God vs. Government: Taking a Biblical Stand When Christ and Compliance Collide

God vs. Government: Taking a Biblical Stand When Christ and Compliance Collide

God vs. Government: Taking a Biblical Stand When Christ and Compliance Collide

God vs. Government: Taking a Biblical Stand When Christ and Compliance Collide


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“Welcome to our peaceful protest.”

In the spring of 2020, government mandates forced churches across North America to close their doors in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. As societal fear and unrest increased, Christians were forced to grapple with how God wanted them to respond to these state-imposed restrictions. After all, didn’t the closure of churches pose a serious threat in a time when people needed spiritual direction more than ever?

God vs. Government follows two churches’ courageous decisions to reopen despite orders to remain closed. Guided by the command in Hebrews 10:25 that churches not forsake meeting together, pastors John MacArthur and James Coates led their congregations to return to in-person meetings—and were swiftly met by unsympathetic governing authorities ready to shut them down again. The ensuing legal battles raised important questions about religious freedom, and more importantly, illuminated what it looks like to take a stand when Christ and compliance collide.

How do we react with wisdom and discernment when the state encroaches upon the church? God vs. Government tells two incredible accounts that affirm our need to be faithful to the Lord’s commands no matter the circumstances.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780736986328
Publisher: Harvest House Publishers
Publication date: 03/01/2022
Pages: 208
Sales rank: 650,197
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x (d)

About the Author

Nathan Busenitz is the executive vice president and provost of The Master’s Seminary in Los Angeles. He also serves as part of the pastoral staff at Grace Community Church and has written or contributed to numerous books, including Right Thinking in a World Gone Wrong. He and his wife, Beth, have four children.

James Coates is the pastor-teacher of GraceLife Church of Edmonton, Canada. He graduated with MDiv and DMin degrees at The Master’s Seminary. He and his wife, Erin, have two sons.

John MacArthur is the pastor-teacher of Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, California; chancellor of The Master’s University and Seminary; and featured teacher for the Grace to You media ministry, which reaches millions worldwide. John has also written many bestselling books, including The Gospel According to Jesus. He and his wife, Patricia, have 4 married children and 15 grandchildren.

Table of Contents

Foreword John MacArthur 7

Why We Wrote This Book 11

Part 1 Our Story

Chapter 1 The Grace Community Story Nathan Busenitz 15

Chapter 2 What Can the Righteous Do? Nathan Busenitz 25

Chapter 3 The Statement Nathan Busenitz 31

Chapter 4 Lawsuits and Liberty Nathan Busenitz 41

Chapter 5 The GraceLife Edmonton Story James Coates 53

Chapter 6 Closures and Convictions James Coates 63

Chapter 7 The Battle Begins James Coates 75

Chapter 8 A Minister in Chains James Coates 87

Chapter 9 Trusting God from Behind Bars James Coates 99

Chapter 10 The Underground Church of Canada James Coates 107

Part 2 Our Stand

Chapter 11 Five Biblical Principles Nathan Busenitz 121

Chapter 12 Biblical Exceptions and Pastoral Implications Nathan Busenitz 137

Chapter 13 The Time Has Come James Coates 153

Chapter 14 Directing Government to Its Duty James Coates 167

Chapter 15 Christ, Courage, and Noncompliance Nathan Busenitz 185

Acknowledgments 201

Notes 203

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

FOREWORD by John MacArthur

In view of recent events, three basic biblical truths must be emphasized. First, the church is essential. Second, the church must gather regularly and corporately. Third, the church is duty‑bound to obey Christ even when doing so violates governmental regulations and restrictions. Given the fundamental nature of these New Testament priorities, it’s hard to believe they would prove controversial, especially among evangelicals. But here we are. There has been a great deal of both controversy and compromise, which is why the message of this book is so necessary.

