To Obey Or Not To Obey

That is the question. As I write this, a pastor in Edmonton, Alberta is being held in jail on charges that he and his church are not complying with regulations that authorities have set in place in the attempt to control the spread of the Covid-19 virus. The pastor was given the option of bail while awaiting his trial but refused to receive it because one of the conditions of bail was stopping church services. Initially the church had not been required to stop gathering, but to adhere to the limitations authorities in Alberta have set in place, like social distancing among limited numbers when they gather, and wearing masks. It was for not adhering to these that the fines were issued, and then when in spite of the fines the church continued to ignore the regulations, authorities took the further step of stopping the services.

Most churches in Canada are cooperating with health authorities but some are not. In addition to the Edmonton church, I’ve heard of a handful of other churches in Canada that are disobeying the regulations. They give two reasons for this. (My readers in other nations will see readily enough that what I have to say in response to these reasons is applicable beyond the borders of Canada.)

1. They state that the regulations contravene the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Well and good, even the apostle Paul used his Roman citizenship to advantage when he was about to be flogged (Acts 22:25). But what about the rights of other Canadian citizens? Do they not have the right to be protected from the virus? There is no provision in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms that prevents authorities from putting in place regulations for the public good. On this basis, one lawyer opined, the argument that the regulations contravene the Charter of Rights and Freedoms would not stand up in court.

2. They state that these regulations contravene what God requires of them, and so their conscience dictates that they must do the will of God regardless of government regulations.

It’s this matter that I want to speak to more closely, and it will mean “flying my colours” openly, at the risk that some will see me as having joined forces with the enemy and flying the Jolly Roger.

Certainly it is true that the Christian’s first priority is to do the will of God. And how does a Christian determine the will of God in this matter? Yes, our conscience must be our guide. But the word of God is to guide our conscience. So what does the word of God have to say about this? Here’s what Peter has to say:

Therefore submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake, whether to the king as supreme, or to governors, as to those who are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and for the praise of those who do good. (1 Pt 2:13,14 NKJV)

That is clear, isn’t it? Ordinances set forth by man are to be submitted to—for the Lord’s sake. To refuse to submit is to find yourself disobeying the Lord Himself.

I hear the protests. “But there’s no evidence masks even work.” “Most people hardly even get sick.” “This is really hard on many people, too hard for some.” I am no expert on such matters and they could be true enough, but arguments such as these are not grounds for not complying with the ordinances. Even though the regulations make life hard for many people, and their effectiveness is hotly debated, according to the word of God to not comply is still disobedience.

I am aware that the Bible exhorts Christians not to “forsake the assembling of ourselves together” (Heb. 10:25). And that “we ought to obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29). But this latter verse is the apostles’ response to having been commanded not to teach in Jesus’ name at all. This was the second time they had given the authorities this response. The first time, the authorities had also “commanded them not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John answered and said unto them, Whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye. For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:18,20).

That was absolutely the right decision, and, the grace of God helping me, I will be among the first to disobey any government regulation that forbids Christians to have anything to do with the name of Jesus. But no such thing is being laid on Christians in Canada at this time; we are only being asked, as citizens of the country we love, and in which all have freedom of worship, to do our part in a very hard time that is affecting the whole of society. We are not being told we cannot gather in Jesus’ name. Surely we grasp that. It is a matter of being in a pandemic. Unlike many nations of this world, like China, where churches are again being boarded up or torn down, Christians here are still granted religious liberty, as are those of other religions.

There are other instances in the Bible when believers rightly defied the authorities. To cite just two. Nebuchadnezzar decreed that all were to bow down before the statue he had made. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego refused to obey. They did the right thing at the risk of their lives. Daniel disobeyed Darius’ statute that no one was to ask a request of any god or man, but only of the king himself. Daniel forthwith entered his house, opened his windows toward Jerusalem as was his daily practice, and prayed openly to God, for which act of disobedience he was cast into the lions’ den. The pandemic regulations are obviously not like these two instances. Christians are not being required to worship an idol or stop praying in Jesus’ name.

