Dear Church,

We, the Pastor, Elders, and Leadership team of Calvary Mt. Si, put together this document as a help to the overall effort of Washington churches to reopen soon, as the Governor has put no realistic plan in place. We hope and pray this will help you process and pray with us about how and why we are moving forward in this direction. As some of you may know we have put together a petition and a proposal for a safe way to start gathering in-person, to express, in a loving manner, our disagreement with the Governor’s orders, and our concern for the violation of our First Amendment rights. Our goal in this communication is to provide a fuller context for our position and our plan for the days ahead.

A Relational Faith 

“And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first commandment.  And the second, like it, is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” Mark 12: 30-31 

We know from Jesus’ teaching that the greatest commandment is to love God and to love others.  But how do we do this? This love is demonstrated in the context of relationship. First, we achieve a right relationship with God by accepting the atoning sacrifice of His Son Jesus, who deliberately chose to pursue a restored relationship with humanity by leaving the perfection of His kingdom in heaven in order to walk amongst us and to fully experience our frailty, sickness, and even death.  Out of gratitude for the grace that Jesus has demonstrated toward us, we are equipped on a daily basis to love those around us, even our enemies, but especially our fellow Believers, who are now to be considered as our own family, brothers and sisters brought together under our Heavenly Father and His Son the Lord Jesus Christ. By His blood and through His Spirit, we live in relationship with one another here on earth, practicing our love for one another and awaiting the day that Jesus returns to bring us home to heaven where we will finally be in relationship with one another with no more sin, pain, suffering, sorrow, or death. Our God is a relational God. He created us to be in relationship with Him, and to be in relationship with others to experience and fulfill our greatest potential as image-bearers of the living God. 

Throughout Scripture, and especially in the New Testament church, there is an overriding expectation that we will live our lives together in close community with one another. In fact, the very definition of the word church means “to assemble.” The beautiful concept of the institution of church is made up of individuals that belong to Jesus who are called into relationships with one another as they pursue individual relationships with God. The church is the very institution for the perpetuation of the kingdom of God on this earth, as well as the outlined structure and process of growth for the believer. 

Church community is as that of an extended Family. In fact, this familial concept is usually found not only in the language of scripture but also in the speech of any Christian that regularly attends any church. By this understanding church cannot be done without assembly, without relationships, without being a spiritual family with many different members with different functions, but as one body, one Spirit, and one faith that unites us. 

The goal of our faith is to see people be transformed, to see them come into a relationship with Jesus, grow into mature disciples, be raised up and sent out. This radical life-giving spiritual transformation affects what we think, how we feel, what we do, and who we are. It affects us mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually. This concept of transformation is a work of the Holy Spirit, but is designed with human interaction for effective growth, and therefore cannot flourish through a one-way, once a week, digital dissemination of information. As anyone knows who has tried to find efficacy in video chats, they are lacking and are no substitute for in-person, face-to-face interactions. (Even Governor Inslee implicitly acknowledges this by allowing for face to face counseling sessions.) As a stop gap, video chats may help sustain what has already been built, but they rarely, if ever, can perpetuate growth and produce transformation. They are anemic at a challenging time when we most need nutrients.

The enemy’s goal is to divide, confuse, and separate. The very concept of sin and death is a breach in relationship, a divide. The mechanisms of opposition: the enemy, the world, and our flesh, are warring against the Spirit of God, against life, and will do everything possible to keep us from fellowshipping with Jesus, and with each other.

Hebrews 10:23-25 states – “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.”. This passage of scripture highlights the need for Believers to assemble and gather together, with an ever-increasing importance as we continue closer and closer to the end times. Why? Could it possibly be that the Lord knew that we would need one another’s support and encouragement during the most challenging times, when death and suffering are prevalent? We know from scriptural prophecy that the end times will be filled with sickness and suffering. So, we can naturally conclude that we are expected to meet in person even during times of sickness and suffering.

Life on this earth is accompanied by sickness and suffering. And yet we carry on, boldly proclaiming that while present sorrow is real, our God is greater than death through the power of Jesus resurrection; and we look forward to the day where there will be no more sickness and suffering. Proclamation of this message is more important during a pandemic than ever.

