Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. (Romans 13:1)
The Wuhan Pandemic proves the willingness of Americans to voluntarily subject themselves to the “higher powers” without question or objection. At least that holds true for those of the population who generally comply with mandates issued by the powers that be. Compliance comes without challenge to the legitimacy or legality of the edict.
Nowhere is that more apparent than in the Christian community. Ever since the government issued the “shelter-in-place” rules to halt the spread of the COVID-19 virus, churches have shut the doors to their facilities, ignoring the biblical mandate not to forsake the assembling together. In so doing, they also ignore another biblical principle that we, the Church, are to obey God rather than men.
In defense of these biblical infractions, church leaders cite Romans 13:1-7. Writing from Corinth, Paul pens a letter to the young church in Rome expressing his desire to visit them on his way to Spain. Paul’s “meaty” letter to the Romans contains much “heavy” doctrine as well as practical application of that doctrine to the Christian life. In this section, Paul gives instructions on how Christians should relate to governing authorities.
Paul wrote his letter to the Roman Church sometime around 57-58 A.D. Nero reigned as emperor of the Roman Empire. History records that Nero initiated the “Great Fire of Rome” in 64 A.D. in order to make room for one of his public works projects. In order to deflect the liability from himself, he cast the blame on Christians subjecting them to harsh persecution. It is said that he raised Christians on stakes and set them on fire to light the streets of Rome. It is this emperor to whom Paul exhorted the Roman Church to submit “For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil” (Romans 13:4). “He is a minister of God to thee for good”? He is “a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil”? Was Paul really talking about Nero? Indeed he was.
Christians should submit to the governing authorities because, according to God’s Word through Paul, “the powers that be are ordained of God” (Romans 13:1). The Greek word translated “ordained” is tassō and it carries the idea of putting things in order; to station in place; to arrange; to appoint. I picture it as God arranging chess pieces on a chessboard. The Bible clearly affirms that it is God who sets up or takes down earthly kings. He does it to accomplish His higher purpose. “The king’s heart is in the hand of the LORD, as the rivers of water: he turneth it whithersoever he will” (Proverbs 21:1).
Even though Nero used Christians as human torches, this was an isolated case. Systemic persecution of Christians did not exist at the time of Paul’s writing to the church at Rome. Isolated cases of persecution cropped up from time to time, but it was far from rampant. The primitive church in Jerusalem suffered the brunt of early persecution at the hands of the Jews, but except for Stephan and James, there is no biblical record of Christians being killed for their faith. The Jews beat Peter and threw him in prison, but an angelic jailbreaker let him out. Early Christians did suffer individual and isolated cases of persecution, but it was mostly in the form of ostracism. In fact, the Bible records that “the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch” (Acts 11:26). The moniker, Christian, was given as a term of derision, not as a compliment. That was mostly the extent of persecution in the early church. We, in America, suffer that kind of persecution today and it appears to be growing worse.
The kind of persecution portrayed in epic movies – Christians fed to lions, burned at the stake, dragged to death behind chariots, etc. – did not take place until much later. “Officially sanctioned Roman persecution was most intense during the reigns of Marcus Aurelius (161–180), Decius (249–251), Diocletian (284–305) and Galerius (305–311).” For the most part, the Romans practiced “freedom of religion,” as long as people gave verbal assent to Caesar as lord. Declaring “Jesus is Lord” could get Christians into trouble, if such a declaration fell on the wrong ears; but I am sure Christians were safe as long as they watched their words.
My point in all of this is to show that Paul gave the church at Rome good advice in keeping the law and submitting to the authorities. Indeed, Paul took advantage of Roman law on more than one occasion. Likewise, as Americans, while America remains, we must submit to our authorities and make use of the system of laws provided by the United States Constitution.
The greatest difference existing between the Roman Empire and the United States of America is the rule of man versus the rule of law. Our framers understood that fallen man cannot rule righteously and must be constrained by something (or someone) greater. Our founders understood that our freedoms come from God alone, and not from human government. We are free because God made us individually free, not because some benevolent human government bestows freedom upon us. Government only takes away freedom. Therefore, the framers of the Constitution, our Law of the Land, very simply designed a form of government of laws, gleaned mostly from the Bible and divided amongst three co-equal branches of government – the Legislative to write laws, the Executive to enforce the laws, and the Judicial to ensure that the laws written by the Legislative branch and approved by the Executive branch were in keeping with the Constitution. Further, the original Constitution included only ten amendments called the Bill of Rights that protected individual citizens from governmental abuses. The design of the Constitution purposefully complicated the process of legislation to prevent our “fallen” leaders from creating abusive laws willy-nilly. The main intent of government was to “establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity.”