Respect God’s ministers

Now to add a word regarding the health authorities in our society along with our elected officials here in Canada. Have our authorities made the right decisions in all respects? Perhaps not. But I think they are doing their best to deal with a serious pandemic. (Are some of them hypocrites because they themselves don’t comply with the regulations? No doubt, but the hypocrisy of a few is no argument for us to follow suit.) I do not charge, as some do, that these regulations are actually aimed at suppressing religious freedom. This accusation is simply not the motive behind what our elected officials are doing, and it deeply grieves the heart—and the Holy Spirit—when Christians themselves echo the words of those who revile our elected officials, on social media calling them Nazis and Gestapo, or  commies in what is now Chinada. That is shameful. If that’s the way you think maybe you need to spend some time in a nation governed by a truly oppressive regime where Christians are actually persecuted. Please, dear brothers and sisters, mind your comments on social media. The Lord is listening in. We are not to “reject authority, and speak evil of dignitaries.” Even Michael the archangel “in contending with the devil, when he disputed about the body of Moses, dared not bring against him a reviling accusation, but said, ‘The Lord rebuke you!’” (Jude 8,9 NKJV).

With that Scripture in mind, let me share this now. A while back I watched a YouTube cell-phone video clip in which three ministers came to the door of a house in Calgary in order to deliver a court summons to a Christian leader who had been fined for disregarding the regulations on gathering. It was the man himself who had videoed the incident, no doubt with the intention of making it public, and I was dismayed at the way he, a supposedly Christian leader, treated these ministers, calling them Nazis and Gestapo and ordering them summarily to get off his property. Hardly the way to treat ministers, is it. Terrible disrespect. Ministers? In fact they were bylaw officers of the city police force, people the apostle Paul calls God’s ministers. Here is the passage:

Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God.
Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves.
For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same.
For he is God’s minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil.  (Rom. 13:1-4 NKJV)

That’s quite something, isn’t it. (Remember it the next time God pulls you over for speeding.) To resist the authorities is to resist the ordinance and the “ministers” of God Himself. Paul wrote this to Titus: “Remind them to be subject to rulers and authorities, to obey, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing all humility to all men” (Titus 3:1,2).

So, my fellow Bible believers, this matter is something the inspired writers of Scripture were big on.

A testimony to guard and a neighbour to love

Yet I read of another church, this one in Calgary, that continued to gather in their church building even after being fined for contravening the “ordinances” that authorities have put in place. Along with the fines, this church received a letter from the local community association politely and respectfully asking them to please comply with the orders for the benefit of the whole community. The pastor and elders apparently refused this request, upon which the community association, which had been conducting their regular meetings in the church building, told them they would now find somewhere else to hold their meetings. So, this church has damaged their testimony in that community.

And what does Peter have to say about that? The passage I quoted above begins with a “therefore.” Let’s read it again. “Therefore submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake…” What is the therefore there for? This:

Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul, having your conduct honorable among the Gentiles, that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may, by your good works which they observe, glorify God in the day of visitation. Therefore, submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake… (1 Pt. 2:11,12).

There it is. Submitting to man’s ordinances is “for the Lord’s sake,” it is part of conducting ourselves honourably among those in the world around us because it is His name we bear. In the matter of the pandemic ordinances, then, we have the name of Jesus to protect, we have a testimony to guard…

…And a neighbour to love. In keeping the ordinances just like anyone else, we are saying to our neighbours, we love you, and want to do our part in keeping us all safe.

