Binding & Loosening

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Binding LooseningBinding & Loosening

The purpose of this article is to address the way these words have come to be used in the last 50+ years. We are going to look closely at the scriptures to see if… or to what degree, the scriptures support modern thoughts on the issue.

What ARE modern thoughts and teachings of Binding and Loosening

In most cases, and therefore the ones I am choosing to address in this article, the teachings of binding and loosening are largely in the sphere of spiritual warfare.

The ideas typical ideas include:

  • One cannot cast the devil out of a person unless you first bind them.
  • If you want the devil to stop his activities in your life or the life of a loved one you must bind him.
  • If someone is possessed or oppressed by the devil, they must be loosed.
    • Admittedly, this last one I have never actually heard used, independent of binding the devil. It is usually the flip-side of the same coin so to speak. Either one is said to  “devil I bind you” or to “loose them and let them go” (meaning the person afflicted by them). 

Scriptural Defining of the terms:

The words bind and loose are used in both literal and in cultural in the Bible and that is VERY important in understanding its usage in specific passages.

Binding may refer to tying a donkey to a tree or an ox to a mill stone. Equally it can be used to refer to an arrest, as it is in Acts 9:14, where Saul is said to have authority from the chief priests to “bind” (or arrest) all who call upon the name of Jesus. To connect the dots a little tighter here, consider how familiar we are with its usage in such an example. When an arrest is made in our day a person is often “bound” by handcuffs. This is a literal binding!

Yet we also see these words used in a way which had a particular meaning inside the Jewish cultural. In such usages it means to declare something as lawful or unlawful – which refers to sound and well established doctrine. It was used this way by the rabbis in Jesus’ day. Originally this was a Jewish Mishnaic phrase meaning to forbid by an indisputable authority and to permit by an indisputable authority.

So one thing we need to understand is that every type of binding and loosening used in the Bible, require some sort of power & jurisdictional authority. This is true regardless of whether you are binding an ox or loosening someone from demonic oppression or possession. 

 

Where is Binding and Loosening used in scripture?

The word for bind or bound (Greek word déō) is used a total of 44 times in the New Testament, the greatest number of them are natural, social or literal. Examples would be like tying a donkey to a tree, or binding oneself with an oath such as in marriage.

The word for loose or loosed (Greek word luō) is used a total of 45 times in the New Testament and likewise is used mostly in natural, social and literal ways, like loosening the said donkey from a tree, or loosing oneself from an obligation like a vow.

So our study will be limited to the few exceptions to this general rule.

Here is a list of those scriptures…

  • Matt. 12:29/Mark 3:27/Luke 11:21 (all the same conversation)
  • Matt. 16:19/Matt. 18:18 (different, but refer to the same idea)
  • Luke 13:16
  • Acts 20:22
  • 2Peter 2:4/Jude 1:6
  • Rev. 9:14
  • Rev. 20:2

I will address these from the simplest to explain to the most difficult.

Revelation 9:13-15, 

“(13) The sixth angel blew his trumpet. From the four horns of the gold altar that is before God, I heard a voice  (14) say to the sixth angel who had the trumpet, “Loose the four angels bound at the great river Euphrates.”  (15)  So the four angels who were prepared for the hour, day, month, and year were released to kill a third of the human race.”

There is little that can be said about this since the particulars of when and why these angles were ever bound, is not revealed or is at least subjective.

All I know is that whether they were restrained in some literal way, which we would interpret as “physically bound” or whether they were bound by some sort of unspoken obligation to not move until told to do so, is unclear. In the end though, does not matter. The results are the same.

Revelation 20:1-3, 

“(1) Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven with the key to the abyss and a great chain in his hand.  (2)  He seized the dragon, that ancient serpent who is the Devil and Satan, and bound him for 1,000 years.  (3) He threw him into the abyss, closed it, and put a seal on it so that he would no longer deceive the nations until the 1,000 years were completed. After that, he must be released for a short time.”

This seems literal enough to me, though being a prophecy and regarding spiritual beings, who knows how literal it can be taken?

The one thing that is certain, is that satan will no longer have power, authority or even access to the human race during this time. As such, I choose to interpret it as literal.

Acts 20:21-23, 

“(21) I testified to both Jews and Greeks about repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus.  (22) “And now I am on my way to Jerusalem, bound in my spirit, not knowing what I will encounter there,  (23) except that in town after town the Holy Spirit testifies to me that chains and afflictions are waiting for me.”