In summary, our God is relational and instructs us to be in relationship with one another.  We are an adopted family of brothers and sisters in the Lord, and Church is by definition an assembly together with one another. Growth is achieved effectively in person. Separation is a tool of our enemy, and we are specifically instructed to resist such separation.  

With these foundations of our faith set forth, it is vital to identify the many specific practices that we observe when we gather which require us to be present together with one another: 

  • Corporate praise (Colossians 3:16)
  • Corporate teaching (1 Corinthians 14:26-27)
  • Corporate prayer, laying on of hands, and anointing with oil (Acts 2:42, Joel 1:14, Mark 6:13)
  • Communion (Acts 20:7)
  • Water baptism (Matthew 28:19, Acts 2:38-41,10:47-48)
  • Exercise of spiritual gifts (1 Corinthians 14:26-27) 
  • Care for those in need… to visit widows and orphans in their affliction. (visit the hurting, sick, needy. We can’t readily assess needs in this context of isolation.)  (James 1:27, Matthew 25:37-40)
  • Weddings
  • Memorials/Funerals

(See also Appendix A: Necessity of In Person Church, which provides a fuller summary of these categories and supporting scriptures.)

These things are what we as the church are instructed to do. This is our “religion,” and we are unable to pursue it fully and freely when we are restricted from gathering together in person. While there are certainly times of isolation and separation for individuals, the expectation for our standard mode of operation is that we live life in community with one another.  

Submission to Governing Authority

“Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.”  Romans 13:1

(See also Appendix B: Citizenship, Rights, and Opportunities, which provides a fuller summary of these categories and supporting scriptures.)

Notwithstanding the importance that our faith places on gathering in person, we have complied with our Governor’s orders to not meet for over 2 months. We recognize that this is a difficult time to govern, and we respect and appreciate the extremely challenging position that our leaders are in. Moreover, we believe that our government’s initial decisions were motivated by a sincere desire to be thoughtful of neighbors and community. Loving our neighbors is a core tenet of our faith, and so we wholeheartedly support that. We would not want to meet in person if it would put either our congregation or our community at risk. We value human life and we care for people, so we should only meet when it is safe and reasonable to do so. 

The problem arises when it’s safe and reasonable, but still not legal. With the passing of time, we see Washington State arbitrarily allowing some organizations to resume business with safety protocols in place, meaning that they have determined it is reasonably safe to gather as long as people are thoughtful and careful. As long as assembly is safe for some, it must be similarly safe for the church. However, they have treated church organizations differently than other organizations.  Many businesses have already been allowed to resume operations, and restaurants and movie theaters will soon be allowed to meet at reduced occupancy, but churches will still not be allowed to meet at all. This is overtly discriminatory, since restaurants and movie theaters often have many more occupants than small churches do. At essence, it is discriminatory to establish criteria that is based on the type of organization rather than something more objective such as the number of people allowed in a building. 

After prayerful consideration, we believe that the lack of consistency and objectivity in our Governor’s unilateral proclamations provides justification for us to resume meeting together. In other words, we are willing to quietly disobey because it is now abundantly clear that the Governor is discriminating rather than applying standards equally to all organizations. Please keep in mind we are asserting we are not breaking the law, but rather following it, and our Governor is acting contrary to our First Amendment and Constitution.

Like 1 Peter 2:15 admonishes, we recognize that it is God’s will that we live honorable and good lives in respect of our governing authorities. Yet, at the same time, it is important to recognize that there are sometimes conflicts within government itself. This requires wisdom to determine when to submit and when to appeal to a higher authority (i.e. a higher governmental authority, or to God himself if governmental authorities are in conflict with God’s law). The apostle Paul in Acts 16 and 22 refers to his rights as a Roman citizen to continue to operate and to use every advantage afforded him to further the kingdom of God. We have the ability to appeal to similar rights as Americans. In the present circumstance it is clear that there is a conflict between Governor Inslee’s orders and the Constitution of the United States of America, specifically with regard to the provisions of the First Amendment, which expressly prohibit the government from restricting the right for religious institutions to assemble.  