I hear you saying, “I do love my neighbour and all these regulations are hurting my neighbour.” Amen, our motive must reach beyond the boundaries of our own church community. But be careful that the way you are going about this does not injure your testimony in the eyes of your neighbour, who is upset because you are not doing your part to make this whole pandemic thing history. Your concern does not make it right to disobey the authorities. Go about this God’s way. Get hold of Him in this. And make your concerns known to the authorities, and in this way hopefully have regulations changed. Go about this like Pastor Sam Chua of Westlynn Baptist Church in North Vancouver. What a refreshing attitude, even though in neighbouring British Columbia Covid-19 restrictions have been even more strict than those in Alberta. Note what he says at the end about those who are “taking matters into their own hands.”

The Edmonton pastor is in jail because he has taken matters into his own hands. Is he then among those who are blessed when they are persecuted for righteousness’ sake?  Or, is he making himself a martyr while in fact being dealt with justly, as any citizen who had broken the law would be? Brothers and sisters, the day could well be not far off when here in Canada Christians are persecuted for their faith. Let us guard our testimony in this day so that we are ready for that day.

Finally, I want to say that this was difficult for me to write. Even though I have taken my stand on the foundation of Scripture, I know that many very genuine and very sincere Christians are deeply impassioned by all this, and may not find what I’ve written easy to receive. It hurts me to think that what I’ve written will cost me their friendship. If so, it will be only on their part. I will continue to hold them dear to me.




27 responses »

  1. In my opinion, for what it’s worth, a bold, balanced and very wise word, bro. Allan. God will honour your earnest motive and intentions.

    I have not appreciated the attitude of folk like the renowned Dr. John MacArthur in the US either, for some of these very reasons. I may be wrong, but there appears to be a smattering of self-righteousness about their non-compliance with reasonable civic concerns. Time will tell…


    Liked by 2 people

    • [This is a revised comment.] Thank you, Erroll. I am with you regarding John MacArthur, he did indeed come across the way you described him. At least I felt so. It’s something none of us is immune to, but those like himself in high places may find it harder to recognize.
      Further to that, although he’s a man of great stature he’s no less accountable for the influence he has had on many others who are following him in the footsteps he’s taken on this issue.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Thank you Allan. Godly sanity and much appreciated

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Wise Words from- A very Wise & Mature Bro.I for one do Salute you
    Dear Brother.I often share A Little portion of Scripture from Marks Gospel.=chpt-12 vrs -29 Jesus replied to a Pharisee, the the first and
    greatest of all -Commandments
    IS=”HEAR OH ISRAEL”.So it is so very Simple.For when we can “HEAR”
    Then we can- Obey what God,
    “COMMANDS” Us to DO!!! As He then
    must give us the Ability to do HIS
    WILL- Or Commands. And then We can LOVE OUR NIEGHBOUR.!!! So Simple.Thank you Father for giving me an ear to Hear,& A heart to OBEY.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you, Charlie. Yes, the hearing ear– this is indispensable! Yesterday someone dear to me said that there is so much “noise” out there these days, so many “voices” clamouring for a hearing, and all he wanted to do was shut it all out and hear that “still small voice” in his heart. Amen. Alfred Edersheim calls this something like “a gentle stilling voice.” Not just “still” but “stilling.” Hearing the Voice brings stillness into the heart. Quietness. Peace. And with it, as you said, the empowering to obey. Thanks for sharing, Charlie, may we give ourselves to this simplicity.

      Liked by 2 people


    Have you read this statement by the pastor who is being held? Would like to know your thoughts after reading and listening to his sermon.

    …a pilgrim in progress ________________________________


    • Hi Frank, good to hear from you! l had earlier caught some of this pastor’s sermon; thanks for passing along his statement, which I’ve read through. He could well have some valid points here. Where I take issue with him is in what he calls his “theological defence.” This is what he says:

      “Given the attention our church has received in recent days, we want to address the broader public on our reasons for gathering as a local church. What follows is not a theological defence. We have already addressed that sufficiently here, here, here and here (and it is primarily and predominantly obedience to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ that has shaped our stance).”

