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The Bible and Closing Churches for COVID-19

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    http://www.christ4all.com/2020/04/covid-19-and-closing-churches.html

    With the spread of the flu-like Covid-19 virus, government orders to close, and the community in fear of getting sick; at what point should a church close its doors and temporarily end meeting? To get clear guidance, we must seek God’s Word, and not our feelings or thoughts from our fragile emotional state. What did Jesus and The Apostles do? What did the early church do? What does Holy Scripture say?

    What Did Jesus Do Around Sickness?

    John 4:46-53 is interesting, not only is it a sickness healing, but Jesus brings up a interesting point.

    46 Then He went again to Cana of Galilee, where He had turned the water into wine. There was a certain royal official whose son was ill at Capernaum. 47 When this man heard that Jesus had come from Judea into Galilee, he went to Him and pleaded with Him to come down and heal his son, for he was about to die.
    48 Jesus told him, “Unless you people see signs and wonders, you will not believe.”
    49 “Sir,” the official said to Him, “come down before my boy dies!”
    50 “Go,” Jesus told him, “your son will live.” The man believed what Jesus said to him and departed.
    51 While he was still going down, his slaves met him saying that his boy was alive. 52 He asked them at what time he got better. “Yesterday at seven in the morning the fever left him,” they answered. 53 The father realized this was the very hour at which Jesus had told him, “Your son will live.” Then he himself believed, along with his whole household.

    Now, it doesn’t say WHAT the boy was sick with except the fact he was sick and was going to die. There is something interesting to note. Jesus didn’t travel to the sick boy’s house. Instead, healed the boy from the a distance. Right here, some people may use this as an example was to why self-isolation is acceptable for the church because God heals from a distance. BUT, that is a failure to see the REAL reason for this sort of RARE “distance” healing. Verse 51 would be completely irrelevant. That’s the point. The time and distance PROVES Jesus has divine healing powers. THAT’s the point. Not the distance. So, this is actually a poor example for self-isolation and God’s healing of the COVID-19.

    Now, there was a very important point to be made, by Jesus. Jesus REBUKES the people, including the royal official. He literally says “you people,” referring to the crowds that follow him to see what he does and don’t really ponder what he says. He generally rebukes them for not believing in HIM as the living WORD and trusting the WORDS that he says as coming from God himself. Instead, these doubters need to see miracles for themselves in order to give some sort of self satisfying credence to his words.

    There is a natural thing inside humans that if it tickles our senses, it feels more satisfyingly credible. This is also true for fellowship. If you meet people in person, or see people in person, and hear a pastor speak in person, and sing your favorite worship song in person; how much greater of the a feeling do you have than if you just watched it online. There is a natural and massive difference. Keep that in mind (1).

    LUKE 4:38-40, a high fever

    38 After He left the synagogue, He entered Simon’s house. Simon’s mother-in-law was suffering from a high fever, and they asked Him about her. 39 So He stood over her and rebuked the fever, and it left her. She got up immediately and began to serve them. 40 When the sun was setting, all those who had anyone sick with various diseases brought them to Him. As He laid His hands on each one of them, He would heal them.

    Peter’s wife’s mother had “a high fever.” In this day, a fever of 101 would almost just feel like a hard days work. So for them to note, at this time, she had a “high” fever, means she was in bad shape. But look at Jesus, he “stood over her.” Jesus didn’t maintain any sort of “social distancing.” But it gets better, “all those who had anyone sick with various diseases brought them to Him. As He laid His hands on each one of them…” They were physically bringing their sick, possible with viruses, to Jesus. And Jesus would literally, physically touch them. No gloves, no masks, no protective gear; just faith.

    These people would have NEVER had an encounter with CHRIST JESUS, if “social distancing” was enforced legally and or culturally. Keep that in mind (2).

    LUKE 5:12-14, Leprosy

    12 While He was in one of the towns, a man was there who had a serious skin disease [leprosy] all over him. He saw Jesus, fell facedown, and begged Him: “Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean.” 13 Reaching out His hand, He touched him, saying, “I am willing; be made clean,” and immediately the disease left him. 14 Then He ordered him to tell no one: “But go and show yourself to the priest, and offer what Moses prescribed for your cleansing as a testimony to them.”