The Constitution is the supreme governing authority of our land. It not only upholds our rights but restricts the government from infringing or removing them. In the Constitution, it states that are we have inalienable rights, endowed from the Creator, affirming that God is our ultimate source of authority and justice. He is the ultimate moral law giver and the one in whose ethical system we operate. The concept is clear: Since God exists, and He has given us these rights, no government has the right or the ability to remove the rights and moral constructs that God has set up. 

Our country’s founding fathers acknowledged God’s authority in the lives of men and the importance that we be allowed to assemble together in full practice of the religious freedom that God has intended all men to have. Our State is breaking the law of the Constitution, and we are speaking up. We desire to obey God’s instruction that we assemble together, and our U.S. Constitution affirms that this is our lawful right as American citizens. It is not within our State’s rightful authority to override this. 

Those who are disagreeing with the Governor are still obeying the Constitution, and a Christian should not be penalized or feel shame for standing on the Constitution and the First Amendment. At the same time, we should not let this become our new gospel message. We are Christians desiring to love our congregation and community above anything else. Our Constitution supports us in this, and we are thankful for that.

Why is Action Important?  Can’t we Just Continue to be Patient? 

History demonstrates over and over that it is very important and even commendable to pursue civil disobedience during times of injustice. Church history is filled with stories of those faced with the choice of obedience to God or man. Compliance with one meant defiance of the other. Today, we regard these people are heroes of the Faith. We not only have the record of the OT people and prophets all throughout history ignoring the rulings of unjust kings, but Peter, John, and Paul did the same in establishing the early church, Bonhoeffer spoke up during the Holocaust, Martin Luther King Jr. spoke up for racial equality in the U.S., and thousands of Christians alive today disobey government orders on a daily basis in persecuted countries (e.g. Middle East, China etc.). It is sometimes necessary to rebel in order to fulfill the mission of the Church to meet, preach, baptize, and so on. 

From the perspective of principle, we believe that it is important that we as a church speak up for justice. Based on our conversations with lawyers and other pastors, we are finding that many pastors agree that the Church’s rights are being suppressed, but few are willing/able to act on their convictions due to constraints from their denominations. If all feel constrained, then who will speak up to protect our freedom?  

Our freedom to worship is protected in the United States, and we want to take every step possible to ensure that our religious freedoms as Americans will remain in the future. What is most concerning is the precedent that has been set, that viruses are allowed to take precedence over the First Amendment for an open-ended period of time. We don't want any government to think that closing churches is an option every flu season, so it is important to speak up and hold our elected officials accountable. We want to be clear, humble, loving and bold, to do the right thing, the right way, at the right time. We believe that it is time to speak up before we lose our voice and set a precedent of our religious freedoms being removed.

From a shepherd’s perspective, my citizenship is first in heaven, and my greatest concern is for the people He has given me to serve. We want to be loving, safe, thoughtful, wise, and caring to all those suffering. There are a number of people in our churches that are hurting and isolated.  The longer that this goes on, the worse it is becoming. Moreover, with knowledge that our days may be few, we want to take every opportunity to share the Good News of Jesus with this world, and so we are taking action in order to preserve and protect our freedom to do this while we still have life and breath to serve our Lord.

Steps Taken 

Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority: whether to the emperor, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish people.  Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God’s slaves.  Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the emperor.” 1 Peter 2:13-17

Even as we appeal to our rights as American citizens to gather together once again, we desire to be humble, thoughtful, and gracious in our approach. We have made all attempts possible to be at peace with our local governing authorities.  We have peacefully expressed our disagreement with them and have requested that they change their edicts. Specifically, we have taken the following actions:

  • We have spoken with pastors in Snoqualmie Valley and with other Calvary pastors to make sure that we are working in unity with other Believers to the greatest extent possible.
  • We have presented a petition to Governor Inslee to allow churches to be treated like other businesses and to reopen with guidelines.
  • We participated in a multi-faith conference call with Governor Inslee, where we were able to articulate the violation of our First Amendment rights, unequal treatment with other organizations, and request the ability to begin meeting again. (In the meeting, the Governor acknowledged that outdoor gatherings would be safe and should be considered moving forward. Keep in mind that currently, protests, farmers markets, parks, and other outdoor gatherings are tolerated without enforcement.)
  • We met with Governor Inslee’s Senior Policy Advisor where we were able to talk in greater detail about our position and present a specific proposal that would allow us to reopen initially outdoors and subsequently with similar guidelines to restaurants and movie theaters.
  • We met with Joshua Freed, a gubernatorial candidate who supports our cause and who has lodged a lawsuit against Governor Inslee in order to protect religious freedoms in the State of Washington. (In addition to this lawsuit, there are other GOP lawsuits against Governor Inslee and the stay at home order currently underway. There is considerable amount of national movement and several victories in federal courts upholding our religious freedoms and the First Amendment.)
  • We met with our Washington State representatives.
  • We met with the Family Policy Institute and their leaders and advisors.
  • We met with the heads of Washington State political parties.
  • We met with the Snoqualmie/North Bend Chief of Police to ask his views.  (He affirmed that he and the police department are not planning to make any arrests for those individuals or organizations who are not in compliance with the Governor’s orders.)
  • We have attempted to gain a meeting with the Mayor of North Bend, who has so far refused to meet with us.

In all of these conversations and actions, we have sought the counsel of Christian attorneys, so as to be wise, careful, and thoughtful in all that we contemplate and do. While we desire to affirm our religious freedom as Americans, we also desire to live in peace with our local authorities to the greatest extent possible while continuing to have our focus on the Lord’s instructions for His Church.

A Humble Spirit

“When a man's ways please the LORD, He makes even his enemies to be at peace with him. Better is a little with righteousness, than vast revenues without justice. A man's heart plans his way, But the LORD directs his steps.” - Proverbs 16:7-9 NKJV

In closing, as a personal pastoral encouragement from my heart to yours, I want to appeal to us to seek the Lord that we convey the right spirit as we begin to gather together again. Our actions may be viewed as disobedience in the eyes of some men who are focused on the edicts of Washington State rather than U.S. Constitutional law. Be prepared for objection and be prepared to meet that objection with the love that the Lord has shown to us. The spirit that we want to convey in our gathering is that of love for the Lord and love for one another, not of loud and gregarious political protest.   

We are called as Christians often to operate between seemingly different directional tensions. One of boldness and leadership, and one of servitude and submission. The correct balanced narrow path to walk is only achieved by a recognition of our total dependence upon the Holy Spirit, and a humbly submitted heart that continues to look to God’s word for each step. I don’t have all the answers, I don’t have it all figured out. I desperately need wisdom from on high that supersedes anything from my humanity. I know that I’m called to love God and love others, and we must continue to do that through much prayer, the very best our conscience allows us, as the Holy Spirit leads us, and the word of God directs us.

I am convicted that we have too often replaced the voice of God with the voice of the culture and peer pressure, replaced a desire for nearness and holiness with trendiness and political correctness. We know the end is coming, we know the enemy is planting seeds and testing waters. God is essential, and His church is essential.  We want to serve and care for those that have been affected in this time, either by death, sickness, fear, economic hardship, or isolation and depression. We are called, in whatever we do, to glorify Him, to be loving, humble, and bold. This is not just about what we do, but how we do it. 

Our witness is key. We need to not operate under the concept of “we have a right to do such and such,” so we are doing it no matter what. In addition to health and safety, our community’s perceptions must be considered. I do not want to win this battle just to invalidate our ministry to the very people we are trying to reach. We must be ministers of the good news of Jesus, we must love our neighbor as ourselves and do all we reasonably can to communicate and sacrifice for that. There is a possibility, that no matter what we say, or when we open, someone will accuse, someone will blame, someone will be angry. There is a balance that each pastor and leadership team is trying to reach. A balance that doesn’t injure, that is safe and thoughtful, a balance that allows the church to thrive without sacrificing our witness, and one that shows that we are loving and serving our community without isolating and injuring our church family.

Pray for wisdom, love and to be led by Him day by day. Have your heart in complete submission to Him, know how His Word commands us to behave. Pray for your leaders both secular and spiritual. Pray and seek unity, and in all we do may it glorify God and be done in love. 

