TT you hit home base with your thoughts about NWVIEW. The several times we met the topic was always on the failure of the steeple house and about our body and soul being the true church, something I discovered back in my teens as an altar boy. Our brief relationship was full of religious revelations and health /diet chatter. We struck it off because of our common realization of the church residing within and our exchanges of conversation took off from there. Jim will be sorely missed and you are correct in knowing he is waiting for the final ascension to join the Lord Jesus Christ in Heaven.
Thank you for your sharing your memories of this incredible man and his offerings to those of us who would believe.
I recently took the opportunity to contact Linda to offer my feeling of loss for her wonderful husband and wishing her the best going forward and received a very gracious thank you. We have lost a very good and knowledgeable man who I was able to share much with, and he taught me plenty to fill in the hollows in by understanding. Jim will live in my heart and soul forever, he solidified my beliefs, he was one of the few who truly understand the church of our Lord.
Jim is sorely missed. I hope she's doing as well as possible.
The Editors’ Quote of the Day:
James Wesley Rawles June 13, 2020
“I will stand upon my watch, and set me upon the tower, and will watch to see what he will say unto me, and what I shall answer when I am reproved.
And the Lord answered me, and said, Write the vision, and make it plain upon tables, that he may run that readeth it.
For the vision is yet for an appointed time, but at the end it shall speak, and not lie: though it tarry, wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not tarry.
Behold, his soul which is lifted up is not upright in him: but the just shall live by his faith.
Yea also, because he transgresseth by wine, he is a proud man, neither keepeth at home, who enlargeth his desire as hell, and is as death, and cannot be satisfied, but gathereth unto him all nations, and heapeth unto him all people:
Shall not all these take up a parable against him, and a taunting proverb against him, and say, Woe to him that increaseth that which is not his! how long? and to him that ladeth himself with thick clay!
Shall they not rise up suddenly that shall bite thee, and awake that shall vex thee, and thou shalt be for booties unto them?
Because thou hast spoiled many nations, all the remnant of the people shall spoil thee; because of men’s blood, and for the violence of the land, of the city, and of all that dwell therein.
Woe to him that coveteth an evil covetousness to his house, that he may set his nest on high, that he may be delivered from the power of evil!
Thou hast consulted shame to thy house by cutting off many people, and hast sinned against thy soul.
For the stone shall cry out of the wall, and the beam out of the timber shall answer it.
Woe to him that buildeth a town with blood, and stablisheth a city by iniquity!” – Habukkuk 2:1-12 (KJV)
1 I will stand at my watch post and station myself on the city wall. I will look to see what he will say to me, and what answer he will give to my complaint.[a]
2 Then the Lord answered me. He said:
Record the vision and write it plainly on tablets so that a herald may run with it.
3 Indeed, the vision is waiting for the appointed time. It longs for fulfillment and will not prove false. If it seems slow in coming, wait for it, because it will certainly come and will not be delayed.
4 Look, his soul is puffed up and is not righteous within him[b]—but the righteous one will live by his faith.[c] 5 Indeed, wine[d] betrays that arrogant and restless one, because he is as greedy as the grave, and like death he is never satisfied. He gathers all the nations and collects all the peoples to himself.
6 All these people will make up proverbs and mocking poems against him, won’t they? They will say, “Woe to the one who accumulates what is not his. (How long will this last?) Woe to the one who makes himself rich by foreclosing on collateral.” 7 Won’t your creditors rise up suddenly? Won’t those who cause you to tremble wake up? You will become plunder for them. 8 Because you robbed many countries, all those who are left among the nations will rob you. You have shed human blood and committed violence against the land, the cities, and all the people who live in them.
9 Woe to the person who piles up dishonest income for his household, in order to raise his nest up high, to deliver himself from disaster. 10 By wiping out many nations, you have planned shame for your own house. You have sinned against your own life. 11 So the stones in the walls will cry out, and the wooden rafters will answer, 12 “Woe to the one who builds a town with bloodshed and establishes a town with injustice.” – Habakkuk 2:1-12 (EHV)
[a] Habakkuk 2:1 The translation follows the alternate Hebrew reading known as a correction of the scribes. The standard Hebrew text reads what answer to give when I am rebuked, likely because scribes considered Habakkuk to be impudent by demanding an answer from the Lord. The alternate reading is also supported by the Syriac and the parallelism with the preceding line.
