Introduction to Separation of Church and State: God’s Churches: Spiritual or Legal Entities?

Jerald Finney
Copyright © December 10, 2012

Note. This is a modified version of Chapter 1 of Separation of Church and State: God’s Churches: Spiritual or Legal Entities.

To understand the truth about “separation of church and state” one must first be saved; then, he must study and meditate upon the biblical doctrines of government, church, and separation of church and state. After mastering the biblical principles, the American believer is prepared to examine their applications in the United States. The author attempted to cover the entirety of the issues in a prior work (See Jerald Finney, God Betrayed, Separation of Church and State: The Biblical Principles and the American Application (Xulon Press, 2008 ( or Austin, TX: Kerygma Publishing Co., 2008 ( Most of God Betrayed is now, and will be, reproduced on this website in written form. The complete audio teachings are now on this website and also on the Church and State Law website.) God Betrayed is a thorough study God’s Word, history, and law concerning the issue of separation of church and state.). A review of those principles will be presented in this introduction following a brief history of the issue of separation of church and state.

Two opposing doctrines regarding union of church and state operate within the “Christian” world. One teaches separation of church and state, and the other union of church and state. The false doctrine that combination of church and state will bring peace and unity on earth was advanced by the Catholic church in the fourth century, and was the basis for the horrible persecutions of tens of millions labeled as heretics for resisting the teachings of the church-state union. Protestant churches continued this doctrine and persecutions. Puritans, Anglicans, and other Protestant denominations brought the doctrine to America where they continued to persecute dissenters, but a great theological warfare and debate within the colonies resulted in separation of church and state (not separation of God and state) as guaranteed by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. America became the second civil government in history, after the colony of Rhode Island, to implement the true biblical doctrine of separation of church and state, thereby guaranteeing religious liberty. Nonetheless, the warfare continues, those who believe church and state working together will bring peace and unity are gaining momentum, and the end time harlot spoken of in the Word of God is within sight.

The false doctrine concerning union of church and state incorrectly spiritualizes the Old Testament. That view takes the position that selected Old Testament principles for the Jewish religion and the nation Israel, the only theocracy ordained by God, are to be applied to the church and the Gentile civil government within which that church operates (See God Betrayed and Leonard Verduin, The Anatomy of a Hybrid (Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Derdmans Publishing Co., 1976) for a thorough study.). The Old Testament principle of union of religion and state which applied to the Jewish religion and Israel (not to Gentile nations) are applied to the church and the state.

True division of the “Word of Truth” teaches that God ordained both Gentile nations and the theocratic nation of Israel. The original plan for Gentile civil government was initiated by God at the time of the flood (Ge. 9.1-6). What God ordained at that time was not called civil government, but that is what it was. It was the first time God gave man authority over man.  See definition of “government” in MERRIAM WEBSTER’S COLLEGIATE DICTIONARY 504 (10th ed. 1995), and AMERICAN DICTIONARY OF THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE, NOAH WEBSTER (1828). The older definition of government recognized the biblical teaching that God did not intend civil government to be an all-seeing, all-defining, all-controlling, all-directing eye; and that God Himself, as the Supreme Authority, has given churches, individuals, parents, and authorities, in addition to civil government, rules and boundaries by which to govern themselves and others without the control of the civil government, except for violations of certain moral laws. See God Betrayed, Section I, Chapter 1, especially pp. 6-7 which is reproduced on this website at Introduction to the biblical teaching on government and, in audio form at The biblical principles of government. Man became responsible to govern the world for God. A civil government, as defined by God, is made up of men under God ruling over man in earthly matters. The primary God-ordained purpose of Gentile civil government is to control evil men, thereby maintaining some degree of peace in this present world. Gentile civil government has authority to punish those who commit certain crimes against their fellow man and to reward those who do good (See, e.g., Ro. 13.3-4; I Pe. 2.14; I Ti. 1.9-11).

