Assembling for worship on Sunday is the will of God, not a religious custom or denominational tradition (Acts 20:7; I Cor. 16:1-2).
The worship assembly is a sacred time when Christians “come together in one place” (I Cor. 11:20). This means “the whole church comes together in one place” (I Cor. 14:23). Congregational meetings for worship are spoken of in numerous other verses and are an important part of New Testament Christianity (James 2:2; I Cor. 11:17, 18, 33, 34; I Cor. 5:4; I Cor. 14:26).
As Christians we are not to forsake “the assembling of ourselves together” (Heb. 10:25). These periods of praise to God and mutual edification are vital to the well-being of the church.
No human government has the right to prohibit what God has commanded. Christians are to obey the laws of the land as far as possible (Rom. 13:1-7), but when man’s law defies God’s law the biblical course of action is clear: “We ought to obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29).
No group of elders or men in a church have the authority to forbid what God commands. Elders have authority in matters of judgment, not in matters of biblical teaching. Their concern is the spiritual welfare of members of the congregation. “They watch out for your souls” (Heb. 13:17). Assembling to worship God on Sunday is the law of God. No eldership has the right to set that duty aside.
Jesus’ words in Matthew 18:20 have nothing to do with this issue. He said, “For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them.” This is not a gathering to worship God. It is a meeting to settle a dispute between two brothers (Matt. 18:15-19).
Cyber worship or televised worship is not the same as “the assembling of ourselves together” when “the whole church comes together in one place” (I Cor. 14:23).
Being sick and unable to assemble is not the same as being afraid that one might get sick because someone in the assembly might have come into contact with someone who has a virus. Sick Christians are described in the Bible as those who need a doctor and visits from the elders of the church (Matt. 9:12; James 5:14). God does not expect people in this condition to attend church services. This teaching qualifies the duty to assemble for worship. But where is the biblical passage that justifies a cease and desist order telling people not to assemble based on the mere possibility of catching an illness?
Churches who have given into the pressure are not thinking about the biblical implications of what they are doing any more than public officials and medical professionals are considering the social and even Constitutional consequences of their extreme measures. If elders and politicians have the right to tell people to stay away from public worship because someone might get sick, then where will this end? Can they rightly suspend church services because someone might come and misuse a gun? Can they forbid us to bring a mentally handicapped person to church because that person just might lose control and become aggressive? Do they have the right to forbid high cholesterol foods at potluck meals in the church building because of heart issues? Should we stop driving to church or driving anywhere since there is a risk of dying on the highway? Where is the logic in all this?
Churches that are closing the doors are making a big mistake. They are not acting from faith. They are overreacting out of fear.
-Kerry Duke, VP of Academics and Academic Affairs