Tag Archives: church leaders

What Did Jesus Mean When He Gave Peter the “Keys of the Kingdom”?

After Jesus had declared that He would build His church on the truth of Peter’s noble confession, He went on to say, “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven” ( Matthew 16:19 ). Later, addressing all the disciples, our Lord repeated the words, “Whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven” ( Matthew 18:18 ).

Jesus gave Peter “the keys of the kingdom of heaven,” not the keys to heaven.1 A key was a badge of authority ( Luke 11:52 ), and then as now was used to open doors. Peter used the keys Christ gave him to open the door to the Jews on the Day of Pentecost ( Acts 2 ), to the Samaritans after the preaching of Philip ( Acts 8:14-17 ), and to the Gentiles after the Lord had sent him a vision and an appeal from Cornelius ( Acts 10 ).

The concept of “binding and loosing” found in Matthew 16:19 and Matthew 18:18 was commonly used among the Jewish people in relation to the authority of the rabbis to forbid and permit certain practices. Jesus gave Peter and the apostles authority over both the doctrine and practices of the first-century church. Through the leading of the Holy Spirit, they would be given wisdom to know what to forbid and what to permit.

This authority, not on exactly the same level as during the apostolic era, still resides in the leaders of the local church. They may not receive the same kind of supernatural guidance as the apostles did,but they possess the entire New Testament along with the direction of the Holy Spirit. 2 Therefore, when church leaders discipline a church member who promotes incorrect doctrine or is involved in evil behavior, they act with divine approval. They are carrying out God’s will, and what they do is ratified in heaven. Since their authority is not ultimately derived from their personal qualities or their office but from Scripture and the instruction of the Holy Spirit, they should exercise it humbly and prayerfully.

  1. The two expressions “kingdom of God” and “kingdom of heaven” actually have the same basic meaning. They should be understood within the context of the passages in which they are found. They can be used in a number of ways. They can refer to the universal sense of the entire creation, which is ultimately under the control of God. They can refer the mediatorial kingdom of Jesus Christ, which will come into being when Jesus returns triumphantly to reign directly over the earth. And, finally, they can refer to the kingdom of God, which is already present in the hearts of believers who have yielded themselves to Jesus Christ as Lord. Hebrews 12:22-24 expresses the reality of God’s present kingdom:
    “You have come to Mount Zion, to the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the judge of all men, to the spirits of righteous men made perfect, to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.” Back To Article
  2. The authority of the apostles and their chosen successors was basic to the survival of the early church. However, after centuries passed and the canon of Scripture along with the doctrinal foundation of the church had become firmly established, it was necessary to return to the Scriptures themselves as the primary source of authority. Back To Article
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Does the Bible Permit Divorced Persons to Serve as Church Leaders?

Bible students differ in their interpretation of 1 Timothy 3:2 and 1 Timothy 3:12 . In Greek, the expression translated in the Authorized Version “husband of one wife” actually reads “one-woman man.” Some pastors believe this passage teaches that a man who has been divorced or widowed and subsequently remarried should not be allowed to serve as an elder or as a deacon.

Others believe that marriage is an actual requirement for a man if he is to serve as a deacon or an elder. Still others allow a remarried widower or a single man to serve as a deacon or an elder but believe that this passage bars a man from serving in these roles if he has been divorced and remarried.

Because of the wide range of possible interpretations of the “one-woman man” criterion, it’s important to view it in the context of the other New Testament standards for the selection of church leaders. In addition to being a “one-woman man” (husband of one wife), 1 Timothy 3:2-7 lists all of the following qualifications:

  • blameless
  • temperate
  • self-controlled
  • respectable
  • hospitable
  • an apt teacher (teachable)
  • not given to drunkenness
  • gentle
  • not quarrelsome
  • not greedy or covetous
  • a good manager of his household and children
  • a seasoned believer
  • a good reputation with outsiders

A reasonable interpretation of “one-woman man” is one that is in agreement with the other criteria.

Jesus named adultery the only basis for divorce and remarriage( Matthew 5:32 ; Mark 10:11 ). What if a man were divorced prior to his conversion? Would the “one-woman man” requirement forever exclude him from church leadership, while a converted murderer or embezzler would be eligible? What if a Christian man and his children were abandoned by an unfaithful wife, in spite of his extraordinary efforts to preserve their marriage? If he has biblical grounds for divorce and remarriage, consequently remarries, and meets all of the other leadership standards in the view of his church, would his divorce and remarriage permanently exclude him from a position of leadership?

The key point in interpreting the “one-woman man” standard is that when a single qualification can be reasonably interpreted in a variety of ways, it becomes necessary to understand it in the light of the entire list of qualifications. If a local congregation knows that a man’s divorce had truly biblical grounds and considers him “blameless” and well-qualified upon the basis of all the other criteria, they may consider him a “one-woman man” even though remarried.

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