You don’t have to travel far to find one church or even several who are afflicted with sudden deafness when the subject of church discipline comes up. That’s true whether it is their practice of discipline or upholding another church’s actions in that regard that are under discussion. Yet when Peter proclaimed that Jesus was in fact the Messiah, a significant part of Jesus’ response to Peter was His declaration that He would give keys to the church for the purpose of binding and loosing, of opening and shutting.
Historically the orthodox understanding has been that the keys were two, preaching the Word and church discipline. The use of these keys were also viewed as marks of a true church. Yet it seems that the exercise of church discipline is nearly non-existent in our postmodern culture. At first glance, preaching seems to be doing all right, but a closer examination reveals serious weaknesses there as well. Authoritative preaching is taking a back seat to “sharing” and God forbid we share anything that would make the audience uncomfortable.
But where preaching continues to be practiced, I’m not sure it is exercised in its fullness, that is, in such a way as to open and shut the kingdom. Preaching of the Word that is faithful to the Word should open the door to those who are truly seeking after God and His righteousness while at the same time barring entrance to any who would try to enter the Kingdom by other ways than through Christ, the Only Way. See here for elaboration on the nature of the keys and their use.
If the church is to be the place of sanctuary for saints and seekers God intended for her to be, she must recover the doctrine of the “keys of the kingdom” and their use. She must then through the faithful ministry of her leaders begin again to use those keys in the way the Master of the house has ordained. To do so is to experience His blessing and approval. To fail in the proper use of the keys is to risk His displeasure and the resulting dire consequences.
Pray the Master of the house that He will stir us up to faithfulness as good and pleasing stewards during His “absence”, that the church will find her keys and begin to use them responsibly.
By His grace,