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Pastor John MacArthur: 'God Has Not Granted Civic Rulers Authority' Over How The Church Meets

Using social distancing practices, churchgoers return to in-person services at Alamo Heights Baptist Church, Sunday, May 10, 2020, in San Antonio. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

Pastor John MacArthur with Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, California says state mandates restricting worship services are an overreach of governmental authority.

The pastor eloquently argued in a statement Friday that "government officials have no right to interfere in ecclesiastical matters in a way that undermines or disregards the God-given authority of pastors and elders."

Amid the pandemic, Christians in California have faced multiple challenges to singing and worshipping together.

First, the government banned singing in churches to slow down the spread of the coronavirus, and then came the recent order to ban indoor church gatherings which have put a halt on church services. 

But Pastor MacArthur points out that it's the church's duty to stay open despite recent restrictions by Gov. Gavin Newsom.

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"In response to the recent state order requiring churches in California to limit or suspend all meetings indefinitely, we, the pastors and elders of Grace Community Church, respectfully inform our civic leaders that they have exceeded their legitimate jurisdiction, and faithfulness to Christ prohibits us from observing the restrictions they want to impose on our corporate worship services," the pastor wrote.

He declared that the church, at its core, is an assembly and that “a non-assembling assembly is a contradiction in terms.”

"As government policy moves further away from biblical principles, and as legal and political pressures against the church intensify, we must recognize that the Lord may be using these pressures as means of purging to reveal the true church," he wrote.

"Succumbing to governmental overreach may cause churches to remain closed indefinitely. How can the true church of Jesus Christ distinguish herself in such a hostile climate? There is only one way: bold allegiance to the Lord Jesus Christ."

Pastor MacArthur explained that God created the biblical framework for humankind which has three foundations: the family, the state, and the church, and each has its own limitations.

"Each has a sphere of authority with jurisdictional limits that must be respected. A father's authority is limited to his own family. Church leaders' authority (which is delegated to them by Christ) is limited to church matters," he said. "And government is specifically tasked with the oversight and protection of civic peace and well-being within the boundaries of a nation or community. God has not granted civic rulers authority over the doctrine, practice, or polity of the church."

He added, "The biblical order is clear: Christ is Lord over Caesar, not vice versa. Christ, not Caesar, is head of the church. Conversely, the church does not in any sense rule the state. Again, these are distinct kingdoms, and Christ is sovereign over both."

Read MacArthur's full statement here.

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