    Though this translation does not specifically say “leprosy,” other early writings and translations do. It is a contagious bacterial infection that gets ugly quick. Jesus, in his human body, that gets tired, needs food and hydration, reached out his hand and literally, physically, touched him. There is a symbolic concept here too. This would, according to Pharisaic additional laws and jewish ceremonial laws, would make Jesus unclean. But, we know that Jesus is far from unclean, in fact, he is the exact, perfect opposite, he is perfectly sinlessly holy. BUT he TOUCHED an unclean, infectious person. He did not avoid them. He did not maintain social distancing.

    There are countless more examples in Holy Scripture but the point is, Jesus and the Apostles didn’t shy away from infectious people: Matthew 14:34-36; Luke 17:11-19.

    Here, people will make the argument “But Jesus was God, we are not.” Seems like a valid point. So, let’s look at the healing that the Apostles did AFTER Jesus had ascended to heaven.

    The Apostles and Sickness
    Acts 5:16

    “Also the people from the cities in the vicinity of Jerusalem were coming together, bringing people who were sick or afflicted with unclean spirits, and they were all being healed.”

    Their faith and desire for God’s healing superseded their feeling to stay away from sick people. In fact, all the sick people and their friends and family were coming together. Remember, Jesus had already left at this point. This is just the first and early churches, after Pentecost. A mass sickness party was being held by the Apostles, and by faith, they were all being healed.

    This would have never happened if the early church avoided meeting and maintained social distancing from all those who were sick.

    Act 19:11-12

    “And God wrought special miracles by the hands of Paul: So that from his body were brought unto the sick handkerchiefs or aprons, and the diseases departed from them, and the evil spirits went out of them.”

    Acts 28:8-9

    “And it happened that the father of Publius was lying in bed afflicted with recurrent fever and dysentery; and Paul went in to see him and after he had prayed, he laid his hands on him and healed him. After this had happened, the rest of the people on the island who had diseases were coming to him and getting cured.”

    Again, no social distancing and avoiding meeting here.

    So, we see that even the Apostles were not afraid of coming down with any of these diseases. They didn’t tell these people to say home and NOT bring their sick friends and family to them. They did NOT close their doors wherever they were at to avoid contamination. They WERE without Jesus, physically, and were on their own continuing his works.

    Israel and The Church’s Historical Reaction to Epidemics and Pandemics

    The 412 BC Epidemic

    In 412 BC, there was an epidemic of an unknown disease, but it is often identified as influenza due to the described symptoms. It was reported in Northern Greece by Hippocrates and in Rome by Livy. It caused a food shortage in the Roman, and a famine was only prevented with food relief from Sicily and Etruria, and via trade missions to the “peoples round about who dwelt on the Tuscan sea or by the Tiber.” In other words, it spread.

    In 520 BC Cyrus the Great allowed Jews to return to Judea and rebuild the Temple in 515 BC, but did not allow the restoration of the kingdom. During the time of the epidemic, Persia was in control of Israel; and Persia traded with the Roman Republic until they were conquered by Alexander the Great in 332 BC.

    Israel did not stop conducting their ceremonies, worship services, and religious festivals even though there was a epidemic spreading from Rome.

    The Antonine Plague of 165 to 180 AD

    This was an pandemic brought to the Roman Empire by troops returning from campaigns in the Near East. Scholars have suspected it to have been either smallpox or measles; deadly and highly contagious. The disease broke out again nine years later, according to the Roman historian Dio Cassius (155–235), causing up to 2,000 deaths a day in Rome, one quarter of those who were affected, giving the disease a mortality rate of about 25%. The total deaths have been estimated at 5 million, and the disease killed as much as one-third of the population in some areas and devastated the Roman army. The plague may have also broken out in Eastern Han China before 166 AD, given notices of plagues in Chinese records.

