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(Voice of the Persecuted) A statement from Early Rain Covenant Church regarding the severe sentencing of Pastor Wang Yi, encouragement for other churches being persecuted and a request for prayer.
Since December 9th, 2018, our church’s senior pastor Wang Yi has been imprisoned on charges of “inciting to subvert state power” and “illegal business operations.” On December 26th, 2019, he was secretly tried at the Chengdu Intermediate People’s Court. On December 30th, the court announced that Pastor Wang Yi was sentenced to 9 years in prison and fined 50,000 RMB. Our church issues the following statement to clarify our position:
1. As the senior pastor of this church, Pastor Wang Yi is a faithful servant who has been chosen by God and by the Lord Jesus Christ. His teachings on the truth of the gospel are consistent with the entirety of biblical revelation; they are consistent with the creeds, confessions, and relevant catechisms inherited by the universal church; and they are consistent with the constitution of Western China Reformed Presbytery. The influence that God has given Pastor Wang Yi within the universal church and especially within Chinese churches throughout the world is a result of his being called by God and courageously preaching the gospel amidst the unique cultural and political circumstances in China.
2. Pastor Wang Yi’s sermons, lectures, books, and articles are produced for the pastoring of believers and for the spreading of the gospel. From the perspective of the church, he produces these things as a way of fulfilling his call to the ministry and responding to the gifts and grace he has received. By producing these things, he is fulfilling his duties as a pastor and a missionary. From the perspective of society, he is exercising his freedoms of religion and of speech, rights granted to Chinese citizens by the Constitution and laws of China. The books printed by the church have never been printed for profit but only for the pastoring of believers and for the spreading of the gospel. He has never conducted so-called “illegal business operations.”
3. Ever since Pastor Wang Yi received his calling from God, he has always held to the biblical principle of “separation of church and state” regarding the relationship between church and state. He has spent much time researching, preaching, and writing about this. It is widely known in the Chinese church that he has always taught that Christians should submit to authorities in power in accordance with Scripture. He has taught that even when the church is being persecuted, Christians should be willing to submit to the government’s physical restrictions of them as well as to the depravation of their property. He has never said or done anything that amounts to “inciting to subvert state power.”
4. Pastor Wang Yi’s arrest, imprisonment, and trial are persecutions he has suffered for the sake of the Christian faith, and they testify to the sufferings of Christ for the glory of God (1 Pet. 5:1). He is a gift and joy whom God has given to this church (Eph. 4:11, Phil. 4:1).
5. Pastor Wang Yi did not commit any crime. The authorities’ charges of “inciting to subvert state power” and “illegal business operations” are part of the unjust persecutions against the Chinese house church. Regardless of the sentence the authorities pronounce against him, Pastor Wang Yi is the senior pastor of this church and a faithful messenger of the kingdom of heaven whom we stand with and follow and whom the Lord Jesus Christ has chosen and approved.
In Christ, we issue the following exhortation and protest against Pastor Wang Yi’s severe sentence. Do you government officials not know that this is a sin against God? Do you not know that this is an abuse of your authority (Rom. 13:3)? Even so, we do not hate you. On the contrary, our merciful and righteous God wants us to love you and to pray for you. We desire that those public officials and law enforcement officers who are involved in this case would quickly repent and believe in the Lord, that you would know the atonement and forgiveness of sins which the Lord Jesus extends to all through his suffering on the cross, and that you would obtain eternal life and hope.
We invite all sojourners throughout the world who belong to the universal church to pray fervently for Pastor Wang Yi and Elder Qin Defu, who are being imprisoned for the sake of Christ and of the gospel, as well as for their families. Pray for all of us. We will also pray for you. In this eschaton, which Jesus Christ brought about through his incarnation, through his perfect life, through his betrayal and trial, through his substitutionary death, through his resurrection and ascension, through his gift of the Holy Spirit—in this eschaton, may we testify, through our suffering, that Christ is the Way, the Truth, and the Life (Jn. 14:6) and that he is the light of the world.
