Reopening the church

Posted March 19, 2021

Here is the link to the audio from our last member meeting where Pastor Eric taught on sphere sovereignty (it's under the 'sermons' tab if you want to look for it there as well).  Happy listening!

https://www.cornerstonebiblechurch.ca/podcasts/media/2021-03-16-member-meeting-march-16-2021

 

Posted March 16, 2021 

Here is a link to an important article that follows from the sermon by Pastor Eric this past Sunday, March 7.  Please take a few minutes to read it.

https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/essay/the-church-gathered/

 

 

 

Posted March 5, 2021

Today we are posting 2 items as we begin our conversation.  The first is an article that sets out a few implications of the Lordship of Jesus Christ over every other form of government.  It is not intended to answer every question, but rather is simply meant as a primer on the topic.  Second, we have added a link to the Niagara Declaration (see below), which is well worth your time.  The declaration is not very long but is full of important information and is an excellent follow up to the article.

A Primer on Authority

In this article, we would like to establish some important implications from the phrase: Jesus is Lord.  It’s hardly a controversial statement, is it?  Christians have been saying it for 2000 years.  The problem is not that we don’t agree on this fact; because we do.  The problem is that we don’t know what it means.  At least not fully.  Somewhere along the line someone has smuggled in a new definition of what the Lordship of Christ means.  And there are those who are left scratching their heads and saying those famous words, “You keep using that word.  I do not think it means what you think it means.”  Let me explain.

Jesus said that all authority has been given to him, in heaven and on earth.  All means all.  According to scripture, there is no realm or office anywhere that is not under his rule and ownership.  There is no authority that is not already under His authority.  What does that mean?  It means that Jesus is the one who tells every power on earth what they are, and are not, authorized to do.  He grants power to certain people, and he limits those powers according to His word.  No one has the authority to defy Him.  Ever.

But note what this also means.  It also means that you cannot take authority away from someone to whom God has given it.  If God has given rulership to someone in a certain area, then others can not come and take it away.  That power is not given to them.  What is given by God, and is being dutifully carried out, cannot lawfully be taken away by another.  To each He has given their own task, and each ruler is responsible to fulfill that task.  So, when we say that Jesus is Lord, that means that He oversees each individual ruler in their area of power, and He sets their limits.  Each authority answers to Him for how they perform their duties. 

Therefore, under the authority of Jesus Christ, the civil government has a task to fulfil.  And they will be held to account for how they complete their task.  And under the authority of Jesus Christ, the church also has a task to fulfill, and she will be held to account on how she completes her task.  The civil government cannot tell the church to not do what she has been commanded by Jesus Christ to do.  Just as the church cannot tell the civil government to not do what God has commanded it to do.  Let me give just one example.  The example of Daniel and the lion’s den.  Here is the shortened version (you can read the full account in Daniel 6).

King Darius made an edict declaring that you could not pray to any god for thirty days.  You could only pray to the king.  Daniel disobeyed this order and was thrown into the lion’s den as a result of his faithfulness, from which God saved him.  There are a few things of note in this story.

First, notice that Daniel had the king’s favor.  Darius was very distressed at what happened and he had no desire to punish Daniel.  He was trapped by his own law.  This was not a vindictive king and he had no animosity to Daniel or to his faith.  He was not angry with Daniel at all for praying to God.  This was not a targeted attack by the king.  This tells us that Daniel was not in the habit of disobeying the king.  To the contrary, he had risen high in the ranks of the king’s court and was held in very high esteem.  He was no rebel.  Daniel had no problems obeying the king as long as the king acted within his sphere of authority.  However, once the king stepped outside his jurisdiction, Daniel promptly ignored the king and treated him like he was nobody at all.  Daniel went from submission to the king to open rebellion in a heartbeat.  From lawful to lawbreaker in an instant: “When Daniel knew that the document had been signed, he went up to his house where he had windows in his upper chamber open toward Jerusalem.  He got down on his knees three times a day and prayed and gave thanks before His God, as he had done previously.” Daniel 6:10.

