Spurious rationale for church corporate-501(c)(3) status: One’s convictions


Jerald Finney
Copyright © December 10, 2012


From Separation of Church and State/God’s Churches: Spiritual or Legal Entities. Not in God Betrayed.


Preface

Today, the most common reasons given by churches for incorporating and seeking 501(c)(3) status are (1) to obey every ordinance of man (2) limited liability; (3) to allow a church to hold property; (4) convenience—it is easier to get a tax deduction for tithes and offerings given to an incorporated 501(c)(3) religious organization than for tithes and offerings given to a New Testament church; (5) one’s convictions; and (6) winning souls is  more important than loving God; if a church is incorporated, don’t cause problems. Just continue winning souls because winning souls is more important than anything else, including loving God.

This article will deal with the fifth false reason, one’s convictions. Other articles cover the other five reasons:  

  1. Render Unto God the Things that Are His: A Systematic Study of Romans 13 and Related Verses When a pastor is asked why his church is incorporated, he will often quickly answer: “Because of Romans 13 [Romans 13:1-2 “Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation.” Or “We are to obey every ordinance of man.” He may also rely on some other verses. All these verses are examined in this online booklet which is also in online PDF form on this website. Not only that, no law requires a church to get incorporated or apply for 501(c)(3) status or claim 508 status. Instead, the highest law in America protects the right of churches to choose to remain free from corporate and 501(c)(3) or 508 status. See, e.g., First Amendment Protection of New Testament Churches/Federal Laws Protecting State Churches (Religious Organizations) 
  2. Limited liability (corporate status actually increases the liability of church members) (Section VI, Chapter  of God Betrayed; Chapter 6 of Separation of Church and State).
  3. Spurious rationale for incorporating: to hold property (Section VI, Chapter 7 of God Betrayed; Chapter 7 of Separation of Church and State).
  4. Spurious rationale for church corporate-501(c)(3) status: tax exemption and tax deductions for contributions OR Tax reasons given for church corporate 501(c)(3) status: a biblical and legal analysis (Section VI, Chapter 8 of God Betrayed; Chapter 8 of Separation of Church and State).
  5. Spurious rationale for church corporate-501(c)(3) status: one’s convictions (Not included in God Betrayed or Separation of Church and State).
  6. Spurious rationale for church corporate-501(c)(3) status: winning souls is more important than loving God/The Most Important Thing: Loving God and/or Winning Souls.

Article:
Spurious rationale for church corporate-501(c)(3) status: One’s convictions

Pastors, Christians, and churches give various “theological” reasons to excuse the incorporation and 501(c)(3) tax exemption of churches. The theologies of Catholic and Protestant churches have traditionally supported church-state union and therefore incorporation and 501(c)(3), although such churches have some problems with American incorporation and 501(c)(3) which give civil government considerable control over churches rather than giving the established church control over civil government (select articles from the categories at left for information on the control given civil government through incorporation  and 501(c)(3)). In most cases, their objection to corporate 501(c)(3) status and the control such a position gives civil government over their churches does not prevent them from submitting and obtaining that status. The author explains the Catholic and Protestant theologies that support church establishment in God Betrayed/Separation of Church and State: The Biblical Principles and the American Application (all books by Jerald Finney are also available free in both PDF and online form on this website; for information on ordering the paperback copies of the books see the “Books” page of the “Church and State Law“ website, or the “Order information page for books by Jerald Finney” page of this website); in the article “An Abridged History of the First Amendment“; in his radio broadcasts which are archived on the “Radio Broadcast” page of the ”Church and State Law” website; and in the audio teachings which are linked to on the “Blog” page of “Church and State Law” website. (Click the following link to preview God Betrayed: Link to preview of God Betrayed.))