[b] Habakkuk 2:4 The antecedent of his and him is uncertain, and there are other difficulties with the Hebrew. The phrase must refer to an ungodly man—in the immediate context, to the Babylonians.
[c] Habakkuk 2:4 The word can also mean faithfulness, but in Romans 1:17 Paul uses the phrase in reference to faith.
[d] Habakkuk 2:5 Hebrew variant wealth
“And it came to pass, when Jesus had made an end of commanding his twelve disciples, he departed thence to teach and to preach in their cities.
Now when John had heard in the prison the works of Christ, he sent two of his disciples,
And said unto him, Art thou he that should come, or do we look for another?
Jesus answered and said unto them, Go and shew John again those things which ye do hear and see:
The blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them.
And blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me.
And as they departed, Jesus began to say unto the multitudes concerning John, What went ye out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken with the wind?
But what went ye out for to see? A man clothed in soft raiment? behold, they that wear soft clothing are in kings’ houses.
But what went ye out for to see? A prophet? yea, I say unto you, and more than a prophet.
For this is he, of whom it is written, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee.
Verily I say unto you, Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist: notwithstanding he that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.
And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force.
For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John.
And if ye will receive it, this is Elias, which was for to come
He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.” – Matt. 11: 1-15(KJV)
James Wesley Rawles June 14, 2020
“And he arose from thence, and cometh into the coasts of Judaea by the farther side of Jordan: and the people resort unto him again; and, as he was wont, he taught them again.
And the Pharisees came to him, and asked him, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife? tempting him.
And he answered and said unto them, What did Moses command you?
And they said, Moses suffered to write a bill of divorcement, and to put her away.
And Jesus answered and said unto them, For the hardness of your heart he wrote you this precept.
But from the beginning of the creation God made them male and female.
For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and cleave to his wife;
And they twain shall be one flesh: so then they are no more twain, but one flesh.
What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.
And in the house his disciples asked him again of the same matter.
And he saith unto them, Whosoever shall put away his wife, and marry another, committeth adultery against her.
And if a woman shall put away her husband, and be married to another, she committeth adultery.
And they brought young children to him, that he should touch them: and his disciples rebuked those that brought them.
But when Jesus saw it, he was much displeased, and said unto them, Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God.
Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein.
And he took them up in his arms, put his hands upon them, and blessed them.” – Mark 10: 1-16 (KJV)
James Wesley Rawles June 21, 2020
“Then drew near unto him all the publicans and sinners for to hear him.
And the Pharisees and scribes murmured, saying, This man receiveth sinners, and eateth with them.
And he spake this parable unto them, saying,
What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it?
And when he hath found it, he layeth it on his shoulders, rejoicing.
And when he cometh home, he calleth together his friends and neighbours, saying unto them, Rejoice with me; for I have found my sheep which was lost.
I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance.
Either what woman having ten pieces of silver, if she lose one piece, doth not light a candle, and sweep the house, and seek diligently till she find it?
And when she hath found it, she calleth her friends and her neighbours together, saying, Rejoice with me; for I have found the piece which I had lost.
Likewise, I say unto you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth.” – Luke 15 1-10 (KJV)
James Wesley Rawles June 28, 2020
“A wise son heareth his father’s instruction: but a scorner heareth not rebuke.
A man shall eat good by the fruit of his mouth: but the soul of the transgressors shall eat violence.
He that keepeth his mouth keepeth his life: but he that openeth wide his lips shall have destruction.
The soul of the sluggard desireth, and hath nothing: but the soul of the diligent shall be made fat.
A righteous man hateth lying: but a wicked man is loathsome, and cometh to shame.
Righteousness keepeth him that is upright in the way: but wickedness overthroweth the sinner.
There is that maketh himself rich, yet hath nothing: there is that maketh himself poor, yet hath great riches.
The ransom of a man’s life are his riches: but the poor heareth not rebuke.
The light of the righteous rejoiceth: but the lamp of the wicked shall be put out.
Only by pride cometh contention: but with the well advised is wisdom.
Wealth gotten by vanity shall be diminished: but he that gathereth by labour shall increase.
Hope deferred maketh the heart sick: but when the desire cometh, it is a tree of life.
Whoso despiseth the word shall be destroyed: but he that feareth the commandment shall be rewarded.
The law of the wise is a fountain of life, to depart from the snares of death.
Good understanding giveth favour: but the way of transgressors is hard.
Every prudent man dealeth with knowledge: but a fool layeth open his folly.
