And I will give to you the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatever you shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven…
It is necessary to understand the Eastern associations which help to explain our Lord's figure of the "keys." The key in the East was a symbol of authority; it was made long, with a crook at one end, so that it could be worn round the neck as a badge of office. To "confer a key" was a phrase equivalent to bestowing a situation of great trust and distinction. The expressions "binding" and "loosing" are figurative expressions, which were in familiar use in the rabbinical schools. "The school of Shammai bound men when it declared this or that act to be a transgression of the sabbath law. The school of Hillel loosed when it set men free from the obligations thus imposed." It should be borne in mind that this passage is a part of Christ's private teaching of the apostles. He was feeling that his own active work was nearly done, and very soon the work of saving men would rest on them. He would prepare them to understand their coming responsibilities; and he would assure them of their competent endowment to meet those responsibilities.
I. THEY WOULD HAVE SERIOUS AND AUTHORITATIVE WORK TO DO. It is remarkable that Jesus never attempted any organization of those who professed to believe in him. But he contemplated that his apostles would have to organize the converts they made. They could not help occupying a position of authority. They would be consulted on doctrines; on the application of doctrines to practical life and conduct; they would have to deal with inconsistent disciples. What they would have to do was illustrated in the case of Ananias and Sapphira, and in the admission of Cornelius. Their Lord would prepare them for undertaking those responsibilities.
II. THEY WOULD HAVE SPECIAL ENDOWMENTS FOR THEIR SPECIAL WORK. That is God's law. He makes the gift fit the service that is called for. Among the gifts in the early Church one is named "governments." That is the gift with which they were endowed. And this distinction needs to be made clear. Their gift came, not because they were apostles, but because this particular work was entrusted to them. Gifts are not possessions or rights; they are trusts; and all the honour of them lies in being thus trusted.
III. THEY WOULD HAVE SPECIAL DIVINE RECOGNITION IN THEIR WORK. What they did, in the loyal and faithful use of their gifts of government, would be owned and sealed by God. Illustrate by the Divine judgment on Ananias, following on Peter's condemnation of him; and the Spirit following Cornelius' admission. - R.T.
Parallel VersesKJV: And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.