There are many people running around today binding and loosing things. They are binding things up and loosing things all in the name of Jesus. This often happens when they are in prayer. I want you to think with me for a moment, what does binding and loosing really mean, and is it being used properly? Keep reading because the answer may surprise you.

As you begin reading this, I want you to put away for a moment any previous ideas you have had or how you may have been using this, and let’s allow the Bible to speak on this topic.

To bind something is to tie up, to restrain, to declare unlawful, to prohibit, or to forbid. To loose something means to release, declare lawful, or to permit. These two terms together only appear in the New Testament in two verses. The one in Matthew we mentioned above, and here in Matthew 18:18:

Often when people are praying, they will use phrases such as 

- We bind up the works of darkness

- We bind up sickness

- We loose angels

- We loose healing and miracles in this place

This is generally how binding and loosing are used. It is often attempted to be used in spiritual warfare, and it is usually from people who tend to be more charismatic in their beliefs. This is not a knock on people who are charismatic, because I believe the gifts of the Spirit are still in operation today, which is one thing people who are charismatic believe. What happens sometimes is people get caught up in traditions and behaviors and they don’t take the time to see how these things align with Scripture. By the way, both people who are charismatic and non-charismatic do this.

Regarding binding and loosing, let’s see how this usage measures up with the way God intended in Scripture.

There are only two passages where this is mentioned, so let’s look at them. What we must do is look at the whole passage, because if all we do is stop at the verse, we won’t garner the full context and meaning of this concept of binding and loosing. Let’s start with the passage in Matthew 18 and then come back to Matthew 16. As you read, ask yourself this question, what is the context surrounding binding and loosing?

What did you gather when you read this? Here are the highlights.

- A brother or sister is caught in sin

- They are confronted with their sin, but they refuse to listen to one person

- The person brings back one or two more people so there can be two or three witnesses 

- The person still refuses to repent of their sin

- They are brought before the church, and they still refuse to listen

- This person is then removed or forbidden (bound) to be part of the church fellowship any longer

- God backs up the decision

When you read this, what we see is that this portion of Scripture is dealing with discipline in the church. It is important to note that this person who is willfully continuing in sin is someone who has identified with Christ. They are calling themselves a Christian, because Jesus addresses them as brother or sister, meaning they are part of the body of Christ – or at least they claim to be.

When someone like this chooses to willfully continue to live in sin, after identifying with Jesus, the church has the right after addressing this person to remove them from the fellowship. This is what the binding and loosing mean in this passage.

I want you to pay attention to what is mysteriously absent. There is no mention of demons, sickness, wealth, angels, or anything else people tie to binding and loosing. Let’s now look at the other passage in Matthew.

Old skeleton keys

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As you read this remember the question, what is the context?

There are a few things mentioned here we need to pay attention to:

- The Messiah

- Building the church

- The kingdom of heaven

- Keys

When Jesus talks about binding and loosing in this context, he is talking about building his church and the kingdom of God. First of all, Peter identifies Jesus as the Messiah, which means the anointed one. Jesus then tells Peter that on this rock, meaning the truth that he is the Messiah, he is going to build his church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it. Jesus then mentions keys, which signifies authority. Keys can lock (bind) and unlock (loose).

It appears that Peter directly – and indirectly the disciples – have been given the keys to accept (loose) or reject (bind) people coming into the kingdom. How is this possible? The key to the kingdom, or what gives a person access to the kingdom of heaven, is Jesus the Messiah. When the gospel is preached, those who receive Jesus are given access to the kingdom (loosed or permitted) and those who reject Jesus are not given access to the kingdom (bound or forbidden). This is the primary focus of this passage.

When you read this, you might assume that heaven is responding to what we are doing, when in reality we are responding to what has already been decided in heaven. Here is another rendering of this verse that brings more clarity.

We are binding and loosing what has already been declared in heaven. The authority given here was to make the gospel available to all, which would give them access to the kingdom of heaven. 

To understand this, we must look at the whole New Testament. When dealing with Satan or any demonic activity, where do you see Jesus or any of the other disciples, apostles, or anyone else for that matter binding or loosing? When they dealt with demons, they didn’t bind them or loose them, they cast them out. We have that same authority.

Also binding and loosing, as you can see here, has nothing to do with sickness, poverty, health, healing, calling forth angels, or any other ways binding and loosing are often used. This is by no means meant to diminish the reality of spiritual warfare because it is very real, it is just to emphasize and make sure we are using the tools in our arsenal in the manner for which they are authorized.

Hopefully you have a better perspective on this, and I recognize it is possible you may have a different one. Feel free to reach out if you have a different perspective. The goal is to study the Scriptures so we can get the truth from God’s word and apply it to our lives the way God intended.

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Clarence L. Haynes Jr. is a speaker, Bible teacher, and co-founder of The Bible Study Club.  He is the author of The Pursuit of Purpose which will help you understand how God leads you into his will. He has also just released his new book The Pursuit of Victory: How To Conquer Your Greatest Challenges and Win In Your Christian Life. Do you want to go deeper in your walk with the Lord but can’t seem to overcome the stuff that keeps getting in the way? This book will teach you how to put the pieces together so you can live a victorious Christian life and finally become the man or woman of God that you truly desire to be. To learn more about his ministry please visit clarencehaynes.com.