A wicked messenger falleth into mischief: but a faithful ambassador is health.
Poverty and shame shall be to him that refuseth instruction: but he that regardeth reproof shall be honoured.
The desire accomplished is sweet to the soul: but it is abomination to fools to depart from evil.
He that walketh with wise men shall be wise: but a companion of fools shall be destroyed.
Evil pursueth sinners: but to the righteous good shall be repayed.
A good man leaveth an inheritance to his children’s children: and the wealth of the sinner is laid up for the just.
Much food is in the tillage of the poor: but there is that is destroyed for want of judgment.
He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes.
The righteous eateth to the satisfying of his soul: but the belly of the wicked shall want.” – Proverbs 13 (KJV)
James Wesley Rawles July 4, 2020
“Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.
Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.
For if a man think himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself.
But let every man prove his own work, and then shall he have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another.
For every man shall bear his own burden.
Let him that is taught in the word communicate unto him that teacheth in all good things.
Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.
For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.
And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.
As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith.” – Galatians 6:1-10 (KJV)
James Wesley Rawles July 12, 2020
Sierra Skier I really like the post about lost sheep. Jim was such a good shepherd for the Lord! I'll bet right now he's not counting sheep but talking directly to the "Shepherd" about us all! (in his deep sleep of course).
The words in this post are very powerful for believers! In this day and age it is hard to not just give up and throw in the towel when you see all the evil things going on that just keeps separating the human race and causing dissension between people. The post gives us incentive to keep living for Christ because we know what the future will be.
I'm not the best with scripture, as I have forgotten more than than most ever learned. I try to post a fresh read to keep Jim's thread active and his memory alive. He was so wonderful in reinforcing my beliefs giving me great comfort in my knowledge, I feel this is the least I can do for as long as possible.
Great to have you say hi and if you are in touch with Linda often please tell her I said hello.
Keep posting as long as you can because I will still be here reading! I will tell Linda hi for you also next time I talk to her. I love this thread and am still reading back through all the posts. I can almost hear Jim's voice in my head telling me I need to get on here more often, lol.
“For yourselves, brethren, know our entrance in unto you, that it was not in vain:
But even after that we had suffered before, and were shamefully entreated, as ye know, at Philippi, we were bold in our God to speak unto you the gospel of God with much contention.
For our exhortation was not of deceit, nor of uncleanness, nor in guile:
But as we were allowed of God to be put in trust with the gospel, even so we speak; not as pleasing men, but God, which trieth our hearts.
For neither at any time used we flattering words, as ye know, nor a cloke of covetousness; God is witness:
Nor of men sought we glory, neither of you, nor yet of others, when we might have been burdensome, as the apostles of Christ.
But we were gentle among you, even as a nurse cherisheth her children:
So being affectionately desirous of you, we were willing to have imparted unto you, not the gospel of God only, but also our own souls, because ye were dear unto us.
For ye remember, brethren, our labour and travail: for labouring night and day, because we would not be chargeable unto any of you, we preached unto you the gospel of God.
Ye are witnesses, and God also, how holily and justly and unblameably we behaved ourselves among you that believe:
As ye know how we exhorted and comforted and charged every one of you, as a father doth his children,
That ye would walk worthy of God, who hath called you unto his kingdom and glory.
For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe.
For ye, brethren, became followers of the churches of God which in Judaea are in Christ Jesus: for ye also have suffered like things of your own countrymen, even as they have of the Jews:
Who both killed the Lord Jesus, and their own prophets, and have persecuted us; and they please not God, and are contrary to all men:
Forbidding us to speak to the Gentiles that they might be saved, to fill up their sins alway: for the wrath is come upon them to the uttermost.
But we, brethren, being taken from you for a short time in presence, not in heart, endeavoured the more abundantly to see your face with great desire.
Wherefore we would have come unto you, even I Paul, once and again; but Satan hindered us.
For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Are not even ye in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at his coming?
For ye are our glory and joy.” – 1 Thessalonians 2 (KJV)
James Wesley Rawles July 19, 2020
“So the king and Haman came to banquet with Esther the queen.
And the king said again unto Esther on the second day at the banquet of wine, What is thy petition, queen Esther? and it shall be granted thee: and what is thy request? and it shall be performed, even to the half of the kingdom.
