If you read the following verses of scripture from Matthew 18, with what area of the Christian life do you normally associate them?
“Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”
Did you think of prayer or spiritual warfare? That’s most often the context in which these verses of scripture are used. I suspect that I’ve heard these verses used to establish our abilities and authority to accomplish, through prayer, great and might things for God’s Kingdom.
Sounds good, right? Well, here’s the problem and the subject that I want you to think about today.
The context in which Jesus was speaking when he said these things has nothing to do with either prayer or spiritual warfare.
There are powerful verses that establish what prayer can do, these just aren’t them.
The problem is one of context. Context, that cardinal rule of biblical interpretation. Keeping the Bible in it’s original context is what most theologians consider the most important step in assuring that what we are hearing is what God is actually saying and not just something we want to hear.
How do you establish the context of a verse of scripture?
Look at the entire passage, perhaps the entire chapter or even sometimes the entire book. See what it is that the speaker is talking about. In the above verses Jesus is speaking about how to deal with a brother who has sinned against you and the powerful negative affect upon him, both on this earth and in heaven, should he refuse to be reconciled.
The issue is two-fold when we take scripture out of it’s context.
We add meaning that has no biblical authority and in so doing we can find ourselves confused and disillusioned when it seems as if God is not being true to His word, and we miss what may be a powerful truth found in the actual “in-context” meaning of the scriptures. Such is the case with the above verses.
Have you ever considered that to refuse reconciliation with a brother who comes desiring it might put you in a place where you are bound on both earth and heaven? Can you see in the entire eighteenth chapter that the message is the same? Do you feel the eternal importance of unity, grace, and bold forgiveness that Jesus spoke of? Keep these verses in context and there is a powerful message that you will miss if you twist that context.