|Who Holds the Keys? Written by Mike Gendron.
Two thousand years ago Jesus said to Peter, "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 loose in heaven." This reference to the "keys of the kingdom" is found only in Matthew 16:19, however the authority to "bind and loose" is given to all the disciples in Matthew 18:18. Many biblical scholars believe the "keys" are symbols representing the authority to govern and minister theocratic principles on earth. However, the interpretation of this verse has been the subject of debate for hundreds of years.
|Within the Roman Catholic tradition, doctrines have developed that give the papacy authority to delegate the power to forgive or retain sins through a sacramental system of penance and absolution. The Catholic Encyclopedia states, "The power to confer or withhold forgiveness might well be viewed as the opening and shutting of the gates of heaven." It was used both as "admission to" as well as "excommunication from" the kingdom. The power to "bind and loose" also gives the Popes authority to pronounce doctrinal judgments, making disciplinary decisions in the Church and even canonize saints. This authority and power prescribes what and who Catholics must believe and how and when they must worship.|
However, Gendron here makes a serious error in his teaching because he states that these passages are the only ones that are used to support the Catholic position and that is completely untrue. He also conspicuously fails to note that, along with the above passages, we also have clear scripture that plainly tells us what the pillar and bulwark of the truth is. Note the following: (1st Timothy 3:15) “if I am delayed, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and bulwark of the truth.”
Now we already know that Gendron is an adherent of the unscriptural fundamental doctrinal error of Sola Scriptura, so he naturally ascribes all ultimate authority to the Bible, in spite of the glaring fact that there is no passage of scripture where the Bible lays claim to any such authority. (Aside: See Does the Bible teach that everything that we believe and practice has to be found in its pages? )
Even so, along with the passages from Matthew that he has cited and the one I have offered above, we can see what the Bible actually says about Christian authority. I believe the fact that none of aligns with Gendron’s teaching should cause one some serious pause.
|The Vatican teaches that Peter's keys have been handed down to his successors throughout the centuries. This has given credence to the papacy to govern the kingdom of God, which they believe, is the Roman Catholic Church. As a result, Peter and his successors are said to have special spiritual powers as Christ's representative on earth.|
|Proponents of the Roman Catholic tradition point to history as supporting evidence for their interpretation of the keys of the kingdom. However, most of their historical support comes from tradition dating back only the fourth century.|
For extensive discussion and documentation on this point, I offer two excellent articles from Catholic Answers that do indeed offer that early church documentation.
· The Authority of the Pope: Part I
· The Authority of the Pope: Part II
|An accurate historical and grammatical interpretation must consider the use of terms at the time of the writing of the original text. The concept of the kingdom and the keys must be understood from their usage in the first century. Peter and the disciples understood the kingdom to be the visible rule of Christ over the earth, not the spiritual rule of Christ over His invisible church. The king would rule from Jerusalem, free Israel from political bondage and destroy her enemies. After Israel rejected the offer of the kingdom, Christ began to teach about it from a different perspective. He taught that it would be a mystery, invisible, and progressive. It would be both present and future and could be entered only by regeneration. The kingdom would not be limited to the church, but would work through the church to proclaim the good news of God's redemptive rule.|
|After the events of Pentecost, Christ's teaching and the indwelling Holy Spirit, gave the disciples a clearer understanding of this kingdom. The real authority of the keys given by Christ is ultimately in the revelation of God's principles from the Scriptures for His theocratic kingdom. Men of God were able to discern the correctness of doctrine and practice using the whole counsel of God (Acts 17:11).|
Catholic Answers has a very good article that deals with this.
Not by Scripture Alone
|An example of this is found in Luke 11:52, where Jesus denounces the Pharisees for misrepresenting God and the Scriptures with a religion of their own making. As a result they were shutting the kingdom of heaven in men's faces. "Woe to you experts in the law, because you have taken away the key to knowledge. You yourselves have not entered, and you have hindered those who were entering."|
|The ultimate power to open and close the gates of heaven is the Gospel, which "is the power of God for the salvation of all who believe" (Romans 1:16). Peter's first proclamation of the Gospel on the Day of Pentecost, in Acts chapter 2, opened the door of the kingdom to thousands. Since then, the disciples, and all Christians who have succeeded them, have been opening and closing the doors of the kingdom with the Gospel. Those who hear it and believe it are forgiven (loosed) of their sin and enter the kingdom, while those who reject the Gospel remain unforgiven (bound) of their sins and can not enter the kingdom (John 3:36).|
No faithful Catholic would deny what the scriptures he cites say, but Gendron’s misinterpretation flies in the face of the “great commission” passage, also in Matthew 28, where it plainly mandates;  Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,  teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age."
What would be the point of such a mandate if the church was not the one opening and closing the gates to the kingdom that they have been given the keys to? Obviously Gendron is wrong in his interpretation because we also have the New Testament plainly telling us in Romans 10:  But how are men to call upon him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without a preacher?  And how can men preach unless they are sent? As it is written, "How beautiful are the feet of those who preach good news!" Gendron has sought to diminish the very scriptural role of the church in the spread of the gospel and to mislead people from seeing that the New Testament supports the Catholic Church, the church founded by Our Blessed lord Jesus Christ, as the authority ordained by Christ Himself.
|The contrast between the Catholic interpretation of the "keys of the kingdom" and the historical-grammatical interpretation is significant. One centers around the teachings of men and is based on tradition and reason, while the other centers around the Word of God and is based on His revealed will and reign.|