Luke 13:11-13) and Satan (Ephesians 2:2). Believers are often placed in authority over other believers (Ephesians 2:6; I Peter 5:1-4). And ultimately, all believers are under the authority of Christ himself (Ephesians 1:22).
In our relationship to Christ, we are reminded that we have all authority and power from Him (Matthew 28:18-20) and that we are co-heirs with Him (Romans 8:17); thus, believers have significant authority to bind and loose things in heaven and on earth.
The keys to our authority to impact heaven and earth:
- Knowing who we are in Christ
- Knowing God’s Word. As a summative statement to remind us of God’s intentions, we review Jeremiah 29:11: “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." From the New Testament, we remember our union with Christ: “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27).