Last week John MacArthur and Grace Community Church, which is located in Sun Valley California, announced they would not be closing, defying California Governor Gavin Newsom’s reclosure orders. In the announcement “Christ, not Caesar, Is Head of the Church” informed their civic leaders that they have exceeded their legitimate jurisdiction, faithfulness to Christ prohibits us from the restrictions they want to impose on our corporate worship services.”
On Sunday, July 26, 2020 Grace Community Church had it’s doors open for worship that saw many people filling the pews, most of which did not have masks on. They sang songs (which is banned currently in California) , and listened to their Pastor John MacArthur preach a sermon that reiterated statements he made previously that week in the announcement.
The World Doesn’t Understand
MacArthur started the message entitled “We Must Obey God Rather Than Man” saying that many people don’t understand why we would do this (referring to them gathering together today). We understand that the world does not understand the importance of the church, he explained. “The World doesn’t understand that it’s not just essential, it’s the only hope for eternal life, for doomed sinners. People have been very concerned to make sure people’s physical life(s) are protected, in the process shut down places where there is hope for their spiritual life(s).”
“We are the light of the world and we need to be set on a hill.” MacArthur said as he preached out of Matthew 5:13-16. “That’s why we’re here today. This is our hill and the light will shine. This is our calling.”
Civil Rulers Have Worked Against God’s People
MacArthur gave Biblical examples of civil leaders that through history have abused their power, and tried to take authority in God’s kingdom. “Pharaoh abused his authority of Israel, and he was drowned.” He sited, “Saul overstepped the limits of his God-given sphere and lost his throne.” Continuing on he said, “Solomon corrupted his reign with gross immorality and destroyed the kingdom. Subsequently, all the kings in the north (Israel) were evil, and there were nineteen in a row that came under the judgement of God.” Likewise explaining, “Fourteen of the twenty kings in the southern kingdom of Judah were evil. Overstepped their bounds, and came under the wrath of God along with the people who were their subjects.” He sited two more Old Testament rulers, “Nebuchadnezzar exalted himself above God and became a mad-man. Belshazzar exalted himself above God and suffered the consequences.” In the New Testament, “Herod became proud overstepped his limits and was instantaneously eaten by worms.”
We Must Obey God Rather Than Men
Pastor MacArthur then went on to explain from the book of Acts what Peter and the apostles came up against while preaching in Jerusalem. The rulers of that day told them they could ‘not speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus,’ and Peter and John told the rulers (vs. 19, 20) they could not stay silent about what they had seen and heard in the person of Jesus. Later in chapter five they were arrested and put in prison (vs. 17-20) for continuing to preach and spread the name of Jesus. That night an angel from the Lord opened the prison doors and told them to ‘Go and stand in the temple and speak to the people all the world of this Life.’‘ So they went to the temple at daybreak and began to teach. MacArthur then emphasized what the angel of the Lord told them to do although they were told by the rulers not to do so, “Go right back to the most public place and start preaching again. Orders from heaven.” When Peter and the apostles were brought before the ruling council and asked why they defied their orders not to teach in Christ’s name they all responded, ‘We must obey God rather than men.’
We Have The Responsibility to Obey Our Leaders
“God has ordained human government for the peace and well-being of temporal society.” MacArthur said citing Romans 13. “We are to submit to them in the sphere as to which God has designed them to operate. We are to honor them. Show them respect…and pray for their salvation.” Explaining that orders from our government that contradict our King’s orders, “We have to obey God, rather than men.”
Why Didn’t Grace Community Stay Open The First Time
MacArthur addressed the question (or argument depending on how one would view it) they have been asked a lot, “Why didn’t you do this at the beginning?” (Defying government orders and staying open). He said, “We didn’t know the extent of the disease. We were told millions were going to die.” They were being protective because that was the sensible and rational thing to do given what everyone was being told about the coronavirus. “As time went on we found out that the virus wasn’t as deadly as predicted, and the commands not to assemble didn’t apply to protesters and riots.
“Little by little. Sunday by Sunday. You kept coming back.”
Grace Community Church didn’t send out an order telling people to come back to church. The congregation laughed as MacArthur humorously said, “You just kept showing up. The first two weeks I preached to no one. I preached to Patricia (his wife)…which is pretty routine for me.” By the third week there were people that started to just come, and each week continued to grow more until they were full again. “Why did you come back?…You came back because your heart cries out to be here. This is where you live, and move, and have your being. You came because you’re not afraid, because God takes care of all us…The unanimous will of the people has expressed itself,” he said.
Phil Johnson, who is the executive director for Grace To You and has edited many of John MacArthur’s books also explained via Twitter why Grace Community Church doesn’t meet outdoors to comply with the orders given by California’s government:
The Real Danger is Spiritual
Addressing the accusations of keeping their church open is putting people in danger, MacArthur cited statistics of the current death rate of the coronavirus. He explained that those under eighty years of age have a 99.9% chance that they are going to live through this whole thing (if one would contract the virus). “That just does not equate to the response that this society has had.” Pastor MacArthur stated that alcohol kills more than 3 million people a year, yet all the liquor stores remained opened. He continued giving statics on the death rate smoking causes and asked, “where is the ban on cigarettes?” Continuing to explain the overreaction to the virus he stated, “The great killer in California is death by medical people who do abortions…364 abortions a day! California has more abortions in the state than any other state. Death by abortion outstrips every other kind of death.” Keeping all the abortion clinics open during this pandemic deeming them essential so babies could be slaughtered yet the churches have to close, MacArthur emphatically stated, “there’s no moral high ground among leaders in this state.”
“Kill people with alcohol. Kill people with cigarettes. Kill people with diseases, because the hospitals don’t function. Lock people up so that everybody is under stress and make sure churches can’t meet, where (it’s) the only place (people) can find hope and help. We will not bow to such bizarre standards. We will follow our Lord and trust Him.”
This Isn’t a Problem to Be Feared
“The church always refines it’s convictions under duress.” MacArthur said as he started to close his sermon on Sunday. “This is not a problem to be feared. This is a triumphant hour for the church to be the church,” he said as the congregation applauded loudly. Stating boldly that, “standing for the glory of our Lord is more important in this hour than I’ve ever known it in my life. For His glory we will stand, and meet, and worship, and preach the saving gospel of Jesus Christ.”
John MacArthur Appears on Fox News’ Tucker Carlson Tonight
On Monday night, a day after Grace Community defied the orders to not worship indoors, Fox News’ Tucker Carlson invited him on his show to discuss why they stayed open. MacArthur first stated that, “first and foremost, it’s a first amendment right…the government can’t intrude in worship.” Secondly he gave the statistic out of California’s 40 million people only 8500 have died with Covid. Shutting down churches when people are frightened because what they are hearing shouldn’t happen because the church is where “most of the intense relationship in our society exist,” MacArthur told Carlson they started just coming back to church after the first week that he was preaching to an empty room, “our people didn’t buy the narrative.” He brought up that the church is the original protesters, “we go back 500 years to the protestant reformation, we are still protesting lies for the sake of the truth.” Carlson told Pastor John MacArthur that, he is a brave man.