The pages of history are filled with examples of faithful believers who resolutely obeyed God, even if it meant facing severe repercussions from men. When Daniel refused to stop praying, he was thrown into a den of lions. When the apostles refused to stop proclaiming the name of Jesus, they were arrested and scourged. When the church father Polycarp refused to renounce Christ, he was burned at the stake. When the Puritan John Bunyan refused to stop preaching, he was put in jail for twelve years. Many other examples could be given, but the point is clear. To obey God rather than men is not always easy. But it has been the heartbeat of believers in every age.
James Coates is a living illustration of that same kind of resolve. When government officials interfered with his congregation’s ability to meet and worship, James and his fellow elders determined they must choose God over government. That courageous stand came at a cost. James was arrested. When he appeared before the judge, he was told he would be released if he stopped holding church services as he had been doing. Like Luther at the Diet of Worms, he respectfully answered that he could not do so. His conscience was bound to God and Scripture. As a result, James has been imprisoned and treated like a common criminal.
It is clear the Provincial Health Authority of Alberta wants to make an example out of James. We also want to point out his example, because his conduct has truly been exemplary. The faculty, staff, and students of The Master’s Seminary stand in solidarity with James and his church. He has made us proud. Our desire is to produce men who not only know the content of Scripture, but who live out biblical convictions. James is that kind of man—a Master’s man. We affirm his courage. But even more so, we applaud the unwavering convictions on which that courage is established. We are trusting the Lord in all of this, and will continue to pray for our dear brother, his wife, his sons, his fellow elders, and his congregation. Our prayer is not only that James will soon be released and restored to his family, but that as a result of this the message of the gospel will shine forth to the honor of Christ.
Soli Deo Gloria!