God later called out a nation unto Himself—Israel, the only theocracy He ever ordained. Advocates of church-state union incorrectly apply Old Testament the principles regarding the Jewish theocracy to the church-state or state-church in Gentile nations. They also apply some of the principles laid out for the Jewish religion in Israel to the New Testament church. Israel was indeed a true “ecclesia” or “church,” but not in any sense the New Testament church—the only point of similarity being that both were “called out” by the same God. All else is contrast. When Jesus said to Peter, as recorded in Matthew 16.18, “That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church,” He was speaking of something that had never before existed. The organization, doctrines, and purposes of this new and distinct type of “ecclesia” were all laid out by Paul in his epistles. “This is he, that was in the church in the wilderness with the angel which spake to him in the mount Sinai, and with our fathers: who received the lively oracles to give unto us: (Acts 7.38).” “Israel in the land is never called a church. In the wilderness Israel was a true church (Gr. ecclesia = called-out assembly), but in striking contrast with the N.T. ecclesia.” (Holy Bible, 1917 Scofield Reference Edition, n. 2 to Ac. 7.38, p. 1249). A full refutation of the theology which advocates combination of church and state (Covenant Theology) is beyond the scope of this book. Covenant Theology spiritualizes or allegorizes Scripture. Thus, the Covenant Theologian incorrectly believes that The Jewish religion and the church are the same. God Betrayed addresses this in some depth..

The ultimate God-given purpose of both the New Testament church, and state or civil government is to glorify God, each acting under God and His principles, but neither acting with or under the other (See God Betrayed, Part I, Section III, Chapter 4 for a discussion of some of the distinctions between church and state. That chapter is reproduced on this website at “Distinct differences between church and state render them mutually exclusive” (written form) and Separation of church and state (audio teaching. Scroll down to find this particular teaching). However, the underlying purposes and jurisdictions of church and state are significantly different. The underlying purpose of the state is fleshly or earthly; and the underlying purpose of the church is heavenly or spiritual. God ordained churches to provide spiritual or eternal good. God gave nations earthly power to secure temporal benefits for mankind. The jurisdiction of a nation is earthly and that a church is spiritual (See God Betrayed, Part One which is reproduced on this website at “Section I: Government” (written) and audio teaching on the Biblical Principles Concerning Government. Scroll down to find the writings or audio teaching.)

God gave neither the church nor the state authority to rule over or with the other. Christians are told to obey civil government as regards certain earthly matters, but Christians and churches are not to be under the civil government with regard to spiritual matters, which include many activities and actions as shown in the Bible (See Jerald Finney, Render unto God the Things that Are His: A Systematic Study of Romans 13 and Related Verses (Austin, TX: Kerygma Publishing Co., 2009)(go to for more information including ordering information. Render unto God is reproduced in its entirety on this website for those who do not wish to buy the book. Go to the Contents page and scroll down to find the book.)). God gave churches free will, and churches can choose, against His will, to disobey God and voluntarily work with, under, or over civil government when such an option is available.

Christ ordained the institution of the church: “And I [Jesus] say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Mt. 16.15). God ordained a church under God, not a business under civil government or an entity that is to work with, over, or under the state. A church is a local autonomous body of believers—the body of Christ of which He is the Head (Ep. 1.22, 23; Col. 1.18, 24)—and, as such, it is a holy temple for the habitation of God through the Spirit (Ep. 2.21, 22); is “one flesh” with Christ (Ep. 5.30, 31); and espoused to Him as a chaste virgin to one Husband (2 Co. 11.2-4). A church, under God, owes no allegiance to any tribunal in the universe, except to that of the Lord Jesus Christ unless she willingly and wrongly combines with civil government.

Civil government does not meet the qualifications needed to rule over the church and those matters assigned the church by God. Civil government, as already mentioned, does not have the authority given it from God to oversee or rule the church. Since civil government is usually led by the unregenerate, it does not have the nature or wisdom to handle spiritual matters.