    The church was in the dead center of this pandemic. It was a monster of a plague. COVID-19 looks like a small cold compared to this one. So, what did the early church do during this extremely dangerous plague?

    Irenaeus, who was about 30 years old at the time and was a pastor at the Church of Lyon during the plague. He was indirectly a disciple of Polycarp, who was an actual disciple of John. He never paused his mission work. He didn’t stop meeting and fellowship. He even discussed his conversations and debates with Gnostics; which lead him to write Against Heresies. Any sort of social distancing was not mentioned by him whatsoever. The thought of closing his church doors and stopping his ministry work during the plague was not an idea he had. In fact, as the plague spread, religious construction of sacred sites was increased [1]. There was an increased desire to a divine solution and Christianity was there to provide answers. Studies have shown, that Christianity greatly increased, due to consistent ministry work, during three pandemics in the Roman era, the Antonine plague, the Cyprian plague, and the Justinian plague.

    The Cyprian Plague of the 3rd Century

    Carthage’s bishop, Cyprian, encouraged Christians to care for the sick and dying. They buried the dead and risked getting sick by taking in the sick. This was repeated other times in the early centuries of the church during epidemics. Christians introduced a new concern and standard of care for sick people [4].

    Candida Moss, a professor of New Testament and Early Christianity at Notre Dame, notes that an “epidemic that seemed like the end of the world actually promoted the spread of Christianity.” By their actions in the face of possible death, Christians showed their neighbors that “Christianity is worth dying for.” The author of the Christian Post article even states “Nearly eighteen centuries after the Plague of Cyprian, Christianity still prompts people to run towards the plague when virtually everyone else is running away.”[5]

    On Easter Sunday in 260 AD, Bishop Dionysius of Corinth praised the efforts of the Christians, many of whom had died while caring for others. He said:

    “Most of our brother Christians showed unbounded love and loyalty, never sparing themselves, and thinking only of one another. Heedless of danger, they took charge of the sick, attending to their every need and ministering to them in Christ, and with them departed this life serenely happy; for they were infected by others with the disease, drawing on themselves the sickness of their neighbors and cheerfully accepting their pains.”

    Lymon Stone, a research fellow at the Institute for Family Studies and an advisor at the consulting firm Demographic Intelligence, in Foreign Policy, notes. “But it did something else, too: It triggered the explosive growth of Christianity,” he writes. “Cyprian’s sermons told Christians not to grieve for plague victims (who live in heaven), but to redouble efforts to care for the living. His fellow bishop Dionysius described how Christians, ‘Heedless of danger … took charge of the sick, attending to their every need.’”[6]

    The Bubonic Plague, 1485–1551

    Just about all of Martin Luther’s life ran congruent to the Sweating Sickness that spread throughout Europe. As a pastor and professor, he did not close his church doors and theological school. During the spreading sickness, he revolutionized organized and formal worship services that changed history. But it gets better. The Elector of Saxony, John the Steadfast, ordered Martin Luther, to leave. He refused. Along with his pregnant wife Katharina, Luther stayed in Wittenberg, opening his house as a ward for the sick [2,6]. Someone literally asked him if it is wrong for a Christian to flee the cities that are infected, you can read Martin Luther’s letter here. It is important to note that Martin Luther did NOT say it was wrong to flee or in our modern conduct, close churches and self-quarantine; of itself. BUT that it WAS wrong to neglected the needy because you close churches and self-quarantine. He basically said that if you have no family and not you don’t know of anyone in need, than fleeing is a good option. Here in lies the problem, what church or elder doesn’t know someone in need? What Christian doesn’t know someone who doesn’t know Christ? Is that not the ultimate eternally worth need? Martin Luther chose to stay to minister to the sick. He said:

    “[N]o one should dare leave his neighbor unless there are others who will take care of the sick in their stead and nurse them…. we are bound to each other in such a way that no one may forsake the other in his distress but is obliged to assist and help him as he himself would like to be helped.”

    Would Martin Luther close his church and self-quarantine during a pandemic? No, he didn’t even close and hide during one of the most deadliest pandemics in human history. He willingly, faithfully, and boldly, ministered to the sick.