Our Path Forward

We have written a petition to allow churches to be treated like other organizations and allowed to assemble with guidelines. We believe there is a way to meet and follow safety protocols as to protect and love our neighbors and ourselves. 

We have proposed that churches be allowed to operate outdoor gatherings immediately and in-person gatherings based on occupancy and the following:

Phase 1 Drive-in and Outdoor Gatherings / Phase 2 at 50% capacity / Phase 3 at 75% capacity / Phase 4 at 100% capacity

So far this proposal has not been approved, but we plan to continue with our plan because we believe that it is safe, reasonable, and in accordance with what our State is allowing other organizations to do (e.g. outdoor farmer’s markets, curbside retail open now; restaurants and movie theaters operating at reduced capacity in Phases 2 and 3).  Moreover, we believe that it is in accordance with our Constitutional rights.

– Pastor Jack Arnold, the Elders, and Leadership Team at Calvary Mt Si, North Bend, WA

 

Appendix A

Necessity of in person church

Hebrews 10:23-25 NKJV - 23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, 25 not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.

  1. Water Baptism 
    1. Matthew 28:19, 
    2. Acts 2:38-41,
    3. Acts 10:47-48

  1. Corporate Teaching of the Word
    1. 1 Timothy 4:13 
    2. Acts 13:44 
    3. Acts 17:11, 
    4. 1 Corinthians 14:26-27 

  1. Fellowship/Community
    / spiritual family
    1. Acts 2:1,42,46 
    2. Hebrews 10:25, 
    3. Matthew 18:20 
    4. Ephesians 2:19-22 
    5. 1 Thessalonians 4:18 

  1. Communion
    1. 1 Corinthians 11:30
    2. Acts 20:7 

  1. Corporate Prayers 
    1. Acts 2:42 
    2. Joel 1:14 


  1.  Exercise of spiritual gifts and baptism of the Holy Spirit 
    1. Acts 19:6.
    2. Acts 2:4 
    3. 1 Corinthians 14:26-27 

  1. Corporate Praise/worship
    1. Colossians 3:16 
    2. Ephesians 5:19 
    3. Psalm 95:1-11

  1. Anointing with oil
    1. Mark 6:13 
    2. James 5:14–15 

  1. Laying on of hands  
    1. Acts 8:14–19
    2. Acts 6:6,13:3,14:23; 
    3. 1 Timothy 4:14
    4. 2 Timothy 1:6

  1. Looking for real and present needs, corporately responding, (visit the hurting, sick, needy, and we can’t asses needs in this context of isolation) 
    1. Acts 6:1
    2. 1 John 3:17-18 
    3. Luke 3:11 
    4. Matthew 25:37-40 
    5. Galatians 6:2 
    6. James 1:27



Appendix B

A quick look at biblical citizenship, rights, and opportunities.

By Jack and Jinell Arnold

The initial four passages highlight the general heart of submission to authority and government. The passages following will show what options we have when local and national governmental laws conflict, and our attitude when exercising them.

Romans 13:1-7

“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. Therefore, you must be subject, not only because of wrath but also for conscience’ sake. For because of this you also pay taxes, for they are God’s ministers attending continually to this very thing. Render therefore to all their due: taxes to whom taxes are due, customs to whom customs, fear to whom fear, honor to whom honor.”

1 Timothy 2:1-4

“Therefore, I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”

Titus 3:1-3

“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. For we ourselves were also once foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving various lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another.”

1 Peter 2:13-17

“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. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men— as free, yet not using liberty as a cloak for vice, but as bondservants of God. Honor all people. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king.”

These are very straight forward passage of that give an exhortation to be good citizens and follow the law, pay taxes and be in submission to the governing authorities. Simply said, as Christians we are to trust God and obey the law. So then, how do we handle situations like Acts 4 when Peter and John were put in prison for speaking of the resurrection of Christ and commanded to stop preaching? Peter and John (leaders of the early church) both told their leaders that they would not obey their commands. 

Acts 4:18 -21

“So they called them and commanded them not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus.

But Peter and John answered and said to them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you more than to God, you judge. “For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.” So when they had further threatened them, they let them go, finding no way of punishing them, because of the people, since they all glorified God for what had been done.”