      My conviction is that he has not “rightly divided the word of truth” on this matter, and that what he is doing is not “obedience to our Lord and Savoir Jesus Christ.” I know what Scripture he is using to back him up. In disobeying the health authorities, he sides himself with the apostles who said, “We ought to obey God rather than man.” But in disobeying the Covid regulations he is not obeying God rather than man. In this particular matter, in disobeying man he is disobeying God. I dealt with this very passage in my blog message. I pointed out that the health authorities are simply not commanding anyone to stop preaching in Jesus’ name, which is what had been laid on the apostles.

      So, if as a Christian pastor his theological foundation on this matter is flawed, where does that leave him?

      I realize that the lockdown is very difficult for many people (especially those like yourself in seniors’ facilities) and I affirmed that in my blog as well. As I said, some of the things the pastor has said are valid. But can these not be addressed, not by open defiance, but while continuing to be compliant with what is being asked of us? Yes, they can by several means—even by peaceful public protest, which is legal in our society. Did you listen to the video message by the North Vancouver pastor, who has the same concerns, but is seeking to bring change through the right channels and not by disobedience to the regulations? I felt that was a very good message. You can link to it by clicking on the highlighted words at the end of my blog article.

      Apart from the theological error the pastor has made, here’s something else that concerns me. Note the insinuation he makes in the following:

      “We are gravely concerned that COVID-19 is being used to fundamentally alter society and strip us all of our civil liberties. By the time the so-called “pandemic” is over, if it is ever permitted to be over, Albertans will be utterly reliant on government, instead of free, prosperous, and independent. As such, we believe love for our neighbor demands that we exercise our civil liberties.”

      That is a disturbing insinuation—that there is some kind of plot afoot to “fundamentally alter society and strip us all of our civil liberties, and that this “so-called ‘pandemic’” is something our government, in order keep Albertans “utterly reliant on government,” could actually not be “ever permitted to be over.”

      Really? That in itself is a baseless fear tactic, and it should not be found in the mouth of any disciple of Jesus, especially one who is a leader of a church.

      Yet on that false charge he advises that instead of obeying the government, people should just “return to their lives,” and get back to enjoying their “civil liberties.” Here is his counsel:

      “What do we believe people should do? We believe they should responsibly return to their lives. Churches should open, businesses should open, families and friends should come together around meals, and people should begin to exercise their civil liberties again.”

      To do this would be flagrant disregard of the law. And he, though a Bible believing Christian and a church leader, is counselling contrary to the clear teaching of the word of God—to “submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake…” Does submitting mean hardship? Yes. No doubt it does. But He who gives us this word surely gives along with it the empowering grace to do it. “He giveth more grace as the burdens grow greater…” And, “behold, we hold them happy who endure…”

      Liked by 2 people

  5. Here is his sermon. My daughter found this so we could listen to the young pastors explanation.

    …a pilgrim in progress ________________________________


  6. I could not agree w/ you more, Allan. These issues have divided the church in the US, as well.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Anna. Yes, the divisions grieve the heart, especially since we are exhorted in the word of God that our calling means “forbearing one another in love, endeavouring to keep (to guard) the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” Sometimes that is not possible, but I don’t think the present issue is one of them. At least it ought not to be. I hold to the old adage. In essentials unity. In non-essentials liberty. In all things charity.

      Liked by 4 people

  7. Thank you Brother Thank you. Oh. With tears thank you. Politics injected into a germ. Brothers and sisters placing opinion on a virus: only to create more toxins. The USA quickly changing,
    Censorship, division,the media yackity yack of despair……yet I am able to worship. To fellowship. To communicate the love of Jesus. Yes!! Brother! Yes!!

    Liked by 2 people

  8. “Most people hardly even get sick.”–> The doctors and nurses in the hospitals’ covid units, crying and exhausted, do not agree.
    “This is really hard on many people, too hard for some.”–> I do not want to disregard other people’s sufferings, but I can’t help thinking about the life people live in developing countries, even during normal times. What is a “hard life”?
    The more we’re disobeying health protocols, the more we’re prolonging the pandemic, and all the more people are being driven to poverty, mental health issues, lost of jobs, etc.