    The 1563 London plague

    Church leaders gathered to address some issues and iron out what the orthodox biblical faith teaches in 1563 AD and 1567AD, and drafted what is known as the Heidelberg Catechism and Belgic Confession. All the while the 1563 London plague was raging. Social distancing and closing churches did not happen.

    The 1663-1668 Plagues of Netherlands, England, and France

    While the “Great Plague of London” was spreading, from the Netherlands, and to France, the church gathered in London and drafted the The Westminster Confession of Faith in 1664AD. An extremely important document that helped shape modern Church orthodoxy and maintain biblical reliance and understanding. Asymptomatic persons were, in fact, quarantined for 40 days, but just about all who were quarantined died; but the Church didn’t close. They took part in helping the sick.

    The court of Charles II, together with lawyers, merchants and doctors, fled the city, but the poor could not. St Bride’s vicar, the Revd Richard Peirson, remained to witness the devastation to his parish community. The parish distributed relief to stricken families [7]. While the communities wealthiest persons, including doctors, fled instead of helping, the church remained [8].

    The Broad Street Cholera Outbreak of 1854

    Charles Spurgeon admired the Puritan ministers who stayed behind to care for the sick and dying during the Great Plague of London in 1665 [9]. Charles Spurgeon stated:

    “During that epidemic of cholera, though I had many engagements in the country, I gave them up that I might remain in London to visit the sick and the dying. I felt that it was my duty to be on the spot in such a time of disease and death and sorrow.”

    “During the outbreak, Spurgeon recognized his responsibility to be present with those who were sick and dying. This was not a time to be an itinerant preacher. This was a time to focus on caring for his church and the community in which he lived. He would not outsource this task to his deacons or other church leaders but remained in London in order to fulfill his duty. We know that the congregation continued meeting during those days because the church’s minute books contain records of congregational meetings carried on throughout the fall of 1854.

    Amid all the pastoral challenges of the outbreak, Spurgeon and his deacons continued to receive new members, pursue inactive members, observe the Lord’s Supper, and practice all the other normal activities of a church. Not only that, but in retrospect, it was particularly during this time, when news of death raged all around the city, that Spurgeon found Londoners most receptive to the gospel.

    As the pastor, Spurgeon not only continued to gather his church, but he also made himself available throughout the week, working tirelessly to visit the sick and grief-stricken.” [10].

    Charles Spurgeon didn’t self-quarantine and didn’t adhere to social distancing. He went to the sick and ministered to them. The never stopped meeting and proclaiming the gospel.

    The Spanish Flu, 1920s

    The Christian Reformed Church convened at the Synod of Kalamazoo and drafted the understanding of God’s common grace in 1924. The Spanish Flu was raging, world wide. They did not close down their churches or cancel their synod. The churches in America, as a whole, did not close down or stop meeting.

    Influenza A virus subtype H3N2, 1970s

    The outbreak and discovery of the H3N2 virus, predominate pastors from around America met in Chicago and drafted The Chicago Statement of Biblical Inerrancy. Also, during this time, in the 70s, the churches did not close during the spread of H3N2.

    We see, that historically, and during much worse pandemics and plagues, the church did not close their doors and stop meeting. They, in fact, become part of the help and aid to all those who were sick; just like the Apostles before them. But what does other parts of the the Bible say about how to better address this issue?

    The Ebola Outbreaks of The 1990s

    Now as then, this power confounds and confuses Christianity’s critics. A recent article in Slate acknowledged that many of the people fighting the Ebola epidemic in West Africa were missionaries [11]. The writer, Brian Palmer, admitted that he “[didn’t] feel good about missionary medicine, even though [he couldn’t] fully articulate why.” He knew that he shouldn’t feel this way but he did.
    Ross Douthat of the New York Times suspects that Palmer’s misgivings have something to do with the fact that the selflessness of the missionaries “unsettles” his “secular and scientistic worldview.” In that worldview, “helping people is what governments and secular groups are supposed to do.”[5]