We also invite churches who are currently being persecuted to fix their eyes together with us upon the crucified and risen Jesus Christ. Through the Holy Spirit, may we be united to the King of Kings who ascended to the right hand of the Majesty on high, who is our eternal high priest and prophet of the last days. May we be strong in his grace as we keep on fighting despite repeated setbacks. We do this to fulfill the Great Commission and to spread the gospel, that the glorious name of the triune God might be praised. May God help us and allow us to experience together the breadth, length, height, and depth of the love of God until the day we see him face-to-face. May blessing and honor and wisdom and wealth and glory and power and authority be to our holy Father who is in heaven, to the Lord Jesus Christ who obtained our salvation, and to the Holy Spirit our Helper who continually helps us. Amen!
Early Rain Covenant Church
December 30, 2019
Voice of the Persecuted asks that you be their voice and share this story. Encourage your church, friends and family members to pray with you for them in their suffering. These precious Chinese believers are praying for you!
我们邀请寄居全地的普世教会，为因基督和福音缘故被囚禁的王怡牧师、覃德富长老和他们的家人继续切切代祷。为我们众人祷告，我们也会为你们祷告，愿我们在这末世 — 耶稣基督以他降世为人、完美一生、被卖受审、代罪受死、复活升天和赐下圣灵带来的末世中 — 以我们的受苦见证基督是道路、真理、生命（约14.6），是这黑暗世界的光。我们也邀请正在遭受逼迫的教会，一起定睛死而复活的耶稣基督，依靠圣灵与已经升到高天之大者右边的王万之王、永远的大祭司和末后的先知紧密联合，在祂的恩典上刚强起来，屡败屡战，屡战屡败，为的是践行大使命，让福音广传，使三一上帝荣耀的名得着称赞。求上帝帮助我们，让我们在逼迫中，同享上帝长阔高深的慈爱，直到与祂面对面的时刻。愿颂赞、尊贵、智慧、丰富、荣耀、能力和权柄，都归给我们在天上的圣父，为我们赢得拯救的主耶稣基督，不断向我们施恩帮助的圣灵保惠师。阿们！
Early Rain Covenant Church-Facebook
December 9th marked the one-year anniversary of the arrest of Pastor Wang Yi, who is still in jail awaiting trial. Early Rain Covenant Church members continue to be harassed and arrested.
Pastor Wang Yi understood the dangers coming against the church. In advance, he wrote the following statement to be released upon his arrest. “It is a glorious display of faith and courage in the face of persecution. It is sure to become a significant document in Chinese church history. Read it and pray for Pastor Wang Yi, his wife and son, his church, and all Christians in China who are facing various pressures because of their faith,” was shared by an Early Rain Covenant Church social media account.
My Declaration of Faithful Disobedience
On the basis of the teachings of the Bible and the mission of the gospel, I respect the authorities God has established in China. For God deposes kings and raises up kings. This is why I submit to the historical and institutional arrangements of God in China.
As a pastor of a Christian church, I have my own understanding and views, based on the Bible, about what righteous order and good government is. At the same time, I am filled with anger and disgust at the persecution of the church by this Communist regime, at the wickedness of their depriving people of the freedoms of religion and of conscience. But changing social and political institutions is not the mission I have been called to, and it is not the goal for which God has given his people the gospel.
For all hideous realities, unrighteous politics, and arbitrary laws manifest the cross of Jesus Christ, the only means by which every Chinese person must be saved. They also manifest the fact that true hope and a perfect society will never be found in the transformation of any earthly institution or culture but only in our sins being freely forgiven by Christ and in the hope of eternal life.
As a pastor, my firm belief in the gospel, my teaching, and my rebuking of all evil proceeds from Christ’s command in the gospel and from the unfathomable love of that glorious King. Every man’s life is extremely short, and God fervently commands the church to lead and call any man to repentance who is willing to repent. Christ is eager and willing to forgive all who turn from their sins. This is the goal of all the efforts of the church in China—to testify to the world about our Christ, to testify to the Middle Kingdom about the Kingdom of Heaven, to testify to earthly, momentary lives about heavenly, eternal life. This is also the pastoral calling that I have received.
For this reason, I accept and respect the fact that this Communist regime has been allowed by God to rule temporarily. As the Lord’s servant John Calvin said, wicked rulers are the judgment of God on a wicked people, the goal being to urge God’s people to repent and turn again toward Him. For this reason, I am joyfully willing to submit myself to their enforcement of the law as though submitting to the discipline and training of the Lord.
At the same time, I believe that this Communist regime’s persecution against the church is a greatly wicked, unlawful action. As a pastor of a Christian church, I must denounce this wickedness openly and severely. The calling that I have received requires me to use non-violent methods to disobey those human laws that disobey the Bible and God. My Savior Christ also requires me to joyfully bear all costs for disobeying wicked laws.
