Matthew 16:19

The Keys of the kingdom (ta kleida th basileia). Here again we have the figure of a building with keys to open from the outside. The question is raised at once if Jesus does not here mean the same thing by "kingdom" that he did by "church" in verse Matthew 18 . In Revelation 1:18 ; Revelation 3:7 Christ the Risen Lord has "the keys of death and of Hades." He has also "the keys of the kingdom of heaven" which he here hands over to Peter as "gatekeeper" or "steward" (oikonomo) provided we do not understand it as a special and peculiar prerogative belonging to Peter. The same power here given to Peter belongs to every disciple of Jesus in all the ages. Advocates of papal supremacy insist on the primacy of Peter here and the power of Peter to pass on this supposed sovereignty to others. But this is all quite beside the mark. We shall soon see the disciples actually disputing again ( Matthew 18:1 ) as to which of them is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven as they will again ( Matthew 20:21 ) and even on the night before Christ's death. Clearly neither Peter nor the rest understood Jesus to say here that Peter was to have supreme authority. What is added shows that Peter held the keys precisely as every preacher and teacher does. To "bind" (dhsh) in rabbinical language is to forbid, to "loose" (lush) is to permit. Peter would be like a rabbi who passes on many points. Rabbis of the school of Hillel "loosed" many things that the school of Schammai "bound." The teaching of Jesus is the standard for Peter and for all preachers of Christ. Note the future perfect indicative (estai dedemenon, estai lelumenon), a state of completion. All this assumes, of course, that Peter's use of the keys will be in accord with the teaching and mind of Christ. The binding and loosing is repeated by Jesus to all the disciples ( Matthew 18:18 ). Later after the Resurrection Christ will use this same language to all the disciples ( John 20:23 ), showing that it was not a special prerogative of Peter. He is simply first among equals, primus inter pares, because on this occasion he was spokesman for the faith of all. It is a violent leap in logic to claim power to forgive sins, to pronounce absolution, by reason of the technical rabbinical language that Jesus employed about binding and loosing. Every preacher uses the keys of the kingdom when he proclaims the terms of salvation in Christ. The proclamation of these terms when accepted by faith in Christ has the sanction and approval of God the Father. The more personal we make these great words the nearer we come to the mind of Christ. The more ecclesiastical we make them the further we drift away from him.

Read Matthew 16:19