Back to the Reformation
The Reformers in Europe lived in jeopardy every day. Their determination to use their tongues to confess Christ and His offer of personal salvation conflicted not only with the state church but also with the secular authorities. The Anabaptists suffered more than anyone, even to the point of enduring executions among their members at an alarming pace. As a result, the cause of religious freedom rose to the surface and continued to be paramount in their minds until finally, in the New World, a government came to recognize that to be faithful to God means to leave men free to worship as they desire and never to prescribe how that worship is to be exercised.
While I have not agreed with John MacArthur on everything, he has a sheaf of letters from me commending him for a plethora of prophetic books and bold statements of faith across the years. MacArthur’s approach is simple. If the Word of God says it, then repeat it. If the Word of God is silent, one may have an opinion, but he must not speak such personal observation authoritatively. MacArthur told no one that he had to attend church. But with hundreds of believers desiring to hear a Word from God and/or seek the face of God in corporate prayer, John invited the populace to gather around the Word of God and hear a message from the Lord. California Governor Newsom has issued an order outlawing churches from gathering in their houses of worship to hear from God. Now he is threatening to cut off water to MacArthur’s church (that will certainly aid the health of the congregants) and to stop the flow of electricity, to fine MacArthur $1,000 a day, and potentially to arrest him for his protest against government intrusion despite his exercise of religious liberty as guaranteed to all Americans by the First Amendment. Antifa and others plot protests all over the USA with no threats from Governor Newsom. Only Bible-believing Christians receive such a threat from the governor.
The hour has come for Christians—anyone who is part of the Free Church Movement—to stand and be counted. I am personally disappointed in the silence of Southern Baptist leaders, who seem to hover in fear. Their quasi-professions of Baptist faith, which has religious liberty as a major tenet, constitute a statement as vivid as does Edward Munch’s expressionist painting entitled, “The Scream.” There is no sound, but the meaning is obvious for anyone who wishes to behold.
If Newsom can shut churches because of COVID-19, he may eventually find other reasons to lock them down. Every evangelical Christian and every lover of liberty needs to send a communication to Governor Newsom and suggest respectfully, but forcefully, that he refrain from interfering further with Grace Community Church or any other group of God’s people gathered for worship. Then, each should also send an encouraging word to MacArthur, a rare preacher with conviction, who is standing courageously in an apostate era. Make no mistake if Governor Newsom’s restrictions are successful, Baptists should anticipate more awesome interventions of government in the future.