Summary: Binding and loosing have served to divide many of the saints of God. What did Jesus mean by "the Keys of the Kingdom of Heaven?" The questions seek an answer.
“When Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, ‘Who do people say that the Son of Man is?’ And they said, ‘Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.’ He said to them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’ Simon Peter replied, ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.’ And Jesus answered him, ‘Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.’”
The responsibility of Christians to seek church membership is a woefully neglected teaching; consequently, membership in the local congregation is a neglected practise among evangelical churches. Perhaps this situation results from an exaggerated emphasis on individuality within contemporary culture. Regrettably, the greater our emphases upon individuality, the more individuals appear to have been mass-produced. Despite the popularity of avowing individual uniqueness, we seem often to gravitate toward a bland homogenisation that ensures a dull sameness throughout society. However, I suspect that church membership is not practised because preachers neglect to provide a biblical foundation for the doctrine.
Does Christ expect His people to “join” a church? Or does God add to a church? Are people automatically members of a great, universal church because of the new birth? Should Christians deliberately unite with a local congregation where God appoints them? Is the church a political organisation? Or is the church a dynamic, living organism? These are serious questions that should occupy the attention of each Christian.
I contend that church membership is not only biblical; it is anticipated and expected of each one who names the Name of Christ the Lord. In the local congregation, individual believers are expected to fulfil Christ’s mandate to worship, to evangelise, and to build believers through investment of spiritual gifts given to each saint.
A church adhering to the New Testament model is to be composed only of people who are twice born—infants and the unsaved are not to be admitted into congregational membership. Perhaps it is more accurate to state that God adds to the church instead of saying that people join a church. We dare not coerce people into uniting with the church; but rather people are invited and encouraged to declare openly their union with the people of God. Those entering into the church are expected to accept joyfully the responsibility to fulfil ministries assigned by the Spirit who appoints each of us to the congregation.
Uniting with a congregation, a Christians demonstrates acceptance of Christ’s appointment. Today, we are exploring church membership at greater length through consideration of Jesus’ words as recorded in Matthew’s Gospel. It is not merely listing one’s name on a church roll that is in view, but rather the focus is accepting responsibility as Christians to participate in the ongoing work of building the Kingdom of God.