An American pastor is sharing why his church will not be following California's COVID-19 limitations on religious services.

His reasons are based in scripture.

In a blog post made Friday, John MacArthur, pastor of Grace Community Church (GCC) in Sun Valley, says he is subject to the governance of Christ, and to some degree the laws of the state and country in which he lives and works.

But, he says, when those laws attempt to interfere with Christians' ability to respond to Christ's governance, that's when the rules need to be reevaluated.

"Christ is Lord of all. He is the one true head of the church (Ephesians 1:22; 5:23; Colossians 1:18). He is also King of kings—sovereign over every earthly authority (1 Timothy 6:15; Revelation 17:14; 19:16)," MacArthur says in his post. "Grace Community Church has always stood immovably on those biblical principles.

"Our Lord Himself always rendered to Caesar what was Caesar's, but He never offered to Caesar what belongs solely to God."

"As His people, we are subject to His will and commands as revealed in Scripture. Therefore we cannot and will not acquiesce to a government-imposed moratorium on our weekly congregational worship or other regular corporate gatherings. Compliance would be disobedience to our Lord’s clear commands."

MacArthur goes on to explain and acknowledge the clear directives of the Bible to respect the human governing authority over us on Earth.

"Scripture does mandate careful, conscientious obedience to all governing authority, including kings, governors, employers, and their agents (in Peter’s words, “not only to those who are good and gentle, but also to those who are unreasonable” [1 Peter 2:18])."

However, MacArthur says there is an acceptable limit on the biblical requirement to "Render to Caesar's what is Caesar's" - when it takes away from what is God's.

"While civil government is invested with divine authority to rule the state, neither of those texts (nor any other) grants civic rulers jurisdiction over the church."

Christ, not Caesar, Is Head of the Church: A Statement from John MacArthur and the Elders of Grace Community Church

Posted by John MacArthur on Friday, July 24, 2020

MacArthur's blog post, shared on GCC's website this week, comes in response to California laws that instruct churches to limit or suspend religious gatherings for an unforeseen length of time due to coronavirus concerns.

"Therefore, in response to the recent state order requiring churches in California to limit or suspend all meetings indefinitely, we, the pastors and elders of Grace Community Church, respectfully inform our civic leaders that they have exceeded their legitimate jurisdiction, and faithfulness to Christ prohibits us from observing the restrictions they want to impose on our corporate worship services," MacArthur writes.

"It has never been the prerogative of civil government to order, modify, forbid, or mandate worship."

Three other California churches recently filed a complaint in the state's federal district court against the California government's decision to ban singing in places of worship, a limitation also attributed to COVID-19.

"Caesar himself is subject to God. Jesus affirmed that principle when He told Pilate, 'You would have no authority over Me, unless it had been given you from above' (John 19:11)," MacArthur writes. "And because Christ is head of the church, ecclesiastical matters pertain to His Kingdom, not Caesar’s. Jesus drew a stark distinction between those two kingdoms when He said, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's” (Mark 12:17).

"Our Lord Himself always rendered to Caesar what was Caesar's, but He never offered to Caesar what belongs solely to God."

MacArthur says scripture alone determines and defines the powers churches are to yield to, namely pastors and elders who have been given governing jurisdiction over their congregations.

"They have no duty to follow orders from a civil government attempting to regulate the worship or governance of the church. In fact, pastors who cede their Christ-delegated authority in the church to a civil ruler have abdicated their responsibility before their Lord and violated the God-ordained spheres of authority as much as the secular official who illegitimately imposes his authority upon the church."

MacArthur says the church does not require state permission to "serve and worship our Lord as commanded.

"The biblical order is clear: Christ is Lord over Caesar, not vice versa."

Comments on MacArthur's post, shared through social media are overwhelmingly positive. A few of his followers, however, offer their reservations and disagreement to his stance.

"I agree that Constitutional the government shouldn’t regulate church activities but for the sake of health, the pastor should practice discernment. I’m glad his church has members eager to congregate but based on pictures of Grace’s sanctuary recent crowds, I’d say it’s not the smartest move," says Hannah Adams.

"Sure, no one may be ill right now but unfortunately, it might be only a matter of time. Don’t get me wrong, I miss gathering corporately my faith family but I also need to exercise precautions and be mindful of the vulnerable immune systems I might come in contact with."

Jim Pruit also shared concerns in a comment about the post.

"When members of your predominantly elderly congregation become sick and die because you refused to observe the temporary common-sense restrictions mandated by the government for their safety, you will have no one to blame but yourself. This is NOT persecution and your defiance does not honour Christ. In fact, your failure to use common sense to protect God’s church DISHONORS the name of Christ even though I know that is not your intention," he says.