Bible believing churches are not as sophisticated in their rationale for incorporating and getting 501(c)(3). Their rationale is anemic since biblical principle, without the perversions of Catholic and Protestant theologies,  supports separation of church and state (not separation of God and state). One reason given by “Bible believing” churches, especially Baptist,  is that the issue of whether to incorporate and/or get 501(c)(3) status is an important issue, but it is not the most important issue; therefore, they reason, if a church finds it impractical to discard or reject the corporate and/or 501(c)(3) status, then just go ahead with that status and do the best you can because the most important thing for believers and churches is winning souls. That reason is false, as the author explains in various resources: for example, (1) the booklet, The Most Important Thing: Loving God and/or Winning Souls (all books by Jerald Finney are also available free in both PDF and online form on this website; for information on ordering the paperback copies of the books see the “Books” page of the “Church and State Law“ website, or the “Order information page for books by Jerald Finney” page of this website); (2) the article, The Most Important Thing: Loving God and/or Winning Souls; and (3) audio teachings on The Most Important Thing: Loving God and/or Winning Souls, available on the “Radio Broadcast” page of “Church and State Law”.

Another reason given by some pastors and Christians of “Bible believing” churches for their decision to incorporate is that it is up to each individual church to decide the issue based upon “their convictions.” The author hears this excuse from pastors all the time. In this article, he addresses this rationale using an article written by Dr. Charles Brown as a springboard.

The question to be answered is: “Can one decide either to incorporate a church (or to continue as an incorporated church) or not to incorporate a church and still please God?” The proper place to begin is by defining “conviction” and “principle.” Relevant definitions of “conviction” are: (1) “a strong persuasion or belief;” (2) “the state of being convinced” (Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary (10th ed., 1995)). Principle may be defined as: “a comprehensive and fundamental law, doctrine, or assumption” (Ibid.). Of course, if a conviction is based upon biblical principles, that conviction is valid in the eyes of God. Cannot true followers of Christ agree that if one acts upon a conviction which is contrary to or not based upon principles in the Word of God, “sin lieth at the door?”

Dr. Charles Brown wrote an article, “To Incorporate or Not to Incorporate,” which was published in the April, 2008 issue of The Landmark Anchor. In that article, Dr. Brown explains why his conviction is that a church should incorporate. However, he also states in the article, “If  a church has theological objections to becoming incorporated, then, by all means, do not incorporate.” In other words, according to that statement of Dr. Brown, since the Bible does not offer any comprehensive principles or doctrine controlling church corporate status one can safely choose either corporate or non-corporate status without violating biblical precept.

However, while making that statement, Dr. Brown also makes his case for church incorporation. Interestingly, he does not state any biblical principles concerning the organization, purpose, fate, or nature of churches to back up what he says. Rather, he bases his understanding upon “research and consultation with a law firm.”

He refers to the law in his article:

(1)    He correctly states that a “corporation is a legal status that enables a group joined together for a stated reason … to act as if it is a person. That ‘legal person’ may own property, conduct business, and otherwise carry out its purpose.” A New Testament and First Amendment church (hereinafter referred to as a “First Amendment church”) may not own property, or conduct business (as the word is used in America). A First Amendment church cannot also be a “business.” However, a First Amendment church may utilize property in American in a manner consistent with biblical principles; and, unlike the state incorporated church, she may carry out her purpose within the letter of civil law while still pleasing her Lord. The incorporated church has a “form of godliness, but denies the power thereof.”

Note. The First Amendment to the United States Constitution is the implementation of the biblical principle of separation of church and state (not separation of God and State). This is fully explained in the book God Betrayed which, as explained above, is available on this website in both PDF and online form and can be ordered in paperback form.

(2)    Dr. Brown then asserts that “Usually a church incorporates to limit its liability.” His statement is true as to a false reason given for incorporation of a church.  It is not true that a state incorporated “church” and its members has more protection from liability than a First Amendment church and her members. Again, I explain this in Section VI, Chapter 6 of God Betrayed, in audio teachings available on the “Blog” and “Radio Broadcast” pages of “Church and State Law,” and in the article “Church Incorporation Increases Liability of Church Members.”

(3)    Dr. Brown states, “An unincorporated church is owned by individuals. Each share in the liability of the property and all things done in the name of that church. In a church split, the assets of the church may be claimed by either side and lawsuits could erupt, because each member owns the church.” (This is a direct accurate quote from his article.).

His assertions are totally wrong as to a First Amendment church, but correct as to the incorporated church. A First Amendment church, a spiritual entity only, is owned by the Lord Jesus Christ only. A First Amendment church owns no property, although there are many legal means in America for such a church to utilize property without owning property. Perhaps Dr. Brown should reread the Bible, and especially I Corinthians Chapter 6 in regard to lawsuits by church members. All the legal problems occurring within churches are in incorporated churches – to understand this, just make use of Google.