Clearly, there is a line in which a governments commands can and should be disobeyed. The obvious line is when those commands are asking an individual to do something that is in direct disobedience to God’s commands.

The following scriptures will show that we are to obey the governing authorities except when those laws are unbiblical, unjust, or immoral, or contradict the commands of God.

Exodus 1:17

“But the midwives feared God and did not do as the king of Egypt commanded them but saved the male children alive.”

2 Chronicles 26:17-18

“So Azariah the priest went in after him, and with him were eighty priests of the LORD—valiant men. And they withstood King Uzziah, and said to him, “It is not for you, Uzziah, to burn incense to the LORD, but for the priests, the sons of Aaron, who are consecrated to burn incense. Get out of the sanctuary, for you have trespassed! You shall have no honor from the LORD God.”

Daniel 3:14- 18

“Nebuchadnezzar spoke, saying to them, “Is it true, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego, that you do not serve my gods or worship the gold image which I have set up? Now if you are ready at the time you hear the sound of the horn, flute, harp, lyre, and psaltery, in symphony with all kinds of music, and you fall down and worship the image which I have made, good! But if you do not worship, you shall be cast immediately into the midst of a burning fiery furnace. And who is the god who will deliver you from my hands?” Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego answered and said to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. If that is the case, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us from your hand, O king. But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the gold image which you have set up.”

Daniel 6:7-10 

“All the governors of the kingdom, the administrators and satraps, the counselors and advisors, have consulted together to establish a royal statute and to make a firm decree, that whoever petitions any god or man for thirty days, except you, O king, shall be cast into the den of lions. Now, O king, establish the decree and sign the writing, so that it cannot be changed, according to the law of the Medes and Persians, which does not alter.” Therefore King Darius signed the written decree. Now when Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went home. And in his upper room, with his windows open toward Jerusalem, he knelt down on his knees three times that day, and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as was his custom since early days.”

Acts 5:27-32

“And when they had brought them, they set them before the council. And the high priest asked them, saying, “Did we not strictly command you not to teach in this name? And look, you have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine, and intend to bring this Man’s blood on us!” But Peter and the other apostles answered and said: “We ought to obey God rather than men. The God of our fathers raised up Jesus whom you murdered by hanging on a tree. Him God has exalted to His right hand to be Prince and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. And we are His witnesses to these things, and so also is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey Him.”

A Look at Paul

On the topic of obedience to governing authorities, Paul is a great study. Paul is very unique because he is a disciple who also has Roman citizenship and therefore Roman rights. Those rights gave him a voice that the other disciples did not have, and Paul is not afraid to use these rights for his advantage and the furthering of the gospel. Paul was also living at a time and place in history where he is under several different governing authorities. 

In regard to the synagogues and daily life, when in primarily Jewish areas Paul must, to the best of his ability, submit to the religious governing authorities - the Sanhedrin and the Pharisees. He understands the laws and is willing to come under them and encourage others to do the same in an effort to take advantage of the freedom that obeying those laws affords him. 

Acts 16:1-5

“Then he came to Derbe and Lystra. And behold, a certain disciple was there, named Timothy, the son of a certain Jewish woman who believed, but his father was Greek.

He was well spoken of by the brethren who were at Lystra and Iconium. Paul wanted to have him go on with him. And he took him and circumcised him because of the Jews who were in that region, for they all knew that his father was Greek. And as they went through the cities, they delivered to them the decrees to keep, which were determined by the apostles and elders at Jerusalem. So the churches were strengthened in the faith and increased in number daily.”

    

Paul has Timothy circumcised so Timothy can exercise his right as a Jew, as well as a Greek. He looked for every opportunity that would lead to open doors for ministry.

