This past Sunday, Pastor John MacArthur’s church, Grace Community Church, held their first indoor church services in almost five months. Citing Hebrews 10:25, the elders at GCC declared that not gathering together for church would be disobeying God’s commands.
The church by definition is an assembly. That is the literal meaning of the Greek word for “church”—ekklesia—the assembly of the called-out ones. A non-assembling assembly is a contradiction in terms. Christians are therefore commanded not to forsake the practice of meeting together (Hebrews 10:25)—and no earthly state has a right to restrict, delimit, or forbid the assembling of believers. We have always supported the underground church in nations where Christian congregational worship is deemed illegal by the state.
What’s interesting about this has been their stated position that the church is required to submit to our governing authorities throughout this COVID-19 “pandemic”. Just a couple of months ago, Phil Johnson (who is a pastor/elder at GCC and the Executive Director at John MacArthur’s teaching ministry, Grace To You) wrote:
“Forsake” in Hebrews 10:25 is ἐγκαταλείπω–literally, “utterly leave behind, cast off.” It’s talking about permanent and/or willful abandonment–the final, plenary discontinuation of public worship.
So what Phil was stating here was that the word “forsake” in Hebrews 10:25 is not referring to a command regarding church attendance, but about entering into apostasy, something which I’ve never heard a pastor declare before. However, this just shows the great lengths that some of these men will go to in order to justify unbiblical decisions.
Clearly, that passage in Hebrews, which states, “not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” It’s obvious to anyone that this passage is dealing with those that are not attending church and participating in the Body of Christ. This is not a call to avoid apostasy, as Phil Johnson so clearly claimed.
So now, we see that the elders at GCC are citing that very same passage as a command to gather together for church. You can clearly see that there’s some flip-flopping going on here!
As I’ve stated in articles before, there’s often times a lot of blowing to-and-fro from the leadership at GCC, as we saw in the Interfaith Dialogue debate, as well as the Social Justice debate. They have no problem with changing their position if it is convenient for them, all without any clarification or explaining the Biblical reasoning for this change.
What’s been even more surprising is how everyone is acting as if John MacArthur is showing true leadership in taking his stand against the government.
Fred Butler (who attends GCC & works for GTY) stated: "Well. Church was uneventful. Power stayed on. John preached an historic sermon."
Allie Beth Stuckey wrote: “John MacArthur steps up to the pulpit. Congregation stands and applauds. I may have teared up.”
Darrell B Harrison tweeted: "Standing ovation from the congregants for John MacArthur."
He also wrote: "Maaaaaaaannn! So thankful for courageous men of God like John MacArthur!"
As you can see, the praise came rolling in for Pastor John MacArthur for “taking a stand” against the governmental tyranny. Except for the fact that it took five months for him to make this decision. Plus, since when was church about glorifying the pastor? I thought it was about God’s glory?
Notice how there was no praise from the MacArthur crowd when Jack Hibbs took a stand against Gavin Newsom months ago. There was no praise for any of the other pastors who chose to disobey government to obey God. Men like Pastor Sam Jones and Dr Mike Spaulding refused to close their churches at all.
But John MacArthur, who up until this very week was claiming that Romans 13 demands that we submit to Gavin Newsom’s order to close churches, decides to finally open up church again, and the masses come running, praising him as if he took a strong stand against tyranny. Magazines, news organizations, newspapers and blogs all writeup articles because the GREAT Pastor John MacArthur is showing TRUE leadership in defending the Biblical view of civil disobedience.
What’s really being exposed the celebrity cult mindset of Conservative Evangelical Christianity. Notice how all of the praise was for how great Pastor John MacArthur is for taking a stand. Where’s the deflection from the Grace pastors, pointing the praise away from their Pastor and onto Christ?
And finally, why are we calling John MacArthur’s decision to preach God’s Word inside of a church building leadership, when others have been doing so for months? Is it really leadership if you wait for everyone else to enter the battle, take the arrows, fight the good fight and clear the path and then you followup with your glorious sermon claiming that this is showing TRUE leadership?
I’m glad that Pastor MacArthur FINALLY came to his senses. Praise God that he’s coming back to the Biblical perspective on this important issue. But let’s call it what it is: Leading from behind.