We will not cancel the ordained worship services of the church upon the command of the state or any of its agents

We will not cancel the ordained worship services of the church upon the command of the state or any of its agents.

The supposed reasonableness of an illegal command is never the primary issue.

The issue is a head of state’s authority to direct the church upon the justification of public necessity.

A directive has been given to the people of God that they not go to church by the Governor of the state, which is plainly an unconstitutional over-reach of state power imposed upon the church with neither consultation nor regard for the inherent authority and rights of the church.

The church is not a part of the state, is not under the authority of the state, and is not subject to the powers of the state.

There’s good reason that Madison wrote, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, nor prohibiting the freedoms thereof…” as a prohibition of state coercion of the church.

Be careful what you establish as a precedent for the expression of state power. Administrations change and so does what is considered a “public necessity”.

To speak frankly, the church does not have a duty to obey the state but for in matters incidental to its work.

What occured in Mississippi is the worst type infringement: the state acted to cancel the church services of every church in Mississippi by commanding its citizens to not attend church. A directive given “under color of authority”.

The argument in favor of this exercise of the authority of the state over the church seems to be that one agrees that the state is demanding a wise course of action.

But agreement with the reasoning isn’t the same as agreeing with authority of the state over the church. It’s different than agreeing that the state has the actual authority to make this kind of a decision or to demand compliance.

At that point you might as well be arguing for a state church or the church as a subsidiary department of the state, something that most of you loathe ideologically.

The worship of God is not a thing to be lightly disregarded as with basketball games and visits to the bars (California). God takes it very seriously as its purpose is the spiritual well being of his people and he at times provides consequences for its avoidance.

If one believes that God has ordained his worship at a specific time and place no force on Earth can legitimately counter his intent.

This is of course a matter of Christian conscience and dependent upon one’s understanding of God and the Bible but the exercise of that conscience is protected by the law of the land.

As for where and how, one could as easily perform one’s duties to God in a field as in a building with soft seats and warm colors, but one could not avoid worship in any other way than by a divine command.

Still, necessity is also a command and there’s good evidence in the Bible that God allows the sick and contagious, the infirm and those for whom attendance is impossible to stay home, but that is the judgement of the church and not the state.

Do you really want the state telling you when you can go to church?

The state is God’s state, the church is God’s church, but the church is not the state’s church.

There is a delicate separation and balance of powers here and the state does not have power or authority greater than the church. That the state has greater authority than the church might be one of the great myths of American sentiment. The state is distinct and different but not greater or wiser. In fact, the state is generally the less wise of the two.

Given the opportunity the church will make the best possible decision for the health, safety and well-being of her members and the state is afforded neither the authority nor the right to make such decisions.

So the argument being made is this, the state can cancel your church service any time it feels it has a good enough reason.

I say no they can’t.

So does the Constitution.

So does scripture.

With Peter when commanded not to preach we say, “shall we obey men rather than God.”

The issue is that they lack the authority to issue any such command, and that they have the authority to tell a Christian when they should and should not go to church is worse than legally false, it is positively heretical.

Now I know that you’re not saying that, you’re arguing the reasonableness of the command, but the reasonableness of an illegal command is never the primary issue.

And so churches will tell Christians when it is morally acceptable to attend or not attend church, not Governors or Princes or Presidents or Kings, because we have a greater King with whom to contend and he will brook no rivals.

3 thoughts on “We will not cancel the ordained worship services of the church upon the command of the state or any of its agents

  1. I agree in principle but not in practicality. While the government may not or should not dictate to the church, but can disallow gatherings over 250 people not specifying the “church”, is well within the law. It is also morally proper when it is for the safeguard of the people.

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  2. I see this as considerably different from infringing upon freedom of religion. For one, this is a temporary measure that applies to everyone. It’s not religious discrimination. For another, a church service doesn’t have to be held inside a church building. The churches in the apostles’ time met in houses and consisted of less than 50 people. The government isn’t telling people not to go to church—it’s telling people not to gather in large groups. Do church in smaller groups instead, until the danger passes.

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  3. Respectfully – since I love the clear Biblical stance of CTh – I must agree with “John” and “clayds906”. This is not an issue of God vs Caesar, and to reshape it thus could be a fake persecution complex. The state, as God’s agent for good, is telling us to maximize social distancing. We, as Christians, should be the first to model obedience to Caesar, not the first to frustrate Caesar in his God-given role. When the world sees, for example, that four members of one New Jersey family have died, three are hospitalized, and nineteen others are in self-isolation, following one family meal, and then it sees a church gathering people together! the name of Christ is publicly shamed. There are different ways of carrying out our duty not to “forsake the gathering of yourselves together”: this should not be interpreted so legalistically that it means forsaking our God-given duty to obey Caesar. Caesar is not commanding us to sin, here.

    The government wants to get across to the community the need not merely to be selfishly, self-protecting, but to be sensitive the needs of others to be protected from us. That is love language, and that is what we profess to be about – at least with our mouths. But churches who carry on with business as usual risk preaching to the world that the corona virus is not as dangerous as the government is desperately trying to tell us. While hosts of unbelievers are trying to pull their weight, what are we telling the world about Jesus if we don’t pull our weight. No church should dare to parade themselves as God-honouring and obedient to the gathering-commandment of God if they treat that in such a manner as to unnecessarily endanger others, especially the elderly. And they should certainly not dare to presume upon the protection of God if they dishonour him in such a way, and put their Lord to the test. We should all do our bit to ensure that, to quote President Trump, the virus “has no place to go.”

    As I write now, our government in Australia, lead by our Prime Minister, who is our brother in Christ, has asked us to avoid all non-essential meetings, and even then to have people separated from each other by four square meters. But they face an uphill battle with “she’ll be right” Aussies not observing social distancing. Let’s pray for our national leaders. And lets pray for a real revival that brings obedience to the powers that be. This coming week, I was due to be in Tanzania, East Africa, to lead a seminar for 250 evangelists in a part of the world where most “evangelists” do not know the evangel of grace (https://graceclinics.weebly.com). What an opportunity for the gospel! And yet, I cannot be party to putting God to the test, and ignoring the limited ability of the health system there to cope with an outbreak.
    For sure, I want these men to go out with God’s gospel, but I do not want them to go out with the virus, or their churches to go out with the virus to their communities. In any case, now my God-given PM has said, “Don’t go overseas!” (i.e., Don’t go and come back to endanger the rest of us.) I take comfort that God is already overseas, and I pray He will teach those evangelists as, this month, they work through teach-yourself, Bible-study books we have given them.

    May the Lord make us wise as well as faithful, and use us in the protection of others. May we bring honour, and not dishonour, to his holy name.

    John Rowse.

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