You Asked for It Part 5
You Hold the Keys
by Greg Hanson
Sunrise Wesleyan Church
August 29, 2004


Main Passage: Matthew 16:13-20 (NLT)


Well, we got it. If you were here last week, you’ll remember that I told you we were in the process of buying a house. Well, we got it. In less than two weeks, we found a listing, arranged to see the house, placed an offer, found a lawyer, had an inspection done, drew up the offer to purchase, finalized our mortgage, arranged essential utilities, had all the necessary searches done, and closed the deal this past Friday. So now the fun part begins. Over the course of the next week or so, we’ll be doing some painting and moving our belongings into their new home. Actually, we’ll probably start painting tonight. Any takers?

Writing the biggest cheque I’ve ever written was the scary time. Getting a key was the exciting time. We actually went over on Thursday evening, did our walk through, and got a key directly from the vendors… we had to do that because the carpet cleaners were arriving at 8:00 the next morning and somebody had to be there to let them in.

So we went over and Stacy gave us a key. She gave it to me just like this… one key on a tiny ring. Later that night I was emptying my pockets, and I wanted to make sure I put the ring someplace where I wouldn’t lose it. And all of a sudden it hit me… “Why not put the key on MY key ring?” That’s where it belonged… I was MY key, after all. And let me tell you, it sounds stupid, but that was an important realization for me. I didn’t have to give the key back. It was entrusted to me. And then, of course, Shera took it from me the next day.

This is just a simple house key, back where it belongs on my key ring. Right alongside my mailbox key… (list them). Keys come in all different shapes and sizes. Used to be you’d have a skeleton key that could open several different locks. It looked something like this [PowerPoint]. Today, if you were to go to a hotel, they may give you a key that looks nothing like a key. They may give you a magnetic keycard that you have to swipe though a reader before the door will open. My mother was visiting last weekend and brought her van. Her key for the van is a code she types in on a panel on the door. Or she also has a remote car starter… just push a button, you can unlock the doors. Push another button to start the van.

If you’re on the Internet, maybe to do some banking, you’ll find that you have to key in your password before you can access you account. That’s another kind of key. Keys come in all kinds of shapes and sizes, all kinds of varieties, all for one purpose… to unlock restrictions and to give you access to something or someplace.

Jesus talked about keys, too. Chris read a passage for us earlier from Matthew 16. It’s a fairly familiar passage, and I’ve heard several sermons in my lifetime on the first part of the passage. But I’ve rarely if ever heard anyone address verse 19 where Jesus said, in the NIV…

Matthew 16:19 (NIV)
“I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”

Matthew 16:19 (NLT)
“And I will give you the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven. Whatever you lock on earth will be locked in heaven, and whatever you open on earth will be opened in heaven.”

And yet other translations say what you forbid on earth will be forbidden in Heaven and what you permit on earth will be permitted in heaven.

This is one of the verse that I was requested to speak on during our You Asked for It series… and I’ve got to say, this can be a confusing verse. I’ve done a lot of reading on this verse, and it seems that everyone has a different explanation. For some, the keys were given solely to Peter. After all, that’s who Jesus was talking to. Some even use this to defend the concept of papal infallibility. For others, the keys were given to all the apostles. The Bible does talk about the Church being built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets. Still others would tell you that these words were for all believers everywhere for all time. In that case, they apply to us today. And still others may tell you that all of humankind holds the keys… we all have access to God the Father, to His forgiveness, and to a future eternity with Him in Heaven. That’s all true, but is that what Jesus was getting at?

Well, first of all let’s look at the context. And by the way, that’s always a good idea. If you’re trying to figure out a passage of Scripture, take the time to read the verses and maybe even chapters immediately surrounding the passage. Make sure you understand it in context. The classic example of taking verses out of context involves a man looking for guidance from God. So he closed his eyes, opened the Bible at random then dropped his index finder anywhere on the page and read that verse and that verse only. He did it once and found the verse that says, “Judas went and hung himself.” He didn’t find that to be particularly helpful, so he did it again. This time he found the verse, “go and do likewise.” So he gave it one more try and found the verse, “what you do, do quickly”.

So you can’t just look at one verse and be sure you understand what the Bible is really saying. You need to read the surrounding verses, too, and understand it in context. That may be the most important thing I say here this morning… understand the Bible in context. If you do this, you will find that your understanding of Scripture will be greatly enhanced, you won’t be nearly as confused by some passages, you will be able to understand the Bible and understand it correctly, and you’ll be able to see how it applies to you today. So read the Bible in context.