Then Esther the queen answered and said, If I have found favour in thy sight, O king, and if it please the king, let my life be given me at my petition, and my people at my request:
For we are sold, I and my people, to be destroyed, to be slain, and to perish. But if we had been sold for bondmen and bondwomen, I had held my tongue, although the enemy could not countervail the king’s damage.
Then the king Ahasuerus answered and said unto Esther the queen, Who is he, and where is he, that durst presume in his heart to do so?
And Esther said, The adversary and enemy is this wicked Haman. Then Haman was afraid before the king and the queen.
And the king arising from the banquet of wine in his wrath went into the palace garden: and Haman stood up to make request for his life to Esther the queen; for he saw that there was evil determined against him by the king.
Then the king returned out of the palace garden into the place of the banquet of wine; and Haman was fallen upon the bed whereon Esther was. Then said the king, Will he force the queen also before me in the house? As the word went out of king’s mouth, they covered Haman’s face.
And Harbonah, one of the chamberlains, said before the king, Behold also, the gallows fifty cubits high, which Haman had made for Mordecai, who spoken good for the king, standeth in the house of Haman. Then the king said, Hang him thereon.
So they hanged Haman on the gallows that he had prepared for Mordecai. Then was the king’s wrath pacified.” – Esther 7 (KJV)
James Wesley Rawles July 25, 2020
Came across this video on Dana Coverstone regarding Covid and dreams he had. As NW View, Jim, would say....take it or leave it but worth a listen.
Thanks TT, Dana presents a very scary future.
Here is JWR's recent sripture, Psalm 95
“O come, let us sing unto the Lord: let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation.
Let us come before his presence with thanksgiving, and make a joyful noise unto him with psalms.
For the Lord is a great God, and a great King above all gods.
In his hand are the deep places of the earth: the strength of the hills is his also.
The sea is his, and he made it: and his hands formed the dry land.
O come, let us worship and bow down: let us kneel before the Lord our maker.
For he is our God; and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand. To day if ye will hear his voice,
Harden not your heart, as in the provocation, and as in the day of temptation in the wilderness:
When your fathers tempted me, proved me, and saw my work.
Forty years long was I grieved with this generation, and said, It is a people that do err in their heart, and they have not known my ways:
Unto whom I sware in my wrath that they should not enter into my rest.” – Psalm 95 (KJV)
James Wesley Rawles August 1, 2020
Rev. John MacArthur is the pastor of the large, influential Grace Community Church in southern California.
He founded The Masters Seminary in 1986, which has almost 600 students -- large. He was president of The Masters University (2,600 students) from 1961 to 2019.
In the Protestant evangelical pastoral community, he is a major figure, and has been for 25 years.
The church released this statement on Friday, July 24, 2020
Christ is Lord of all. He is the one true head of the church (Ephesians 1:22; 5:23; Colossians 1:18). He is also King of kings—sovereign over every earthly authority (1 Timothy 6:15; Revelation 17:14; 19:16). Grace Community Church has always stood immovably on those biblical principles. As His people, we are subject to His will and commands as revealed in Scripture. Therefore we cannot and will not acquiesce to a government-imposed moratorium on our weekly congregational worship or other regular corporate gatherings. Compliance would be disobedience to our Lord’s clear commands.
Some will think such a firm statement is inexorably in conflict with the command to be subject to governing authorities laid out in Romans 13 and 1 Peter 2. Scripture does mandate careful, conscientious obedience to all governing authority, including kings, governors, employers, and their agents (in Peter’s words, “not only to those who are good and gentle, but also to those who are unreasonable” [1 Peter 2:18]). Insofar as government authorities do not attempt to assert ecclesiastical authority or issue orders that forbid our obedience to God’s law, their authority is to be obeyed whether we agree with their rulings or not. In other words, Romans 13 and 1 Peter 2 still bind the consciences of individual Christians. We are to obey our civil authorities as powers that God Himself has ordained.
However, while civil government is invested with divine authority to rule the state, neither of those texts (nor any other) grants civic rulers jurisdiction over the church. God has established three institutions within human society: the family, the state, and the church. Each institution has a sphere of authority with jurisdictional limits that must be respected. A father’s authority is limited to his own family. Church leaders’ authority (which is delegated to them by Christ) is limited to church matters. And government is specifically tasked with the oversight and protection of civic peace and well-being within the boundaries of a nation or community. God has not granted civic rulers authority over the doctrine, practice, or polity of the church. The biblical framework limits the authority of each institution to its specific jurisdiction. The church does not have the right to meddle in the affairs of individual families and ignore parental authority. Parents do not have authority to manage civil matters while circumventing government officials. And similarly, 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.
