News of Interest to Bible Believers
Over 11,000 Expository Alliterated Sermons that are full text and over 800 great illustrations. This site is a pastor's dream. This site is a complete sermon library available in one internet location. Absolutely the best and largest library of exp
by Phil Johnsonot this question today in more than one Tweet (regarding the Grace Church elders' statement "Christ, Not Caesar, Is Head of the Church"), so I'll answer it here:Thanks for the question. I'll answer candidly. Speaking for myself alone, I'll acknowledge that yes, my thinking on the question of the COVID-19 quarantine and Romans 13 has changed somewhator at least been refined, illuminated, qualified, and enriched. I've been forced by circumstances to rethink and amplify my answers carefully because of the government's relentless attempts to keep churches closed despite the fact that months have passed without the apocalyptic quotas of death and disease that were originally predicted. My original concern about the virus was clearly overblown. At the time, I needed to be cautious, because we could not possibly know how serious the threat really was. My concern now is for people whose need for fellowship and pastoral care is going unmet. I do have firsthand knowledge of how critical this emergency is.In the weeks since March several things happened that affect my perspective. For one thing, the California Governor's edicts have become increasingly onerous.He has told churches they should not have congregational singing.He wants to limit church attendance to 100 (even in a massive 3,000-seat auditorium).He says churches are "nonessential" while insisting that marijuana dispensaries, liquor stores, and casinos are vital businesses that must be kept open.Although he briefly showed signs of backing off the policy of church closures, he then immediately doubled down to try to force the mandatory re-closure of all places of worship "indefinitely" (even though there's no evidence churches have been hotspots for passing the virus).Meanwhile, government officials have not only permitted but actively encouraged mass demonstrations (including riots) for political causes.With all of that going on, I was forced to rethink my position on Romans 13. The elders of our church also realized the need for us to answer in greater detail the question of who has the authority to govern the doctrine, worship, and polity of the church. The elders' statement that was affirmed on July 23 and made public the following day is the result. It's a clarification and qualification of everything we have previously said about the duty imposed on us by Romans 13 and 1 Peter 2. Without denying that duty, we're endeavoring to explain biblically why those passages don't call for blind, automatic acquiescence to government overreach into church business.It is of course still the case that in a real and impending health crisis, the elders and pastors of a church may wisely decide to follow the recommendations of health officials with regard to protecting against dangerous contagions. That's precisely what we did at the start of the quarantine. Circumstances have changed, however, and we have adapted (and explained) our response accordingly.An observant person who has been following me might have noticed subtle shifts in my position since the quarantine began. I knew from the start that things might change if politicians began to use the health crisis in an opportunistic way. When explaining our position on Romans 13 several weeks ago, I wrote this: How long until the government-ordered quarantine is undeniably excessive, or we conclude that it's targeted persecution against our worship and therefore an illegal attempt to make us disobey Hebrews 10:25? That time may come, and when it does, we may have to implement the principle of Acts 5:29. The question of whether we have already passed that point is another subjective issue
by Phil Johnsonhis guy, angry that Grace Community Church yielded to the 9th Circuit Court's ruling banning church meetings in California this weekend, Tweets at me: "An unjust law need not be followed."I'm appalled at how many people who profess to believe Scripture echo that sentiment. Nero was emperor when Paul wrote Romans 13:1-7: "Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. . . ." First Peter 2:13 was written to people suffering unjustly. ("Be subject for the Lord's sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him...")Peter goes on to say: "Be subject . . . also to the unjust. For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly" (vv. 18-19). Indeed, "to this [unjust suffering] you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps." (v. 21). When someone in authority over us treats us unjustly, the example we are to follow was set for us by Christ, who simply "continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly" (v. 23).The only exception to this principle is when the one in authority instructs us to sin. Then "we must obey God rather than men" (Acts 5:29).So does a government-mandated quarantine ask us to violate Hebrews 10:25 ("not neglecting to meet together"), or is the quarantine in keeping with the principle of Leviticus 13-14, where quarantines are expressly mandated?The answer to that question may vary according to where we live. Quarantining people in the midst of a pandemic is a legitimate prerogative of government. How long the quarantine should last and who should be exempted are questions that don't have clear, fixed answers. The severity and duration of the pandemic determines what's reasonable or not. We may or may not agree with how the quarantine is being implemented (I certainly do not), but we have a clear duty to submit unless we are being asked to sin.How long until the government-ordered quarantine is undeniably excessive, or we conclude that it's targeted persecution against our worship and therefore an illegal attempt to make us disobey Hebrews 10:25? That time may come, and when it does, we may have to implement the principle of Acts 5:29. The question of whether we have already passed that point is another subjective issue, but it's clear that among believers—in the church itself—there is not yet consensus on whether the quarantine has gone too far.Nevertheless, if you hang out on Twitter or Facebook, you may have noticed that there are countless people in the evangelical community who refuse to regard any of the above questions as matters of conscience. They believe the answers are perfectly obvious. They are eager to tell you what you and your church ought to be doing. They are locked and loaded with vituperation for anyone who sees matters differently. Two camps of them have squared off against each other—hordes of angry Karens at opposite extremes, all of whom disagree with the position I've outlined above. Some of them are scolding us for thinking Romans 13 and 1 Peter 2 actually apply in today's circumstances. The others are berating us for wanting to resume public worship ASAP.Sorry, but in the words of Martin Luther, here I stand. I can do no other. I cannot and will not recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. God help us.
