Wednesday, January 24, 2018


Following His resurrection, Jesus stood before His disciples who were hiding behind locked doors and commissioned them

·       Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.” (John 20:21-23 ESV)

My guess is that Jesus was demonstrating that He is the promised Prophet (Deuteronomy 18:15-18) for whom Moses had been a type (shadow or symbol), who had shared the Holy Spirit with the 70 elders of Israel, who would then share the burden of judging Israel:

·       Then the LORD said to Moses, “Gather for me seventy men of the elders of Israel, whom you know to be the elders of the people and officers over them, and bring them to the tent of meeting, and let them take their stand there with you. And I will come down and talk with you there. And I will take some of the Spirit that is on you and put it on them, and they shall bear the burden of the people with you, so that you may not bear it yourself alone.  (Numbers 11:16-17)

Here, the elders had been given the Spirit to hear complaints and to decide legal matters. I would guess Jesus’ was ordaining His Apostles in the same way, in a way that was familiar to them from the above account. Consequently, they understood that they would serve as judges, clearing some of the charges against them, while retaining other charges.

This duty and authority should, therefore, should not be confused with the forgiveness that Christ had earned for us on the Cross.

What does the Holy Spirit have to do with judicial matters? The ideal was that the judgment of the judges would represent more than a human judgment, as Moses had explained to Israel:

·       “And I charged your judges at that time, ‘Hear the cases between your brothers, and judge righteously between a man and his brother or the alien who is with him. You shall not be partial in judgment. You shall hear the small and the great alike. You shall not be intimidated by anyone, for the judgment is God’s. And the case that is too hard for you, you shall bring to me, and I will hear it.” (Deuteronomy 1:16-17)

Having the guidance of the Spirit, Israel’s judges could rest confidently that the judgment belonged to God. Jesus suggested the same principle was involved when the Church would render judgment (Church discipline and excommunication). In the context of bringing an offense before the Church, Jesus instructed:

·       “Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.” (Matthew 18:18-20; ESV; also Matthew 16:16-19)

Was it simply a matter of God rubber-stamping whatever judgment the Church would render? I don’t think so. Instead, it seems that the Church’s judgment would actually reflect God’s judgment. The primacy of God’s judgment is reflected in the translation of the NASBU:

·       "Truly I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound [already] in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven. Again I say to you, that if two of you agree on earth about anything that they may ask, it shall be done for them by My Father who is in heaven. "For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst." (Matthew 18:18-20; NASBU)

This should be an encouragement to the Church – that if they are seeking God first (Matthew 6:33; Proverbs 3:5-6), they can be confident that their judgment is actually God’s judgment.

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