According to Matt. 16:19 and Matt. 18:18, what does “binding and loosing,” mean?
“Binding and loosing” is a phrase which comes from the rabbis. It is referred to as the authority to make decisions binding on the people of God.
This authority involves interpreting and applying the Word of God and admitting people to and excommunicating them from the community of faith. For the Jews, this refers to the community of Israel. For Christians, this refers to the Church.
In Matthew 16:19 Jesus gives this authority over his Church to Peter: “Whatever you bind on Earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on Earth shall be loosed in heaven.”
In Matthew 18:18, he gave power to all the apostles: “Amen, I say to you, whatever you bind on Earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on Earth shall be loosed in heaven.”
This singling out of Peter to impart on him much power which is later to be given to all the apostles shows Peter’s relevance within the apostolic college. What the apostles as a whole had as leaders of the Church, Peter had as an individual.
Of course, he, as the earthly head of the Church, also possessed powers which all the other apostles, even as a whole, didn’t possess: “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven” (Mt 16:19).