Truly I tell you, whatever you forbid and declare to be improper and unlawful on earth must be what is already forbidden in heaven, and whatever you permit and declare proper and lawful on earth must be what is already permitted in heaven.
Matthew 18:18 AMPC version
I promise the God in heaven will allow whatever you allow on earth, but He will not allow anything you don’t allow.
Which is it? Are we able to define what is proper, or has this already been decided? What does it means to love and be accepting/supportive? When I consider the issues we face today in the light of these two translations, I’m at a loss. I grew up (before prodigally wandering away from the faith) with an understanding that it was the AMPC version that we lived by. Let me explain a few things I found as I considered this verse:
- almost every English translation is in the latter form: that what we allow on earth will be allowed in heaven
- the commentaries (and the context of the verse) I read indicated that 16:19 is Christ speaking just to Peter, and 18:18 was to the disciples, and claim that this instruction was in regards to behavior within the church
- but within/without the church – does this change the impact on today’s concerns? Can the church as a whole redefine and/or accept what is ‘proper’?
- (this is all especially relevant to how we love others vs how (if!) we gently instruct those ‘erring’.)
A well-known pastor recently posted a series on social media about how the Bible came to be – not that it wasn’t The Word of God. He gave his view on the actual ‘how to’ of its writing. For example (all my words, not his):
- the early books are transcribed versions of oral tradition generations old
- the ‘progress’ of the Old Testament evolved ‘with the times’ (so to speak) and was written in terms of what the culture then could handle. (For example,
- that sacrifices to God (or any ‘god’) were necessary, not what was sacrificed;
- that the times were violent, patriarchal, and male-dominated;
- that ‘love your enemy’ was not practical (or possible) 2000 years before Christ;
- that some conditions of the time have changed: ie ‘be fruitful and multiply’ has been accomplished;
- that, as a whole, the Bible, written over thousands of years, describes (or leads?) the evolution of society towards a point where love and peace and living sacrifice (exemplified in the person of Christ) became … acceptable as a way of life and belief;
- that we, as a civilization, continue to evolve in this same way
(I hope I have done justice to the confusion I have over this single verse.) In any event, I invite discussion with you, my dear readers. Please comment!