Paul was using this phrase both metaphorically and ironically. He knew that he was going to be “handcuffed”, so to speak, and imprisoned in Jerusalem – but he also knew this was part of the fulfillment of what God had told him he must suffer for His name’s sake.  

Acts 9:15-16, “(15) But the Lord said to him, “Go! For this man is My chosen instrument to carry My name before Gentiles, kings, and the sons of Israel.  (16)  I will certainly show him how much he must suffer for My Name!”

So, like Jesus after His time of seeking God in the Garden of Gethsemane – Paul went resolutely to Jerusalem knowing only that “chains and afflictions awaited him.

This was a type of internal pressure – like a similar passage found in Acts 19:21. To Paul, he was already in chains for Christs’ sake and the gospel – and yet freer than any of his persecutors. He was a bond-slave of Christ.

Luke 13:15-16,

“(15) But the Lord answered him and said, “Hypocrites! Doesn’t each one of you untie his ox or donkey from the feeding trough on the Sabbath, and lead it to water? (16)  Satan has bound this woman, a daughter of Abraham, for 18 years–shouldn’t she be untied from this bondage on the Sabbath day?”

Here it is clear that the devil is the one who had bound this woman. That she was not tethered to a geographical location is obvious, but she was tethered to a debilitating disease – or it to her.

Her oppressor was satan, her healer and the one who loosened her bonds was Jesus her Messiah!

Matt. 12:29/Mark 3:27/Luke 11:21 (this is a composite of all three, taken from the early church’s diatessaron)

Matthew 12:25 “And Jesus knew their thoughts, and said to them in parables, Every kingdom that withstands itself shall become desolate; and every house or city that disagrees with itself shall not 20 stand: Matthew 12:26a and if a devil cast out a devil, he withstands himself; neither shall he be 21 able to stand, but his end shall be. Then how now shall his kingdom stand? For you 22 said that I cast out devils by Beelzebul. And if I by Beelzebul cast out the devils, then your children, by what do they cast them out? And for this cause they shall 23 be judges against you. Matthew 12:28 But if I by the Spirit of God cast out devils, then the kingdom 24 of God has come near unto you. Matthew 12:29 Or how can a man enter into the house of a valiant man, and seize his garments, if he do not beforehand secure himself from 25 that valiant man? and then will he cut off his house. Luke 11:21 But when the valiant man is 26 armed, guarding his house, his possessions are in peace. Luke 11:22 But if one come who is more valiant than he, he overcomes him, and takes his whole armour, on which 27 he relies, and divides his spoil. Luke 11:23 Whosoever is not with me is against me; and 28 whosoever gathers not with me scatters abroad.

Now I know I will probably get some kick back from using the diatessaron but it is a legitimate source since all it did was bring all of the available testimonies of the 4 gospel writers into one narrative. It did not add to or take away from their words. In fact the word “diatessaron” means “through the four” – meaning the Gospel as seen though the testimonies of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.

So what we see in this narrative, is a fictitious example of demon possession and deliverance where three distinct personalities are referenced.

In order to avoid confusion I will color coat the personalities but of some importance is the fact that, the first “man” referenced is simply “anyone”. 

The first two are the demon wanting to inhabit a human and the human himself. 

Or how can a man enter into the house of a valiant man, and seize his garments, if he do not beforehand secure himself from 25 that valiant man? and then will he cut off his house. But when the valiant man is 26 armed, guarding his house, his possessions are in peace.”

You see the first part of the hypothetical statement is given as the understood “setting”. The word “man” might as well be said, “how can anyone”. 

The “house” being entered is the person being possessed or oppressed by the demon. This is made abundantly clear in Luke’s accounts of narrative. He says, “(24) When an unclean spirit comes out of a man, it roams through waterless places looking for rest, and not finding rest, it then says, ‘I’ll go back to my house where I came from.’ (25)  And returning, it finds the house swept and put in order. (26)  Then it goes and brings seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they enter and settle down there. As a result, that man’s last condition is worse than the first.”Luke 11:24-26  

So the house and possessions in it are the human and his freedoms and faculties. 

The second is the demon referred to as the valiant or strong man who has taken possession of the human.

In one way the demon has bound the human and taken him captive – much like the case of the woman bound by the devil these 18 yearsas I referenced above in Luke 13:15-16.

Of final mention is the Lord Jesus Who is the most valiant and strongest of all.

“But if one come who is more valiant than he, he overcomes him, and takes his whole armour, on which (27) he relies, and divides his spoil.

So Jesus is put forth as the strongest of all, Who overcomes the enemy and looses the bonds they have established over and within the one being delivered.