When any one of the three institutions exceeds the bounds of its jurisdiction it is the duty of the other institutions to curtail that overreach. Therefore, when any government official issues orders regulating worship (such as bans on singing, caps on attendance, or prohibitions against gatherings and services), he steps outside the legitimate bounds of his God-ordained authority as a civic official and arrogates to himself authority that God expressly grants only to the Lord Jesus Christ as sovereign over His Kingdom, which is the church. His rule is mediated to local churches through those pastors and elders who teach His Word (Matthew 16:18–19; 2 Timothy 3:16–4:2).
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.
Said another way, it has never been the prerogative of civil government to order, modify, forbid, or mandate worship. When, how, and how often the church worships is not subject to Caesar. Caesar himself is subject to God. Jesus affirmed that principle when He told Pilate, “You would have no authority over Me, unless it had been given you from above” (John 19:11). And because Christ is head of the church, ecclesiastical matters pertain to His Kingdom, not Caesar’s. Jesus drew a stark distinction between those two kingdoms when He said, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's” (Mark 12:17). Our Lord Himself always rendered to Caesar what was Caesar's, but He never offered to Caesar what belongs solely to God.
As pastors and elders, we cannot hand over to earthly authorities any privilege or power that belongs solely to Christ as head of His church. Pastors and elders are the ones to whom Christ has given the duty and the right to exercise His spiritual authority in the church (1 Peter 5:1–4; Hebrews 13:7, 17)—and Scripture alone defines how and whom they are to serve (1 Corinthians 4:1–4). They have no duty to follow orders from a civil government attempting to regulate the worship or governance of the church. In fact, pastors who cede their Christ-delegated authority in the church to a civil ruler have abdicated their responsibility before their Lord and violated the God-ordained spheres of authority as much as the secular official who illegitimately imposes his authority upon the church. Our church’s doctrinal statement has included this paragraph for more than 40 years:
We teach the autonomy of the local church, free from any external authority or control, with the right of self-government and freedom from the interference of any hierarchy of individuals or organizations (Titus 1:5). We teach that it is scriptural for true churches to cooperate with each other for the presentation and propagation of the faith. Each local church, however, through its elders and their interpretation and application of Scripture, should be the sole judge of the measure and method of its cooperation. The elders should determine all other matters of membership, policy, discipline, benevolence, and government as well (Acts 15:19–31; 20:28; 1 Corinthians 5:4–7, 13; 1 Peter 5:1–4).
In short, as the church, we do not need the state's permission to serve and worship our Lord as He has commanded. The church is Christ’s precious bride (2 Corinthians 11:2; Ephesians 5:23–27). She belongs to Him alone. She exists by His will and serves under His authority. He will tolerate no assault on her purity and no infringement of His headship over her. All of that was established when Jesus said, “I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it” (Matthew 16:18).
Christ’s own authority is “far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And [God the Father has] put all things in subjection under [Christ’s] feet, and gave Him as head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all” (Ephesians 1:21–23).
Accordingly, the honor that we rightly owe our earthly governors and magistrates (Romans 13:7) does not include compliance when such officials attempt to subvert sound doctrine, corrupt biblical morality, exercise ecclesiastical authority, or supplant Christ as head of the church in any other way.
The biblical order is clear: Christ is Lord over Caesar, not vice versa. Christ, not Caesar, is head of the church. Conversely, the church does not in any sense rule the state. Again, these are distinct kingdoms, and Christ is sovereign over both. Neither church nor state has any higher authority than that of Christ Himself, who declared, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth” (Matthew 28:18).
Notice that we are not making a constitutional argument, even though the First Amendment of the United States Constitution expressly affirms this principle in its opening words: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” The right we are appealing to was not created by the Constitution. It is one of those unalienable rights granted solely by God, who ordained human government and establishes both the extent and the limitations of the state's authority (Romans 13:1–7). Our argument therefore is purposely not grounded in the First Amendment; it is based on the same biblical principles that the Amendment itself is founded upon. The exercise of true religion is a divine duty given to men and women created in God’s image (Genesis 1:26–27; Acts 4:18–20; 5:29; cf. Matthew 22:16–22). In other words, freedom of worship is a command of God, not a privilege granted by the state.
