Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, California, which is pastored by influential theologian and author John MacArthur, announced Friday that it would continue holding in-person services, saying state mandates restricting worship are an overstep of government authority and thus they have no duty to follow them.
Pastor MacArthur argued in a blog post published on 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."
"Therefore, 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," MacArthur wrote.
On July 13, California indefinitely closed churches— as well as restaurants, bars, fitness centers, hair salons, and barbershops — in at least 32 counties. A group of churches from the state also recently sued California Gov. Gavin Newsom after he instituted a ban on singing in churches as a way to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
"The biblical order is clear: Christ is Lord over Caesar, not vice versa. Christ, not Caesar, is head of the church," MacArthur wrote. "Conversely, the church does not in any sense rule the state. Again, these are distinct kingdoms, and Christ is sovereign over both."
He also argued that because the church is by nature an assembly, any restrictions goes against the nature of the church "in principle."
"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," MacArthur 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."
➡️ Read MacArthur's full statement here.