How time flies eh? Job’s last post was on May 27th. Has he become lazy? Has he become disillusioned with blogging? Has he nothing to say. Nay, no nein, nac ydw. The truth of the matter is that the summer sun has been shining in Job’s little corner of the world, and Job, just like every other man and his blog have headed for the beach and the countryside to take advantage of and to celebrate the first appearance of the summer sun for approximately 3 years. No doubt, the sun may well be shining but it shall prove to be little more than a crack in the clouds.
A crack in the clouds? Now that is a pithy little link into the subject of this post and the continuance of the previous two posts. The clouds of ‘charismatic lunacy’ were gathering in the late 80s, at least within the church that Job attended. Job was however about to experience a diversion in life for several years, which did indeed prove to be little more than a ‘crack in the clouds’. In January 1989 Job joined a missionary organisation called YWAM. The acronym officially stood for Youth With A Mission; although there were various unofficial alternatives ranging from ‘Young Women After Men’ to ‘Young Wolves After Maidens ‘ or Job’s favourite, and perhaps most accurate, ‘Youth Without Any Money’.
It seemed like a good idea at that time. Job desired to lead a life of service to God. He was useless at most things apart from twanging his guitar. He was about the only ‘youngster’ at his church. The opportunity to travel and evangelise as part of a group of people his own age seemed too good to be true. Besides, his vicar had recently had one of his matey little chats with God, who had informed him to tell Job to ‘Go to Africa!!’. Or was it India?? Job forgets, but the point is made. And so off he went, on an excursion of several years that took in Denmark, Romania, East Germany [pre German unification], Spain, Morocco, India, London and the depths of Sparkhill in Birmingham.
YWAM was great fun. It was energetic. It was radical. It was challenging. It was memorable. It was also madness at times. Perhaps also foolish, unreal, unbiblical and plain loopy too. Please don’t misunderstand Job. He thoroughly enjoyed his time with YWAM. It developed his Christian faith immensely. It gave him an evangelistic and missionary perspective he cherishes, together with friends he remains in contact with to this day. It is just that, well shall we say, some of the practices were just plain odd. Job would like to proffer just one example here.
It was late October on the Costa Del Sol. The weather was sublime, akin to what Job considered customary for a late summer day back in Blighty. There was a group of approx 50 YWAMers on a two month outreach to the area. Torremolinos to be specific. The daily schedule went something like this – Early morning would be private prayers. Late morning would be a corporate prayer/bible study/worship gathering. This would be followed by lunch and an hour or two of free time [as most of the Costa Del Sol would sleep after lunch]. The early evening would then see the group engaged in open air outreach. This would take the form of a time of worship at the selected place [usually one of the town squares] followed by a number of ‘drama presentations’ and ended with a quick ten minute preach by one of the group members. Of course, over the period of two months or so, such an outreach quickly becomes repetitious and a desire for innovation quickly becomes apparent. This is usually where the trouble starts.
One evening a female leader, whose turn it was to organise the outreach, announced that she had heard from God. He had told her something along the lines of ‘tonight folks we shall do something different’. The usual programme was cancelled. Tonight, with reference to ‘the walls of Jericho’ we would silently march around the town square six times as a group. We would then stop, have a short break, repeat the exercise another six times and then finally, with one last repeat we would shout and bellow prayers of ‘binding and loosing’ over Torremolinos. The resultant outcome would be that the ‘walls of opposition’ to the kingdom of God would of course come clattering down and every man and his dog would then get saved in the ensuing apocalyptic mini revival. Job recalls having deep reservations and sharp words with the leader in question together with threatening to go AWOL for the evening. He was however, placed under no illusion that his involvement was heavily mandated – particularly as he was the only member present who could play all the worship songs upon his guitar with no reference to a music book.
So what was the outcome of the evening’s shenanigans? It doesn’t take a genius to work it out really does it? It was sore feet, embarrassment for the leader and disappointment & disillusioned faith all round. Oh and of course a delicious sense of schadenfreude for Job. But why? What was this dopey leader really expecting? Where on earth do these mad ideas come from? Well let’s take a brief look at the concept of ‘binding and loosing’ which is such a ‘family favourite’ within YWAM and indeed the Charismaniac Church at large.
The problem with ‘binding and loosing’ is that it is simply an utter misappropriation of scripture. It is an eisegetical rather than exegetical interpretation of Matt 18:18. In other words it reads a meaning into this portion of scripture rather than drawing the true meaning out of it. This scripture was never designed to deal with ‘Principalities’; ‘Powers in the Heavenlies’; ‘Wickedness in High Places’ or any other pseudo ‘spiritual warfare’ type mumbo jumbo. In fact, just consider it from a natural perspective for one moment. The Charismaniac movement is almost 40 years old in the UK now, yet it has utterly failed to deal with the moral landslide within our society. Is there any less sin now than 40 years ago? Do we have less abortion, divorce, family breakdown, theft, murder, drug and alcohol abuse etc now? No, in fact if the truth be told, these issues and others are getting worse. What about within the church then? Revival?? Has it come yet?? Does it look like its about to come?? Mass repentance?? Is it a common experience within the church today? No, of course not. The Charismaniac church today, which regularly promises revival, spends more time rolling in the aisles whilst pursuing one false prophet after another for the ‘new thing’. It is pathetic. Anyhow, rant over, Job would like to look exegetically at Matt 18:18.
In some translations of Matt 18:18, it appears that Jesus promises his disciples that whatever they bind or loose on earth will be bound or loosed in heaven. In other words they had been given the power to bind and loose and God would simply back up their decrees in heaven. Of course the matter is not quite so simple. Consider a number of clues:
The first clue we have is from the Greek text itself. The actions described ‘in heaven’, dedemevna and lelumevna , are in grammatical terms, know as future perfect passives. What does this mean?? It means that they could, and probably should, be translated as ‘will have already been bound in heaven’ or ‘will have already been loosed in heaven’. Crucially then, the heavenly decree confirming the earthly one is based upon a prior verdict. The heavenly decree came first!!! A disciple can not simply wander around ‘willy nilly’ binding devils and loosing angels at will.
The second clue we have is to be derived from historical research into the 1st Century, second temple period Jewish world. Put quite simple we have the language of the Jewish law courts. Jewish legal issues were usually decided in this period by elders within the synagogue community, and later by rabbis. It was Jewish belief that the authority of Heaven itself stood behind the earthly judges when they decided such cases based upon a correct understanding of the Torah. This process became known as ‘binding and loosing’. Jesus’ contemporaries then, envisioned God’s justice in terms of a heavenly court. By obeying the Torah, the earthly courts did no more than ratify the pre existing decrees of the Heavenly court.
Suddenly this verse and the surrounding passage takes on a different more coherent [and exegetically accurate] meaning. In Matt 18:15-20 then, Christians who follow the careful procedures of verses 15-17 may be assured that they will act on the authority of God’s court when they decide cases. . These verses then, torn from their context, have nothing to do with binding and loosing demonic/angelic entities and everything to do with practical Christian behaviour within a church context. Oh that someone would ‘bind’ and not ‘loose’ some of the cracked doctrines and their espousers in this day and age!!!!!!