    “John Fankhauser, a missionary doctor, said: “I have a very keen awareness of the risks and the need to be extremely careful, but I also feel very called to what I’m doing,” says Fankhauser, 52, from Ventura, Calif. “I feel very confident that this is where God wants me right now.” With the exception of Doctors Without Borders, international aid groups moved at a glacial pace. The World Health Organization deferred to weak local governments to tackle the terrifying disease. Even the U.S. military response was predicated on the idea that American troops would not be directly providing care to people affected by the virus” [12]. It was up to the church. And if these Christians chose to follow “self-isolation” and “social distancing,” who would help these people?
    God’s Word

    Aside from Jesus’ example, and the Apostles’ example in Holy Scripture, we can find assistance in coming to a biblical response in other truths made in scripture.

    Psalm 41:1

    “Happy is one who cares for the poor; the LORD will save him in a day of adversity.”

    There are two ways to look at this; is avoiding contact with the poor, caring for the poor? Is this being merciful and loving in that you care for their health enough to avoid them in the hopes of preventing getting them sick?
    Here’s a problem. If you know you are not sick, then avoiding them is actually SELFISHNESS and UNLOVING to the poor. Because you are actually more worried about your self and your own health than to serve the Lord, willing to risk yourself for his Glory and their greater good. Making this argument, knowing your are not sick, exposes your selfishness, weak faith, and doubt in God’s protection.

    So, if you are not sick, but yet you avoid taking care of the poor when given the opportunity, you are actually IN SIN. You don’t trust the Lord’s protection. You don’t believe in his divine healing. And you care more about your own life than the person you claim to love.

    James 4:17

    “So it is a sin for the person who knows to do what is good and doesn’t do it. ”

    Helping someone in need, is what is good. Physically caring for someone in need, is what is good. Caring for someone in physical or emotional need, is what is good. Avoiding all these, to keep yourself from getting sick, is not doing what is good; it’s selfish, non-sacrificial, lacking in faith, thus sin.

    Mark 16:17-20

    17 And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new languages; 18 they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well.” 19 After the Lord Jesus had spoken to them, he was taken up into heaven and he sat at the right hand of God. 20 Then the disciples went out and preached everywhere, and the Lord worked with them and confirmed his word by the signs that accompanied it.

    Now, this is huge. Jesus said these things “WILL accompany those who believe.” They can touch deadly things, even receive into their bodies deadly things, and yet, “WILL NOT hurt them at all.” and then right after that he said “they WILL place their hands ON SICK PEOPLE.” Again, all these “will accompany those who believe.”

    Think about the gravity of this. WHY are you scared to touch sick people? The REAL question is, why do you NOT believe Jesus’ word here? To simplify it; Why do you not fully trust God? Do you not trust God will/can heal them? Do you not trust God will/can protect you?

    Peter could walk on water! but, because of his weak faith, he almost drowned (Matthew 14:30). If Peter walked on water, why can’t you minister to sick people? If it is fear, Jesus directly addresses you:

    Matthew 10:28

    28 Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.

    The “who” could be a “what” or another noun; person, place, or thing. That “thing” can also be COVID-19. COVID-19 has killed people, but it only kills this temporary body. Jesus flat out commands us to “NOT BE AFRAID” of COVID-19… Is your lack of faith leading you to disobedience?

    John 10:11

    “A good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep but the hireling sees the wolf coming and flees”

    This is a brutal revelation about pastors, elders, and church leaders. The wolf, is anything worldly that scares the weak and scatters the flock. This is exactly what COVID-19 is doing; has scared the flock and scattered it. Sadly, it appears that most pastors are just hirelings and not good shepherds, because they too have gone into hiding. Martin Luther said “For when people are dying, they most need a spiritual ministry which strengthens and comforts their consciences by word and sacrament and in faith overcomes death.”

    1 Timothy 5:8

    “8 But if anyone does not provide for his own, that is his own household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.”

