The following was written for Christ’s people of the church in Colorado where I am pastor. I do not post this assuming every local church will operate the way we do, or can. I present it to the public because it may provide encouragement to pastors and church members elsewhere.
Dear church family:
With the global commotion COVID-19 has brought I am rejoicing that many of you have not operated in fear or disillusionment. You have set apart Christ in your hearts and confirmed He is your hope. You have adapted. You have been gracious and patient. You have kept in contact with other members. Praise the Lord!
These recent months have caused me to consider more carefully what Scripture addresses about the relationship between a local church and civil government. Government in and of itself is not evil, but our days are, and we are to be careful how we walk. One reason they are evil is because those who presently govern are not obedient to God. And there is every reason to believe, great numbers of Americans do not care, or want government to be disobedient. We who belong to Christ must understand our times and conduct ourselves according to the Scriptures, whatever the cost (Eph. 5:15,16; II Tim. 3, 4).
I highly encourage you to do two things: Stop reading this and carefully read Romans 13:1-7; I Timothy 2:1-7 and I Peter 2:13-14. Then pray for Christ-honoring wisdom as you consider what I write.
I trust you noticed the following four truths from the verses:
First, God establishes government to encourage and support what is good and discourage and punish what is evil (Rom. 13:1-4).
Second, God says Christians are to do good so as not to be punished by those in civil authority for they are minsters of God for good (Rom. 13:3,4; I Peter 2:14). The only reason a Christian should ever be punished by his government is because he is doing what God says is evil. If governors restrict Christians from doing good, or punish them for doing what is good, those governing are wrong, not the Christian (see I Peter 3:13-17).
Third, God holds those in civil government accountable to rule according to what He says is good (Rom. 13:1,2). Governors are not free to make up their own standards.
Fourth, God expects those in earthly authority to govern so the local church may freely be about its God-ordained task of proclaiming the Gospel that people might be saved (I Tim. 2:1-7).
Are those the operating principles of our government? No.
Consider the following:
In this time of COVID, our state government has decreed abortion clinics to be essential to our health. In fact, in April, Colorado Planned Parenthood reported an ‘extraordinary’ increase in abortions as pregnant women came from other states with more restrictive abortion laws. For several weeks in March and April Colorado churches were encouraged to close – they were non-essential. Even now, our government wants us to think gathering as a church is something to be feared. But butchering babies is protected and promoted.
Let the numbers speak: 1,850 deaths have been attributed to COVID in Colorado this year. Babies murdered: 6,000.
That is evil.
Here are six truths we as a church must believe and faithfully obey
I cannot tell you how long COVID will retain its influence on the way we live and are governed. What I can tell you is we must believe what God has said and obey Him, whatever the cost.
First, we must and can be wise. There is a virus and most of our congregation is more apt to be severely impacted by it should it spread among us. Whether masks will prove to be the saving prophylactic of our generation remains to be seen. But certainly, we can be sensitive to washing our hands, avoiding unnecessary physical contact, and covering our mouths when we cough or sneeze.
Second, we must understand that the days are evil (Eph. 5:15,16). There are some who dedicate their lives to oppose God and His Word, striving wholeheartedly to influence society. That is the state we are in today. Literally. Colorado boasts the first ever openly homosexual governor in our nation. He has spent millions of his own dollars supporting the election of others and development of legislation and policies for the acceptance of what God says is an abomination. This is embraced by millions who see it as necessary progress for our state and society. There cannot be unity between those who suppress the truth and Christ’s people who love the truth (II Cor. 6:15; Rom 1:20-23; Col. 1:13; I John 5:18-21).
Third, we must anticipate being more out of step with our society, not less (Matt 24:6-9; John 16:8-10; II Tim 3:12,13).
Friends recently told me they thought that with the upcoming presidential election in November things would get back to normal. Edicts to wear masks and social distance will go away. That may happen; a façade of normalcy may return in the coming months. But we must acknowledge what God says about godless men:
The mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God (Romans 8:7,8). Children of wrath cannot love what they hate nor hate what they love (Ephesians 2:1-3; Matthew 6:24; Mark 7:20-23). The 1.3 million who desired an openly homosexual man to be our governor cannot be benign in dealing with churches that proclaim the truth. Theirs is a settled disposition to suppress the truth in unrighteousness (Romans 1:18, 22-32).9
God may grant mercy to great numbers of Coloradoans, causing them to repent and be saved. Let us pray that happens. But if not, we must prepare ourselves to be slandered as hate-filled bigots as our state and nation become more perverse and antichrist (Phil. 2:12-16; I Peter 2,3).
Fourth, we must reject living in fear of man and viruses. Consider the saints who have gone before us. Those whom the Lord commends to us as our examples risked their well-being, their reputation, and yes, even their health, for the sake of publicly identifying with Christ and His people (Hebrews 10:24-39; Hebrews 11). Beware the myth our lives are blessed if they are free of risk, hazards, hurts, illness, or loss. Scripture tells us just the opposite (Matthew 5:11; Philippians 1:29,30; II Tim. 3:12,13; I Peter 1:3-9). Our Lord taught His disciples whom He loved, “in this world you will have tribulation” (John 16:33). To cocoon ourselves away from society or Christ’s people because we might get hurt, we might get sick, we might offend, we might be offended, etc. is not of faith. Precautions, yes. Paralysis, no.
Fifth, we are essential because God says we are. There is no other institution that God has promised to build than Christ’s church (Matthew 16:18). There is no other institution He has designated as the pillar and support of the truth (I Tim. 3:14,15). It’s one thing for unregenerate governors to count the local church as non-essential. We do not take it lightly. But we should expect it; the god of this age continues to blind the minds of the unbelieving. However, for those whose eyes have been opened to see the glory of God in the face of Christ Jesus – and they accept the ways of the godless? That is even more wicked. Oh, let us pray for clarity and courage (Eph. 6:18-20)!
Sixth, we must continue to meet publicly, not forsaking our assembling as is the habit of some (Hebrews 10:23-31). Is He worthy? Is Christ worthy of your time, your considering Sunday as the Lord’s Day? Are His people your people? As physically able, will you faithfully demonstrate you are on the Lord’s side by gathering in His name?
I tremble to write the following: Should authorities shut local churches like ours down – either by legal fiat or physical force, there will be pseudo-members for whom the church’s closure will bring no loss to them. They will face no danger and consider their safety a blessing. I pray that not be you.
Saints, we must obey God rather than men. Vaccines may come, masks and social distancing fade away. But the word of God abides forever.
In His mighty grasp,
August 14, 2020
Below are several links that were helpful to this essay.