11 Jan 10 Reasons Why We Are (Currently) Yielding to a Government Lockdown
We, as elders at Redemption Bible Chapel London, are choosing to submit and yield to our governmental (civil) leaders (at this point), in this COVID-19 situation. We choose to do this for the following 10 reasons:
1. Scripture commands us to (Romans 13:1-7)
Notice in this passage, we are commanded (“be subject to” is an imperative), to submit to our civil, governing authorities. Remember that Paul wrote this while he was under an evil, immoral government by the Romans who would soon start horrendous persecution on Christians.
- Our submission recognizes God’s sovereignty, “for there is no authority except from God, and those that exist (in the human, civil realm as well as any others) have been instituted by God”.
- This command comes with a warning, “those who resist (this civil authority) will incur judgment”.
- Therefore, we need to be very certain that if we refuse to submit to a governing authority, it is done as a clear response to being forced to explicitly disobey God’s Word.
2. The church is still the church, even if it cannot meet in person on Sundays
- The “church” is used several ways in the New Testament:
- As a local body, or collection of believers (such as in Acts 14:23).
- As the larger body of believers in the world (such as in Ephesians 5:23).
- It is key to remember that the church is not just the church when it is meeting locally, assembled on a Sunday morning.
- These restrictions have not stopped the church from being the church. First Timothy 3:15 teaches us that the church is far more than just a Sunday meeting. “The household of God, which is the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of the truth.”
- The word “church” (“ekklesia” in the original) does have the idea of “the assembled ones”, but more literally it is translated, “called out ones”. So, the primary meaning is as much of those assembled (as argued by some – we cannot be the church if we do not assemble) but means those who are called out of the world, out of the kingdom of Satan, by God, through salvation, into His family/kingdom. As Hebrews 12:23 says, the “assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven” (“assembly” is “ekklesia”).
- Therefore, when we cannot gather for worship and the Word, the church is still, in every manner, the church of God, the pillar and buttress of the truth, the household of God (1 Timothy 3:15, Ephesians 2:19).
3. We can still fulfill the “one another’s” of Scripture
One of the many calls of God upon His church are known as the “one another’s”. From our count, the New Testament uses the phrase “one another” 55 times with injunctions to the body of Christ. Some are repeats, so there are about 33 unique “one another” calls upon the body of Christ.
- Some examples of the one another’s of Scripture are love one another, forgive one another, honour one another, be at peace with one another, etc.
- In looking through the list, only a few cannot be obeyed unless we are physically together:
- Wash one another’s feet (John 13:14).
- Greet one another with a holy kiss (Romans 16:16 and three other references).
- Wait for each other when you come together for the communion meal (1 Corinthians 11:33).
- Offer hospitality to one another (1 Peter 4:9).
- Few, if any Christians in Canada, practiced the holy kiss or washing one another’s feet prior to COVID, so the use of these references as Biblical support to remain open is misplaced at best.
- Communion is a “together” ordinance as Paul says “when you come together” five times when teaching on the Lord’s supper. However, many are still carrying out communion with each in their own homes using technology to participate together. Many churches, as is our regular practice, only held communion from time-to-time, not every Sunday. So, a longer delay in between communion services due to temporary lockdowns is not disobedience to Scripture.
4. Sunday morning services are not commanded
They are for certain, desirable, normal, beneficial, and a practice of the first church and the church throughout our history and should be a priority. People keep saying, in response to the lockdowns, “we are commanded to meet”. This is not directly true. Normally Hebrews 10:25 is referenced, “not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some”. A proper understanding of the meaning, context, and application of this verse is being ignored by many in this debate.
- This is not a command (an imperative) nor is it specifically speaking of the Sunday morning service.
- The context is clear, as the writer builds his case for three instructions, we as believers are to follow.
- “Since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus” (vs. 19) and “since we have a great priest over the house of God” (vs. 21),
- we should – we are called to – we are instructed to – have three attitudes and actions. Three “let us” statements, built on the two “since” truths.
- “Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith” (“with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water”).
- “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering” (“for He who promised is faithful”).
- “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works” (“not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”).
- The primary call of this passage is to draw near, hold fast, and stir up one another.
- We can do ALL of these without meeting Sunday morning. This verse is not referencing Sunday morning meetings or church services.
- The encouragement of, “not neglecting to meet together” is ONE way we can help “stir up one another”, but not the only way. We can all agree there are many ways to “stir up one another” which do not require a face-to-face meeting.
- Even if you believe we must be in-person to stir up one another, this could be done by shepherds visiting individual families (and thus avoiding a prohibited, public, large gathering during a government-mandated ban on such). This would still violate some of the lockdown restrictions, but is an alternative, with potentially less risk, than a Sunday service.