In fact, the incorporated church creates several contracts when it incorporates – contracts between the state and the corporation, between the corporation and the members, between the members themselves, and between the members and the state. The controlling party to all these contracts is the state, and the state will decide disputes based upon secular, not Biblical, law. Try appealing to the Bible when you get into such a dispute. The sovereign of the corporation will quickly explain your error and hold you in contempt if you do not  abandon your appeal to God’s principles.

(4) He also asserts: “The United States Constitution guarantees freedom of religion and freedom of speech. Churches fit in those categories. Anything the state might choose to do (prosecute, regulate, etc.) to a church, they may do regardless if the church is incorporated or not.”

The author explains in detail why this is a totally ridiculous and false statement in various resources. A man who make such a statement is speaking outside his field of expertise.

(5) Dr. Brown proclaims: “[A] church is not state licensed because it is incorporated. A license is a recognition from a responsible authority to conduct an activity that would be illegal to conduct without that license. No church needs to be licensed to be a church. An unincorporated church may legally do the same activities that one that is incorporated.”

That statement by Dr. Brown is a jumbled mess. First, who is a “responsible authority?” Perhaps he is referring to a civil government. What if the civil government which requires a license is not a responsible authority? A First Amendment church which is not a legal entity such as a corporation cannot get a license. A corporate church, since she is a legal entity, can get a license. The author explains that in his resources.

Second, individual believers can choose to get such a license and thereby displease our Lord. One notable Christian who chose not to get a license was John Bunyan. One can read a portion of his trial transcript in the article, “An Abridged History of the First Amendment.” If you read the article, you will find out the reasons a Christian should not get a license for preaching, holding church meetings, and for certain other spiritual activities.

Third, although licensure and incorporation are not the same, they both violate the  biblical doctrine of the church.

Fourth, an incorporated church cannot do everything that a First Amendment church, which is not a legal entity in any way, can do.

Furthermore, the corporate church is organized according the law of her sovereign state (the law makes clear that the sovereign of the corporation, including the non-profit religious organization – the correct name for an incorporated “church” – is the state of incorporation). One can find out exactly what non-profit incorporation is in my books, articles, and audio teachings available from “Church and State Law” and “Separation of Church and State Law” blog.

Finally, the nature of a corporate church is entirely different from that of a First Amendment church in many respects. The corporate church has given up much of her Constitutional protections. She falls under the Fourteenth Amendment as opposed to the First Amendment as to many matters. She has also grieved our Lord since she has placed herself at least partially under another head.

(6) He goes on to say that “Incorporated churches are not ‘state run churches.’ Incorporated churches do not have to report to the state what they preach, how much money is spent, how they run their affairs, or who tithes. They do have to give the state an application typically containing: name and address of the church, purpose of the organization, manner of election of ‘officers,’ the  name and  address of the initial registered agent (usually the Pastor), and three names and addresses of the incorporators (usually trustees or deacons). The church ought to have a constitution and bylaws but they are for the internal working of the church and the state will not review them, nor want them.”

Dr. Brown does give a few isolated facts about incorporation, but he does not examine the law involved in any depth. He does not mention the biblical principles for a church and compare those principles to the facts and law concerning incorporation. He, for example, fails to mention that the “sovereign of the corporation is the state,” that the corporation is a creature of the state, that the corporation must follow the rules that are given her by her sovereign, that the corporation must be structured according to the organizational rules laid down by the sovereign state, etc. The author explains exactly the law of the non-profit corporation in books, articles, and audio teachings.

Again, the author has compared biblical principle with the law and facts about incorporation in various resources including his books (available for purchase on the “Books” page of “Church and State Law”; in articles audio teachings available on the “Radio Broadcast” and “Blog” pages of “Church and State Law;” and in articles and audio teachings on this “Separation of Church and State Law” blog.).

(7) Finally, Dr. Brown mentions the court case, Hale v. Hinkle, a Supreme Court decision. His analysis is flawed. See the article linked to in the next paragraph for my comments on this.