If we are to do this with the passage we’re looking at this morning, we’ll find that Jesus is travelling with his disciples and decides to give them a pop quiz. He asks them, “Who do people say I am?” So they respond, “What? Oh, well, um… some say you’re John the Baptist come back to life, some think you’re Elijah, others say maybe you’re Jeremiah, or maybe one of the other great prophets. They recognize you as a great man of God.”

So Jesus pressed them a bit more… “Okay, that’s what others say about me. Who do YOU think I am?” So Peter answers Him, “We know who you are… you’re not just a man of God, you’re the Son of God. You are the Christ, the Messiah, the Saviour.”

So immediately before Jesus talks about giving the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven to them, He made sure they understood who He was. Let’s take a look at the next section.

Right after Jesus talks about giving the keys, we read…

Matthew 16:21 (NLT)
From then on Jesus began to tell his disciples plainly that he had to go to Jerusalem, and he told them what would happen to him there. He would suffer at the hands of the leaders and the leading priests and the teachers of religious law. He would be killed, and he would be raised on the third day.

Jesus knew what was coming down the road for Him. And He started to prepare His disciples for His death, resurrection, and ascension back to the right hand of His Father. So Jesus makes sure the disciples know who He is, and then He begins to delegate responsibilities, privileges, and authority to them.

This morning as we explore this verse, we’re going to ask four questions:

  • What are the keys of the Kingdom?

  • When and how did Jesus give to Peter and the others the Keys of the Kingdom?

  • What is the purpose of the Keys of the Kingdom with regard to the binding and the loosing… the closing and the opening… the forbidding and the permitting that Jesus speaks about?

  • How are the keys of the Kingdom to be used today?


What Are the Keys of the Kingdom?


A. The Keys are a symbol of authority.

To possess keys is to possess authority. You can see this in Revelation 1 where Jesus declared his authority over death and the grave…

Revelation 1:18 (NLT)
“I am the living one who died. Look, I am alive forever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and the grave.”

And in Revelation 3…

Revelation 3:7 (NLT)
This is the message from the one who is holy and true. He is the one who has the key of David. He opens doors, and no one can shut them; he shuts doors, and no one can open them.

So keys are a symbol of authority. And in committing the keys of the Kingdom to Peter as a representative of all the apostles, Jesus is committing to them authority in His Kingdom. “I will give you the keys of the Kingdom. In my kingdom, you will have authority… not of your own, but my authority delegated to you.”

In Matthew 28 we find Jesus saying…

Matthew 28:18-20 (NLT)
“I have been given complete authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

So all authority belongs to Jesus, but He delegates it to us. He’s not transferring the authority, He’s delegating it. He’s still in charge, but He entrusts the keys of the Kingdom to His followers. That’s why we pray In His Name… That’s why we serve In His Name… That’s why we baptize In His Name.

Keys allow you to unlock doors and lock doors. Were you aware of that? I hope that’s not too technical for you. But I think part of what Jesus had in mind here was that these keys would allow his disciples to have the authority to open the door into the Kingdom of Heaven to those who believe in Jesus Christ and embrace Him as their King, and to close the door of the Kingdom to those who reject Jesus and refuse to acknowledge Him as Lord and Saviour. In other words, the disciples themselves will do what Jesus has been doing in their presence. While He was there, Jesus Himself opened the doors to the Kingdom of Heaven for all who put their trust in Him. And now, knowing that He was going away, He was delegating that authority to the disciples.

How do we see this authority in action? Let me give you an example from the Bible. In Acts 10, we’re told about a Roman officer named Cornelius who sent for Peter to come and tell him about Jesus. If they had come a week earlier, Peter probably would have refused. Peter was a Jew who hadn’t quite grasped that Jesus came for all the world, not just the Jews. But God taught him a lesson. You can read about it in Acts 10, but through a series of visions God showed Him that the use of the keys of the Kingdom were not to be restricted to the Jewish community but were to be used for both Jews and non-Jews (Gentiles). So when the men came to ask Peter to go speak with Cornelius, Peter went freely and willingly. This is what he told Cornelius…

Acts 10:34-35, 42-43 (NLT)
“I see very clearly that God doesn’t show partiality. In every nation he accepts those who fear him and do what is right…”
“And he ordered us to preach everywhere and to testify that Jesus is ordained of God to be the judge of all--the living and the dead. He is the one all the prophets testified about, saying that everyone who believes in him will have their sins forgiven through his name.”