An additional point needs to be made in this context. Christ is always faithful and true (Revelation 19:11). Human governments are not so trustworthy. Scripture says, “the whole world lies in the power of the evil one” (1 John 5:19). That refers, of course, to Satan. John 12:31 and 16:11 call him “the ruler of this world,” meaning he wields power and influence through this world’s political systems (cf. Luke 4:6; Ephesians 2:2; 6:12). Jesus said of him, “he is a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44). History is full of painful reminders that government power is easily and frequently abused for evil purposes. Politicians may manipulate statistics and the media can cover up or camouflage inconvenient truths. So a discerning church cannot passively or automatically comply if the government orders a shutdown of congregational meetings—even if the reason given is a concern for public health and safety.
The church by definition is an assembly. That is the literal meaning of the Greek word for “church”—ekklesia—the assembly of the called-out ones. A non-assembling assembly is a contradiction in terms. Christians are therefore commanded not to forsake the practice of meeting together (Hebrews 10:25)—and no earthly state has a right to restrict, delimit, or forbid the assembling of believers. We have always supported the underground church in nations where Christian congregational worship is deemed illegal by the state.
When officials restrict church attendance to a certain number, they attempt to impose a restriction that in principle makes it impossible for the saints to gather as the church. When officials prohibit singing in worship services, they attempt to impose a restriction that in principle makes it impossible for the people of God to obey the commands of Ephesians 5:19 and Colossians 3:16. When officials mandate distancing, they attempt to impose a restriction that in principle makes it impossible to experience the close communion between believers that is commanded in Romans 16:16, 1 Corinthians 16:20, 2 Corinthians 13:12, and 1 Thessalonians 5:26. In all those spheres, we must submit to our Lord.
Although we in America may be unaccustomed to government intrusion into the church of our Lord Jesus Christ, this is by no means the first time in church history that Christians have had to deal with government overreach or hostile rulers. As a matter of fact, persecution of the church by government authorities has been the norm, not the exception, throughout church history. “Indeed,” Scripture says, “all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Timothy 3:12). Historically, the two main persecutors have always been secular government and false religion. Most of Christianity’s martyrs have died because they refused to obey such authorities. This is, after all, what Christ promised: “If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you” (John 15:20). In the last of the beatitudes, He said, “Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matthew 5:11–12).
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. 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.
Even where governments seem sympathetic to the church, Christian leaders have often needed to push back against aggressive state officials. In Calvin's Geneva, for example, church officials at times needed to fend off attempts by the city council to govern aspects of worship, church polity, and church discipline. The Church of England has never fully reformed, precisely because the British Crown and Parliament have always meddled in church affairs. In 1662, the Puritans were ejected from their pulpits because they refused to bow to government mandates regarding use of the Book of Common Prayer, the wearing of vestments, and other ceremonial aspects of state-regulated worship. The British Monarch still claims to be the supreme governor and titular head of the Anglican Church.
But again: Christ is the one true head of His church, and we intend to honor that vital truth in all our gatherings. For that preeminent reason, we cannot accept and will not bow to the intrusive restrictions government officials now want to impose on our congregation. We offer this response without rancor, and not out of hearts that are combative or rebellious (1 Timothy 2:1–8; 1 Peter 2:13–17), but with a sobering awareness that we must answer to the Lord Jesus for the stewardship He has given to us as shepherds of His precious flock.
To government officials, we respectfully say with the apostles, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to give heed to you rather than to God, you be the judge” (Acts 4:19). And our unhesitating reply to that question is the same as the apostles’: “We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29).
Our prayer is that every faithful congregation will stand with us in obedience to our Lord as Christians have done through the centuries.
“I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth.
Beloved, thou doest faithfully whatsoever thou doest to the brethren, and to strangers;
Which have borne witness of thy charity before the church: whom if thou bring forward on their journey after a godly sort, thou shalt do well:
Because that for his name’s sake they went forth, taking nothing of the Gentiles.
We therefore ought to receive such, that we might be fellowhelpers to the truth.
I wrote unto the church: but Diotrephes, who loveth to have the preeminence among them, receiveth us not.
Wherefore, if I come, I will remember his deeds which he doeth, prating against us with malicious words: and not content therewith, neither doth he himself receive the brethren, and forbiddeth them that would, and casteth them out of the church.
Beloved, follow not that which is evil, but that which is good. He that doeth good is of God: but he that doeth evil hath not seen God.” – 3 John: 4-11 (KJV)
James Wesley Rawles August 2, 2020