In “To Incorporate of Not to Incorporate: Attorney Jerald Finney Answers Dr. Charles Brown, Executive VP of Landmark Baptist College,” (as a reminder, you can left click the preceding link to go directly to that article; however, the website was hijacked and all the issues of the magazine from which the article was taken, “The Trumpet,” have as of this date – September 4, 2013, to have been restored) an article published in the July-September issue of The Trumpet, the author rebuts to Dr. Brown’s article. That article, which was originally entitled “Responses to Arguments that Biblical Principles Do Not Clearly Warn Against Incorporation of Churches” addresses Dr. Brown’s article in more detail than does this brief article.

All Jerald Finney’s resources comprehensively deal with the issue of separation of church and state. Involved in the issue is the issue of whether incorporation and 501(c)(3), or becoming a legal entity in any way) violates principles in the Word of God and therefore grieves our Lord and ultimately results in bad consequences. When one applies the law and facts to biblical principles,  he sees that it is very clear that incorporation and 501(c)(3), etc. of churches are “iniquities” and grieve our Lord.

The church who is serious about her relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ may be ignorant about the biblical doctrines of church, state, and separation of church and state. Sooner or later, she will suffer consequences as will the individuals and families in that church. However, the willfully ignorant church or the church which continues in presumptuous sin, her individual members, and the families within her church family are in greater danger (see, e.g., 2 Peter 1 and Hosea 4).

Endnote

Responses to Arguments that Biblical Principles Do Not Clearly Warn Against Incorporation of Churches
By Jerald Finney
Lead Counsel for the Biblical Law Center

Dr. Charles Brown recently wrote an article entitled “To Incorporate or Not to Incorporate” which was published in the April, 2008 edition of The Landmark Anchor. In that article, he brought out important issues which, from a biblical perspective, are preeminent for a New Testament church. This article briefly answers some of the common assertions of various Christians which are reflected in Dr. Brown’s article.

I recently completed a book called God Betrayed/Separation of Church and State: The Biblical Principles and the American Application. In that 453 page book I thoroughly addressed all the issues Dr. Brown raises and more. I want to encourage every Bible believer to get this book and study it. In the above mentioned article, Dr. Brown does not get into United States Code § 501(c)(3) (“501(c)(3)”) tax-exempt status for a church. Since almost all churches which incorporate also get 501(c)(3) status, such status should be considered in conjunction with the issue of incorporation of churches; but since Dr. Brown did not include the issue in his article, I will not address the issue herein. God Betrayed examines the issue of 501(c)(3) tax-exemption of churches.

It is impossible to do this subject justice in a short article, but I will attempt to shed some light on the issues he raised as succinctly as possible.

Dr. Brown stated: “A church does not have to be incorporated to be a real church.” My reply to that statement follows:

  • What is a real church? The New Testament gives the answer to that question. The revelation of the mystery of the church, which was foretold, but not explained by Christ in Matthew 16.18, was committed to Paul. In his writings alone we find the doctrine, position, walk, and destiny of the church. God Betrayed delves into the biblical doctrines concerning the church.
  • New Testament churches never submitted themselves to the state in any way. In fact, the apostles were careful not to render to Caesar the things that were God’s. They were jealous of God’s churches. Paul said to the church, “For I am jealous over you with godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ. But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ (II Cor. 11.2-3).”
  • Is a corrupted church a real church? What if the leaders of a church reject knowledge and succumb to Satan’s seductions? In other words, what if those leaders are willfully ignorant (see Hosea 4)? Individuals have a responsibility after being saved—they are to add to their faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge temperance, to temperance patience, and to patience godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness charity (II Pe. 1.4-7). They are to engage in spiritual warfare using spiritual weapons which constitute the whole “armour of God” (Ep. 6.10-18). Included in that “armour” is having one’s loins girt about with truth (Ep. 6.14).
  • A New Testament church is a spiritual entity only. Doing anything in America which subjects a church to the civil government in any way renders that church a “legal entity.” A “legal entity” is “an entity, other than a natural person, who has sufficient existence in legal contemplation that it can function legally, be sued or sue and make decisions through agents as in the case of corporations (BLACK’S LAW DICTIONARY (6th Ed., 1990), definition of ‘Legal Entity’).”
  • God desires that Christ be the only head over His churches (Ep. 1.22, 23; 2.22; 5.23-24; Col. 1.15-18).
  • The church is analogized to a husband and bridegroom of the church (Jn. 3.28, 29; Ro. 7.4; II Co. 11.1-4; Ep. 5.23-33; Re. 19.6-8).