Perhaps the most important thing to realize from this example from scripture, is that the words “bind” and “loose” are used descriptively. It simply means to overpower and evict. It does NOT mean to confine with some supernatural cord or handcuffs. This is made clear both in the way the hypothetical scenario in laid out and in the examples in scripture when people are delivered from demonic possession and oppression.

NEVER ONCE does the Lord, nor any Apostle ever say “I bind thee satan!”.

In fact, just like when we look at Jesus healing the sick there is no consistent way he does it. With one He laid hands on them, with another he spat and made clay and with another He only spoke a word. In the same way, we would be at great pains to attempt to establish a given “method” for casting out demons or neutralizing their power to oppress. 

In one place Jesus just says “come out”. In another He asks their name before permitting them to go and possess some animals. Paul simply commanded the demon to come out of the servant girl who was possessed by a spirit of divination. In James we see how to establish personal freedom from demonic control by simply submitting to God and resisting demonic influence – since, once we are born of God, we cannot be possessed by a demonic spirit nor  be controlled by them separate from our wills.

So this teaching of having to bind the devil from this and loosening a person from that – is too focused upon the mechanics of a statement Jesus made in parable form.

IF it was indeed ‘THE’ or even ‘A’ method for casting out demons, surely we could expect to have witnessed it being used at least ONCE in the body of the New Testament… and we simply do not!

2 Peter 2:4/Jude 1:6, 

“(4) For if God didn’t spare the angels who sinned, but threw them down into Tartarus and delivered them to be kept in chains of darkness until judgment;”

Now this is a partial quote taken out of a context which is actually helpful in understanding what Peter was saying and why, but the mechanics of the statement can be studied accurately in isolation.

The word Tartarus is regrettably translated as hell in many translations. In all truthfulness, the meaning of this word is currently lost to time. We have no idea what it is referring to. That having been said, we can guess. I personally believe it means earth – or Terra Firma. I come to this conclusion from Jesus’ description of the fallen angel’s removal from heaven. He said, “I saw satan fall like lightning from the sky” and in His account of the same event to John in Revelation 12:4, satan is described as a dragon that upon being cast out of heaven drew a third of the angels of heaven and cast them down to earth with him. Also, we see that satan and fallen spirits are encountered here on earth, so it seems to stand up to reason that Tartarus is referring to the earth.

The difficulty comes from them being delivered into chains of darkness. Some of the earliest manuscripts use the word caves, though in the oddness of languages, this is still best understood as meaning chains.

So the question is… if these chains are literal and bind them to a geographical location or spiritually metaphoric in that they are forever bound to darkness eternally separated from the light and life of God.

Since they seem to be free to roam the earth on some level, I believe the later understanding is preferred.

Also, if they are in fact bound to a literal location like the abyss where satan will be kept for a millenia who then are the demonic spirits we deal with today?

This line of thinking has created ALL SORTS of squirrly doctrines which literally spiral out of control in virtually every direction. I believe that unless there’s a really good reason to assume otherwise, Occam’s Razor applies in that the simplest and most straight-forward interpretation which answers all the facts is most likely the correct one.

So I believe this is referring to the angels who fell with satan, who were cast to the earth upon its creation, which is where we first encounter them in the garden. That I believe Lucifer fell BEFORE creation, is a separate issue which cannot be addressed in this article.

Matthew 16:16-19/ Matt. 18:18,

“(16) And Jesus responded, “Simon son of Jonah, you are blessed because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father in heaven. (18)  And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the forces of Hades will not overpower it. (19)  I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth is already bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth is already loosed in heaven.”

We will address this passage first and then flow immediately into the next since their meanings are the same, though their applications are different.

In this passage the words bound and loose are used in reference to doctrine.

The meaning of the word doctrine is “the teaching or what should be believed”.  As such, the the concept of Binding and Loosening used in these passages are being used in a way which is culturally familiar to His Jewish disciples. It was the culturally derived phrase common among the rabbis of that day as I mentioned earlier in the article.

If read without study, it would be easy to conclude that Jesus is telling Peter that what constitutes sound doctrine is Peter’s decision to make. This is of course not so, and the setting of the statement as well as the grammar of the Greek make this clear.

As for the setting – Peter’s epiphany of Jesus as the Messiah was a revelation from God (or from heaven) of the most sound doctrine (teaching) of the Christian church. Jesus is the Son of God, Messiah and Lord! It is the foundation of all other doctrines. As such Jesus, in a play on words, renames Simon (whose name meant “hearing”) to Peter, which means “a large stone”. The play on words was “teaching” something. The revelation HEARD by Simon was the Rock or solid foundation upon which the Church would be established.

