Blog » The Keys of the Kingdom

  • Mar 19th, 2015 at 11:36 AM (CST)
  • By PD
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There is a lot of confusion in Christian cricles regarding what is known technically among theologians as "the Office of the Keys," which is based primarily upon a passage in Matthew 16:13-20, where Peter confesses Jesus as the Christ (Messiah). Jesus tells Peter (who's name means rock; think of a guy named Rocky) that he is blessed because that confession was revealed by the Father in Heaven. Using a play on words, Jesus then tells him, "You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church." Jesus also says he will give Peter the "keys of the kingdom of Heaven," and whatever is "loosed" will be loosed in Heaven, and whatever is "bound" will be bound in Heaven.

What does it all mean? To the Roman church, Peter is the first pope and the power of the Keys, the power to forgive ("loose") or not forgive ("bind") is given only to the succession of priests from Peter. To Protestants this passage does not suggest that Jesus founded the church upon a person, but rather a confession, "You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God." Two things are pertinent, one in the immediate context of the passage, and another in the wider context.

First, in the immediate context, just after this incident Peter unwittingly attempts to blockade the very plan of the Father to have Jesus be our sacrifice for sin by dying on the cross! When Jesus begins to teach his followers that he must suffer, be killed and raised to life again, Peter corrects him! This is the moment when Jesus famously rebukes Peter, "Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men (see v.21-23)." I believe this happened precisely to show that Jesus would never found his church upon a mere human. The confession of Jesus as the Son of God, the Christ, is rock solid, but people are inherently sinful, and any attempt to build something eternal on them is like building a house on sandy soil.

In the wider context we see that all Jesus' followers were granted the Keys of the Kingdom! Just two chapters later we see Jesus repeating the same words he told Peter, but this time speaking to the group (18:15-18). The intent is clear, that any believer has the capacity to pronounce forgiveness of sins in Jesus' name. The power of forgiveness, the ability to open the Kingdom of Heaven, resides not with a special class of Christians, but with all Christians.

Recently I received a beautiful illustration of the Office of the Keys and its significance. A missionary friend named Tim, who ministers in Costa Rica, told about a padlock his father used and gave to him. Tim explains, "There was a True Value Hardware down the way from where he used to live. He loved locks and keys so he picked up a spare key for an extra Master brand lock he had and gave it to me about 15 years ago. The spare key still had a price tag on it - $1.00 - written by hand. It is now the key to our church... the key is branded with the words True Value... When Jesus asked the rich young man to sell all his possessions, he offered him something in return that had True Value - a key to the riches of God's Kingdom. The young man could not see the value of what he would gain if he let go of his riches. He could only see what he was forfeiting on earth. And he lost that which was of True Value."

Wow! What a powerful illustration and application of the concept of the Office of the Keys, and the power of forgiveness found in the Kingdom of God! I hope you lock this analogy away in your mind to have ready whenever you find yourself having to draw upon the power of God's Spirit to forgive someone. Realize that you hold the power of opening the gates of Heaven by directing people to Christ and his Kingdom! I also hope you pursue things of True Value in life!