But this does not mean that my personal disobedience and the disobedience of the church is in any sense “fighting for rights” or political activism in the form of civil disobedience, because I do not have the intention of changing any institutions or laws of China. As a pastor, the only thing I care about is the disruption of man’s sinful nature by this faithful disobedience and the testimony it bears for the cross of Christ.
As a pastor, my disobedience is one part of the gospel commission. Christ’s great commission requires of us great disobedience. The goal of disobedience is not to change the world but to testify about another world.
For the mission of the church is only to be the church and not to become a part of any secular institution. From a negative perspective, the church must separate itself from the world and keep itself from being institutionalized by the world. From a positive perspective, all acts of the church are attempts to prove to the world the real existence of another world. The Bible teaches us that, in all matters relating to the gospel and human conscience, we must obey God and not men. For this reason, spiritual disobedience and bodily suffering are both ways we testify to another eternal world and to another glorious King.
This is why I am not interested in changing any political or legal institutions in China. I’m not even interested in the question of when the Communist regime’s policies persecuting the church will change. Regardless of which regime I live under now or in the future, as long as the secular government continues to persecute the church, violating human consciences that belong to God alone, I will continue my faithful disobedience. For the entire commission God has given me is to let more Chinese people know through my actions that the hope of humanity and society is only in the redemption of Christ, in the supernatural, gracious sovereignty of God.
If God decides to use the persecution of this Communist regime against the church to help more Chinese people to despair of their futures, to lead them through a wilderness of spiritual disillusionment and through this to make them know Jesus, if through this he continues disciplining and building up his church, then I am joyfully willing to submit to God’s plans, for his plans are always benevolent and good.
Precisely because none of my words and actions are directed toward seeking and hoping for societal and political transformation, I have no fear of any social or political power. For the Bible teaches us that God establishes governmental authorities in order to terrorize evildoers, not to terrorize doers of good. If believers in Jesus do no wrong then they should not be afraid of dark powers. Even though I am often weak, I firmly believe this is the promise of the gospel. It is what I’ve devoted all of my energy to. It is the good news that I am spreading throughout Chinese society.
I also understand that this happens to be the very reason why the Communist regime is filled with fear at a church that is no longer afraid of it.
If I am imprisoned for a long or short period of time, if I can help reduce the authorities’ fear of my faith and of my Savior, I am very joyfully willing to help them in this way. But I know that only when I renounce all the wickedness of this persecution against the church and use peaceful means to disobey, will I truly be able to help the souls of the authorities and law enforcement. I hope God uses me, by means of first losing my personal freedom, to tell those who have deprived me of my personal freedom that there is an authority higher than their authority, and that there is a freedom that they cannot restrain, a freedom that fills the church of the crucified and risen Jesus Christ.
Regardless of what crime the government charges me with, whatever filth they fling at me, as long as this charge is related to my faith, my writings, my comments, and my teachings, it is merely a lie and temptation of demons. I categorically deny it. I will serve my sentence, but I will not serve the law. I will be executed, but I will not plead guilty.
Moreover, I must point out that persecution against the Lord’s church and against all Chinese people who believe in Jesus Christ is the most wicked and the most horrendous evil of Chinese society. This is not only a sin against Christians. It is also a sin against all non-Christians. For the government is brutally and ruthlessly threatening them and hindering them from coming to Jesus. There is no greater wickedness in the world than this.
If this regime is one day overthrown by God, it will be for no other reason than God’s righteous punishment and revenge for this evil. For on earth, there has only ever been a thousand-year church. There has never been a thousand-year government. There is only eternal faith. There is no eternal power.
Those who lock me up will one day be locked up by angels. Those who interrogate me will finally be questioned and judged by Christ. When I think of this, the Lord fills me with a natural compassion and grief toward those who are attempting to and actively imprisoning me. Pray that the Lord would use me, that he would grant me patience and wisdom, that I might take the gospel to them.
Separate me from my wife and children, ruin my reputation, destroy my life and my family – the authorities are capable of doing all of these things. However, no one in this world can force me to renounce my faith; no one can make me change my life; and no one can raise me from the dead.
