John MacArthur has declared Independence Day for the American Church.
MacArthur, one of America’s finest expositors and the pastor of Grace Community Church in southern California, has openly defied California governor Gavin Newsom, who issued an utterly unconstitutional edict that churches were not, under any circumstances, allowed to meet.
MacArthur correctly pointed out that Governor Newsom is not the head of the church. Jesus Christ is. As he put it, “Christ, not Caesar, is head of the Church.” Jesus Christ has commanded his church to meet regularly and consistently whether the governor or any other secular authority likes it or not.
We are not, the Bible says, “to neglect (lit., “forsake” or “abandon”) to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day (of Christ’s return) drawing near” (Hebrews 10:25). Every day more and more of us are disobeying this directive of Scripture and getting more comfortable with it.
Jesus commands us to meet together. Governor Newsom commands us not to. The issue, to me, is crystal clear. Are we going to obey God or man?
In fact, if you listen to Scripture closely, it is more important now than it ever has been for the church to assemble together since the Day is closer now than it ever has been. The church, in other words, has a biblical duty to remain open, COVID-19 or no COVID-19.
Said MacArthur, “(W)e cannot and will not acquiesce to a government-imposed moratorium in our weekly worship...Compliance would be disobedience to our Lord’s clear commands.” He concludes his declaration of independence this way: “We, the pastors and elders of Grace Community Church, respectfully inform our civic leaders that they have exceeded their legitimate jurisdiction, and faithfulness to Christ prohibits us from observing the restrictions they want to impose on our corporate worship services.”
In other words, we do not need permission from the state to obey God.
This is a rather remarkable turn for MacArthur, who is such a stickler for Romans 13 that he teaches that the American Revolution was a giant sin, since it involved defiance of secular authority. Apparently his mind has been changed by the harsh reality of current circumstances.
(You might be able to make an unconvincing argument that actions taken before July 4, 1776, could be considered sinful rebellion, but you could not after. After the new nation came into being, the United States was now the new Romans 13 authority in America.)
Thomas Jefferson famously said “Rebellion to tyrants is obedience to God,” meaning that there is an authority higher than the state and it is that Authority who compels our highest allegiance. If we find ourselves in the unfortunate position of being forced to choose between the two, our choice is clear. In fact, Jefferson put the phrase on his personal seal and advocated that it be included on the Great Seal of the United States.
Newsom’s tyrannical edicts have no legal force since he has emergency powers for only 30 days. After 30 days, his emergency powers evaporate unless and until the legislature renews them, which it has not done. This means that it is Governor Newsom, not Grace Community Church, who is in violation of the law here.
The letter concludes, “Our prayer is that every faithful congregation will stand with us in obedience to our Lord as Christians have done through the centuries.”
There are 375,000 churches in the United States. If every one of them decided to meet for worship this Sunday, there isn’t a thing government could do to stop them. There aren’t enough police officers or jail cells to hold them. They can’t arrest us all. The church would be invincible and unstoppable, all the things Jesus promised us it would be.
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