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We Ought to Obey God Rather Than Men
Yesterday I watched a news report about how Pastor Tim Stephens of Fairview Baptist Church in Calgary, Alberta, Canada is respectfully defying the government’s tyrannical orders which restrict churches from assembling for worship at 100% capacity. The police recently entered their church service to take pictures of them assembling for worship, but Pastor Stephens just kept preaching undeterred. He is facing possible jail time and a $250,000 fine, but nevertheless has decided that he and his church “ought to obey God rather than men” (Act 5:29), stating that “this is a matter of obedience to God and obedience to the Lord Jesus Christ, and so no amount of fine, no amount of jail time is going to discourage people as they come together to worship…Christ is King, and so we’re here to worship Him, and He is above every other authority.” Amen, brother Stephens! Pastor Stephens is a hero in my book. He is standing with the great men of God in the scriptures who fearlessly defied the authorities when they forbad of them what God required or required of them what God forbad: men like Peter who said that “we ought to obey God rather than men” (Act 5:29), and “whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye. For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard” (Act 4:19-20), knowing that beatings and jail time awaited them; or men like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego who, knowing that they would be cast into a burning fiery furnace for not worshiping the king’s idol if God did not intervene, said “be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up” (Dan 3:18); or men like Daniel who, knowing that he would be cast into a den of lions, paid no attention to the wicked law that the king passed which forbad him from praying to his God, and “went into his house; and his windows being open in his chamber toward Jerusalem, he kneeled upon his knees three times a day, and prayed, and gave thanks before his God, as he did aforetime” (Dan 6:10). Those godly men in scripture all made decisions based on principle knowing that their very lives were at stake, but not caring because their desire to please God was greater than their love for their own lives. This country and Canada are in desperate need of men of God who will follow in these great men’s footsteps. The blame for the despotism that we have been suffering under for the last year whereby we have had our freedom of movement, of assembly, and even of breathing itself severely restricted should be laid squarely at the feet of the more than 99% of the churches in this nation which cowered in the face of unlawful orders given by governors and petty tyrants in local health departments and compromised, capitulated, and submitted to the authority of men rather than God. If the pastors and churches of my town, county, state, and nation would have stood in the gap between the totalitarians and the citizenry and boldly held their ground, not giving an inch, but courageously doing as Peter, Shadrach, Meshach, Abebnego, and Daniel did, this scamdemic and the draconian, cruel, and devastating lockdowns, quarantines, and mask mandates would have never happened. But when the pastors and churches sheepishly caved in and closed their doors, the flood gates opened and the oppression began in earnest. We are living under tyranny because the churches, who should have been holding up the banner of truth and freedom for others to see and follow, failed in their duty because of fear of a virus and tyrants. As Pastor Stephens said, “When the church is free to promote the good news of Jesus it will lead to freedom in the entire society. When you look at a society and there is a free church, there will be a free people.” Some have made the argument that the Bible gives examples of quarantining people to stop the spread of an infectious disease, so therefore churches are obeying God when they shut down because of the decrees of public health departments. There is just one little problem with this argument: the Bible commanded the quarantining of sick people, not healthy people! “If the bright spot be white in the skin of his flesh, and in sight be not deeper than the skin, and the hair thereof be not turned white; then the priest shall shut up him that hath the plague seven days:” (Lev 13:4) I’ve heard preachers say that this was not a hill they wanted to die on. If we are not willing to die on this hill, then which hill are we willing to die on? What we have experienced for the last year is the greatest assault on churches that we have seen in this country in our lifetimes, and probably since the 17th and 18th centuries before the founding of our republic when Baptist churches were still being cruelly persecuted by protestants in this land. Churches have literally been forcibly closed, had their assembly sizes dictated to them, and been forced to wear coverings over their faces which dehumanize us and do nothing to stop the spread of a virus. The scripture commands us to be “not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching” (Heb 10:25), and to “present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service” (Rom 12:1). Churches cannot assemble themselves together and present their bodies a living sacrifice over Zoom! The Bible commands us to “greet ye one another with an holy kiss” (1Co 16:20). It tells us to “eat this bread, and drink this cup” (1Co 11:26) when the church assembles to partake of communion in remembrance of the Lord Jesus Christ’s death for us. Church members cannot greet each other with an holy kiss and eat and drink at the Lord’s table while wearing a face mask! Jesus commanded His church, saying “if I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another’s feet” (Joh 13:14). Ministers are commanded to go and teach converts, “baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost” (Mat 28:19). Church members cannot wash each others feet, and pastors cannot baptize penitent sinners from six feet away while following government social distancing orders! During the last year churches have been forbidden to assemble, present their bodies as living sacrifices to God, embrace each other, shake hands, sing hymns together, greet each other with an holy kiss, wash each others feet, partake of the Lord’s Supper together, and baptize converts. If this is not a big enough hill for us to die on, then what is? I have heard so many conservatives over the years say, “if they want my guns they can pry them out of my cold, dead fingers.” Then these same tough guys rolled over and obeyed every stay-at-home, church closure, business closure, and mask order that some governor or unelected bureaucrat handed down to them. Given their track record, I suspect that their fingers will be nice and warm when they hand over their guns when ordered to someday. If you have been paying attention to what Bill Gates and the other tyrants are saying, this will likely not be the last plandemic, and it will likely not be the last time we are locked down and churches are ordered to close or to restrict their occupancy. Pastors and churches must stand strong in the future if we are to have any hope of religious freedom (and liberty in general) remaining in this country. To allow the state to impose occupancy restrictions on church meeting places is a slippery slope into total government control of religion. If you grant them a 50% occupancy limit, then what’s stopping them from lowering it to 30, 10, 5, or 1 percent? If we are thinking Biblically, and desiring above all to obey God rather than men, then a 99% occupancy limit should be a grievous offence to us. The last time I read my Bible, I don’t remember Heb 10:25 saying, “not forsaking the assembling of a percentage of yourselves together which the government allows…” If we are not “stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord” (1Co 15:58), then someday we are going to have to explain to our children or grandchildren why we were the cowards who let our churches be trampled under foot by the state and why there is no longer any religious freedom in our country. If we love our cushy lives so much that we are not willing to take a stand for God, His holy religion, and His worship because we might get dragged into court or put in jail, then we might just lose our lives. “He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal.” (Joh 12:25) This blog was hard for me to write and likely won’t make me any friends, but I felt compelled to do it for the sake of God’s churches and our liberty which the Lord has so graciously blessed us with for so many years. If you agree, please share it to spread the word. And, lest you think I am a Monday morning quarterback, our church has not missed a single Sunday of in-person worship by the grace of God, and I have been preaching against the lockdowns since March, 2020. I encourage you to watch this interview with Pastor Tim Stephens for some encouragement and admonition. Post Script There is another pastor, James Coates in Edmonton, Alberta who has been in jail since February 16th for holding church services in violation of Canadian Covid-19 public health orders. Please pray that God will defend and deliver him, and consider donating to support him.