In regard to daily life, all the areas where Paul was preaching were subject to Roman rule. All local officials, whether they liked it or not, were subject to the Emperor. Paul, unlike many, was born a Roman citizen. Roman citizenship was highly sought after because of the rights that it guaranteed. In Acts 22 we have an interaction between Paul and a Roman centurion and the centurion states that his citizen ship cost him a great deal of money. Paul was blessed in that he was born a Roman citizen. Paul, clearly, does not hold his citizenship as anything close to the gift of his salvation, he is always first a disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ, but he has no problem in using the freedoms his citizenship grants him to help further the gospel of Christ. For example, it is not lawful for him to be beaten or thrown in prison without a trial. Paul makes this right an issue in Acts 16 when he declares that he will not quietly be released from being wrongfully imprisoned. He basically requests an apology from the magistrates. 

Acts 16:36-40

“And when it was day, the magistrates sent the officers, saying, “Let those men go.”

So, the keeper of the prison reported these words to Paul, saying, The magistrates have sent to let you go. Now therefore depart and go in peace.” But Paul said to them, They have beaten us openly, uncondemned Romans, and have thrown us into prison. And now do they put us out secretly? No indeed! Let them come themselves and get us out.”

And the officers told these words to the magistrates, and they were afraid when they heard that they were Romans. Then they came and pleaded with them and brought them out and asked them to depart from the city. So they went out of the prison and entered the house of Lydia; and when they had seen the brethren, they encouraged them and departed.”

In Acts 21, while in Jerusalem he promotes the fact that he is a citizen to the commander while he is asking permission to speak (so that he can share the gospel) to the mob.

Acts 21:37-40

“Then as Paul was about to be led into the barracks, he said to the commander, “May I speak to you?” He replied, “Can you speak Greek? “Are you not the Egyptian who some time ago stirred up a rebellion and led the four thousand assassins out into the wilderness?” But Paul said, “I am a Jew from Tarsus, in Cilicia, a citizen of no mean city; and I implore you, permit me to speak to the people.” 

In Acts 22 he claims his rights when the centurion is preparing to scourge him before he has been condemned of a crime.

Acts 22:23-29

“Then, as they cried out and tore off their clothes and threw dust into the air,

the commander ordered him to be brought into the barracks, and said that he should be examined under scourging, so that he might know why they shouted so against him.

And as they bound him with thongs, Paul said to the centurion who stood by, “Is it lawful for you to scourge a man who is a Roman, and uncondemned?” When the centurion heard that, he went and told the commander, saying, “Take care what you do, for this man is a Roman.” Then the commander came and said to him, “Tell me, are you a Roman?” He said, “Yes.” The commander answered, “With a large sum I obtained this citizenship.” And Paul said, “But I was born a citizen.” Then immediately those who were about to examine him withdrew from him; and the commander was also afraid after he found out that he was a Roman, and because he had bound him.”

Clearly Paul had no problem using the rights his citizenship afforded him. He not only uses his rights as a Roman and a Jew, but also takes advantage of his association with the Pharisees to achieve freedom from the local injustice of the council. While he used those rights, he made sure that he was respectful to those who were in authority over him. In Acts 23 he unintentionally insults the High Priest. When correcting, in the midst of what is a heated moment, he immediately gives a humble and honest response. 

Acts 23:1-7

“Then Paul, looking earnestly at the council, said, “Men and brethren, I have lived in all good conscience before God until this day.” And the high priest Ananias commanded those who stood by him to strike him on the mouth. Then Paul said to him, “God will strike you, you whitewashed wall! For you sit to judge me according to the law, and do you command me to be struck contrary to the law?” And those who stood by said, “Do you revile God’s high priest?” Then Paul said, “I did not know, brethren, that he was the high priest; for it is written, ‘You shall not speak evil of a ruler of your people.’ ” But when Paul perceived that one part were Sadducees and the other Pharisees, he cried out in the council, “Men and brethren, I am a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee; concerning the hope and resurrection of the dead I am being judged!” And when he had said this, a dissension arose between the Pharisees and the Sadducees; and the assembly was divided.”

When he felt that the local authorities could not provide him with a fair trial, he had no problem going to a higher court, especially when local government contradicted his rights as a roman citizen.  He spoke up, he protested, and he acted based on the national rules and regulations as a Roman, when local authorities prohibited him.

