Truly I say to you, Whatever you shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatever you shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth.—(See Note on Matthew 16:19.) The promise before made to Peter is now extended not only to the other Apostles, but to the whole society of which they were the representatives, and is, of course, to be understood as dependent on the same implied, though not expressed, condition. So far as the Ecclesia was true to its Lord, and guided by His Spirit, it was not to think that its decisions depended on any temporal power. They were clothed, as truth and righteousness are ever clothed, with a divine authority. As connected with the treatment of individual offenders, the words “bind” and “loose” may seem here to approximate more closely than in Matthew 16:19, to “condemning” and “absolving” in their force, but there is no ground for setting aside, even here, their received meaning in the language of the scribes. The Christian had to apply general laws to particular instances. The trial of each offender became a ruling case. It was binding or loosing, directly as interpreting the Law, only secondarily and indirectly as punishing or pardoning.Matthew 18:18-20. Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth — By excommunication, pronounced in the Spirit and power of Christ; whatsoever ye shall loose — By absolution from that sentence. See note on chap. Matthew 16:19. In the primitive church, absolution meant no more than a discharge from church censure. Again I say — And not only your intercession for the penitent, but all your united prayers, shall be heard. How great then is the power of joint prayer! If two of you — Suppose a man and his wife. Where two or three are gathered together in my name — That is, to worship me; I am in the midst of them — By my Spirit, to quicken their prayers, guide their counsels, and answer their petitions.Matthew 16:19. These words were spoken to the apostles. Jesus had before addressed the same words to Peter, Matthew 16:19. He employs them here to signify that they all had the same power; that in ordering the affairs of the church he did not intend to give Peter any supremacy or any exclusive right to regulate it. The meaning of this verse is, whatever you shall do in the discipline of the church shall be approved by God or bound in heaven. This promise, therefore, cannot be understood as extending to all Christians or ministers, for all others but the apostles may err. Matthew 16:19, where we observed that by binding and loosing was signified (according to the usage of the Jews of those times) declaring of propositions true or false, or judging things lawful or unlawful. Some think that it hath no further import here; but it is the opinion of Mr. Calvin, and other very judicious interpreters, that it is here to be extended to the censures of the church, the sentence of the church pronounced justly in the case of offences; and is added, lest persons justly denied the communion of the church should contemn such censures. Christ assures these persons that such censures ought not to be slighted, for God would confirm them in heaven; as also to their absolutions, or readmissions of such persons into their communion, upon their true repentance and acknowledgment of their errors. Not that our Lord by this intended to confirm all sentences of excommunication, or to patronize any cheat or hypocrisy in any, to gain an absolution, or restoration to the church. But only, as to the first, to assure stubborn and impenitent sinners that he would ratify what his church did, according to the rule he had given them to act by. It is therefore a terrible text to those who are justly and duly cut off from the communion of the church, for notorious and scandalous sins, such as whoso committeth and doth not repent of, they shall never enter into the kingdom of God. And as comfortable to those who, being so cast out, do truly repent, and are under temptations to be swallowed up of too much sorrow. If therefore any be cast out of any church for professing or standing to any truth of the gospel, or because he will not do what is sinful, we must not understand them bound in heaven, though they be bound on earth, nor have any such excommunications any terror in them. How forcible are right words! But these arguings, what do they reprove? The church is not by this text made infallible, nor is the holy God by it engaged to defend their errors. Matthew 16:19, what is said here, refers to things and not persons, as there also. Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)Matthew 18:18 f. By way of giving greater confidence in the exercise of this last stage of discipline at which the matter is finally disposed of by the church, let me assure you of two things: (1) Whatever you (in the church) declare to be unlawful on the one hand, or permissible on the other (see note on Matthew 16:19), will be held to be so in the sight of God; your judgment in regard to complaints brought before the church is accordingly ratified by divine warrant. (2) If two of you agree as to anything that is to be asked in prayer, it will be given you by God; when, therefore, your hearts are thus united in prayer, you are assured of the divine help and illumination, in order that, in every case, you may arrive at and, in the church, give effect to decisions in accordance with the mind of God.
Those addressed in the second person (δήσητε, κ.τ.λ.) are the apostles (Hofmann, Schriftbew. II. 2, p. 266 f.), but not the disciples in the more comprehensive sense of the word (Weiss, Bibl. Theol. p. 103), nor the church (Bleek, Schenkel, Keim, Ahrens), nor its leaders (Euthymius Zigabenus, de Wette), nor the parties who have been injured (Origen, Augustine, Theophylact, Grotius). In order to a clear understanding of the whole discourse from Matthew 18:3 onwards, it should be observed generally, that wherever the address is in the second person plural (therefore in Matthew 18:3; Matthew 18:10; Matthew 18:12; Matthew 18:14; Matthew 18:18-19), it is the Twelve who came to Jesus, Matthew 18:1, that are intended; but that where Jesus uses the second person singular (as in Matthew 18:8-9; Matthew 18:15-17), He addresses every believer individually (including also the μικροί). But as far as the ἐκκλησία is concerned, it is to be understood as meaning the congregation of believers, including the apostles. It is the possessor and guardian of the apostolic moral legislation, and consequently it is to it that the offender is in duty bound to yield obedience. Finally, since the power of binding and loosing, which in Matthew 16:19 was adjudged to Peter, is here ascribed to the apostles generally, the power conferred upon the former is set in its proper light, and shown to be of necessity a power of a collegiate nature, so that Peter is not to be regarded as exclusively endowed with it either in whole or in part, but is simply to be looked upon as primus inter pares.
