Separation of church and state
The separation of church and state is a philosophic and jurisprudential concept for defining political distance in the relationship between religious organizations and the state. Conceptually, the term refers to the creation of a secular state and to disestablishment, the changing of an existing, formal relationship between the church and the state. Although the concept is older, the exact phrase “separation of church and state” is derived from “wall of separation between church and state”, a term coined by Thomas Jefferson.
“When they [the Church] have opened a gap in the hedge or wall of separation between the garden of the church and the wilderness of the world, God hath ever broke down the wall itself, removed the Candlestick, etc., and made His Garden a wilderness as it is this day. And that therefore if He will ever please to restore His garden and paradise again, it must of necessity be walled in peculiarly unto Himself from the world, and all that be saved out of the world are to be transplanted out of the wilderness of the World.” (1)
Today every form of communication feed is full of Christians crying out publicly from one extreme to the other concerning “their rights” as believers to assemble on the one hand and on the other to comply with government guidelines under the pandemic. This article is not meant to take one side or the other but perhaps to present another side altogether.
Please note this article is not about John MacArthur, he is used only as an example and is one among many. Because he is fairly, well known his statements have made some headlines.
This past week or so John MacArthur announced his decision to not comply with government guidelines and open his church. Which of course is the direct opposite of what MacArthur had stated a few weeks prior, where he used Romans and 1 Peter to show how we should comply with and obey government.
“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.” MacArthur even suggested that those who do not stand up for truth are not the true Church.” ~ John MacArthur (2)
Below is John MacArthur’s statement dated May of 2020 that believers should be in full compliance with government guidelines and mandates.
“So we don’t rebel, we don’t protest. You don’t ever see Christians doing that in the book of Acts. If they were persecuted, they were faithful to proclaim the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ even if it took them to jail; and that’s been the pattern of true Christianity through all the centuries.
We are not rebels and we’re not defiant, and we don’t flaunt our freedom at the expense of someone else’s health.
Again, the issue is so clear that even going back to Richard Baxter back in 1600s, Richard Baxter has a great section in one of his books where he says, “If the magistrate,” as he calls it, “asks you to refrain from meeting because of a pestilence, you do not meet. On the other hand, if the magistrate tries to force you not to meet because of persecution of Christianity, you meet anyway.” I think that’s the dividing line.”
Pastor John MacArthur (3)
The question has to be asked as to what changed? Other than now John MacArthur is using other scripture to support his reopening (Christ is head of the church not Ceasar).Very different that the verses he used in May calling for obedience. Why are we, now, to disobey government and we may even have to evaluate whether we are the “true church” if we don’t follow JM’s lead? So, on it goes, we read the stories of pastors revolting, defying the mandates, claiming their/our/ all believers God given right to assemble. Then come the stories of congregants and pastor contracting covid. It’s maddening and turns into a head spinning equal to the scene in the movie the Exorcist, hence the title of this article “unhinged”, which means:
It’s difficult enough to try and navigate through all that is going on in the world today but to have church leadership speak out of both sides of their mouths certainly adds too and creates confusion, lack of peace, emotional and spiritual upheaval and a lot of fear.
So as believers perhaps we need to continue to self-feed on the Word of God. Take a different look at the Sunday church in a little bit different light. Perhaps being the church.
Jas 1:27 Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.
If you have been saved any length of time, then most know that often what we had been taught early on, many times, at some point, is redefined or refined by the Scriptures. Much of our thinking and perception of WHAT Church is and what Church is NOT has been skewed. Sunday mornings, Wednesday nights, stand up, sit down, sing, pray, have coffee and a doughnut, go out to eat afterwards……next Sunday, rinse and repeat. Not that there is anything inherently good or bad about this, but this is not ALL that the Church IS. Perhaps this is such a time for the true church to stand, not in defiance of government, nor stress over the fact that Sunday mornings are not as they were; but instead embrace the interruption of our Spiritual routine and see it rather as a time to reach out to others and minister, rather than be ministered to.
We know this, that God knew covid 19 pandemic was coming in 2020 and He knew it from the foundations of the world. We are not of this world, yet we live it in. Our hope is above, looking to Jesus always.
Mat 25:34 Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:
John 15:19 “If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you.”
Finding peace in the midst of a storm is never easy and when we have leadership that conflicts and contradicts their own statements, is it any wonder that many are unhinged? There is peace and purpose for all believers during this time of uncertainty. But it is only peace that Christ can give.
John 14:27 27Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.
After all, Colossians 3:1-4 teaches us that demonstrating the life changing power of the gospel is equally as important as defending it against error. In it we are instructed to daily display our attention and affection toward spiritual matters as our identification is with Christ, not the world. It is contrasted in Colossians 3 between the believer’s former state, alive to the world but dead to God, and his present state, dead to the world but alive to God. As believers then, we are to be busy cultivating that which is spiritual, heavenly, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith (Heb. 12:2), not unhinged by the events surrounding us in the world.
Think about it, with Covid-19, the church is not under any persecution, the pandemic has affected everyone, yet the church leaders are unhinged, and Christians are in a panic due to a lack of leadership. Look at the first-generation church, they truly were under intense persecution, yet they met in homes, by rivers, wherever they could, however they could. So do the same, meet in small groups, if the government says you can assemble in groups of 30, then do so and thank God that you can freely do this.