Christians do have such nature and wisdom, as proclaimed by Paul: “Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath proposed in himself” (Ep. 1.9) He made clear that only the born-again believer, led by the Spirit, was qualified to handle spiritual matters. Paul also asserted that rulers, “the princes of this world,” do not possess spiritual wisdom, indicating that most leaders are not Christians (undoubtedly, almost all leaders, and almost all leaders of civil government when he wrote the above words, are not and were not Christians) and are blind to spiritual matters (1 Co. 2.1-16).

Persecuted Christians down through the last two thousand years have understood this and therefore have refused, even under penalty of torture, imprisonment, and/or death to submit the church and spiritual matters to the ungodly—the state-church combination or the civil government.

The Holy Spirit did not come into every believer in the Old Testament as He does every born again person in a church:

“Summary of the O.T. doctrine of the Holy Spirit: … (4) In the O.T. the Spirit acts in free sovereignty, coming upon men and even upon a dumb beast as He will, nor are the conditions set forth (as in the N.T.) by complying with which any one may receive the Spirit. The indwelling of every believer by the abiding Spirit is a N.T. blessing consequent upon the death and resurrection of Christ (John 7.39; 16.7; Acts 2.33; Gal. 3.1-6). (5) The O.T. contains prediction of a future pouring out of the Spirit upon Israel (Ezk. 37.14; 39.29) and upon ‘all flesh’ (Joel 2.28-29). The expectation of Israel, therefore, was twofold—of the coming of Messiah-Immanuel, and of such an effusion of the Spirit as the prophets described. See Mt. 1.18, refs.” (1917 Scofield Reference Edition, n. 1 to Mal. 2.15, p. 981).

A Christian can be godly, while a non-Christian can only have some degree of virtue. Once a person is born again, he becomes a new creature, a spiritual being who is instructed by God to walk in the Spirit. “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (Jn. 3.3). “Except a man be born of water (See Endnote), and of the Spirit (John the Baptist said, “I indeed baptize you with water, but he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost.” (Mk. 1.8.  See also, Mt. 3.11 and Lu. 3.16), he cannot enter the kingdom of God” (Jn. 3.5). “That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit” (Jn. 3.6). “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (1 Co. 5.17). After the Holy Spirit was first bestowed upon Gentiles in as recorded in Acts 10.44, “the normal order for this age was reached: [from that point] the Holy Spirit is given without delay, mediation, or other condition other than simple faith in Jesus Christ” (1917 Scofield Reference Edition, n. 1 to Ac. 10.44, p. 1164). Prior to that, “the Gospels had been offered to Jews only, and the Holy Spirit bestowed upon believing Jews through apostolic mediation” (Ibid). “While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the word” (Ac. 10.44).

The man who has not been born again is a fleshly man, who walks in the flesh “according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, that spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience” (Ep. 2.2). He is subject only to the law.

On the other hand one who is born again, a member of a church, a part of the body, is a heavenly man, and a stranger and pilgrim on the earth who is told to be led of the Spirit. The Word of God instructs the believer as to his walk. A Christian is told to walk in the spirit, not in the flesh (Ga. 5.16-25; see also, Ep. 5.1-17, Jn. 6.63, Ro. 8.1-13). He is told that if he is led of the Spirit, he is not subject to the law. This does not mean that he is not subject to the state in those areas where God has given the state jurisdiction. If he harms or kills another, for example, God gives the state jurisdiction to punish him (See, e.g. Ro. 13 and 1 Pe. 2. 13-14; 1 Ti. 2.8-11). God quickens those whom He saves in Christ, loves them, raises them up to sit in “heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (Ep. 2.1-10), and blesses them “with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places” (Ep. 1.3).

The word “heavenly” signifies that which is heavenly in contradistinction to that which is “earthly.”