    The vitriol I read from Christians on social media just breaks my heart. Is it just because they’re behind a monitor? Or do they really speak with such anger and hatred in person?

    Now I may be wrong (forgive me everyone!), but it seems to me that some people have a “fantasy” to be persecuted just like what we read about our brothers and sisters in closed countries. Is it to get attention, bask in the limelight of martyrdom? You are right, brother–that day will come (and how awful and terrifying that day would be–‘anger’ and ‘hatred’ would not be our response!) and until then, we should be guarding our testimony.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Hi Allan:
    I felt lead come here with all the things that are going on in our day age. Yes it easy in the natural man to lash out rather than being led by the Spirit of the Living God who was sent to lead and guide us into ALL truth. And Glorify Jesus Christ.
    Of course we know that the powers of darkness do not play fair or by their rules. I have been struggling with all shall we say silliness of our day. Hearing both sides of the camps was reminded however today that in spite of my and others, struggles. That Jesus said, and always remember that the Father said(this is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased )to the Apostles on the mount He said (Hear ye Him)
    Paul tells us God who at Sundry times and in divers manners. Spoke unto the fathers by the prophets.
    Hath in these last days spoken unto us by His Son ( or in His Son as the proper reading is)
    Heb 1:1,2
    I remember Bro George so often saying that if we didn’t abide In him (Jesus) and obey His voice by His Spirit we were going to get ourselves into trouble. We really do need to hear the voice of the Holy Spirit and be led by him. Moment by moment hour by hour. Only He knows when to stop, turn right, left; wait. go etc. only He knows the hearts and minds of all men. And He speaks only what He hears from God’s throne. And we his people are connected no matter where we are on the globe, no matter where we are. If we are vitally connected to Him. So we are never really apart. I cannot remember where I read it In scripture. There will come a time when one will desire to hear the voice of another man. If we seek Him and listen to His Voice, we will not fail like our example the children of Israel. Who before their deliverance from Egypt had their trials and tribulations increased greatly. Then God brought them out by His mighty hand through the Red Sea. And destroyed all His and their enemies.
    God will deliver us! If we trust in Him and give us the wisdom we need in this hour! He never promised an easy road but, He said He would NEVER leave us or forsake us. Blessed be His Name Jesus!
    We should keep each other as believe you do and others in prayer. Encourage as God enables us. Hold one another up!
    Bless you
    Paul Valentine


    • Hi Paul. There are people on “both sides” of this issue who seek to keep their conscience clear. So as you said, it’s a matter of hearing clearly what the Son Himself is in fact saying. This means we must all continue to present ourselves a living sacrifice unto Him, and be transformed by the renewing of our minds, earnestly seeking His will whatever the cost. There is a very deep need for this– a mind illuminated with the light of Christ– all across the wide range of believers. This is our heritage, as Paul wrote. “We have the mind of Christ.” Indeed, in Christ we have the mind of Christ. But to what extent does the mind of Christ actually illuminate and rule our thoughts? We need a continuing renewing. In Christ we have put off the old man, but we must be renewed in the Spirit of our minds, having put on the new man.


  10. Yes amen.
    Blessings on you.

    Also very good to hear from you. Been awhile. Trust all is well with you and your family.


  11. Hi Allan,
    I just received this YouTube video via email from Tim Delina of Times Square Church in New York City regarding not yet opening their sanctuary for in-person miinistry and fellowship. As you know I have been there (Times Square Church) many times and hold them in the highest esteem. I have never been to a meeting there where there was not a living fresh anointed presence of the Lord. I’ve never felt grieved in my spirit at anything I ever experienced there.
    In this short (3+ minutes) video Tim Delina explains why they are not opening yet. Please post this link that all may hear what a godly leader of a very large congregation in the very epicenter of the Covid-19 virus has to say.
    God Bless



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