Have you ever thought about your authority in Christ and what happens when you don't use it? In Matthew 16:13-19 Jesus asks the disciples who people think he is. Peter responded by saying, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus was so pleased by Peter's answer that he said, "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven.” And ever since that time this verse has been a source of confusion for many in regards to Peter and his authority within the church. Although Peter’s name in Greek means rock, Jesus was not saying that His church would be built on Peter. He was saying that the truth of what Peter had just revealed, that Jesus was the Son of the living God, is the rock upon which His church would be built. This unshakeable foundation, that Jesus is the Messiah, is what holds and binds the church together.
The translation of some of the words in Matthew 16:13-19 from English to Greek gives credence to this theory.
Even the Apostle Paul agreed that Jesus was the Rock when he said in 1 Corinthians 10:1-4, “For I do not want you to be ignorant of the fact, brothers, that our forefathers were all under the cloud and that they all passed through the sea. They were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea. They all ate the same spiritual food and drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ” (Emphasis mine).
Catholicism suggests only Peter had the power and authority to bind and loose, so the power to “bind” and “loose” was passed down from him to each Pope throughout history, as were the keys to the kingdom (in that the Pope alone is in charge of the church). But Scripture does not indicate this at all. And I fear that many evangelical Christians have taken the meaning behind to bind and loose out of context as well.
As followers of Christ, we have all been called to preach the gospel to the ends of the earth. If we are silent, we keep those who are “slaves to sin” in bondage. Effectively "binding" them or keeping them in their sin. If we do not share the gospel of Jesus Christ, we are shutting the door of heaven in the faces of those we meet each day. However, if we are diligent in sharing the Gospel we will see many come to Jesus. They will be "loosed" from their bonds and enter through the gates of heaven, cleansed, forgiven, and saved for all eternity. The keys to the kingdom of heaven therefore, are found in the saving grace of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, but are not used unless we "turn the key" so to speak. They are not dependant upon Peter or the Pope. They are however dependent upon whether or not you will choose to open your mouth. You may be someone Jesus chooses to use today to speak to someone still in bondage. How will you respond? Will you keep them bound or set them free?
As Christians, we have always been aware that we alone must spread the saving message of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Yet it becomes more urgent when we realize that by not speaking up, we risk condemning someone to eternal damnation. At the same time, by speaking up, we have opened the gates of heaven to them. Think about it. If Jesus is building His church on the firm foundation that He is the Messiah, it is easy to see why the gates of Hades will not overcome that belief. This verse is not about Peter at all, but about Peter's belief that Jesus is the Messiah.
The keys of the kingdom of heaven therefore, are in the hands of all who call themselves disciples of Jesus. How will you use them?