A company of believers is not a “church” if they don’t gather. The word for “church” in the original New Testament manuscripts is ekklesia. Even before the founding of the New Testament church, that word signified an assembly, a gathering of people. It is comprised of two Greek roots that literally mean “called out,” and more specifically, it refers to a body of people called out from their homes (or summoned out of a larger group) in order to muster together. Like the English word congregation, the concept of a group coming together is built right into the term.

The church specifically comes together for worship, but the vital benefits of the assembly include fellowship, instruction, mutual encouragement, and accountability. Believers are commanded not to forsake the assembly (Hebrews 10:25), and that command comes immediately before the New Testament’s most somber warning about apostasy. Fellowship and corporate worship are therefore absolutely essential aspects of spiritual health for individual Christians, and they are also (obviously) vital for the very life of the church.

Believers may be forced by illness, imprisonment, warfare, natural disaster, necessary travel, or some other significant emergency to abstain from the corporate gathering temporarily. But there is no justification for the entire church to suspend congregational worship on a prolonged basis. Plagues, pandemics, and persecution have frequently (if not constantly) threatened the people of God since that first Pentecost. Never have faithful churches responded to such obstacles by simply shutting their doors for months at a time and declaring distance‑learning technologies a sufficient substitute for corporate worship.

Christians in America and other Western democracies have been blessed and privileged to thrive for more than two centuries under governments that formally affirm and have seldom challenged the right of worshippers to assemble freely. But COVID is a wakeup call and a reminder to believers of how tenuous that liberty is. Pastors in supposedly free countries were literally jailed for weeks because they led worship services during the 2020 lockdowns. The example of James Coates, in that regard, serves as a compelling testimony of pastoral courage and unwavering conviction.

Despite court decisions favorable to churches, a strong current of public opinion favors giving governments more power to force churches to comply with restrictions inhibiting attendance, fellowship, and congregational singing. But the world’s opposition to the church and her teaching should not catch believers off guard. “Do not be surprised, brethren, if the world hates you” (1 John 3:13). Jesus said, “Because you are not of the world...the world hates you” ( John 15:19). We are citizens of heaven—mere sojourners and aliens here in this world (Philippians 3:20). And even the world sees the church that way when we are faithful to our calling.

That is one of the main reasons why the people of God need to come together regularly for mutual encouragement and instruction. Times of crisis and hardship don’t make the church assembly expendable; that’s when it is most essential for believers to congregate. “We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29).

Faithful churches must assemble even if they have to go underground to do it. That’s how churches in the first three centuries survived and flourished despite intense opposition from Caesar. It’s how the church in Eastern Europe overcame communist persecution in the twentieth century. It’s how many churches in China and elsewhere meet today.

Scripture gives us several examples of godly people who resisted the ungodly tyranny of rulers who hated biblical truth. Under a despotic Pharaoh, the Hebrew midwives “feared God, and did not do as the king of Egypt had commanded them” (Exodus 1:17). Elijah opposed Ahab and was labeled “troubler of Israel” because of the stance he took (1 Kings 18:17). John the Baptist rebuked Herod to his face and ultimately was killed for it (Mark 6:18‑29).

Western evangelicals now need to have that same resolve. We need to prepare ourselves for more pressure from the government and more persecution from the rest of society. When COVID has run its course (if it ever does), other crises are already lined up for government officials to exploit, claiming “emergency powers” to assert more and more regulatory authority over the church.

Now is not the time to forsake our own assembling together. The church must be the church—a pillar and buttress for the truth. We cannot cower in fear. We cannot hide our light under a bushel. We are not called to feed the fears of a world that is perishing. We have been commissioned to “go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation” (Mark 16:15), and we are soldiers in a spiritual war. “The weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:4‑5).

It is past time for the church of Jesus Christ to confront the prevailing falsehoods of a depraved society and show hopeless people the way to true hope and abundant life. That, again, is why the message of this book is so necessary. We are the Lord’s ambassadors, and we must stand confidently in that role, with joy and not fear, in bold unity—and all the more as we see the day of Christ drawing near (Hebrews 10:25).
—John MacArthur

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