Who is following who?

by Barry Newton

Whether on the basketball court or in the work place, knowing who wields authority provides clarity and prevents confusion. After all, we recognize a huge difference between a coach or boss barking orders versus the pontifications of a water boy or a messenger boy.

While we know whose statements are binding in those situations, there is another environment where confusion persists. Generally speaking, your average person will concede that people are supposed to do God’s bidding. However, because of Matthew 16:19 and 18:18, some believe heaven will follow Peter’s bidding as well as the determinations of two or more Christians. So, who is supposed to follow who?

At first glance, this unlikely conclusion seems correct, “Whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” Since these words were spoken to Peter and to Jesus’ disciples, it would appear that heaven is conceding to trot behind humanity’s wishes.

However, a closer and more technical look at these verses reveals a very different story. The critical Greek verbs in these sentences have often been mistranslated thereby lacking the future perfect passive force they actually deserve. As Greek Grammarians such as A.T. Robertson have noted, “will have been” is the proper translation for this particular verb construction.

Accordingly the translation should read in both Matthew 16:19 and Matthew 18:18, “Whatever you bind on earth will have been bound in heaven and whatever you loose on earth will have been loosed in heaven.” Thankfully, both the NASB and NET translations get this right.

Jesus’ message is clear. Peter and the disciples are to ratify on earth what heaven has already determined. We are to follow God’s voice to enforce heaven’s guidelines, not blaze our own self-determined trail.

Confusion can result whenever we do not know who is supposed to be following who.

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