by Phil Johnson do of course, wholeheartedly affirm the principles of Romans 13:1-7 ("be in subjection to the governing authorities") and 1 Peter 2:13-17 ("Submit yourselves for the Lord's sake to every human institution")—while recognizing also that those commands are limited by the principle of Acts 5:29 ("We must obey God rather than men").If you believe the threat to public health is real and deadly, you'll probably be inclined to submit to all the governor's orders. If you suspect politicians are milking the entire thing and exaggerating the threat for partisan purposes, you're more likely to conclude that the duty of Hebrews 10:25 outweighs any obligation to kowtow to the governor's latest whim.Circumstances surrounding the current quarantine, riots, and mass political demonstrations have greatly blurred the question of whether Acts 5:29 applies in this case. Good, Bible-believing Christians have landed on both sides of the question. If you believe the threat to public health is real and deadly, you'll probably be inclined to submit to all the governor's orders. If you suspect politicians are milking the entire thing and exaggerating the threat for partisan purposes, you're more likely to conclude that the duty of Hebrews 10:25 outweighs any obligation to kowtow to the governor's latest whim.During more than 16 weeks of quarantine (with the death toll just a sparse fraction of what experts originally predicted) the elders and staff of Grace Community Church observed every order related to the quarantine. But the rules change almost daily and are being applied unfairly. Statistically, people are far more likely to get the virus in a gym or a bar than in a worship service. (Of 3+ million cases in the US since March, only 650 have been traceable to churches.) Yet bars, gyms, gambling casinos, and even massage parlors have been given freedoms that are withheld from churches. In fact, as these and other businesses are finally being permitted to reopen, restrictions targeting churches are becoming even more onerous. The California Governor has gone so far as to tell churches they must cease all congregational singing.Governor Newsom: Unclear on the Concept.(It's supposed to be a mask, not a chin strap.)Our elders and security team cannot in good conscience become enforcers of rules that 1) we believe unfairly target the church, and 2) the government itself has declined to enforce. Owing to the arbitrary, capricious way these regulations are made and changed, combined with the fact that authorities did nothing (and are doing nothing) to enforce the masks-and-social-distancing rules on political demonstrators who gather regularly in downtown L. A. in crowds of thousands, it seems only right to leave the question of how far to go in observing social-distancing recommendations up to each individual. The degree to which we permit masks and social-distancing recommendations to impinge on our worship in the congregational context ought to be seen as a matter of conscience. "Each person must be fully convinced in his own mind" (Romans 14:5).In other words, the degree to which we permit masks and social-distancing recommendations to impinge on our worship in the congregational context ought to be seen as a matter of conscience. "Each person must be fully convinced in his own mind" (Romans 14:5). And don't be quick to condemn believers who hold a different opinion, no matter which side of the issue you have come down on.Grace Church's elders have made it possible for people with scrupulous consciences to obey every government-issued regulation to the letter. The church provides masks and hand cleanser at stations around campus, and there are ample outdoor seating spaces where people can hear the sermon, participate in the singing, and still practice careful social distancing if they are bound by conscience to do so.On the other hand, for those (like me) who are not fearful of exposure to the virus, or those who are deeply skeptical of the motives behind this level of government intrusion, they can likewise do what their conscience dictates and gather in the auditorium for worship as usual—with or without masks. If government officials choose to single those people out and enforce rules they aren't enforcing at political demonstrations, let them do so. I for one am willing to suffer the consequences if it comes to that.
