Should Churches Follow Orders from Government About Worship and Singing?

no singing in worship

If you have been awake in or since 2020 started, you're aware that governments all around the world are acting to prevent the spread of the horrible virus that shall not be named. Some are doing so in reasonable ways, and some seem to be going to extremes. Anyone is entitled to their opinion on that, but the question for today is: should our churches follow orders from the government when it comes to worship and singing?

The answer is nuanced, but let's turn to God's word for examples and our authority on this topic, just as we should on all topics. Any argument not based on and in submission to God's word should not be accepted by the church. We're to conform to the truth of the Word, not the world.

Daniel gives us a good example of what to do with some government orders. Most of us know the story of Daniel in the lion’s den. Do you remember how he got there?

In Daniel 6:1, King Darius appointed 120 satraps over the kingdom. Verse 3: “Then this Daniel began distinguishing himself among the commissioners and satraps because he possessed an extraordinary spirit, and the king planned to appoint him over the entire kingdom.” The commissioners and satraps did not want that to happen (see Daniel 6:4). In Daniel 6:5 they said, “We will not find any ground of accusation against this Daniel unless we find it against him with regard to the law of his God.”

Daniel 6:6-7 says: Then these commissioners and satraps came by agreement to the king and spoke to him as follows: “King Darius, live forever! All the commissioners of the kingdom, the prefects and the satraps, the high officials and the governors have consulted together that the king should establish a statute and enforce an injunction that anyone who makes a petition to any god or man besides you, O king, for thirty days, shall be cast into the lions’ den.

What Did Daniel Do?

Verse 9 tells us that Daniel signed the injunction. Daniel was faithful to God and continued following Him. He was not willing to follow God in secret.

“Now when Daniel knew that the document was signed, he entered his house (now in his roof chamber he had windows open toward Jerusalem); and he continued kneeling on his knees three times a day, praying and giving thanks before his God, as he had been doing previously. Then these men came by agreement and found Daniel making petition and supplication before his God.” - Daniel 6:10-11

We read on and find out that the satraps tell the king about Daniel’s actions. After all, he made himself findable. Their plan seemed to be working out. The king was distressed about throwing Daniel in the lion’s den, but he kept in accordance with his law.

Daniel 6:14-15: Then, as soon as the king heard this statement, he was deeply distressed and set his mind on delivering Daniel; and even until sunset he kept exerting himself to rescue him. Then these men came by agreement to the king and said to the king, “Recognize, O king, that it is a law of the Medes and Persians that no injunction or statute which the king establishes may be changed.”

As you remember, the king had Daniel cast into the lion’s den. The king later followed up on Daniel’s situation:

Daniel 6:20-22: When he had come near the den to Daniel, he cried out with a troubled voice. The king spoke and said to Daniel, “Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you constantly serve, been able to deliver you from the lions?” Then Daniel spoke to the king, “O king, live forever! My God sent His angel and shut the lions’ mouths and they have not harmed me, inasmuch as I was found innocent before Him; and also toward you, O king, I have committed no crime.”

God delivered Daniel and he was found innocent before Him. That’s what was important to Daniel. He was faithful to God. The government gave orders, but Daniel, knowing the orders, chose to continue to be faithful to God regardless of those government orders. Daniel explained that he had committed no crime!

 Keep the story of Daniel in mind. Now let’s head over to Romans 13 for more context.

Submission to Authority

Romans 13:1-7:

Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves. For rulers are not a cause of fear for good behavior, but for evil. Do you want to have no fear of authority? Do what is good and you will have praise from the same; for it is a minister of God to you for good. But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil. Therefore it is necessary to be in subjection, not only because of wrath, but also for conscience’ sake. For because of this you also pay taxes, for rulers are servants of God, devoting themselves to this very thing. Render to all what is due them: tax to whom tax is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor.

It seems that a lot of churches are reading the above and disregarding the entire context of Scripture on this topic. I’m going to reference another passage as well, but first, let’s look into this passage. It’s obvious that we should submit to governing authorities for they were established by God, but our ultimate obedience is to God. That’s why, in the beginning, I mentioned this is nuanced. I don’t even like using that word, but can you see the nuances?

I found this article from Ligonier to be helpful. It quotes “It is easy to obey God’s command to submit to our earthly rulers when they rule wisely. It is much harder, on the other hand, to submit when we think our rulers are corrupt. The Lord often calls us to do hard things, however, and this includes obeying the rulers with whom we disagree. They are not to be followed absolutely, that is, we cannot justify sin by saying ‘the government told me to do it.’ But the civil magistrate is to receive our deference and honor.”