5. We can still worship and sing praises to our great God
The church is not commanded to meet weekly and sing praises. Although the Old and New Testaments have many examples and injunctions to praise God, including in song and musical worship, the crux of this is directed to the Christ-follower, not a call strictly to corporate services.
- God does not “delight in sacrifices,” but He looks for hearts and minds, devoted in sincerity to Him. “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise” (Psalm 51).
- God is honoured as He sees each heart devoted to Himself, as worship is an act flowing out of one’s heart and is not specified to be a group singing together.
- The individual heart is the focus of calls in the New Testament to sing songs and hymns “making melody to the Lord with your heart” (Ephesians 5:19).
- As we are filled with His Spirit, individually, the Spirit responds in each of us, by “addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ” (Ephesians 5:20-21). Also, “let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God” (Colossians 3:16).
- “Addressing one another” can still happen without meeting on Sundays for a season. We can still address one another, even in song, via Zoom (or other technology) gatherings, in phone calls, etc. It is far easier and more enjoyable to “teach and admonish one another” when we are together, face-to-face, but this CAN happen in other ways. We certainly all want to be together, and it is better for the church to be physically gathered, however, our preferences do not supersede the mandate to yield to civil authorities when they do not ask us to violate Scripture.
6. We can still have a testimony and witness for Christ
Somehow some think that our only witness for Jesus is if we stand emphatically declaring that the unbelieving world will see our conviction for the Word of God if we stay open, standing on some conviction. Some perceive that if we bow to the civil authorities, we lose our witness to the unbelieving world. Some have claimed that because God has graciously worked in someone’s life during an in-person Sunday service, this is proof that staying open results in fruit for the kingdom.
- Our view of God’s sovereignty in salvation and sanctification is such that we do not believe temporarily switching our Sunday services to online limits God in this area.
- Praise God, some lives have been transformed via in-person services over these past weeks and months, even perhaps in services which were violating the lockdown orders. However, a Biblical theology cannot say this work of God in an individual’s life would not have happened if that Sunday service had not happened in-person. This is pragmatism and poor theology. People are also being saved during on-line livestream services, through recorded services and sermons. God is ultimately sovereign, and we can trust that if we are faithful to follow His commands in scripture, THIS is the most effective and loving testimony and witness for Christ we could have.
- God’s hand is NOT stayed simply because the church does not meet on a Sunday. We need look no further than China, Iran, North Korea, etc., to see the error of this logic.
- We gather on Sundays to be edified (the lockdown requires a modified effort in this edification), and we scatter all week to be His witnesses, to go and be missionaries into a very lost world. Yes, we assume every Sunday service some lost people will be present, so preach the gospel, but our witness does not all hang on a Sunday morning gathering.
7. Disagreement with the “facts” and “science”, frustrations with hypocrisy of civil leaders, and inconsistency in the restrictions are not sufficient reasons to disobey our civil authority
Pragmatism, our frustrations, our opinions, or even the hypocrisy of our leaders does not negate our responsibility to follow scripture by submitting to our civil authority.
- Many people are skeptical of the data on COVID, or disagree with reports on the dangers of COVID, whether the lockdowns work, whether masks are truly helpful, etc. In reality, few to any of us have enough access to the actual source of data and its collection, never mind the science and understanding, to determine, without any doubt, what the truth is in all these various issues. We simply do not know with certainty the final answer on many of these contentious topics.
- There are still many things unknown with this new virus. The source of data cannot be verified by us. We do not have all the knowledge required to understand viruses, how this one interacts with the human body, or the long-term impact of the virus (not just current death rates, but lingering effects, etc.). Yet some Christians are adamant, arrogantly claiming via conversations and social media what is truth versus what is false. Very few of us are qualified to make such statements, and even for those who are, the data is changing daily and remains unclear.
- Even if the government mandates public safety protocols that we personally disagree with, or find indefensible logically, we are still biblically called to submit. As elders, we cannot make our decisions pragmatically, using our own limited knowledge as a guide. We have no choice but to humbly seek and obey God’s Word and submit to our scriptural mandate. God has entrusted us with the well-being of our flock and the future of the church.
- We are to be directed by Scripture, not by man’s (a pastor’s or elder’s) wisdom, not by a vote of what the majority believe, nor by what seems to make sense or seems to work (pragmatism).
- We are to walk in humility (Philippians 2:3), we are to consider others more significant than ourselves, yield our rights and our best for the good of others, and do and say all that we do and say with kindness, gentleness, mercy, and grace. Remember Peter’s call to slaves, “not only to the good and gentle but also to the unjust” (1 Peter 2:18).
