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A Biblical Case for the Church’s Duty to Remain Open

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B200723

John MacArthur

Friday, July 24, 2020

Christ is Lord of all. He is the one true head of the church (Ephesians 1:22; 5:23; Colossians 1:18). He is also King of kings—sovereign over every earthly authority (1 Timothy 6:15; Revelation 17:14; 19:16). Grace Community Church has always stood immovably on those biblical principles. As His people, we are subject to His will and commands as revealed in Scripture. Therefore we cannot and will not acquiesce to a government-imposed moratorium on our weekly congregational worship or other regular corporate gatherings. Compliance would be disobedience to our Lord’s clear commands.

Some will think such a firm statement is inexorably in conflict with the command to be subject to governing authorities laid out in Romans 13 and 1 Peter 2. Scripture does mandate careful, conscientious obedience to all governing authority, including kings, governors, employers, and their agents (in Peter’s words, “not only to those who are good and gentle, but also to those who are unreasonable” [1 Peter 2:18]). Insofar as government authorities do not attempt to assert ecclesiastical authority or issue orders that forbid our obedience to God’s law, their authority is to be obeyed whether we agree with their rulings or not. In other words, Romans 13 and 1 Peter 2 still bind the consciences of individual Christians. We are to obey our civil authorities as powers that God Himself has ordained.

However, while civil government is invested with divine authority to rule the state, neither of those texts (nor any other) grants civic rulers jurisdiction over the church. God has established three institutions within human society: the family, the state, and the church. Each institution has a sphere of authority with jurisdictional limits that must be respected. A father’s authority is limited to his own family. Church leaders’ authority (which is delegated to them by Christ) is limited to church matters. And government is specifically tasked with the oversight and protection of civic peace and well-being within the boundaries of a nation or community. God has not granted civic rulers authority over the doctrine, practice, or polity of the church. The biblical framework limits the authority of each institution to its specific jurisdiction. The church does not have the right to meddle in the affairs of individual families and ignore parental authority. Parents do not have authority to manage civil matters while circumventing government officials. And similarly, government officials have no right to interfere in ecclesiastical matters in a way that undermines or disregards the God-given authority of pastors and elders.

(Snip)

But we did not yield our spiritual authority to the secular government. We said from the very start that our voluntary compliance was subject to change if the restrictions dragged on beyond the stated goal, or politicians unduly intruded into church affairs, or if health officials added restrictions that would to attempt to undermine the church’s mission. We made every decision with our own burden of responsibility in mind. We simply took the early opportunity to support the concerns of health officials and accommodate the same concerns among our church members, out of a desire to act in an abundance of care and reasonableness (Philippians 4:5).

But we are now more than twenty weeks into the unrelieved restrictions. It is apparent that those original projections of death were wrong and the virus is nowhere near as dangerous as originally feared. Still, roughly forty percent of the year has passed with our church essentially unable to gather in a normal way. Pastors’ ability to shepherd their flocks has been severely curtailed. The unity and influence of the church has been threatened. Opportunities for believers to serve and minister to one another have been missed. And the suffering of Christians who are troubled, fearful, distressed, infirm, or otherwise in urgent need of fellowship and encouragement has been magnified beyond anything that could reasonably be considered just or necessary. Major public events that were planned for 2021 are already being canceled, signaling that officials are preparing to keep restrictions in place into next year and beyond. That forces churches to choose between the clear command of our Lord and the government officials. Therefore, following the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, we gladly choose to obey Him.

 

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And All Gods People Said....Amen.

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July 29 2020

Pastor John MacArthur of Grace Community Church in Los Angeles explains why he and his congregation have stepped around Gov. Gavin Newsom's Covidvirus order regarding assembly, and addresses what St. Paul means with his command in Romans chapter 13.

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'I will go to jail before I close my church': Pastors prepare for renewed battle over church closures

Nicholas Rowan

August 02, 2020

When California Gov. Gavin Newsom in July announced revamped restrictions on worship, churches statewide resisted, drawing the attention of pastors nationwide as they prepare for a renewed struggle over church closures.

Newsom’s restrictions require all churches to suspend singing during services and most to hold their churches outside. Citing already burdensome restrictions placed on them in the spring, many church leaders refused to comply, most notably John MacArthur, a celebrity pastor who declared in a Sunday sermon that “Christ, not Caesar, is head of the church.”

MacArthur’s sermon won widespread approval from many evangelicals. Greg Locke, a Tennessee pastor with a large social media following, in a video this week cited MacArthur to make clear to his congregation that he has no plans to close again if shutdowns return to the state.

“Churches should be open,” he said. “There should be no excuses. I will go to jail before I close my church.”

Locke added that his church, Global Vision Bible Church, which resisted previous pleas in March from Gov. Bill Lee to close, was not requiring social distancing or mask-wearing from any of its members.

Locke said in a statement that his decisions arose from a refusal to “live in constant fear and media hysteria.”

(Snip)

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