And Cornelius along with several others responded that day. Peter and the others had been delegated the authority by Jesus Himself to go into all the world and open the doors to the Kingdom for all who believed. Conversely, for those who heard the message and rejected it, the doors were closed. The disciples were given authority, but were to use it as Jesus instructed.


B. The Keys go beyond the limits of the Church.

In some of my reading, I came across some perspectives that claimed that the Keys of the Kingdom referred to the Church. But Jesus didn’t say He was giving them the keys of the Church. He said He was giving then the keys of the Kingdom. In the sentence right before the verse we’re looking at today, Jesus said…

Matthew 16:18 (NLT)
“…upon this rock I will build my church…”

So Jesus knew the word Church, He knew how to use it, he was already talking about it, He Himself established the Church, but when He talks about the keys, they’re the keys of the Kingdom, not just the Church. And the terms are not simply interchangeable, as some would suggest. As wonderful as the Church is, the Kingdom is greater. And there’s a reason Jesus used different words here. The Church may manifest the Kingdom of Heaven here on earth, the Church may point people toward the Kingdom, but the Church is not absolutely identical with the Kingdom. The scope of Jesus’ rule is not limited to the scope of the Church. It is as wide as the cosmos. He rules over all. That’s why in Philippians we’re told…

Philippians 2:9-11 (NLT)
Because of this, God raised him up to the heights of heaven and gave him a name that is above every other name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Ephesians 1:22 (NLT)
And God has put all things under the authority of Christ…


When and how did Jesus give the Keys of the Kingdom?


Going back to our verse…

Matthew 16:19 (NLT)
“And I will give you the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven.”

There’s no indication in those words that Jesus gave the keys to the disciples at that time. He said, “I will give…” which to me indicated that there was a future time when these keys… this authority… would be given to them. So when?

Well, while thinking about this I was reminded about the words of Jesus to his followers after His resurrection and just before his ascension back to Heaven. He said…

Luke 24:49 (NLT)
“And now I will send the Holy Spirit, just as my Father promised. But stay here in the city until the Holy Spirit comes and fills you with power from heaven.”

And in Acts 1…

Acts 1:8 (NLT)
“But when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, you will receive power and will tell people about me everywhere--in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

And over in Acts 2 we’re told that just about a week later…

Acts 2:1-4 (NLT)
On the day of Pentecost, seven weeks after Jesus’ resurrection, the believers were meeting together in one place. Suddenly, there was a sound from heaven like the roaring of a mighty windstorm in the skies above them, and it filled the house where they were meeting. Then, what looked like flames or tongues of fire appeared and settled on each of them. And everyone present was filled with the Holy Spirit and began speaking in other languages, as the Holy Spirit gave them this ability.

And then they went outside and Peter preached a landmark sermon and about 3000 people responded to the message that day.

So looking at all of that, I have to conclude that the Keys… the authority… the power came in the person of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost. That’s in your notes…

A. The Keys were given on the Day of Pentecost.

B. The Keys came in the person of the Holy Spirit.


What is the purpose of the Keys of the Kingdom?


A. To enable people to enter in.

(Acts 2:14-41)

We’ve already talked about this to some extent, so I’m not going to spend much time here right now. But don’t for a moment think that means this isn’t important. The Keys of the Kingdom… the authority given to the disciples… enabled them to lead and build the early church. They did it under the leadership of Jesus and with the authority delegated to them. 3000 people responded to Peter’s message, not because of who Peter was, but because of the authority with which he spoke. He was just a gruff, uneducated fisherman. But he had been entrusted with authority. And the people responded to that. But again, it was Peter speaking under the authority of Christ that made the difference. At the end of the Sermon on the Mount, it talks about the authority Jesus Himself spoke with…

Matthew 7:28-29 (NLT)
After Jesus finished speaking, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, for he taught as one who had real authority--quite unlike the teachers of religious law.


B. To exercise Church discipline.

Here’s something we don’t hear a lot about. I remember several years ago when Jimmy Swaggart was caught in a sex scandal which pretty much ruined his ministry and cast a shadow over the entire Church. It was a pretty major thing, and the repercussions are still felt today. The Church chose to exercise Church Discipline and removed him from his position for a time. It did not mean that he could never again preach or have any kind of ministry, but it meant that for a time he would be restricted in his duties and would be watched very closely. And only after exhibiting sincere repentance and a renewed commitment to holy God-pleasing living would he be permitted to expand those limitations. For a time, he was bound. The Church has, and needs to have, that kind of authority.

