Christians must defy Caesar’s attempt to control the church

By Scott Lively

Government attempts to regulate church attendance and worship practices violate not only the law of our land, the U.S. Constitution, they violate the law above the law, and because of that every Christian pastor should individually be in open defiance of restrictive “mandates” and collectively in active civil rebellion against the state and local governments issuing them. The daily news should be dominated not by violent BLM/Antifa rioting over phony “systemic racism” narratives, but by images of bold but non-violent men of God standing resolutely against tyranny – speaking forth the truth of the Gospel even if hauled off to jail – while their congregations gather in mass protests outside the city halls and state houses singing the great old hymns about the “Mighty Fortress of our God” and “Christian Soldiers Marching As to War.” No secular power could withstand Christendom united in this way!

But instead of Lions of Faith, we see Cowering Sheep “having a form of Godliness [by their words] but [by their actions] denying its power.” That’s from 2 Timothy 3, which describes the “perilous times” of the last days, when the society is overrun with the wicked. The wicked run wild because the righteous are ashamed to assert their authority as agents of the Lord of Hosts.

Why would any observer of today’s church believe its God has any power to protect and keep His followers even through the valley of the shadow of death when its leaders show by example that He’s not even worth the risk of incurring the disfavor of petty government bureaucrats? Jeremiah rebuked the wimps of his day by asking, “If you have run with footmen and they have tired you out, Then how can you compete with horses? If you fall down in a land of peace, How will you do in the thicket of the Jordan?” The same principle is stated in the Gospel of Luke: “He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much; and he who is unrighteous in a very little thing is unrighteous also in much.”

No, an order to obey man instead of God on “social distancing” is not the Mark of the Beast. But it’s a rehearsal for it. It is conditioning the sheep to follow a false shepherd into a cattle chute.

My First Century Bible Church is small and widely dispersed. The COVID-19 plandemic hit just as I was ready to launch a local congregation-building campaign here on the outskirts of Memphis, Tennessee, on the border of Mississippi, so growth has been difficult. My prior congregation was an inner-city mission church in Springfield, Massachusetts, also small. So my right to speak on these matters is not by virtue of leading a mega-church, but only the right common to all men of the clergy to assert God’s truth as I understand it, in submission to the unction of the Holy Spirit and in conformity to His Word.

I do not recognize the authority of secular government to dictate any aspect of doctrine or practice of my congregation. As a Christian attorney and pastor, I know and follow the law above the law and claim the right of church sovereignty implicit in the original meaning of the separation of church and state, which is by no means a one-way street controlled by the state.

To clarify the point, consider why the government does not tax churches. It’s not from a sense of benevolent indulgence but because it has NO POWER to tax a separate and equal sovereign. This is an ancient and inviolable precept of civilization, as deeply rooted as the autonomy of the Levite clergy’s “cities of refuge,” relative to the “state” power of the 12 Hebrew tribes, from the first days of the Israelite republic.

Indeed, the church has greater autonomy relative to the federal and state governments than the state governments have relative to the federal government. The “supremacy clause” of Article VI of the U.S. Constitution subjects the states to federal law where the two conflict on a matter within federal jurisdiction.

In contrast, the First Amendment defines church sovereignty thus: “Congress [the only legitimate legislative body] shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” That is an absolute prohibition on government interference with the church which pre-dates the Marbury v. Madison power grab of the Supreme Court, under which subsequent judicial activism purported to regulate the church.

While other churches and congregations might have acquiesced to the court’s illegitimate authority, I am not bound by their decisions, having newly established my own church totally independent of them. I have not registered First Century Bible Church with the government and have no intention to do so.

As an ambassador of the Church of Jesus Christ I do not recognize the authority of the Supreme Court – an arm of the state – to legislate from the bench on church/state matters. It retains authority to regulate the state in church/state matters, but not the church.

Clearly, the church has a biblical duty to cooperate in church/state matters, and even more, to actively steward the secular society! But not as an inferior entity to the state. In the “coadjuvancy” of church and state envisioned by the founders (meaning the cooperation of separate sovereigns), the legal relationship of the two is the jurisprudential equivalent to an international treaty. More specifically, since it involves close interaction within the same geographic territory, the relationship is akin to that which exists between Native American tribes and the federal government, but the rights of the church are stronger than those of Indian tribes, because they come from God, not merely from established human customs about territorial possessions.

I have founded First Century Bible Church upon this premise, invoking the theological authority established by the Apostle Paul in his epistles and earthly ministry, and the political/legal authority recognized (not granted) by the First Amendment, which pre-existed the American colonies, as admitted by the Declaration of Independence.

I will not defy Caesar on matters within his jurisdiction, but I do stand in open defiance in matters of church doctrine and practice as defined by the Holy Bible. Equally importantly, I do not grant Caesar the power to determine for me what the parameters of God’s jurisdiction are. I challenge every pastor in America to take this stand with me – no matter the cost. (Kudos to Pastor John MacArthur and Liberty Counsel).

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