Our authority is the Constitution of the United States, not our President, not Congress, nor the Supreme Court, and certainly not the unelected officials which pass thousands of laws and regulations unbeknownst to the rest of us. The first of the Bill of Rights ensures for us the freedom of (not from) religion, the freedom of speech and of the press, and the freedom to peaceably assemble. Specifically, freedom of religion guarantees that “Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion [i.e., we cannot have a “national” religion, Baptist, Presbyterian, Methodist, etc.] or prohibiting the free exercise thereof [i.e. we are free to practice our faith in any way or in any place we want to].” The freedom to peaceably assemble also applies to our freedom of religion because that is what we, as Christians, do on the Lord’s Day, assemble peaceably.
Now, the Wuhan Bug invaded our borders, and our governmental leaders locked down our nation effectively imprisoning all Americans in their homes “for their own protection,” of course. If they intended to “insure domestic tranquility” they failed miserably. If they intended to “provide for the common defense” they failed at that too. Consider all the rioting and the calls to defund the police. Law-abiding citizens are left defenseless. If they intended to “promote the general welfare,” they failed again. Consider all the jobs lost, businesses closed, and lives disrupted. We are “encouraged” to stay home and not to come out unless it is absolutely necessary, and then we must wear masks to cover our mouths and noses and keep away from other people. I could go on, but I will not belabor the point.
These draconian measures have effectively neutered the First Amendment. We are not allowed to peaceably assemble in our houses of worship, and we are, therefore, prohibited from freely exercising our religion. It was not many years ago that Christians were being discouraged from practicing their religion in public, as in school, at work, or on government property. We were encouraged to confine the exercise of our religion to our houses of worship. Now we cannot even go there.
I do not believe Paul would encourage us to obey unlawful orders. As noted above, Paul lived under the law of man, Nero. We, supposedly, live under the rule of LAW, not of man. Paul without hesitation exercised his legal rights as a Roman citizen under Roman law when his freedoms were violated. Comparing Roman law and American Constitutional law is comparing apples and oranges. We are not obligated to obey edicts prescribed by unelected officials, CDC, HHS, NIH, WHO, etc. They are not legitimate lawgivers, so any edicts put out by these organizations are unsupported by our Constitution – unless We the People voluntarily subject ourselves to them.
No intelligent person denies that COVID-19 poses a potentially fatal threat. However, the infection to death ratio is extremely small. Furthermore, those at high risk of death from this virus are those who are physically compromised – the elderly, the immunocompromised, those with respiratory illnesses, etc. Healthy individuals who are infected either exhibit no symptoms, or they experience symptoms akin to a severe case of flu.
The Wuhan Bug does not warrant the measures taken to combat it. What these measures do accomplish is to provide a large-scale test platform for population control. After all, these measures are “for our own good.” Our government is only trying to protect its citizens. Do not be deceived! The higher powers are testing the waters for greater restrictions to come. These are just the first fruits of tyranny. Sadly, our churches are unwittingly paving the way.
I am one lonely voice. If I could influence anyone, I would encourage church leaders to engage in civil disobedience. “We ought to obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29). I know pastors are concerned about their congregations and do not want to be responsible for anyone getting infected or dying from the bug. I get that. However, we can meet together without masks, without social distancing, and without prohibitions against personal contact – shaking hands, hugging, etc. First of all, trust God that He will place His protective hand on the congregation. Second, encourage and trust people to exercise common sense. If someone suspects they have been infected they should stay home. If anyone has traveled out of the country or to a “hot spot” they should stay at home. If anyone feels a little “under the weather” they should stay at home. Third, provide plenty of hand sanitizing stations. Fourth, make an extra effort to keep the building clean and disinfected. If the higher powers protest, they do not have a Constitutional leg to stand on. You may have to fight it, but Paul gave us the example.
In the battle for American independence, it was the churches and the pastors that led the charge. It is high time the modern church exhibited the same kind of courage!
 “Persecution of Christians in the Roman Empire” – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Persecution_of_Christians_in_the_Roman_Empire
 Preamble to The Constitution of the United States of America
 By “religion” the founders had in mind Western religions which at that time included all Christian denominations and the Jewish religion. Eastern or pagan religions did not even occur to them.
 The First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States
 “The Right to Assemble” – https://erniecarrasco.com/2020/06/14/the-right-to-assemble/
 “Unprecedented” – https://erniecarrasco.com/2020/04/19/unprecedented/
 “Living in Fear” – https://erniecarrasco.com/2020/06/28/living-in-fear/