Second, notice how easy it would have been for Daniel to avoid all that trouble.  There was no need for him to do what he did.  Nowhere in scripture does it say that he had to open his window and face Jerusalem to pray.  He didn’t even have to pray 3 times a day.  He could have so easily avoided any confrontation, and resultant ‘bad witness’ to the community.  He did not need to deny his faith.  He could have simply prayed secretly in his prayer closet.  He could have easily avoided any conflict by just closing his windows.  Not only could he have done that, notice also that the edict was only for 30 days.  This was not a permanent thing.  Just one month.  It was such a small difficulty with a simple fix.  Why would he choose this hill to die on, quite literally?  It was just a few weeks and he could have kept his position of favor before the king and done a lot of good in the courts of power.  But he threw it all away as soon as the law came into force.  We read of no inner turmoil in Daniel, no struggle of conscience, no redefining his convictions to fit with the law, no slack in his devotional life at all.  As soon as the document was signed, he disobeyed it.  And he knew that doing so meant death for him.  What is Daniel doing here?

To put it simply, he is not letting the civil government tell him how to worship God.  They wanted him to pause for 30 days but he refused.  The king had no authority over that sphere and so Daniel rightfully ignores their order.  Within the civil government’s proper sphere, Daniel obeyed fully.  And remember this was a pagan nation.  Yet Daniel walked in such a way so as to gain the king’s favor.  But the moment the government stepped into the area of the worship of God, Daniel disobeyed.  Even to the loss of his life.  Later, Daniel declares that he had been found blameless in the matter (6:21).  The king had no authority to dictate the terms of worship, and when Daniel openly rebelled against the king in this matter, he was declared to have acted righteously.

And to some degree, this scenario reflects what is happening in our day.  Obviously, the governing authorities are not telling us to stop worshipping God or to stop praying.  However, the civil government has taken upon itself the authority to define the scriptures for us.  They have taken the stance of a sort of “stand-in shepherd”, where they tell us what acceptable worship of God is.  We have been told that to love our neighbor means to shut them out of our homes.  We have been told that, for a season at least (as in Daniel), we cannot baptize, or take communion, or hug another.  Some provinces declared that singing was no longer allowed.  In Manitoba we have been told by the authorities that singing is ‘strongly discouraged’.    We have been told that since the worship of God is a matter of the heart, therefore the physical gathering is dispensable.  We have been told that gathering online amounts to the same thing as meeting in person, and that doing so is still acting in obedience to what God has told us to do in the scriptures.  The definitions of worship have been rewritten by our new ‘stand-in shepherds’ (the civil authorities), and these new definitions have been largely accepted by the church.  

However, the civil government has entered an area which is not lawful for them to enter, which we want to examine in the coming weeks.  They have no right or authority to tell the church what the bible means when it tells us to gather, and sing, and preach, and pray, and baptize, and fellowship around the Lord’s table.  None.  Simply put, they are out of their lane.

Now, please note what we have not said.  We have not said that COVID isn’t real.  We have not said that there are no appropriate measures that should be taken in a time of a pandemic.  We have not said that we should ignore the consciences of our brothers and sisters.  What we are saying, is that the civil government has gotten way out of its lane, and is attempting to operate in an area which is not theirs to operate in.  They are attempting to rule over that which Jesus has given to the church.  Jesus has not given the civil authorities authority to act in the way that they are.  Their boundaries are set by the word of God and they will be held to account for what they do.  Indeed, we will all be held to account for that which has been entrusted to us.  All authority on earth rests upon Jesus Christ and He sets the boundaries which rulers may not cross. 

As has been said, governments don’t close churches, pastors do.  And therefore, it is pastors that need to reopen them.  If the call to corporate worship is offensive to our conscience, or we feel that normal Christian discipleship needs to be put aside for a season, we need to be absolutely clear as to why.  We need to ask the question, is this the time where we need to stop doing the things that the church has done for 2000 years?  And by whose authority do we stop doing them?  We have been given our marching orders. In the month of March, we want to examine those orders and then call you to walk with us in them, at whatever cost.  Where they align with the government, let us be thankful.  Where there are matters of conscience, let us joyfully bear with one another and press on to maturity in Christ.  And where the scriptures diverge from the government orders, let us act like Daniel: as soon as the document was signed, he went and worshipped God in the manner he had always done.   

Cornerstone Bible Church, 2021

Link to the Niagara Declaration:

https://www.niagaradeclaration.ca/