Must churches always obey the government? I hope not. If she did we would have no Christianity, for the Jewish leaders wanted the teaching of Jesus stopped, but He would not listen, leaving an example. We would not have had the apostles preaching, for leaders told them not to speak in “this name” (Acts 5:28). Nor would we have had the Bible in English, for leaders told men like William Tyndale to not translate the Bible for the common person. No, if the Church always obeyed the government then our religion would not exist.
We are facing a crisis in our country. The Coronavirus has struck fear in the hearts of many, and unfortunately has taken a number of lives. Because of this, local governments are now limiting how many people can meet together and setting curfews. What should the Church’s response be?
The response will vary for many reasons. What do the pastors believe is best for the congregations they lead? What is the local government saying? Is it a suggestion, guideline, or regulation? How bad has the Coronavirus become in the church’s area?
To be clear, I am not calling for civil disobedience. The county in which the local congregation I pastor meets has put down regulations for how many people can meet together. And at this time I am fine in obeying what they have said. In fact, where possible, this should be what the majority of churches under similar regulations should do as well; obey their local authorities. We should believe that most local authorities are trying to do what is best for the people they govern and these decisions that are being made are not easy decisions. Those over us in this country have been placed there by God and we should obey them when possible.
However, one reason I am writing this article is for us to have a better understanding of what the Bible teaches on this issue. Look at the following verses
Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves (Romans 13:1-2; NASB®).
As Christians, we must obey the government. For to not obey is to resist, not just man, but God. This is very serious.
However, we must also look at other verses
…‘We gave you strict orders not to continue teaching in this name, and yet, you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and intend to bring this man’s blood upon us.’ But Peter and the apostles answered, ‘We must obey God rather than men’ (Acts 5:28-29; NASB®).
Should churches obey the government? Generally speaking, yes. We want to obey God, therefore we must obey those He has put in places of authority over us. However, is there a time where churches have to disobey? Yes, when to obey the authorities that have been put in place over us would mean that we would have to disobey God. We want to be good citizens and part of being a good citizen is obeying the God ordained authorities. However, the church’s ultimate allegiance is not to the state, but to God Himself. Each and everyone of us, including human authorities and whole nations, are under the one true authority, God Almighty.
In closing this article, let us, myself included, be reminded that we need to be praying for our local and national leaders. We want to be good citizens, and one way that we can be good citizens is by obeying our authorities and praying for them.