Matthew 18:18 and Infallible Church Authority.

Mat 18:18 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.

By quoting these words of Jesus, many a Roman Catholic attempts to assert the absolute authority of the Church to declare Catholic Tradition and dogma infallibly and bind and loose in God's name. And if you look no farther than this verse, it really does seem to say that absolutely whatever the Church declares in His name will be upheld by God Himself, as though God had commanded it. Heady stuff this presumed absolute authority, as the history of Roman Catholicism reveals. The axiom that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely comes to mind. But does this verse really give the church absolute authority to declare whatever they want, without limit, and allow them to do it in God's name? Let's look at the verse in context in order to discover the real meaning:

The Lost Sheep

Mat 18:11 For the Son of man is come to save that which was lost.
Mat 18:12 How think ye? if a man have an hundred sheep, and one of them be gone astray, doth he not leave the ninety and nine, and goeth into the mountains, and seeketh that which is gone astray?
Mat 18:13 And if so be that he find it, verily I say unto you, he rejoiceth more of that sheep, than of the ninety and nine which went not astray.
Mat 18:14 Even so it is not the will of your Father which is in heaven, that one of these little ones should perish.

The Lost Brother

Mat 18:15 Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother.
Mat 18:16 But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.
Mat 18:17 And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as a heathen man and a publican.
Mat 18:18 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.
Mat 18:19 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.
Mat 18:20 For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.
Mat 18:21 Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times?
Mat 18:22 Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven.

In this passage Jesus is laying down guidelines for the church on how to deal with a wayward church member. Restated, the procedure Jesus establishes is this:

In His Name

So, what does it mean to be gathered in His name? It means to be gathered in acknowledgment of His authority as our Lord and God.

2 Cor 5:20 Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled to God.

We are indeed ambassadors for Christ, and an ambassador is a representative who speaks on behalf of the one he represents. But is an ambassador able to say anything he pleases, without any restrictions? No, an ambassador speaks only within the limits of the instructions of his master. Suppose in the example of the lost brother above, after speaking with him privately in the first step above, you by-pass the second step and go directly to the church at large and make the matter public. Have you followed the guidelines established by God? No, you have not. You have not given your brother an opportunity to settle the matter between you at the lowest possible level of privacy. In doing so, you have really wronged your brother by acting too hastily to publicize his error, and God may not affirm your actions as a result. It is only by faithfully following the process laid down in scripture that you will have the complete approval of God in your actions to rehabilitate a wayward brother. Note that Jesus Himself is an ambassador, an ambassador for God the Father-

John 6:38 For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me.
John 6:39 And this is the Father's will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day.

John 5:19 Then answered Jesus and said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do: for what things soever he doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise.

Jesus Himself can do nothing if it does not reflect the will of His Father. So, as an example, does the church body have the right to disfellowship a member if they do not follow the guidelines set down by Jesus Christ Himself in scripture? In doing so, would they be acting in His name and doing His will? No they would not. They would no longer be acting as ambassadors, they would be usurping the authority of God and casting aside His specific instructions on how to deal with the situation. Just as Jesus Christ is limited by the will of His Father, we are similarly limited by the word of God. The limiting factor in this situation is the procedure set down by God Himself in His word, the scriptures. Follow the scripture in matters like this and you indeed speak as an ambassador for Christ, with His full authority, and He will completely approve the decision the church makes in His name.

In context this entire passage in Matthew is dealing with a specific situation, that of trying to recover and rehabilitate a lost brother, and the actions that must be taken if he refuses to listen to sound admonition from the church members.

So now I ask you, when seen in context, does Matthew 18:18 give the Roman Catholic Church (or any church for that matter) absolute authority to proclaim anything they wish, without any limit what-so-ever, and declare it as infallibly binding it on all Christendom, and do so the name of God?

A Catholic rebuttal by Mario Derksen