Paul eluded to this in his letter to the Corinthians when he said, “No other foundation can be laid than the one which has already been laid and that is Jesus Christ.

Peter himself also refers back to this encounter with Jesus when he said, “the rock which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone”.

ALL of this was a reference to Christ as Lord and Messiah. THAT is the foundational teaching of the church!

As to the grammar – the phrase used in verse 19 offers us some insight. Let’s consider the explanation of expositor and commentator Spiros Zodhiates,

“The interpretation of the word found in Matthew 16:19, “whatsoever [ho {G3739}, that which, the neut. sing. def. art.] thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven,” and in Matthew 18:18, “those things which” (a.t. [hósa {neut. pl. of hósos (G3745)}]). This means that we as believers on earth can only confirm what has already been decided in heaven. Heaven does not have to confirm our pronouncements. The use of the pl., which includes other believers, indicates that this was not an exclusive prerogative of Peter, “whatsoever ye [pl.] shall bind on earth . . . and whatsoever ye [pl.] shall loose.” The word “church” appears for the first time in Matthew 16:18 and, therefore, this authority the Lord Jesus gave to all His disciples was the necessary apostolic authority for the establishment of the truth in the church.”

Perhaps the most obvious and clear example of this is found in Acts 15. Ironically, the action alone is witnessed, since the words “binding and loosening” are NOT used there.

Paul and Barnabas had been ministering to the Gentile believers in Antioch when some teachers from Judea came there teaching the Gentiles that belief in Christ was not enough – they also HAD to be circumcised into the covenant.

Paul and Barnabas strongly disagreed with this teaching, but to settle the matter they returned to the council of Apostles and Elders in Jerusalem for clarity on what was “lawful and what was unlawful” to teach regarding this subject.

After much discussion and prayer the Holy Spirit spoke through Peter (the rock) that circumcision was not an obligation under the New Covenant and so the doctrine taught to the Gentiles was established or “declared lawful” while the teaching that circumcision was necessary was declared “unlawful”.

If you read this account for yourself, you will be witnessing an example of “binding & loosening” in practice as regards Christian doctrine. It is a passage which is of tremendous help regarding this topic. 

Now we flow immediately into our “sister passage” found in Matthew 18:18-20.

This is written within the context of church discipline regarding a sibling in Christ who has sinned against another. This brother has been confronted about it, yet remains unrepentant.

Matthew 18:18-20,“(18) I assure you: Whatever you bind on earth is already bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth is already loosed in heaven. (19)  Again, I assure you: If two of you on earth agree about any matter that you pray for, it will be done for you by My Father in heaven. (20) For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there among them.”

So the thing being declared as “bound” (or in this case unlawful) is the unrepentant brother.

As we read above, the grammar makes it clear that our decision and proclamation of lawful or unlawful only reflects and agrees with heavens.

Now, a brother being declared “unlawful” from heaven sounds dangerous, however, this does not mean the brother is lost. Rather it means that access to fellowship with God is off-limits until he seeks forgiveness for his sin against his brother.

This is in keeping with Jesus’ words in Matthew 5:23 where the offense is that of not forgiving your brother their offense. Jesus instructs such a person to not bring his gifts before God if he is not at peace with his brother. Instead he is to leave his gift at the altar and be restored in fellowship with his brother and then come before God. The idea in this passage is the same!

So here, we are instructed to back heaven’s declaration by not continuing in pretentious fellowship with a brother who is not walking in love but in sin and offense.

This same line of teaching appears throughout the book of 1John.  We are NOT supposed to be idle bystanders in the face of our brother’s sins. Rather we are encouraged to confront and judge the situation and the brother. I know this sounds contrary to much of the goofy doctrines taught in churches today, but one does not even have to look hard or far to find examples and exhortations along this line. In fact, Paul outright rebukes the Corinthian church for NOT passing judgment on one of their brothers who was living in know and unrepentant sexual sin.

Examples abound of this not just with Peter but with others as well and again for simplicity’s sake I will quote from Spiro’s excellent word studies,

“It was Peter who disciplined Ananias and Sapphira, and his decision received ratification from heaven (Acts 5:1-11). We have a similar experience with Paul in 1 Cor. 5 when discipline was needed. Paul said to the Corinthians that when they were assembled, and his spirit was present, with the power of the Lord Jesus, then the judgment of God would be made manifest in a practical way (1Cor. 5:3-5).” 

