Recent Government suggestions have led to a change in where we worship and how we interact with each other. In light of these changes how should we respond?
The Westminster Confession of Faith, in Chapter 20, details what Christian liberty is, where it comes from, and what that means for us in our daily lives.
Part of that explanation seeks to help us to understand how we, as Christians, are to respond when Church or Civil courts exert some form of power over us.
Given the current situation, I wanted to take a very brief look at Chapter 20 section 4, and see what we could learn from the Christians of the past about our current situation.
Below is the text from the Westminster Confession of Faith Chapter 20.4, the spacing and emphasis are my own:
And because the powers which God hath ordained, and the liberty which Christ hath purchased, are not intended by God to destroy, but mutually to uphold and preserve one another;
they who, upon pretence of Christian liberty, shall oppose any lawful power, or the lawful exercise of it, whether it be civil or ecclesiastical, resist the ordinance of God.
And, for their publishing of such opinions, or maintaining of such practices, as are contrary to the light of nature, or to the known principles of Christianity, whether concerning faith, worship, or conversation; or, to the power of godliness; or, such erroneous opinions or practices, as either in their own nature, or in the manner of publishing or maintaining them, are destructive to the external peace and order which Christ hath established in the Church, they may lawfully be called to account, and proceeded against by the censures of the Church, and by the power of the civil magistrate.
Our Christian liberty was bought with a high cost; since it is a benefit that flows from Him, it is the life and work of Jesus that purchased our freedom for us.
Although, as the rest of this chapter makes clear, our liberty in Christ has many blessings and responsibilities; in 20.4 the liberty is specifically focused on our liberty in the face of power that is exerted over us.
Since our liberty was purchased to enable us to uphold and preserve one another, that then should inform our thinking as we encounter an instruction or command from an authority.
First we ask is the command coming from a lawful power (Chapter 23)?
If that is the case, and if the command is there to help and preserve life, then we have no real argument to use our liberty to rebel against it.
Since the strict guidelines concerning the gathering of crowds of people, as given by both civil and church courts, are clearly attempting to alleviate suffering and prevent fatalities, then we have no solid recourse to argue.
In fact, if we were to not follow the current COVID-19 guidelines – as difficult and painful as they are – we would find ourselves rebelling against both the civil and the ecclesiastical courts!
The final paragraph shows the serious consequences we may face if we abuse this precious liberty.
There is a place and time to stand against those, in Civil and Church government, who seek to alter and destroy the Gospel, but that is not the situation that we currently face.
To abuse our liberty and stand in outright opposition to current recommendations is to place ourselves squarely in front of this closing paragraph, and to deservingly face the church and civil consequences mentioned.
I am not saying that we cannot disagree with the specifics, but to act as if all is well and that nothing need be done is a dangerous, and possibly deadly, attitude for any to currently hold.
Sisters and brothers, these are tough days, with even darker days on the horizon. Let’s use them well to stand united as we face this hard providence.
We will have to re-think how we build each other up and how we disciple, how we evangelise and how we fellowship with each other.
In all that we do let’s show the Gospel worked out, and in our words let’s offer the comfort of the Gospel to those who desperately need to hear it.
In all of this, trusting that we worship a God who is Sovereign, who is in full control, and who loves His people dearly.