(This article is worth reading in full in Alliance World Fellowship; website details given below.)
The concept of binding and loosing spiritual powers is considered by writers such as John MacArthur and Hank Hanegraaff as false doctrine promulgated by the charismatic and faith movements. They do expose misuse of binding and loosing by giving clear illustrations of abuse. We do want to make clear that we do not endorse teachings of some leaders of the modern faith movement that believers can control or command God, or that we can arbitrarily bind and loose anything, or that all problems can be dismissed by binding Satan. However, as demonstrated in the article, “A.B. Simpson and the Modern Faith Movement,” just as with other classic teachings on faith which have been misused, we must be careful not to “throw out the baby with the bathwater,” that is, to regard as invalid any use of the binding and loosing concept in regard to controlling spiritual powers.
Research demonstrates that it is not only an idea rooted in both the Old and New Testaments, but that binding and loosing in regard to the powers was practiced frequently in Jesus’ day, and that it was taught by early church fathers as well. Further, it cannot simply be dismissed as false charismatic or faith teaching, for, as will be shown, many non-charismatic evangelicals also advocate binding and loosing. This study traces the loss and restoration of the doctrine of binding and loosing in the contemporary Church.
The usual argument against the application of binding and loosing to confronting supernatural powers, as advanced by Hanegraaff, is that the context of Matthew 18:18 is ecclesiastical discipline, not dealing with demons. However, many evangelical leaders and scholars recognize that while the primary application in Matthew 18 is discipline, the concept of binding and loosing, in the words of G. Campbell Morgan, “have much wider application than the application Jesus made of them at this point. We are perfectly justified in lifting them out of their setting and using them over a wider area of thought.” The many godly, evangelical leaders who through the centuries have taught and practiced binding and loosing with supernatural results should not be ignored or dismissed.
Binding and Loosing in the Church Fathers
For example, binding Satan was a part of the exorcistic process as early as the third century and was commonly carried out before a catechumen was baptized.The practice of deliverance by its very nature and etymology involves binding, as Anglican exorcist Elijah White explains:
The Greek root exorkidzo means “to bind or charge with an oath” with semantic overtones from the classical Greek exoridzo, “to banish, to send beyond the frontier.” The Church Fathers found these terms more authoritative and more descriptive of what actually happens during an exorcism. . . . In a properly conducted exorcism, the demon is first bound by the power of Christ, and then cast out under orders to harm no one present and to depart to the place appointed for it, there to remain forever.
Though the terms “bind” and “loose” are not frequently used among the early church fathers, the concept is inherent in the use of the more frequent term “exorcism.” Rather than speaking of binding and loosing as separate acts, they viewed both as a part of the exorcistic process.
Nevertheless, several church fathers do make reference to binding and loosing as the believer’s authority over supernatural forces. Origen, in his commentary on Matthew, asserted that the promise given to Peter “[is] not restricted to him, but applicable to all disciples like him.” He associates Matthew 16:18-19 with Ephesians 6:12 in the light of spiritual warfare:
You can say that each power and world-ruler of this darkness, and each one of the “spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places” is a gate of Hades and a gate of death. Let, then, the principalities and powers with which our wrestling is, be called gates of Hades, but the “ministering spirits” gates of righteousness.
Augustine equates the binding of Satan in Matthew 12:29 with Matthew 18:18 and affirms that the Church has the authority of binding and loosing through those who govern. Contrary to some of amillennial persuasion who would claim that Christ bound Satan once for all, Augustine uses the present tense in referring to Matthew 12:29, saying that “He who binds the strong man, taketh away his goods, and maketh them His own goods,” indicating, along with another church father, Methodius, that Christ is still binding the strong man. So he views the binding of Satan by Christ as something which has been accomplished through Jesus’ invasion of Satan’s territory on earth, but that there are also continuing acts of binding by the Church.
Chrysostom, a contemporary of Augustine, considers it an authority that is exercised by priests, but he also presupposes the authority of the believer, because in his sermons he exhorts lay people to exercise their spiritual authority by binding and loosing:
Despise thine own concerns, and thou wilt receive those of God. This He Himself wills. Despise earth, and seize upon the kingdom of heaven. Dwell there, not here. Be formidable there, not here. If thou art formidable there, thou wilt be formidable not to men, but to demons, and even to the devil himself. . . . Such were the Apostles, despising servile houses and worldly wealth! And see how they commanded in the affairs of their Master. “Let one,” they said, “be delivered from disease, another from the possession of devils: bind this man, and loose that.” This was done by them on earth, but it was fulfilled as in Heaven.
In this sermon, Chrysostom relates binding and loosing to dealing with the powers and disease. To Chrysostom, the authority of binding and loosing is a real spiritual action, in which “this binding lays hold of the soul and penetrates the heavens.”
Fourth-century leader Cyril, too, believed that binding and loosing dealt with spiritual warfare. Making reference to Matthew 18:18-20, he speaks of launching “the weapon of their concord in prayer.” He evidently viewed this pericope of Scripture as relating to warfare prayer against demoniacal spirits. Cyril also refers to Peter bearing the keys of the kingdom of heaven when he healed Aeneas, raised Tabitha (Dorcas) from the dead and saw heaven opened in a trance.