“‘The heavenlies’ [or ‘heavenly places’] may be defined as the sphere of the believer’s spiritual experience as identified with Christ in nature (2 Pet. 1.4); life (Col. 3.4; 1 John 5.12); relationships (John 20.17; Heb. 2.11); service (John 17.18; Mt. 28.20); suffering (Phil. 1.29; 3.10; Col. 1.24); inheritance (Rom. 8.16, 17); and future glory in the kingdom (Rom. 8.18-21; 1 Pet. 2.9; Rev. 1.6; 5.10). The believer is a heavenly man, and a stranger and pilgrim on the earth (Heb. 3.1; 1 Pet. 2.11)”  (1917 Scofield Reference Edition, n. 2 to Ep. 1.3, p. 1249).

The church is made up of believers. “And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved” (Ac. 2.47).  The church, made up of spiritual beings, is a spiritual or heavenly body whose ultimate purpose is to glorify God. A church, as the spiritual household of God, “is built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone” (Ep. 2.20; see also, 1 Co. 6.15-20, 1 Pe. 2.4-9, Ac. 4.11, He. 9.11, I Co. 3.9-17), “The word ‘spiritual,’ found 23 times in the Bible, always means heavenly minded, godly, holy, never self-centered” (Questions and Answers, The Berean Call, January 2007, Volume XXII, No. 1, p. 5, available at  “Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Co. 10.31). A church, as the spiritual body of Christ, is to be subject to Christ, the Head of the body, in all things (Ep. 5.23-24, 30).

Spiritual matters include all things involving a church, such as sending missionaries, preaching the Gospel, loving and helping others, and the use of property for the assembly of the saints. These matters are all related to the primary purpose of loving and glorifying God and the Lord Jesus Christ—the Head, the Husband, and the Bridegroom of the church—and loving our neighbor as well (See Jerald Finney, The Most Important Thing: Loving God and/or Winning Souls? (Austin, TX: Kerygma Publishing Co., 2009) which is reproduced in its entirety on this website. Just click the above title to go directly to the website reproduction.)(go to Church and State Law Website for more information including ordering information should you desire to purchase the booklet.)).

A church is to sit together in heavenly places. God wants His churches to be run according to His spiritual principles. Sadly, as will be shown by facts in the following chapters, most churches are not run according to God’s principles. A “church” run as a corporation, unincorporated association, corporate sole, or charitable trust with an Internal Revenue Code (“IRC”) 501(c)(3) (“501(c)(3)) tax exemption is, to a greater or lesser degree, earthly. It is designed and operated, at the very least partially, under the earthly rules of man which are contrary to the spiritual rules of God.

Combining the church with the state violates the biblical principle of separation that runs throughout the Bible.

“Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?   Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty” (2 Co. 6.14, 17-18; see also, e.g., Ro. 6.16-22, 12.1-2; 1 Co. 6.9-20, 11.2-3; Ga. 1.4; Ep. 5.1-20; Co. 2.6-8, 3.1-25; Ph. 2.12-16; 1 Ti. 1.7-11; 1 Pe. 1.13-16, 2.11-12; 1 Jn. 2.15-17).

The following chapters give the reader many legal facts concerning incorporation and 501(c)(3) tax exemption. The author believes that the discerning believer will easily see—when he studies those facts and compares them to the biblical principles concerning church, state, and separation of church and state—that a church which incorporates, and secures 501(c)(3) status or becomes a legal entity in any other way, takes herself from God’s perfect will, causes our Lord much grief, and contributes to the decline of true biblical Christianity. Ultimately, fewer and fewer souls are saved because of this compromise, because such churches lose the power of God. They have “a form of godliness but deny the power thereof” (2 Ti. 3.5).


The water which is spoken of here is the Word of God.  This is consistent with all of Scripture, and is specifically stated in the Bible. “Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the Word of God which liveth and abideth for ever.” 1 Pe. 1.23. Jesus, in talking to the Samaritan woman said, “If thou knowest the gift of God, and who it is that saith to thee, give me to drink; thou wouldest have asked of him and he would have given thee living water….  Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again. But whosover drinketh of the water that I give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.” Jn. 4.10, 13-14. “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word.” Ep. 5.26.

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