“Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.
Again I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven.
For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” (Matthew 18:18-20)
I admit it. I was for many years one of those who would do my morning devotions by taking my finger and sticking it into the Bible somewhere. Well, not quite that bad, but close. Kind of like using the Bible as tarot cards or a ouija board, only not even that organized!!! God forgive me (and He has!).
What I see as an opposite extreme though is the tendency of some (even in my own denomination) to overcontextualize (I think) every passage of Scripture, with subsequent claims that “those promises belong exclusively to the Jews” or even “those promises only belonged to Jews in the Old Testament.” When this happens, much of the Bible becomes nothing more than a history text, informing us of situations and promises that once existed but don’t anymore!
The above passage has been referenced, in context, to refer to church discipline, the subject of Matthew 18 (although, in all fairness, the chapter breaks were not divinely inspired).
The passage is then further parsed from Greek to say that what we bind on earth has already been bound by God in heaven and what we loose on earth is already loosed by God in heaven. In other words, we are merely pronouncing realities which God has already ordained. We are not ordering God around by binding and loosing various things which He must also do once we have done it!
Okay, I get that.
But then the verse about Christ being in the midst of two or three gathered together in His name. Does that have conditions applying *only to a church discipline situation? Where? And, if so, how cheerless. He will be in your midst when you are disciplining another believer but at no other time? Very grim, that.
That is just one example where narrowing down the conditions of a promise in God’s Word (not necessarily supported by the text because, although this verse applies to the church discipline situation, there is nothing in it to say it *only applies in that situation) can result in a sense of despondency in Christians who are seeking to follow God’s Word in all its fullness.
God’s Word becomes a depressing tool, full of conditions God requires of us but devoid of most of the promises that we might have once thought applied to us in a very open and wonderful way.
I am not a Sunday school child anymore so I no longer sing “every promise in the Book is mine.”
But I also don’t think that *none of them apply.
What say you, wise ones?
P.S. I also believe that it might be a particular bane of seminarians everywhere to “look for the loopholes” in every promise first. While the believer in the pew may *overclaim promises from God’s Word, seminarians seem to eventually become those grim, cheerless people who go around explaining that *none of God’s promises really apply to us in the way we think they do. That seems to be a seminarian’s default setting.