- Finally, where we disagree (which seems to be with many issues) we should think, speak, and act toward one another with humility, grace, kindness, and love. “Walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:1-3).
8. A loss of civil freedoms (and/or trajectory of our government) is not sufficient reason to disobey our government’s lockdown directives
- Like many of you, we, as elders, are concerned that our country is trending toward an increasing loss of freedoms, of independence, etc. Even our governmental structures are skirting more and more democratic laws and procedures and making more and more decisions without due process, without accountability and transparency, and there seems to be an increased taste for this sort of power within leadership.
- However, we must not forget that Jesus, John, Peter, Paul, and all the apostles ministered under a tyrannical government, enslaved by the Romans – an exceptionally evil government. Yet we see no call by any of them for protests, civil disobedience, or campaigns against the evil and wicked practices, procedures, policies, and actions of their government.
- Rather, they called us to honour those in our government (1 Peter 2:17), to pray for them (1 Timothy 2:1-3), and to submit ourselves to them (1 Peter 2:13-16 and Romans 13:1-7).
- Paul, who spent many years in prison unjustly, urged his people to stay focused on the mission and to remember that “the word of God is not bound” (2 Timothy 2:9). Yes, the loss of civil freedoms and trajectory of our government is concerning, but our hope is in the good news of Jesus Christ, not in political, civil, or even religious freedoms.
- Pilate saw no guilt in Jesus, yet still condemned Him to death (John 19:4). Herod illegally and immorally murdered all the male boys under the age of two in Bethlehem out of jealousy of another king (Matthew 2:16). Herod had John the Baptist beheaded to please his wife and her daughter and out of pride for his own reputation in front of party guests (Matthew 14:10).
- Many immoral, evil, and wicked civil leaders have used and abused God’s people, yet there is no call in the New Testament to rise up in rebellion against those in authority, but rather to humble oneself, stay on mission, and trust God’s sovereign rule.
9. Questioning the “legality” of the restrictive COVID laws under our Charter of Rights and Freedoms is not sufficient reason to disobey our government’s lockdown directives
- It is very possible that according to Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms, that some of these lockdown laws violate the rights of Canadians. We agree that this should be challenged and tested, within the processes and means allowed within Canadian law (and we are aware of some groups who have already raised up a legal challenge against these laws). However, until such a time as a court rules on that, we should yield to our government, unless they call us to disobey God’s Word, which they have not yet done, as per our understanding of scripture in points 1 through 5 above.
- Paul appealed to Caesar. Paul used the Roman law to challenge the legality of a Roman citizen being beaten and imprisoned without a trial. He appeared to know the law and use the law. This is wise, this is our right in Canada, and this is a Biblical approach to what is happening.
- This is a route and option available to the church of Christ. However, this use of the law did not stop Paul from suffering losses of freedom as well as personal suffering under a system that was acting immorally and illegally. Even in all these wrongs suffered by Paul while he was appealing to the law for his rights, he never counselled civil disobedience or even protest in any form.
10. We do not believe the day has yet come when we must refuse to submit to our civil authority, though we are willing to do so if/when the government forces us to choose between “obeying God or man”
John and Peter were clear, when threatened and charged by the Jewish leaders, not to preach in the name of Jesus any more that, “We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29).
- When civil authorities seek to stop the Christian church and/or individual Christians from proclaiming Jesus Christ, Him crucified and raised from the dead; when they tell us we cannot worship Him, pray to Him, speak of Him, or follow Him, then we must obey God and His Word, rather than man and his evil directives.
- When we do this (and we believe that day is coming), we must also humbly accept the consequences of this obedience to God and disobedience to the authorities over us. God will know every loss, all suffering, and persecution. He is still sovereign, and He has promised to reward us. Nothing happens to God’s children apart from His perfect plan, but much suffering, loss, pain, and heartache may befall the children and church of God as part of His perfect plan.
- Persecution will come, we know this. We believe its arrival is not far from our door, and like our brethren around this world who are currently suffering persecution, and like all those who have come before us, we must joyfully and willingly accept, as Job did in his suffering and loss, “Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?” (Job 2:10).
- God is not responsible for persecution and the suffering and loss it inflicts, but in the end, He is sovereign and allows this for our good and His glory. So, we will joyfully yield. We have “not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood” (Hebrews 12:4), but that day may not be far away, so let us, as God’s church, do our utmost to prepare ourselves for Biblical fidelity. When persecution comes, let us remain faithful to continue fulfilling the Great Commission in the spirit of the Great Commandment, no matter the cost.