Think about abortion and gay marriage. If the government demands that churches use their facilities to hold, what the world deems as, “weddings” for homosexual couples, should the church comply? Obviously, no. If the government demands that the church stop preaching against the legally approved practice of abortion, should the church comply? Again, a resounding “no”.

That same article quotes, “Some of the laws and regulations in your country today may seem unnecessary. Nevertheless, in obedience to Scripture we must obey even these unless they lead us to sin. We should not be known as those who try to find ways around the laws of the land; rather, our scrupulous obedience should be a model for the unbelievers around us. We must never give the ruling authorities just cause to view us as a lawless people.”

Follow the law until the law tells you to sin. Should we obey the government when it tells the church not to sing in worship services? What’s next, don’t talk in worship services, don’t preach in worship services? I would think, “surely not”, but at this point...

Should We Keep Singing in Church?

Singing is a key part of worship. It happened all throughout church history in God’s word. Ephesians 5:19 describes, “speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord;” and the author of Hebrews references Jesus not being ashamed to call the sanctified brethren by quoting Psalm 22:22 in Hebrews 2:12: saying, “I will proclaim Your name to My brethren, In the midst of the congregation I will sing Your praise.” The Psalms are full of commands to sing and make a joyful noise to God.

Shouldn’t we continue singing in the midst of the congregation as an act of worshipping God? Singing is not the only way to worship God, but it is used frequently when congregating. Hebrews 10:25 tells us we should not neglect meeting together. We know that meeting online is just not the same. I’m not advocating for neglecting to take precautions. I have my own convictions about what our government and the bulk of the media are trying to accomplish in much of this, but I’ll leave my convictions out of this. There is an obvious difference when you’re able to be around one another in the congregation.

Neglecting to sing together diminishes the worship service. I’m not saying that we should sing right in each other’s faces. Many churchgoers are wearing masks still and keeping 6 feet apart. Are governments trying to say that masks are not effective enough to stop the spread of the virus when singing, but they are when sneezing? There are obvious contradictions in that reasoning! We know God created the art of music, and the ability to hear and make a glorying sound, or any sound at all. He created us to hear and make a joyful noise.

At this point, not every state government is attempting to prohibit the church from singing, but how long will this last? How many more will put these kinds of laws in place? Most of us were not allowed to even meet in our church buildings for a very long time. Things look like they could very well get worse. I hope that when you’re reading this they’ve gotten better, but it’s not looking that way to many Christians. It will surely be far better in Heaven for obvious reasons, but we're not in Heaven.

Let’s reference more Scripture. Acts 5 describes events where the apostles were put in jail by the high priest and his associates. During the night, an angel of the Lord let them out and told them to “Go, stand and speak to the people in the temple the whole message of this Life.” Feel free to dwell on that for a minute. “The whole message of this Life” is quite a weighty message. Preach the gospel!

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A Flood of Evidence

Continuing, Acts 5:27-32 gives us an example to follow:

When they had brought them, they stood them before the Council. The high priest questioned them, saying, “We gave you strict orders not to continue teaching in this name, and yet, you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and intend to bring this man’s blood upon us.” But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men. The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom you had put to death by hanging Him on a cross. He is the one whom God exalted to His right hand as a Prince and a Savior, to grant repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins. And we are witnesses of these things; and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey Him.”

The same goes for us today. We are to obey God rather than men. When the government gives us an order to do something that will not cause us to disobey God, we should obey. When it starts telling us to not sing and essentially not to worship God, we should sing, worship God, and await the consequences in the same faithfulness that Daniel had.

It’s obvious that we should take precautions in certain circumstances as an act of loving our neighbors, but when our non-believing neighbors see that we are readily willing to stop worshipping God, what kind of an example is that? If the church wants to stop singing for a service, (I could say that is going overboard, but again, forget my opinion) then may it do so, but we can’t obey the government when it tries to decide how we will worship God.

We can obey it when they’re giving us commands that do not cause us to sin, but not when it’s commanding us to sin.

When it is causing us to stumble in our walk with Christ, as forsaking worship and forsaking gathering for a long time is sure to do, we should rather choose to stumble in our obedience to government and await the consequences. twitter

Maybe your opinion differs. I’m open to your viewpoint on this as long as you can back it up with Scripture and it doesn’t contradict Scripture. Again, I'm not advocating for taking no precautions, but let's test ideologies and be reasonable. Comment or send us an email with your thoughts. Feel free to share this post with others.



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