Did Peter have the keys to the Kingdom?

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Did Jesus give Peter the keys to the kingdom of heaven? Catholics claim that he and the other eleven apostles received the power to make decisions affecting others, or even the church, that God in heaven would enforce no matter what. Has God ever given any human the authority to make decrees He will always uphold? Would he uphold any decision even if it were against what the Bible taught?

The justification for the Papacy's power is found within its emblem, which are two keys that cross each other. They symbolize the "binding and loosing" authority Catholics believe the Lord gave to them. Surprisingly, Catholics base their perceived power given them over the Kingdom of God on just two Biblical passages.

And I also say to you that you are Peter . . . AND I WILL GIVE YOU THE KEYS OF THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN . . .

Assuredly, I say to you (Jesus was speaking to ALL the disciples - verse 1) , whatever you BIND on earth (represented in the Papacy's emblem as a red ribbon tied around two keys) will be BOUND in heaven, and whatever you LOOSE on earth will be LOOSED in heaven (Matthew 16:18 - 19, 18:18)

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A closer look at the original Greek text from which the above verses are translated from, however, shows that the Catholic Church's teaching on this subject is not based on the Bible! The book "Basics of Biblical Greek Grammar" by William Mounce states that what seems to be a unilateral binding and loosening power given to the disciples is something different.

Holy See Coat of Arms
Holy See Coat of Arms
showing keys of Peter

. . . the actions described in heaven are future perfect passives - (a better translation of which would be) 'will have already been bound in heaven' . . . the heavenly decree (by God) confirming the earthly one (made by the disciples) is based on a prior verdict (Page 121)

This means God did not give any 'keys' to the first century disciples and did not promise to back all decisions made by them even if they were against his will. Rather, if the disciples decided something based on what God had already decreed or that was already in his will, he would back the decision.

A good way to think about this teaching is through the example of a Judge. The job of the average modern Judge is to use existing laws and previous decisions (precedence) as a base from which a decision can be made in a particular case. Their job is not to create laws or make decisions that totally contradict existing rules of law. God backed the disciples if a decision was based on his already existing laws, commandments, statutes, and judgments. If a decision was not based on what God had already commanded (precedence), He was under no obligation to enforce a decision!

What authority did Jesus give?

The Bible truth is that Christ did not endow any of his followers with the unilateral power to make decisions that are binding on others, especially those against scripture, as if they were ruling God's kingdom on earth. Jesus specifically stated that his Father's laws were not abolished. Rather, God's words in the Law, Prophets or Psalms are still the standard by which any decision must be judged against (see Matthew 5:17 - 19).

Whatever is decided within the church cannot be contradictory to God's commandments. As Matthew 5 states, those who break the commandments and teach others to do so as well are the least! Jesus, however, DID give the disciples the power to release people from the sometimes silly religious traditions others taught that were not supported in the Bible (see Mark 7:1 - 13, etc.).

Any fellowship, church or denomination that, in its decisions, endorses sin, is doing so against what the Bible teaches and against God's will. Such sinful decisions are nothing more than man's inventions and are not backed in heaven above.

God has never given a single human, not even Peter, or a single church, the 'keys to the kingdom.' No human has the sole authority to make decisions for all. Any decision made by those in the church has to be in harmony with the Bible.

Among the list of decisions God has specifically stated he will NOT honor or uphold no matter who on earth makes them includes leading people to worship pagan gods or endorsing the worship of idols (Exodus 20:2 - 6, 1Corinthians 10:14, 20 - 21, etc.). He will also not uphold any decision that adds or takes away from his Word (Deuteronomy 12:30 - 32, Revelation 22:18 - 19), supports the worship of dead saints (Isaiah 8:19 - 20), or adopts pagan worship practices and holidays (e.g. worship on Sunday, Christmas, Easter, etc.).

The true keys

The true meaning of the phrase 'keys of the kingdom' means that ALL those who serve God have the ability to share the truth with others and spread the gospel. Repentance and conversion, along with living a life as an obedient and faithful Christian, opens the door to eternal salvation.

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