    Now this is a very important COMMAND. YOU have a duty, a divine responsibility to take care of your household and family. Maintaining social distancing and avoiding contact with family and members of your household is in direct violation to this command. The things that are to be provided are care, love, fellowship, not just physical resources. Obligated to provide physical and emotional support and care. Even Bond-servant Masters are to care for their bond-servants as members of their household (Eph 6:5-9). So, this isn’t just limited to immediate blood-family.

    Matthew 25:41-46

    41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ 44 Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ 45 Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ 46 And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

    Now THIS is condemning. Social Isolation and avoiding fellowship risks THIS! Social Isolation and avoiding fellowship does not feed the hungry, hydrate the thirsty, not welcome the lonely and strangers, does not clothe the poor, and cold, OR VISIT THE SICK! Jesus literally says “sick and in prison and you did not visit me.” Closing the church, stopping fellowship and corporate worship directly conflicts with what Jesus is getting at here.
    The church, by closing and avoiding worship and fellowship, is neglecting those in need. And dumping the duties to try to care for the local church community violates what The Holy Spirit prescribes in 1 Cor. 12:21-26.

    1 John 3:16-17

    16 By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. 17 But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?

    What does that look like now? You see people in need, or know of a friend, family, or community in need; you have the resources to address that need and have been part of that community assisting in helping that need before; then suddenly, stopping, no longer helping because of fear of getting sick. You are not willing to lay down your life for the brothers and sisters in your community.

    All of these raise the question:

    Is risking infection unloving to your household?

    It can’t be. The Apostles risked getting sick by healing people every day, Peter was married. Was he risking getting infected and then infecting his wife? No, it wasn’t a risk because God is soverign. In the eyes of the weak in spirit, yes, it seemed like he was risking getting infected and bringing the bug back home to his wife. But the element of a sovereign God is unfaithfully absent with that idea.
    Is it then unloving for missionaries to take their families to dangerous parts of the world for mission work? Of course not. Is it a risk of danger, maybe. But is the fear of risk the problem? Yes.
    The fear is being poor in faith. The fear is immaturity in faith. Peter feared drowning once he saw he was walking on water. What, is it selfish and unloving of him to risk widowing his wife to walk on water with Jesus? Is it selfish of Peter to lay hands on the sick, and risk being infected and taking the sickness back home to his wife? No. Peter was not in the wrong or acting in sin.

    What Does The Bible Say About Quarantine?

    So what happens when we become sick? Well, we should be quarantined; but not neglected.

    Leviticus 13:4-8

    the priest is to isolate the affected person for seven days. 5 On the seventh day the priest is to examine them, and if he sees that the sore is unchanged and has not spread in the skin, he is to isolate them for another seven days. 6 On the seventh day the priest is to examine them again, and if the sore has faded and has not spread in the skin, the priest shall pronounce them clean; it is only a rash. They must wash their clothes, and they will be clean. 7 But if the rash does spread in their skin after they have shown themselves to the priest to be pronounced clean, they must appear before the priest again. 8 The priest is to examine that person, and if the rash has spread in the skin, he shall pronounce them unclean; it is a defiling skin disease.

    Here we see “The Lord said to Moses and Aaron” and laid out this process of a sort of quarantine. This skin disease spoken about is a bacterial infection of Leprosy, which is contagious.

    This is about those who HAVE symptoms or ARE sick. This is NOT about people who DO NOT have symptoms of any contagious sickness. The context can not be used to justify quarantining healthy people. Because, then how could the priest examine the person and determine their cleanliness or uncleanliness?

    If, your sick, stay at home. If you are NOT sick, YOU HAVE A DUTY TO SERVE THE LORD STILL. But, what if the government orders the churches to close?

    Government Orders to Close Churches
    Romans 13:1-7

    Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. 2 Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. 3 For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, 4 for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. 5 Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience. 6 For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. 7 Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.

    This comes up a lot too, by pastors who close their churches at the orders of the state. They justify this action with the use of this verse. A major problem, though. This verse applies to governing authorities of good conduct. And “good” is defined by God. That means, if the governing authorities do NOT do what is good but, in fact, impose authority that which only God is owed, they they are not to be respected and honored; because they are NOT the one whom the respected and honor is owed. Give Caesar what is Caesar’s and give God what is God’s (Mark 12:17). Worship and praise is God’s, he owns it, and expects it, commands it; it is our duty before God himself. ANY governing authority that interferes with it, is due no respect or honor in regards to it.