Matthew 18:15-18 (NLT)
“If another believer sins against you, go privately and point out the fault. If the other person listens and confesses it, you have won that person back. But if you are unsuccessful, take one or two others with you and go back again, so that everything you say may be confirmed by two or three witnesses. If that person still refuses to listen, take your case to the church. If the church decides you are right, but the other person won’t accept it, treat that person as a pagan or a corrupt tax collector. I tell you this: Whatever you prohibit on earth is prohibited in heaven, and whatever you allow on earth is allowed in heaven.”

Same kind of terminology used by Jesus. In some translations, the wording is exactly the same as found in Matthew 16. This time, it’s used in reference to Church discipline. Unfortunately, we rarely see this in action. We generally only see Church Discipline being used in high-profile scandalous cases. But what about when someone is a habitual gossip? Or when a person fails to exhibit the love of Christ that we’re all expected to show? Or how about when someone acts selfishly without regard for others? Where is Church Discipline then?

Now, I need to clarify that I’m not advocating having a Church that goes on witch hunts and unjustly throws its weight around. Look throughout Church history and you’ll find plenty of embarrassing examples of when the Church has done that. That’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about the Church of God holding people to a high moral and Biblical standard as we’re instructed to by Jesus Himself. As children grow, they need to be lovingly disciplined in order to grow into mature adults who contribute to society. And as Christians, we also require loving discipline to grow and mature as believers who contribute to the Kingdom.

“All authority exercised in the Church is to be in accordance with the Word of Christ and not the whims and prejudices of man. The opening and the closing of doors, the binding and the loosing are to be shaped by the Word that God has spoken… Church discipline is Biblical discipline.”
~ Ian Hamilton

“No power or authority can be exercised in the church but that for it is granted and conveyed unto it by His Word.”
~ John Owens

Now, to be honest, I’m not sure how all of this plays out. I’m still working on that. But I do know that the Bible in several passages discusses the responsibility of the Church to hold believers accountable and to discipline them for moral failings. Here’s one verse…

Hebrews 13:17 (NIV)
Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account. Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you.

And we can have freedom here. If discipline is exercised according to the Word, then we know that it will be good, it will be fair, it will be right, it will be loving, it will be generous, it will be kind.


How are the keys of the Kingdom to be used today?


All the other questions had two part answers… this one has three. Because we’re removed from the days of the prophets and apostles, we need to recognize first of all that we use the Keys today…

A. By applying the teachings of the Word of God

The people who were initially given the Keys of the Kingdom were the very ones who wrote much of our New Testament. The authority they had... the ability they were given to show people the way to God has been passed down to us through the written Word.

2 Timothy 3:15-17 (NLT)
You have been taught the holy Scriptures from childhood, and they have given you the wisdom to receive the salvation that comes by trusting in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It straightens us out and teaches us to do what is right. It is God’s way of preparing us in every way, fully equipped for every good thing God wants us to do.

So through the Scriptures, the Keys of the Kingdom are set before us today. Through the Word of God, you discover life in the Kingdom… how to be a part of it and how to live a life that is pleasing to God.


B. By Helping Others into the Kingdom

A couple of verses we looked at earlier…

Matthew 28:19 (NLT)
“…go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.”

Acts 1:8 (NLT)
“But when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, you will receive power and will tell people about me everywhere…”

You and I need to be about our Father’s business. And that means that we spread the message of Christ, not in an obnoxious way but in a compelling way so that as many as possible will come to know Christ. Our mission here at Sunrise is first and foremost “…to introduce individuals to Christ…” That’s why we’re here. That’s what our church and the Church is all about. That’s the mandate we’ve been given by Christ… to use the keys of the Kingdom to help others in.


C. By exercising discipline wisely and lovingly

That means we don’t rush to judgment on others, we don’t broadcast each other’s failures and weaknesses, and we show mercy in our discipline just as Christ has shown mercy to you and to me. I think this may be what Paul had in mind when he told Timothy…

1 Timothy 3:2-3 (NIV)
Now the overseer must be above reproach, the husband of but one wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money.

Positions of authority are not a reason to act all high-and-mighty, looking down on others and treating people without respect. We who are in positions of authority need to exercise discipline on occasion, yes, but always, always, always in a wise and loving way.


That good? Then take the keys of the Kingdom and the authority entrusted to you as a believer. Take the responsibility of helping others in seriously, and always use your position in the Kingdom in a wise, loving, gentle way. Let’s pray.




Copyright © 2004