I’ve invited several people to write “guest blog posts” for this blog. There are several reasons for this: 1) To offer different perspectives. 2) To generate even more discussion and conversation between blogs. 3) To introduce other bloggers to my readers.
(If you are interested in writing a guest blog post, please contact me at aknox[at]sebts[dot]com.)
Today’s post was written by Jan Willem van Borselen. You can contact Jan via email at WhatsInScripture [at] gmail [dot] com.
I enjoyed what Alan wrote about authority in the church. About two years ago I reached the same conclusion that the fact that Paul directed most of his letters at the churches and not at specific leaders, is very telling about how he viewed where authority in the church was placed: not with the “leadership” but within the community as a whole.
I also made, for me, a startling discovery that Jesus was addressing this in his teaching on the matter of binding and loosing. Having a charismatic background I heard a lot of teaching that didn’t do justice to what Jesus was really saying here.
In the Jewish Encyclopedia I found the following:
Binding and loosing
Rabbinical term for “forbidding and permitting”… The power of binding and loosing was always claimed by the Pharisees. Under Queen Alexandra, the Pharisees, says Josephus, “became the administrators of all public affairs so as to be empowered to banish and readmit whom they pleased, as well as to loose and to bind.” This does not mean that, as the learned men, they merely decided what, according to the Law, was forbidden or allowed, but that they possessed and exercised the power of tying or untying a thing by the spell of their divine authority, just as they could, by the power vested in them, pronounce and revoke an anathema upon a person.
This power and authority, vested in the rabbinical body of each age or in the Sanhedrin, received its ratification and final sanction from the celestial court of justice.
The terms were in those days apparently closely associate with leaders exercising authority over other people, and not, as I was taught, with exercising authority over demons or situations.
Keeping this in mind while reading the following passage:
If your brother wrongs you, go and show him his fault, between you and him privately. If he listens to you, you have won back your brother. But if he does not listen, take along with you one or two others, so that every word may be confirmed and upheld by the testimony of two or three witnesses. If he pays no attention to them [refusing to listen and obey], tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a pagan and a tax collector. Truly I tell you, whatever you forbid and declare to be improper and unlawful on earth must be what is already forbidden in heaven, and whatever you permit and declare proper and lawful on earth must be what is already permitted in heaven. Again I tell you, if two of you on earth agree (harmonize together, make a symphony together) about whatever [anything and everything] they may ask, it will come to pass and be done for them by My Father in heaven. For wherever two or three are gathered (drawn together as My followers) in (into) My name, there I AM in the midst of them. (Matthew 18:15-20)
It stands out that Jesus turned this concept, as described by Josephus, completely upside down: The authority to make decisions no longer was placed in the hands of the leadership but among the common people meeting even in groups as small of two or three, experiencing the fellowship with the one who has all authority. Likewise, dealing with a sinner was no longer the responsibility of leaders but in the first place the responsibility of brothers around him or her. The final decision to expel someone was to be done by the whole assembly and not by a leader or the leadership. We can see that Paul followed this same principle when he wrote:
So when you are assembled and I am with you in spirit, and the power of our Lord Jesus is present, hand this man over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved on the day of the Lord. (1 Corinthians 5:4-5)
What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside. “Expel the wicked person from among you.” (1 Corinthians 5:12-13)
He addressed the assembly as a whole and not a specific leader.
In this teaching about binding and loosing Jesus completely leaves out the role of leaders even though this was exactly what was considered an important part of their role. For the people who have been raised in a society that was to a high degree controlled by the Sanhedrin, this must have been a shocking statement. For the leaders this must have been a severe threat to their position.
Maybe you already knew this but for me it was new and never heard it explained in this way.
Jan Willem van Borselen