Acts 25:7-12

“When he had come, the Jews who had come down from Jerusalem stood about and laid many serious complaints against Paul, which they could not prove, while he answered for himself, “Neither against the law of the Jews, nor against the temple, nor against Caesar have I offended in anything at all. “But Festus, wanting to do the Jews a favor, answered Paul and said, “Are you willing to go up to Jerusalem and there be judged before me concerning these things?” So Paul said, “I stand at Caesar’s judgment seat, where I ought to be judged. To the Jews I have done no wrong, as you very well know. For if I am an offender, or have committed anything deserving of death, I do not object to dying; but if there is nothing in these things of which these men accuse me, no one can deliver me to them. I appeal to Caesar.” Then Festus, when he had conferred with the council, answered, “You have appealed to Caesar? To Caesar you shall go!”

While awaiting trial, Paul respectfully reached out to the Jewish leaders (the population that had had grievances against in Jerusalem) in Rome to talk with them and see how they felt about what was going on with his particular situation. Paul patiently awaited his trial for two years, making the best of his situation, continuing to preach the gospel, and trusting God with the outcome.

Acts 28: 16- 31

Now when we came to Rome, the centurion delivered the prisoners to the captain of the guard; but Paul was permitted to dwell by himself with the soldier who guarded him. And it came to pass after three days that Paul called the leaders of the Jews together. So when they had come together, he said to them: Men and brethren, though I have done nothing against our people or the customs of our fathers, yet I was delivered as a prisoner from Jerusalem into the hands of the Romans  who, when they had examined me, wanted to let me go, because there was no cause for putting me to death. But when the Jews spoke against it, I was compelled to appeal to Caesar, not that I had anything of which to accuse my nation. For this reason therefore I have called for you, to see you and speak with you, because for the hope of Israel I am bound with this chain.” Then they said to him, We neither received letters from Judea concerning you, nor have any of the brethren who came reported or spoken any evil of you. But we desire to hear from you what you think; for concerning this sect, we know that it is spoken against everywhere.” So, when they had appointed him a day, many came to him at his lodging, to whom he explained and solemnly testified of the kingdom of God, persuading them concerning Jesus from both the Law of Moses and the Prophets, from morning till evening. And some were persuaded by the things which were spoken, and some disbelieved. So, when they did not agree among themselves, they departed after Paul had said one word: The Holy Spirit spoke rightly through Isaiah the prophet to our fathers, 

saying,

‘Go to this people and say:

Hearing you will hear, and shall not understand;

And seeing you will see, and not perceive;

For the hearts of this people have grown dull.

Their ears are hard of hearing,

And their eyes they have closed,

Lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears,

Lest they should understand with their hearts and turn,

So that I should heal them.”’

“Therefore let it be known to you that the salvation of God has been sent to the Gentiles, and they will hear it!” And when he had said these words, the Jews departed and had a great dispute among themselves. Then Paul dwelt two whole years in his own rented house, and received all who came to him, preaching the kingdom of God and teaching the things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ with all confidence, no one forbidding him.

Paul trusted God and he was obedient to the authorities over him. He used all that God had given him for the furtherance of the gospel, including his citizenship, standing as a Jew, and a Pharisee.

Conclusion

We are Christians first and American citizens second. Our citizenship affords us certain rights. It is up to us if I want to take advantage of those rights or not. Whatever we decide, it is our duty as citizens and as Christians to uphold the law. The First Amendment clearly states 

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”

We will therefore uphold the First Amendment. We will acknowledge that if churches, or any other religious establishment, desires to congregate it is their right to do so.  If people desire to protest at the Capital or wherever, it is their right to do so. They are not breaking the law. They are using the law and exercising their freedoms which have been recognized in the law. As Christians, we will pray! We will pray for churches, for pastors, for our government, for revival, not just survival, for wisdom, for love and truth, for God’s beautiful Gospel to be spread to a world in need. We will respect a person’s conviction to stay silent and to seek prayer alone as their only action. We will also respect a person’s conviction to use all rights and opportunities at their disposal. We will deliver the whole counsel of God for prayerful consideration and understand the biblical choices we have before us. We are called to love, serve, and be respectful. We must obey the Lord and what He is calling us to, regardless of the response of people. At the same time, we must do all we can to show love, care, and thoughtfulness.

John 3:16-17 “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.”

Follow us