. . . and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.by Phil Johnsonavin Ortlund has written a blogpost titled "Should Churches in California Defy Government Restrictions? A Response to John MacArthur." Time won't permit me to go through his entire post, but I want to clarify one point that Ortlund gets wrong, because it's a crucial one, and I've seen it repeated several times on Twitter. (I've even had a couple of angry emails from people who think John MacArthur said what Ortlund claims he said.) Since it's the starting point of Ortlund's blogpost, much of what he writes in the piece hinges on his misunderstanding of a partial quote he has pulled from MacArthur.Ortlund writes, for example, "To claim that those complying with the government restrictions 'don't know what a church is and . . . don't shepherd their people' is both unhelpful and unkind" (italics added). MacArthur made no such blanket statement, but Ortlund seems to believe that's what he meant, and Ortlund feels personally targeted by it.Here's what John MacArthur did say, with a little bit of context:Churches are shutting down. Large churches are shutting down until (they say) January. I don't have any way to understand thatother than they don't know what a church is and they don't shepherd their people. But that's sad. And you have a lot of people in Christianity who seem to be significant leaders who aren't giving any strength and courage to the church. They're not standing up and rising up and calling on Christians to be the church in the world.John MacArthur (2 August 2020)As the context plainly shows, Pastor MacArthur was talking about pastors who are doing what Andy Stanley and JD Greear have donenamely, they have stopped gathering as a church and made small home groups a long-term substitute for congregational worship. And they say they have no intention of re-gathering the whole flock until sometime in 2021.MacArthur's remark was not about masks and social distancing. It wasn't aimed at churches that have continued to gather the flock by moving their services outdoors or off site. And let's be clear: That would exclude Gavin Ortlund from MacArthur's censure. In his blogpost, Ortlund himself says, "Our church has chosen to meet outdoors." Wonderful. He is to be commended for that. But would Pastor Ortlund not actually agree that it would reflect an unbiblical notion of what the church should be if he had given up on the duty spelled out in Hebrews 10:25—which (by the way) Ortlund himself lists first in his list of "four biblical values that should inform our decision-making in this situation"?No one who is making a good-faith effort not to forsake the regular assembly has any cause to feel insulted by John MacArthur's comment. I'm convinced that no one who is listening carefully to what Pastor MacArthur is saying (and what he has said—repeatedly—about Grace Church's response to the indefinite extension of the quarantine in California) has any cause to feel targeted—unless they are arguing that long-term closure of churches is the right response to the pandemic.I admit, it did surprise me last week when Jonathan Leeman, Editorial Director of the 9Marks ministry, indicated he appreciated JD Greear's approach, implying that canceling congregational worship for the rest of the year is a viable (perhaps even better) answer to the quarantine than John MacArthur's decision simply to open the doors of the church and allow the congregation to come. Leeman himself had previously written an excellent article, "The Church Gathered," defending the priority of the congregational assembly.In the discussions currently taking place in various Internet forums, it seems there is no shortage of church leaders who, faced with the pragmatic difficulties of the recent pandemic, have adopted the view that it's just fine for a pastor to make plans not to gather the flock at all for the better part of a year. Those who think that way ought to feel the sting of John MacArthur's rebuke. The prevalence of such thinking among evangelicals is a disturbing reality, and one that shouldn't be glossed over or downplayed just because someone's feelings might accidentally get hurt.MacArthur was absolutely right in what he said. Those who think closing churches for the remainder of the calendar year is a good plan frankly don't have a biblical understanding of what the church is to be. The fact that so many in current positions of church leadership don't see that sets up a scary scenario for the future of the evangelical movement.
Have you ever prayed for something and seemed to be ignored? We’ve heard many times that the Bible is its own best commentary. When our prayers seem unanswered we need go no farther than the Word for understanding (James 4:3; Psalm 66:18; Proverbs 1:22-33; 1 John 5:16; Hebrews 12:8 plus all of the verses instructing […]The post The Gift of Weakness appeared first on Mom's Blog.
Powered by Ekklesia-Online