As a protestant, is a general stay at home order fall under Romans 13:1

Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Romans 13:1 ESV

Or Acts 5:29

But Peter and the apostles answered, "We must obey God rather than men. Acts 5:29 ESV

So, by not gathering are we denying a Command of God, or are ok in not doing so when ordered?

Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters. Matthew 12:30 ESV

And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. Acts 2:42 ESV

  • Where's the conflict? You haven't shown anything that says that God is commanding you not to obey a stay at home order.
    – curiousdannii
    Apr 7, 2020 at 23:46
  • I agree, but not everyones does according to a few local pastors. Im curious what others think. Plus, would you then claim there is no expectation that Gods people gather together?
    – Adam Heeg
    Apr 7, 2020 at 23:59
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    There is an apparent conflict between Romans 13:1 Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. and Hebrews 10:25 Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together. I think this is a valid question which requires an answer.
    – Nigel J
    Apr 8, 2020 at 7:01
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    Assembling ourselves together can be accomplished without violating a social distancing rule imposed by the secular authorities (higher powers). Conference calls and video conferencing for example allow is to gather together for fellowship and worship without the dangers associated with physical interaction.
    – User 14
    Apr 8, 2020 at 12:19
  • In Acts, the very act of assembling to worship Christ was forbidden indefinitely, whereas the government mandate to avoid all gatherings religious or not does not constitute such. The apostles were reacting with rejection of the former by in fact meeting together. Apr 8, 2020 at 16:50

2 Answers 2


The crucial element is to determine the underlying purpose of the various 'stay at home', 'shelter in place' or other restrictive orders. If the cessation of preaching in the name of Christ is the goal of those orders then Acts 5 is in view. If the various public health agencies have no such ulterior motive then...Romans 13. We need not be a kingdom divided against itself (Matthew 12) and teaching, fellowship, and prayer (Acts 2) are all still possible while the breaking of bread together is awkward but also still possible in one fashion or another.

I think that Hebrews 10:25, in immediate context,

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works,  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. - Hebrews 10:24-25

is addressing those individuals who are in the habit of avoiding the assemblage of the brethren and, in the larger context, those individuals are in that habit because of the deceptive nature of sin and, even more specifically, the fear of persecution.

But recall the former days when, after you were enlightened, you endured a hard struggle with sufferings, sometimes being publicly exposed to reproach and affliction, and sometimes being partners with those so treated. For you had compassion on those in prison, and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one. Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised. - Hebrews 10:32-36

If believers were not coming together of their own volition because of fear of conviction of sin from within the assemblage or fear of persecution from without then I believe Hebrews chapter 10 might apply. However the stay at home orders and advisories, the business closures and limitations that have been implemented voluntarily and under order are ostensibly for our own good and the good of those with whom we are limiting contact. If we gather together we can infect each other within the church and without the church. Now, depending upon what sort of tinfoil hat one might wear from time to time, one might conceive of an anti-christian power lurking in the shadows of a "stay at home order" and either instigating or taking advantage of this interruption in the Church's gathering together (and one might be correct) but both the 'spirit' and the 'letter' of these human regulations have no obvious connection to the persecution of our or of any particular faith.

If Christians were forbidden to gather while all other groups retained permission then I have no doubt that Acts 5:29 would be a righteous rallying cry:

And when they had brought them, they set them before the council. And the high priest questioned them, saying, “We strictly charged you not to teach in this name, yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching, and you intend to bring this man's blood upon us.” But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men. - Acts 5:27-29

As it stands, regardless of how opportunistic ungodliness and evil may become, the Christian rallying cry must be something more akin to

Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God's servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God's wrath on the wrongdoer. Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God's wrath but also for the sake of conscience. Romans 13:1-5

coupled with the overarching command of our Lord and Savior to love God and love our neighbor:

“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” - Matthew 22:36-40

We must not respond from a spirit of fear nor of bravado. Jesus is able to protect and even strengthen and build His church in the midst of difficulty. Indeed, faith is perfected in fire just as gold is refined and, as so many around us slide into fear and despair, who can say how many will be led toward that narrow gate of salvation in Christ by the spirit of God producing the fruits of the Spirit in us through trying times. Remaining in Christ, the true vine, is the key to producing fruit that remains and fruit is not for our benefit.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. - Galatians 5:22-23

By the grace of God and His provision of technology we can still lawfully 'assemble' in ways that our forefathers could never have dreamed; we can still spur one another on to love and good deeds, and we can study and pray to have an answer ready for any that ask us of the hope that we have. The one prerequisite is that we must have hope to be inquired. Be of good courage, brethren, the Lord has gone before us and the battle belongs to Him.




We don't usually allow "Is this right?" questions, but in this case 99.99% of Christians are in agreement, so I think we can safely give an answer.

As you say, the normal approach to secular authority is "Let every person be subject to the governing authorities.". Your contrary verse "We must obey God rather than men." is spoken in a situation where the orders of the secular authorities were clearly immoral and directly contrary to God's explicit command. Christian also fall back on Jesus' Summary of the Law, "Love your neighbour as yourself" for guidance.

Meeting is a church is, as you say, an "expectation" rather than an absolute requirement. Many people skip a Sunday at church if they are sick, or travelling, and Christians are fine with that. In this case continuing to meet would be putting yourself and your neighbours in danger, and so no "Loving your neighbour."

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    As usual, I fall in the 0.01% The only reason I'm not going to Mass is because the local bishop has cancelled it, not because the government cancelled it.
    – Peter Turner
    Apr 8, 2020 at 13:14
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    @PeterTurner I am also not attending because my local Pastor has suspended meetings but...he has suspended meetings because of governmental declarations, as I suspect your local Bishop has done. Apr 8, 2020 at 15:50
  • @PeterTurner Where I live, one can find a mass if one looks for it. There are few in attendance and times are variable and unpublished. Sadly, the “inner circle” of some pastors know when they are and they are not saying. I feel so betrayed as I go to weekly mass when possible.
    – Ken Graham
    Apr 9, 2020 at 12:36

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