One biblegems reader asked for an explanation of the following verse:
“I tell you the truth, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven” (Matt. 18:18).
The following two verses augment and expand Jesus’ teaching in verse 18:
“Again, I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them” (Matt. 18:19-20).
The word translated “bind” from the Greek NT means “to bind, be in bonds, knit, tie, wind.”1 To “loose” means to “break (up), destroy, dissolve, (un-)loose, melt, put off.”2
The ideas intended by these picturesque words are that believers in Jesus have been given authority by Him to forgive someone who offends us with such effectiveness that God Himself will count that offense as having been completely withdrawn, no longer to be considered as an offense. The forgiveness is “binding” for all eternity. By the same token, if we withhold forgiveness for an offense, understanding that God’s glory and will is better served by His judgment being “loosed” upon a person, then all restraints against God’s judgment are “dissolved” or “put off.”
A good example of believers exercising authority in Jesus’ name to “loose” God’s judgment upon someone is found in Acts 13:8-12. Here, A false prophet named Elymas persistently tried to prevent the apostle Paul from leading the proconsul of Paphos to faith in Jesus. Finally, Paul used his authority in Jesus and said:
Now the hand of the Lord is against you. You are going to be blind, and for a time you will be unable to see the light of the sun.” Immediately mist and darkness came over him, and he groped about, seeking someone to lead him by the hand. When the proconsul saw what had happened, he believed, for he was amazed at the teaching about the Lord (Acts 13:11-12).
The context of Matthew 18:18 deals with forgiving or not forgiving someone who has sinned against you (18:15-35). So this is not a carte blanche permission slip from Jesus giving His followers authority to bind or loose whatever they feel like whenever they feel like it. God is not a dispenser of our whims, or even of our human sense of justice. That is why Jesus goes on to say in verses 19 and 20 that two or three believers are better suited to discern what God’s will is than a single person acting alone. Indeed, to ask for something “in Jesus’ name” means to ask for something already approved by Him.
1 Strong’s Greek Dictionary of the New Testament, Public Domain, Electronic text downloaded from the Bible Foundation e-Text Library: http://www.bf.org/bfetexts.htm Hypertexted and formatted by Oaktree Software, Inc. Greek text added by OakTree Software, Inc. Version 2.4