By Evan Pyle


Have you heard of this practice that is popular in some Charismatic circles? It consists of verbally “binding” demons, sickness, poverty, addiction and the like from a person. Then blessings, health, angels, riches and such are “loosed” in the person’s life. This practice has also been applied to larger groups like families, churches, cities and even nations. Such thinking is an outgrowth of dominion theology, the idea that the Church will grow and strengthen until the Kingdom of God is established on earth. I invite you to take a minute to explore these ideas with me from a biblical perspective.

This practice of binding and loosing is taken from three verses in Matthew’s gospel. I would like to consider each one separately before offering a scriptural conclusion.

Matthew 12:29:
Or else how can one enter into a strong man’s house, and spoil his goods, except he first bind the strong man? and then he will spoil his house.

Interestingly, some dominion theology preachers explain this verse as giving authority to the Church to “plunder Satan’s kingdom” including retrieving the riches and goods unfortunate Christians have lost to Satan’s attacks. In a similar vein, lost souls can be plundered from the devil’s domain by the act of binding and loosing. My observation is that, despite all of the “binding and loosing” being practiced people are still struggling with the same problems, sins and habits, and many people remain unsaved.

A look at the context surrounding Matthew 12:29 helps to clarify the meaning of the verse. In verse 22, Jesus healed a man who was possessed with a devil “insomuch that the blind and dumb both saw and spake.” When the Pharisees got word that the people were glorifying Jesus for His works, they accused the Lord of casting out devils by Beelzebub, the prince of devils. After explaining the impossibility of such a thing (if Satan cast out Satan, he is divided against himself), Jesus went on to illustrate how he freed this blind and dumb person by using the picture of binding a strong man in order to take his goods as spoil. Although Jesus indeed healed the deaf and dumb man bound by a devil, He did not literally “bind the devil” or “bind Satan.”

Remember that this was but an illustration. Jesus himself never uttered anything remotely like “I bind you, Satan” or “I loose blessings”; neither did any of the Apostles nor disciples. This binding and spoiling is an illustration of Jesus’ work in freeing people bound by Satan, a work that all Christians are challenged to take up. “Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils: freely ye have received, freely give” (Matt. 10:8). The Bible is full of examples on walking in use of these supernatural gifts and none include “binding Satan” nor “loosing angels.” The walk of the Spirit requires faith, not a spoken formula. I understand why people so want this spoken formula to be true and effective because it is so easy. However, replacing faith with a stock utterance smacks of superstition and reminds me of going to a medicine man or shaman to have an incantation uttered in hopes of achieving a success or victory of some kind. “But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking” (Matt. 6:7).

Matthew 16:19:
And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.

What of the binding and loosing of which Jesus told Peter here in Matthew 16:19? Rabinically and judicially in Israel of old, binding and loosing meant “forbidding and permitting.” Paul provides a good example in Romans 7:2. “For the woman which hath an husband is bound by the law to her husband so long as he liveth; but if the husband be dead, she is loosed from the law of her husband.” Paul used this to illustrate that when we “died in Christ,” we were freed or loosed from the Mosaic laws and commandments. This is exactly the authority that Jesus gave Peter and which Peter was to carry out under the direction of the Holy Spirit, for it was by Peter that the Gentiles first received Christ. “And he said unto them, Ye know how that it is an unlawful thing for a man that is a Jew to keep company, or come unto one of another nation; but God hath shewed me that I should not call any man common or unclean” (Acts 10:28). God himself “loosed” Peter from this Jewish law so he could minister the Holy Spirit to the house of Cornelius the Centurion. Later, when some in the Church demanded the Gentile Christians observe the law of Moses in order to be saved, Peter spoke up on behalf of grace.

Acts 15:7-11:
And when there had been much disputing, Peter rose up, and said unto them, Men and brethren, ye know how that a good while ago God made choice among us, that the Gentiles by my mouth should hear the word of the gospel, and believe.
8 And God, which knoweth the hearts, bare them witness, giving them the Holy Ghost, even as he did unto us;
9 And put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith.
10 Now therefore why tempt ye God, to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear?
11 But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved, even as they.

Under the direction of the Lord, Peter loosed these new Christians from the requirements of the law, while others of the Pharisees sought to bind them to that same yoke as a requirement for salvation. I think you’ll agree that Peter himself did not originate the idea of including the Gentiles in the fledgling Church, nor did he come up with the notion that they should be loosed from the requirements of the Mosaic Law. Indeed, God used some rather strong persuasion on Peter in the form of a revelation repeated three times just to persuade him to go to the house of a Gentile. The Apostle Peter never used this authority to go about presumptuously binding and loosing as he saw fit. Only when he was clearly directed of the Lord did he seek to loose the Gentiles from the yoke of the Law. This is what the Bible means by “whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” All who come to Christ in faith are freed from the curse of the Law, but the early Christians did not yet understand this truth. Now the Lord chose Peter and later Paul to free them on earth by bringing the gospel of grace to all who believe. “For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth” (Rom. 10:4).

Matthew 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.

Again, the meaning of this verse becomes clearer when the context is given proper consideration. Jesus is here teaching the disciples how to handle the matter of a brother sinning in the church.

Matthew 18:15-17:
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.
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.
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 an heathen man and a publican.

Jesus gave the Church the authority to loose the unrepentant sinner from the fellowship of the saints as well as to again “bind” the repentant sinner to the Church fellowship. Again, this binding and loosing is no mere formula uttered as if magic. Indeed these matters of governing the Church well and protecting the integrity of the fellowship are serious business requiring much prayer, careful consideration and heavenly wisdom.


As workers together with the Lord, we participate with him in setting at liberty those who are bound in any way. That work begins with ourselves and our own thoughts. With the weapons of our warfare, we pull down strongholds, those areas that keep us bound. At the same time we are to cast down imaginations and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God and bring those things into captivity to the obedience of Christ. In other words, we are to metaphorically bind them and deliver them as prisoners to Christ.

2 Corinthians 10:4-5:
For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;
5 Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;

Errant theology suggests we can achieve a quick fix by repeating a formula with conviction. Can you see that this is little more than superstition? The gospel of grace declares that we are saved by grace through faith alone. As saved ones, we have the heaven-sent authority to “bind” imaginations and thoughts that are contrary to the knowledge of God and lead them captive to the obedience of Christ. Our response to God’s saving grace is not a set of spoken formulae but a “living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God...”

Philippians 4:8-9:
Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.
9 Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you.



From the December 2006 issue of The Vine & Branches