Reformation Presbyterian Church, Australian Presbytery, met via Skype video conference, on the Twentieth of November 2020 and was constituted, was adjourned and then resumed on the Twenty-First of November 2020. Among other things,
5. Business Arising.
X. Provision of the Means of Grace in the present circumstances.
The Presbytery gave its attention to the document prepared by Mr Law in consultation with Mr Tuck, at request of the Presbytery, as found in Appendix “F”.
It was moved, seconded, and agreed THAT: The Presbytery approve the document “Provision of the Means of Grace in the present circumstances” as a useful summary of Biblical principles and that it be distributed among the brethren in the RPCAP congregations and to interested parties.
Extracted from the Records of the Presbytery by the Clerk on the Thirtieth of November 2020.
Pastor Neil van der Wel
Clerk of Presbytery
206 High Street, Berserker, QLD 4701
PROVISION OF THE MEANS OF GRACE IN THE PRESENT CIRCUMSTANCES
The Presbytery resolved that Mr Law, in consultation with Mr Tuck, as well as the other members of the Presbytery, set out principles and prepare guidelines addressing the following matters, to be to be presented to the Presbytery for further review:
- What response ought to be given to possible unwanted coercive interference in gathering for public worship (e.g. forbidding singing during worship)?
- What response ought to be given if the wearing of masks is mandated in places of public worship?
Principles Concerning the Priority of Soul Over Bodily Health
While the Lord shows tremendous concern for the physical well-being of his people, going so far as to reassure his people that not a single hair will fall from their heads apart from his merciful oversight (Matthew 10:30), there is still priority placed upon the well-being of the soul over the body (Matthew 4:4, Matthew 10:28, Matthew 16:26). It is no conflict to attend to the basic needs of the body while about spiritual exercises (Mark 2:27), but to forego spiritual duties altogether or to cut corners on what God has commanded due to disproportionate care for the safety of the body is surely a confusion (Daniel 6:10).
Principles Concerning Elders and Bodily Health
The Lord in his word has given ministerial and declarative authority to those officers he has called to oversee his heritage, the church (Matthew 16:19; 18:15-20, Titus 1:7-9, 1 Peter 5:2-3). This means that ministers and elders have been charged to oversee the people of God for their spiritual good, striving to see them progress toward perfection in Christ and affording them every means the Lord has appointed to this end (John 20:15-17, 2 Corinthians 13:9).
Instead of placing a glittering sword in the hands of church elders, the Lord has furnished them with keys, as a householder would receive. Therefore, church elders are never to lord over the people of God nor lay on them any purely arbitrary commands (1 Peter 5:2-3). Instead, elders are to open and shut the kingdom of heaven to people by judgments which necessarily follow from what the Lord has spoken in his word. Whatsoever the Lord has said is good for his people, the elder is to hold up and give all support in encouraging the Lord’s people to pursue these things. Those who walk in these good paths are to be commended (1 Corinthians 14:3, 1 Timothy 4:13-16). Whatsoever the Lord has said is harmful for his people, the elder is to warn against these things, condemn them, and make all attempts to restore such a one who has yielded to temptations. Those who walk in a disorderly way are to be rebuked and made examples, that others may fear (Acts 20:31, Galatians 6:1, 1 Thessalonians 4:1, 1 Timothy 5:20).
While we have been speaking mainly of spiritual counsel, the concerns of the body cannot be minimized to the point of exclusion by the church elder. It is of real concern to the church elder that the Lord’s people be physically healthy (1 Timothy 4:8; 5:23, 3 John v.2). However, in seeking to apply the general principles concerning bodily health found in the word of God, the faithful elder must be careful never to elevate man’s medical advice or specific forms of treatment to the level of “thus saith the Lord”, imposing rules for health on the Lord’s people that cannot be proven directly from Scripture. Whatever counsel the elder may provide on
health matters must be understood to be advisory only.
Whatever practices the Lord has set down as normative for meetings of the church must never be maligned as unsanitary, dangerous, or in any way unlawful. Some typical practices set down for the church include:
● Gathering for worship together in the same location (Hebrews 10:25).
● Warmly and affectionately greeting one another in the Lord (Romans 16:16, 1 Corinthians 16:20, 1 Peter 5:14).
● Singing Psalms together (1 Corinthians 14:26, Ephesians 5:19, Colossians 3:16, James 5:13).
● Sitting together at a table, dividing bread among one another, and drinking wine from a common cup (Luke 22:19, 1 Corinthians 10:16, 1 Corinthians 11:23-26).
No human authority may lawfully put in place regulations that would infringe upon the free exercise of the above practices by God’s people. Only the Lord, by his extraordinary providence, may rightly suspend any of these things in the church. If civil authorities attempt to restrict the Lord’s people from any of these practices, it is then the duty of the Lord’s people to resist as a testimony to the Lord’s greater authority. To comply when civil authorities are attempting to overrule Christ’s commands for the church is to bring reproach upon the truth of God.
(1) What response ought to be given to possible unwanted coercive interference in gathering for public worship (e.g. forbidding singing during worship)?
All civil attempts to overrule or to diminish what the Lord has commanded for his church are to be met by protest and resistance. How protest is carried out (openly or discretely) is a matter for situational wisdom.
(2) What response ought to be given if the wearing of masks is mandated in places of public
No response is necessarily needed. Those who are inclined to wear masks in public worship are not to be condemned by the church. Those who do not wear masks in public worship are not to be condemned by the church. The church must be prepared to stand together as one in defense of the least brother for deciding for or against wearing a mask in places of public worship.