πάλιν ἀμὴν λ. ὑμ.] Once more a solemn assurance! and that to the effect that, etc. Comp. Matthew 19:24. For ἐάν with the indicative (συμφωνήσουσιν, see critical notes), see note on Luke 19:40, and Buttmann, Neut. Gramm. p. 192 [E. T. 222]; Bremi, ad Lys. Alc. 13. The construction is a case of attraction; πᾶν should have been the subject of the principal clause of the sentence, but was attracted to the subordinate clause and joined to πράγματος, so that without the attraction the passage would run thus: ἐὰν δύο ὑμ. συμφωνήσουσιν ἐπὶ τ. γῆς περὶ πράγματος, πᾶν ὃ ἐὰν αἰτήσωνται, γινήσεται αὐτοῖς. Comp. Kühner, II. 2, p. 925. For the contrast implied in ἐπὶ τ. γῆς, comp. Matthew 9:6.Matthew 18:18. enewed promise of power to bind and loose, this time not to Peter alone, as in Matthew 16:19, but to all the Twelve, not qua apostles, with ecclesiastical authority, but qua disciples, with the ethical power of morally disciplined men. The Twelve for the moment are for Jesus = the ecclesia: they were the nucleus of it. The binding and loosing generically = exercising judgment on conduct; here specifically = treating sin as pardonable or the reverse—a particular exercise of the function of judging.18. Taking up the word “Church,” Jesus passes from its present meaning—the ruling body in the synagogue—to its meaning in the future. The ruling body is the Christian Church.
Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven] What was spoken to Peter alone is now spoken to all the disciples, representing the Church. “Whatsoever you as a Church declare binding or declare not binding, that decision shall be ratified in heaven.”Matthew 18:18. Ὅσα ἐὰν, whatsoever) i.e. all things with regard to which the power of binding and loosing holds good, especially offences.—δήσητε, ye shall bind) see the end of Matthew 18:17.—λύσητε, ye shall loose) see the end of Matthew 18:15. There is an intimate connection between the retention of a private and that of a public offence, and so also in the case of remission. See Matthew 18:15-35. Our Lord teaches that His disciples can bind and loose the sins of their neighbours in His name; see Matthew 18:20. Neither is it totally void of effect when they, even for their own sake, through anger, bind and hold the offences of their brethren.
 Christ gave this power to His disciples then, and not till then, when, having had experience of the gracious will of our Heavenly Father (Matthew 18:14), they had recognised Himself, i.e. Jesus, as the Son of GOD (ch. Matthew 16:16), and had received the Holy Spirit, John 20:22.—V. g.
 Privatæ, private, i.e. not one privately committed, but one against the individual: communis public, i.e. not one committed in public, but one of a public character.—(I. B.)Verse 18. - The following words are addressed, not, as the preceding verse, to the offended Christian, but to the apostles, as possessed of some superior powers above those of any individual congregation. Verily I say unto you. The Lord solemnly confers the grant made to Peter (Matthew 16:19) on the whole apostolate. The binding and loosing, in a restricted sense, and in logical connection with what precedes, refer to the confirmation and authorization of the sentence of the Ecclesia, which is not valid, so to speak, in the heavenly court till endorsed by Christ's representatives - the apostles. Whether the verdict was the excommunication of the offender ("bind") or his pardon and restoration ("loose"), the ratification of the apostles was required, and would be made good in heaven. The treatment of the incestuous Christian by St. Paul is a practical comment on this passage. The congregation decides on the man's guilt, but St. Paul "binds" him, retains his sins, and delivers him to Satan (1 Corinthians 5:1-5); and when on his repentance he is forgiven, it is the apostle who "looses" him, acting as the representative of Christ (2 Corinthians 2:10). In a general sense, the judicial and disciplinary powers of the Christian priesthood have been founded on this passage, which from early times has been used in the service of ordination. Each body of Christians has its own way of interpreting the promise. While some opine that, speaking in Christ's name and with his authority, the priest can pronounce or withhold pardon; others believe that external discipline is all that is intended; others again think that the terms are satisfied by the ministration of the Word and sacraments, as a physician gives health by prescribing remedies.
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