“The Keys of the Kingdom”
Matthew 16: 19
Here we are on Sunday morning after the school holidays. What difference does it all make? We come, we listen, we give, we pray, we sing, we read, we go home. Is there any reason to be excited? Is there any reason to get serious about anything? Is there any reason to believe that we’re doing anything besides just going through the motions? Is there any reason to believe that what we are doing has any real significance at all? You won’t be surprised to know that I think the answer to that question is yes. What we are doing here is very, very important indeed.
From the Mundane to the Sublime
I want to say that it makes a great deal of difference that we are here. I am going to tell you 2 spiritual truths from this passage that comprise the most shocking and surprising spiritual truths that I will ever share with you. I hope you will listen carefully. I said these are shocking truths. They are shocking and surprising and startling, because they lift us from the mundane to the sublime. They transform a rather nice, beautiful Sunday morning worship service into something which is preparation for the greatest work that man can do on the face of the earth. So does it make any difference that we’re here this morning? Yes, it does for 2 reasons.
1. God has given us the authority to open and shut the doors of heaven.
That’s a shocking statement - God has given us the authority to open and shut the doors of heaven. That is the fundamental question of life. When you die, are you going up or are you going down? Are you going to heaven or are you going to hell?
A. The Power of the Keys
v. 19 “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven.” What’s a key? A key is a mechanism or device which opens something. If you have the key to something you have the authority to open it up. If I have the keys to my car I have the authority to unlock it, to get in and to take my car and drive it away. If I have the keys to my house, I have the authority to open it, to unlock it, to go inside and once I’m inside to lock the door behind me if I feel like it. Whoever holds the keys has the authority to open and close. Jesus is saying, “I am going to give you some keys.”
Kings would have a storeroom in the palace where they would keep their money and grain. The servant who had the key would wear it on a chain around his neck as a sign of the authority given to him by the king. He was the man who could let you inside to see the king or he could refuse you entrance. That’s behind Jesus’ statement - “I will give you the keys to the kingdom.”
Jesus spoke these words to Peter and the apostles. Peter represented the apostles and ultimately the apostles represent the whole Christian church. So Jesus is not just speaking to Peter or to the apostles. He’s ultimately speaking to you and to me. Jesus is giving to you and to me the same keys that he gave to Peter.
2. Opening the Doors of Heaven
What were the keys and to whom did he give them? Martin Luther said that the preaching of the Word of God represents the keys of the kingdom. The preaching of the Word of God opens the door into the kingdom of God. It is through the preaching of the Word that men come into a right relationship with God. Luther’s point was that the preaching of the Word belongs to the entire church.
John Calvin agreed - said that when the gospel is preached the keys are being exercised - like taking the keys - opening the door of heaven, and saying, “Would you like to come in?”
3. Peter and the Gentiles
Is there an example where Peter used the keys of the kingdom in this way? All you have to do is read the book of Acts. Acts 2 -Peter is preaching on the Day of Pentecost to the Jews. He is opening the door of heaven to the Jews. Acts 8 Peter is preaching to the Samaritans. He’s opening the door to the kingdom of heaven to the Samaritans. Acts 10 – Peter is preaching to Cornelius and his household. He’s opening the door of faith to the Gentiles. It perfectly fits what Jesus said in Matthew 16.
Whenever you offer the gospel to another person you are opening the door of heaven to them. What happens if people go through that door? They are saved. They are born again. They become children of God and you have opened the door for them. What if, when you share the gospel, the person comes right to the edge, they put their toe in the door, and then they pull it back, and walk away? They have closed the door to heaven. You have opened it and they have closed it. When we share the gospel we are opening the door to heaven and if men and women will come in, let them come in and let the praise party begin.
4. What More Could God Do?
God has already done everything necessary for the whole world to go to heaven. He has given his only begotten son, who walked on this earth for 33 years. He sent his Son who worked miracles, who raised the dead, who cast out demons, who loved the sick and the sinful, who loved the little children. That same Son was betrayed with a kiss from someone who was supposed to be his friend. That same Son was mocked and beaten and crucified beside two criminals. That same Son condemned to death by the guilty. He was hung on a cross between two thieves. Before he died, he cried out, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.”
God has already done it. He’s done enough. Is there anybody in Wilro Park who needs to be saved? Come on in. Anybody in Roodekrans who wants to go to heaven? Anybody from Helderkruin or the whole of Johannesburg who wants to be sure that when they die they’ll be with God? Good news! God has already done enough.
5. “Why Should I Let You Into My Heaven?”
You cannot get to heaven by yourself. You must cling to the cross of Jesus Christ as your only hope of heaven. That’s the condition of salvation. Any man, woman, boy or girl who truly believes, “that moment from Jesus a pardon receives.” God has already set the conditions and it has everything to do with the cross of Jesus Christ. That’s the gospel. That’s the good news.
God says to you and me - go out from this place and spread the good news and open the door to heaven to men and women who cannot find their way. That’s the first part of it. God has given us the authority to open and shut the doors of heaven. There’s a second great truth in this passage.
