Wednesday, September 08, 2004

The Authority of the Keys

Isaiah 22:20-23
In that day I will call my servant Eliakim the son of Hilkiah, and I will clothe him with your robe, and will bind your girdle on him, and will commit your authority to his hand; and he shall be a father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem and to the house of Judah. And I will place on his shoulder the key of the house of David; he shall open, and none shall shut; and he shall shut, and none shall open. And I will fasten him like a peg in a sure place, and he will become a throne of honor to his father's house.
In the Old Testament, the key represents an authoritative office in the king's palace. He who held the key represented the king and acted with the king's authority. Here, a day is described when Eliakim will succeed Shebna, the master of the palace, and Eliakim will be given the key of the house of David. The language of opening and shutting, or in other words, binding and loosing refers to one who can authoritatively declare an act forbidden or permissible.

Not surprisingly, we see this same language and imagery used in the Gospel of Matthew 16:17-19 with reference to the Apostle Peter:
And Jesus answered him, "Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jona! 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 powers of death 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."
In light of the passage from Isaiah, Christ, the King of Kings, bestows an authoritative office on Peter, represented by the keys. He who holds the keys of the kingdom of heaven acts with the authority of heaven to teach and govern and guide. Along with the powerful key imagery, Christ also uses the language of binding and loosing, which in this context can be taken to mean the ability to teach authoritatively. The authority of binding and loosing is also given to the other apostles in the same Gospel in 18:15-18:
If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. 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.
From the context of the verse, this may be understood to be the ability to excommunicate, that is, to declare one outside of the community. However, the office and authority granted with the keys belongs to Peter and to those who succeed him in his office.

No comments:


Related Posts with Thumbnails