Loss of the Believer’s Authority of Binding and Loosing
By the time of Leo the Great (fifth century) and Gregory the Great (sixth century), Peter was viewed as the Rock and the power of binding and loosing was conveyed through the apostolic office of Peter. (The Roman Catholic Church)Leo still recognized that the exercise of the authority of binding and loosing is a faith that “conquers the devil, and breaks the bonds of his prisoners. It uproots us from this earth and plants us in heaven, and the gates of Hades cannot prevail against it.”However, he limits that power to the formal priesthood. Later documents purporting papal authority relegate binding and loosing to ecclesiastical discipline by bishops and popes. Thus, during the Middle Ages, binding and loosing became institutionalized and formalized in the Roman Catholic Church and relegated to the authority of priests or bishops in legislative and judicial decisions, retaining or remitting sins and in the ritual of exorcism. The authority of the believer had been lost to the Church as a whole.
Martin Luther and the Reformation brought a restoration of belief in the priesthood of the believer, but in discarding the structures and traditions of Roman Catholicism, Luther did not recognize the authority of binding and loosing supernatural forces. He understood binding and loosing more narrowly in terms of retaining or forgiving sins, though he does declare it is the prerogative of the Church, not just priests and bishops. Luther believed in the reality of the powers, but unlike the early Church fathers mentioned earlier, he did not believe in direct exorcism or commanding of evil spirits.While he did believe satanic forces could be overcome by prayer, faith and the preached Word, his more passive understanding of the priesthood of all believers and indirect view of confronting spiritual forces weakened the full exercise of the believer’s authority.
Also in the Reformation period, Menno Simons and Huldrych Zwingli exhibited the beginnings of recovering the authority of binding and loosing when they questioned the application of Matthew 16:19 and 18:18 to bishops only; but they, too, failed to grasp the authority of binding and loosing in regard to supernatural forces. John Calvin also believed in the reality of the counter kingdom, but forbade the ancient practice of exorcism at baptism, emphasizing instead overcoming the powers by prayer, faith and putting on the full armor of God. Menno Simons also opposed exorcism prior to baptism, but for a different reason—its connection with infant baptism. After the Reformation some German Lutheran churches retained the exorcistic rite while others eliminated it, and still others, like Spener, made it optional.Koch comments, “Rationalism then did away with exorcism. From this time it disappeared from the liturgy.” The common practice and belief in Reformed churches up until the end of the nineteenth century appears to negate use of direct spiritual authority in exorcism.
The failure by these reformers to recognize the authority of the believer was, in effect, the error of not seeing the baby in the bathwater. Professor Timothy Warner asserts, “The elimination of the renunciation of the devil by baptismal candidates is another reflection of the Western worldview with its lack of a functional view of demons.” Nevertheless, they did have some measure of success at curbing the power of satanic forces. Because they did exercise persevering prayer and faith, God honored their prayers in spite of their ignorance of the believer’s authority.
Another reason for the passive view of the believer’s authority of binding and loosing during the time of the Reformation was the amillenial interpretation of the binding of Satan in Revelation 20. Amillennialists believe this Scripture means that Satan, the strong man, was bound by Christ’s life and death, and consequently, is bound in this present age. So while there may be some limited satanic activity, there is no great need for the exercise of binding and loosing since according to that theology he has already been bound.
A third factor was that seventeenth-century scholarship, such as John Lightfoot and others, began to interpret binding and loosing in the later rabbinic terms as forbidding and allowing, further watering down the supernatural dimension of the doctrine. It was not until late in the nineteenth century that scholars began to acknowledge the parallels with supernatural binding and loosing in Jewish and pagan literature.
Restoration of the Authority of Binding and Loosing
The foundation for this recovery was laid in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Notably, Jacob Spener and the German Lutheran Pietist movement emphasized the recovery of the priesthood of the believer.The seventeenth century German mystic who impacted the Wesleys and Whitefield showed insight into the authority of the believer when he declared that we can take command over the unruly forces of our nature and “bind up our natural inclinations.” The Wesleyan Revival, influenced also by Pietism, and its descendants the Moravians, continued to bring about a greater awareness of the authority of the believer as Wesley himself engaged in exorcisms upon occasion when evil spirits manifested themselves.
PAUL L KING
(The rest of this well-researched document may be seen at http://awf.world/consult/the-restoration-of-the-doctrine-of-binding-and-loosing/ It is worth reading in full. It has a detailed bibliography. The present day Charismatic Movement and the earlier Pentecostal Movement have corrupted this doctrine. We need to understand that unless we are living holy lives, obedient to God’s will and submissive to the Holy Spirit, we cannot overcome Satan and his wicked devices. Yes, the believer can bind the strong man (Satan, his evil forces), but he himself must be ‘walking worthy of the Lord’ and ‘humbling himself under the mighty hand of God’. Furthermore, the New Testament church (i.e two or three gathered in His name’, Matt 18.18,19) has this authority. Denominationalism and individualism are strongly decried. The Pentecostals and Charismatics have made ‘binding and loosing’ (and ‘exorcism’) a kind of ‘technique’ (indulging in ‘showmanship’ and sensationalism); as a result the believer’s authority over Satan is lost (read Rom 16.20, Luke 10.19, etc). The Charismatic church and the denominational churches, having abandoned sound doctrine and complete reliance on the Bible, the Word of God, has been invaded by evil spirits. Less said about the apostate Roman Catholic church the better.