In the midst of the largest health pandemic the world has seen in modern times, national and local governments around the globe are ordering people to stay home and not gather together for fear of spreading a virus that has already taken out thousands of people and to which there is currently no cure.
Among those affected by the call to social distancing is the Church — most churches are not operating as usual and the doors to their buildings are closed on Sunday mornings. But does the government actually have the right and the ability to force the church to stop gathering?
Mark Dever seems to think so.
Mark Dever, leader of 9Marks and Southern Baptist pastor says he’s looking forward to the first Sunday the government allows us to gather again. But is that valid?
No. It is not. The government does not have the authority to “allow” or “disallow” church gatherings. While governments are imposing — in most cases, unconstitutional orders — onto churches and gatherings, it needs to be clear that the bride of Christ is following these orders out of wisdom and out of love for the Word of God. But the Constitution of the United States of America, for one thing, is clear,
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.
And, further, even if the Constitution did allow the government to restrict out gathering, the Scriptures command us to obey God rather than man (Acts 5:29).
So, while it’s wise and feasible to follow the recommendations of the medical experts to limit our gatherings out of love for one another and love for God’s word — at least temporarily — we must not allow ourselves to believe that the government has the authority to Lord over our faith.