    Watching your church service from a live video feed is not corporate fellowship and worship. You have no interaction with the pastor or fellow believers. It is no different from you watching any other video instead. You may as well YouTube other churches and pastors that you’ve never met. It’s all the same.

    Corporate Worship and Fellowship
    Acts 2:42, 46

    “devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer…every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts”

    Closing church doors and doing live video feeds of worship services is NOT being “devoted to… fellowship, to breaking of bread…” It is just not possible. You can not break bread from a live Facebook feed. Fellowship is neglected, period. The early church was so on fire for Christ, they met every day! DESPITE Roman authorities AND Jewish authorities persecuting them.

    The early church defied the Roman authority. The early church defied the Jewish authorities. The early church RISKED death, arrest, breaking the law, jail, prison, and diseases; yet, still were devoted to fellowship and meeting in their homes.

    Hebrews 10:25

    25 not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

    As mentioned above, the early church was dealing with governing authorities, such as Rome and the Jewish authorities, ordering them not to meet. They risked legal issues, fines, jail time, prison, and violence. Yet, the author of Hebrews, inspired by the Holy Spirit, directly and absolutely states “NOT GIVING UP MEETING TOGETHER”.

    Conclusion

    We see that Jesus went to the sick and physically touched them and heal them.
    We see that the Apostles went to the sick and physically touched them to heal them.
    We see that the early church, and the church all throughout history did NOT close their doors (willingly) for government authorities and plagues.
    Irenaeus of Lyons didn’t pause his ministry during the Antonine Plague.
    Cyprian of Carthage didn’t pause his ministry during the Cyprian Plague.
    Dionysius of Corinth didn’t pause his ministry during the Cyprian Plague.
    Martin Luther didn’t pause his ministry during the Second Bubonic Plague.
    The St Bride’s Christian community didn’t pause ministry work during the Great Plague of London.
    Charles Spurgeon didn’t stop public ministry work during the Broad Street Cholera Outbreak of 1854.
    The Church is commanded to be devoted to each other and to meeting, and not giving up in meeting. And no exceptions to this command were given.
    The Church is to obey, show respect and honor, to worldly authorities, as so long as the authorities are doing what is good and just – as defined by God. But, by commanding the Church it disobey God, the worldly authorities are no longer due respect and honor. The Church is commanded to always give God what is always and forever God’s, which is obedience and worship; even if it requires disobeying worldly authorities.

    We see throughout scripture the duty and responsibility for believers to care for the sick, physically. We see God commanding the church to NOT give up meeting, but to remain devoted to meeting together; no matter what the governing authorities impose or what worldly sickness is around. That closing churches and not meeting together, in fact, reveals a lack of faith and fear of worldly pressures over the duty of what God is owed; obedience and worship.

    sources:

    Classical Corner: The Antonine Plague and the Spread of Christianity


    https://thehill.com/opinion/white-house/488675-the-plague-coronavirus-and-martin-luther-why-they-all-matter-now

    Whether One May Flee From a Deadly Plague


    https://www.str.org/w/the-witness-of-christian-compassion
    https://www.christianpost.com/news/running-toward-the-plague-christians-and-ebola.html
    Caring for neighbors during epidemics has long Christian history
    http://www.stbrides.com/history/chapter-4-1665—1666.html
    https://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/education/resources/great-plague/
    Notebook 6, Sermon 290
    https://kentuckytoday.com/stories/spurgeon-and-the-cholera-outbreak-of-1854,24709
    https://slate.com/technology/2014/10/missionary-doctors-treating-ebola-in-africa-why-people-are-suspicious-of-missionaries.html
    https://www.npr.org/sections/goatsandsoda/2014/12/28/373657728/these-dedicated-ebola-fighters-are-men-and-women-on-a-mission

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