And so, respectable officers, stop committing evil. This is not for my benefit but rather for yours and your children’s. I plead earnestly with you to stay your hands, for why should you be willing to pay the price of eternal damnation in hell for the sake of a lowly sinner such as I?
Jesus is the Christ, son of the eternal, living God. He died for sinners and rose to life for us. He is my king and the king of the whole earth yesterday, today, and forever. I am his servant, and I am imprisoned because of this. I will resist in meekness those who resist God, and I will joyfully violate all laws that violate God’s laws.
First draft on September 21st, 2018; revised on October 4th. To be published by the church after 48 hours of detention.
Appendix: What Constitutes Faithful Disobedience
I firmly believe that the Bible has not given any branch of any government the authority to run the church or to interfere with the faith of Christians. Therefore, the Bible demands that I, through peaceable means, in meek resistance and active forbearance, filled with joy, resist all administrative policies and legal measures that oppress the church and interfere with the faith of Christians.
I firmly believe this is a spiritual act of disobedience. In modern authoritarian regimes that persecute the church and oppose the gospel, spiritual disobedience is an inevitable part of the gospel movement.
I firmly believe that spiritual disobedience is an act of the last times; it is a witness to God’s eternal kingdom in the temporal kingdom of sin and evil. Disobedient Christians follow the example of the crucified Christ by walking the path of the cross. Peaceful disobedience is the way in which we love the world as well as the way in which we avoid becoming part of the world.
I firmly believe that in carrying out spiritual disobedience, the Bible demands me to rely on the grace and resurrection power of Christ, that I must respect and not overstep two boundaries.
The first boundary is that of the heart. Love toward the soul, and not hatred toward the body, is the motivation of spiritual disobedience. Transformation of the soul, and not the changing of circumstances, is the aim of spiritual disobedience. At any time, if external oppression and violence rob me of inner peace and endurance, so that my heart begins to breed hatred and bitterness toward those who persecute the church and abuse Christians, then spiritual disobedience fails at that point.
The second boundary is that of behavior. The gospel demands that disobedience of faith must be non-violent. The mystery of the gospel lies in actively suffering, even being willing to endure unrighteous punishment, as a substitute for physical resistance. Peaceful disobedience is the result of love and forgiveness. The cross means being willing to suffer when one does not have to suffer. For Christ had limitless ability to fight back, yet he endured all of the humility and hurt. The way that Christ resisted the world that resisted him was by extending an olive branch of peace on the cross to the world that crucified him.
I firmly believe that Christ has called me to carry out this faithful disobedience through a life of service, under this regime that opposes the gospel and persecutes the church. This is the means by which I preach the gospel, and it is the mystery of the gospel which I preach.
The Lord’s servant,
First draft on September 21st, 2018; revised on October 4th. To be circulated by the church after 48 hours of detention.
English translation provided by Amy, Brent Pinkall, and the China Partnership translation team.
Please pray for our brothers and sisters in China.
Pray for Individual Believers—“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” —Hebrews 12:1-2
Pray for the imprisoned & their families. (Heb 13:3)
Pray for believers threatened & terrorized by the police. (Heb 13:6)
Pray for the weak & the fearful. (Heb 4:15-16)
Pray for those who have lost jobs or homes for their faith. (Heb 11:16)
Pray for Pastors and Church Leaders.“Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church, of which I became a minister according to the stewardship from God that was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known…” Colossians 1:24-25
Pray for churches strategizing next steps to navigate persecution. (Matt 10:16; Ps 37: 5-6)
Pray for strength for pastors ministering to dispersed churches. (Phil 4:13; Col 1:29)
Pray that God will teach pastors how to exhort the suffering church with his Word. (Eph 6:19; Col 2:1-2)
Pray for pastors’ knowledge and love for Christ to deepen through suffering. (Phil 1:9-10, 3:8)
Pray for God’s Kingdom to Advance “Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” 1 Peter 1:8-9 “Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice.” —Philippians 1:18
Pray that God will empower the church to love and witness to those who hurt them. (Rom 12:19-20)
Pray for the light of Christ to reach the darkest places—in prisons and among the persecutors. (1 Pet 2:9)
Pray for an overflowing of joy, hope, faith, and love as the church participates in the sufferings of Christ. (1 Pet 1:6-9)
Pray for the church to persevere and be kept blameless until the gospel is proclaimed to all and Christ returns. (1 Thess 5:23; 1 Pet 1:13-16)