While this article is NOT about the misunderstood and mis-taught “prayer of agreement”, I believe you can see that the context here makes it clear that the subject of the prayer was one of church discipline. Notice that it only requires the presence of two or three gathered IN JESUS NAME. This is confirmed by Paul in the example I referenced earlier in 1Cor. 5. While I provide a few verses of it here I encourage the reader to go and study the whole passage in its context. 

“For though absent in body but present in spirit, I have already decided about him who has done this thing as though I were present.  (4) In the name of our Lord Jesus, when you are assembled, along with my spirit and with the power of our Lord Jesus, turn that one over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the Day of the Lord…I wrote to you in a letter not to associate with sexually immoral people–  (10) by no means referring to this world’s immoral people, or to the greedy and swindlers, or to idolaters; otherwise you would have to leave the world. (11) But now I am writing you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother who is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or a reviler, a drunkard or a swindler. Do not even eat with such a person.  (12) For what is it to me to judge outsiders? Do you not judge those who are inside? (13) But God judges outsiders. Put away the evil person from among yourselves.” – 1 Corinthians 5:3-5; 9-13.  

I really tried to be thorough with this article since SO MUCH is taught in error regarding these subjects of Binding and Loosening, Establishment of Sound Doctrine and Discipline in the Local Church.

I hope this answers some questions for you, but even more so that it serves to stir you to study it out for yourself.

Blessings! 

Hi my name is Mark and though I am opposed to titles, I am currently the only Pastor (shepherd/elder) serving our assembly right now.

I have been Pastoring in one capacity or another for nearly 30 years now, though never quite like I am today.

Early in 2009 the Lord revealed to me that the way we had structured our assembly (church) was not scriptural in that it was out of sync with what Paul modeled for us in the New Testament. In truth, I (like many pastors I am sure) never even gave this fundamental issue of church structure the first thought. I had always assumed that church structure was largely the same everywhere and had been so from the beginning. While I knew Paul had some very stringent things to say about the local assembly of believers, the point of our gatherings together and who may or may not lead, I never even considered studying these issues but assumed we were all pretty much doing it right...safety in numbers right?! Boy, I couldn't have been more wrong!

So needless to say, my discovery that we had been doing it wrong for nearly two decades was a bit of a shock to me! Now, this "revelation" that did not come about all at once but over the course of a few weeks. We were a traditional single pastor led congregation. It was a top-bottom model of ministry which is in part biblical, but not in the form of a monarchy.

The needed change did not come into focus until following 9 very intense months of study and discussions with those who were leaders in our church at the time.

We now understand and believe that the Bible teaches co-leadership with equal authority in each local assembly. Having multiple shepherds with God's heart and equal authority protects both Shepherds and sheep. Equal accountability keep authority and doctrine in check. Multiple shepherds also provides teaching with various styles and giftings with leadership skills which are both different and complementary.

For a while we had two co-pastors (elders) (myself and one other man) who led the church with equal authority, but different giftings. We both taught in our own ways and styles, and our leadership skills were quite different, but complimentary. We were in complete submission to each other and worked side-by-side in the labor of shepherding the flock.

Our other Pastor has since moved on to other ministry which has left us with just myself. While we currently only have one Pastor/Elder, it is our desire that God, in His faithfulness and timing, may bring us more as we grow in maturity and even in numbers.

As to my home, I have been married since 1995 to my wonderful wife Terissa Woodson who is my closest friend and most trusted ally.

As far as my education goes, I grew up in a Christian home, but questioned everything I was ever taught.

I graduated from Bible college in 1990 and continued to question everything I was ever taught (I do not mention my college in order to avoid being labeled).

Perhaps my greatest preparation for ministry has been life and ministry itself. To quote an author I have come to enjoy namely Fredrick Buechner in his writing entitled, Now and Then, "If God speaks to us at all other than through such official channels as the Bible and the church, then I think that He speaks to us largely through what happens to us...if we keep our hearts open as well as our ears, if we listen with patience and hope, if we remember at all deeply and honestly, then I think we come to recognize beyond all doubt, that, however faintly we may hear Him, He is indeed speaking to us, and that, however little we may understand of it, His word to each of us is both recoverable and precious beyond telling." ~ Fredrick Buechner

Well that is about all there is of interest to tell you about me.

I hope our ministry here is a blessing to you and your family. I also hope that it is only a supplement to a local church where you are committed to other believers in a community of grace.

~God Bless!