2. God has promised to ratify in heaven our decisions on earth.
This is an even more radical statement. Jesus is saying when you say to someone, “You are forgiven,” if you do it on the basis of the gospel they are forgiven. When we declare forgiveness to someone who has believed in the gospel God says amen from heaven. When we say to someone who has rejected the gospel, your blood is upon your own head God says amen from heaven.
Jesus said, “Whatsoever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” He’s talking about declaring the forgiveness of sin to people. If you say to someone, “Because you have rejected the gospel, you are still bound up in your sin,” God says, “That’s right. They are still bound in their sins.” If you say to someone who has believed in Jesus Christ, “Because you have believed in Jesus Christ, you are forgiven,” God says, “That’s right. You are loosed from your sins.”
A. Done On Earth, Done In Heaven
NIV - “will be loosed” and “will be bound.” NAS - better - “Whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven” and “Whatever you loose on earth will have been loosed in heaven.” “Shall have been” - suggests action in heaven preceding the action on earth. But what is the “binding” and “loosing” Jesus is talking about? It’s the picture of man bound up by his own sins. When he is forgiven, he is loosed from his sins.
What role do we play in the binding and loosing process of individual sinners? Only God can forgive sins - clear teaching of God’s Word. No man can ever forgive sins. No one can ever say, “I forgive your sins” or even, “On my own authority, I declare that your sins are forgiven.” To say that would be blasphemy.
But there is a sense in which we may declare to a person the forgiveness of their sins on the basis of what God has already done. We know that God forgives sins on the basis of the shed blood of Jesus Christ. That forgiveness is received through personal faith in Christ. When a sinner comes to faith in Christ, we may say with absolute certainty, “Your sins are forgiven.” We know that God will back us up on that. Are we forgiving his sins? No. We don’t have the power to forgive sins. All we can do is to declare God’s forgiveness.
When we act according to the principles of the gospel, we open the door to heaven. When they come in, we say, “Your sins are forgiven,” and God says, “Amen.” Then acting on the gospel when we invite them to come in and they walk away, we say, “You are under the wrath of God,” and God (in great sorrow) says, “Yes, that’s true.” That’s what this text is telling us.
B. To Whom Much Is Given
We don’t take seriously our Christian obligation – to Wilro Park and other communities. We have a good time and we go out and if anybody comes to us, great, we’ll tell them the good news. But Jesus says to us, “I’m giving you the keys to the kingdom.” He didn’t give the keys to the school. He didn’t give the keys to the government. He didn’t give them to the SABC or 702. He gave the keys of the kingdom to us and said “Now go out from this place and open the door to heaven to the people you meet. When they come in, tell them they are forgiven. If they reject you, warn them of coming judgment. And whether it’s grace or whether it’s judgment, whatever is done on earth in accordance with the gospel, God says it will be done in heaven.”
C. God Takes Us Seriously
Every Sunday here is important. Every Sunday is light or darkness. It’s the upward path or it’s the downhill slide. God takes us seriously. If I give you the keys to my house, I’m going to keep my eyes on you day and night until I get my keys back. When God gave the keys of the kingdom to his church he was saying, “I’m giving you something I’m not giving to anyone else in the whole world. Do something with it.” He is watching us day and night to see what we are doing with what he has given us. God takes us seriously. What we are doing here is utterly serious. So we take the keys of the kingdom and we go out these doors and we open heaven to those who come in and we bless them and declare their sins are forgiven, and we warn those who turn away.
Building Christ’s Church in Wilro Park
Let’s stand back and see what we have done -
1. We began by looking at the Church’s Testimony—-"You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Everything begins there. We declare and testify openly that Jesus is God’s promised Messiah from heaven, that he is God’s only-begotten Son, the Saviour of the world. It is that testimony which makes us Christian.
2. We then looked at the Church’s Foundation—"Upon this rock I will build my church.” The rock, we discovered, is not just Peter and it is not just his testimony, but it is Peter and the apostles openly confessing Christ to the world. They are the Living Foundation Stones, and we who follow them are Living Stones built upon the Cornerstone, Jesus Christ. The church is made up of men and women who personally embraced one revolutionary truth—that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God.
Along with that is the Church’s Assurance—"The Gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.” We move triumphantly forward knowing that our work does not depend on us, but on Jesus alone.
3. Finally, we have looked at the Church’s Authority—"I will give you the keys of the kingdom.” By preaching the gospel, we open and shut the doors of heaven. To those who believe, we declare their forgiveness on the basis of the gospel. To those who reject our message, we declare that they are still in their sins. When we make those declarations on the basis of the gospel, we are declaring on earth what God has already ratified in heaven.
We have our work cut out for us, don’t we? But we have a clear testimony, a solid foundation, a triumphant assurance, and a heavenly authority. That ought to be enough. Jesus has been building his church for 2,000 years. In Jesus’ name, I invite you to join me as we join him in building his church right here in Wilro Park.