Dr. Brown stated: “The United States [C]onstitution guarantees its citizens freedom of religion and freedom of speech. Churches fit in those categories.” My response:

  • The First Amendment to the United States Constitution guarantees freedom of religion, speech, press, assembly, and the right to “petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” In the religion clause, churches are guaranteed freedom from government control. The words and history of the Amendment make this clear. Section VI of God Betrayed gives an unrevised account of the history of the First Amendment.
  • The words of the religion clause state, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment or religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” Thus, the First Amendment allows a church to remain under God only without persecution, or to repent if they incorporated, gained 501(c)(3) status, or made ithemselves a legal entity in any way. The Biblical Law Center has already helped many churches to return to New Testament church status and is there to help other churches who wish to please God and return to New Testament church status. The freedom guaranteed a church by the First Amendment can be enjoyed within the parameters of the laws of the states and of the United States. The United States Supreme Court still recognizes that the state cannot interfere with a New Testament Church. Of course, there may be rogue governmental agencies and courts that may ignore these protections; but if a New Testament church makes sure to close all doors to being classified as a legal entity, there is no avenue for suit or attack against that church.

Dr. Brown stated: “Anything the state might choose to do (prosecute, regulate, etc.) to a church, they may do regardless if the church is incorporated or not.”

  • This statement not only contradicts what Dr. Brown said in his previous two sentences, it also is simply not true. A New Testament church cannot be prosecuted. It is not a legal entity. An individual within a New Testament church may be prosecuted for crimes or sued for torts allegedly committed, whether as principal or party. However, a New Testament church is not a legal entity as is an incorporated 501(c)(3) church; and, therefore, she cannot sue, be sued, or be charged with a crime. Only a member or members who allegedly committed a crime or tort can be charged with a crime or sued under the laws of a civil government.
  • The First Amendment guarantees that a New Testament church cannot be prosecuted, regulated, etc.

Dr. Brown’s statements concerning incorporation which follow his last mentioned statement are jumbled and very misleading. He is correct to say that incorporation “is a legal status that enables a group joined together for a stated reason (business, church, club, etc.) to act as if it was a person. That ‘legal person’ may own property, conduct business, and otherwise carry out its purpose.” As I stated above, a corporation is a legal entity. However, Dr. Brown’s description is incomplete. As pointed out in much more detail and with legal citations given in God Betrayed, civil law makes clear that:

  • “A corporation is an artificial being, invisible, intangible and existing only in the contemplation of law. As a mere creature of law, it possesses only those properties which the charter of its creation confers upon it. A corporation is not a natural person but rather an artificial person, that is, a legal fiction or a creature of statute (18 AM. JUR. 2D Corporations § 1 (2007)).”
  • The sovereign of the corporation is the state that creates it. “No corporation can exist without the consent or grant of the sovereign, since the corporation is a creature of the state and derives its powers by legislative grant…. Because the granting of the privilege to be a corporation and to do business in that form rests entirely in the state’s discretion, a state is justified in imposing such conditions on that privilege as it deems necessary, so long as those conditions are not imposed in a discriminatory manner (18A AM. JUR. 2D Corporations § 156 (2007)).”
  • A corporation is defined as “An artificial person or legal entity created by or under the authority of the laws of the state.” (BLACK’S LAW DICTIONARY 340 (6th Ed. 1990), under definition of “Corporation,” citing Dartmouth College v. Woodward, 17 U.S. (4 Wheat.) 518 (1819)).”
  • Early in our national history, the United States Supreme Court solidified already existing precedent—in a case involving a religious institution of higher learning and which influenced many churches to incorporate—concerning the attributes of incorporation which are applied to churches (Dartmouth College). In that same case, the Supreme Court defined the differences between public and private corporations. Public corporations are not voluntary associations and there is no contractual relation between the government and the individuals who compose the corporation as there is with the private corporation (such as railroad companies, banks, insurance companies, charities, churches, religious organizations, etc.); a corporation which does not possess governmental powers or functions is a private corporation (Ibid.).

Dr. Brown states that “[a]n unincorporated church is owned by individuals.”

If an unincorporated church is not a legal entity (incorporating and getting 501(c)(3) status are not the only ways to become legal entities), it is a New Testament church and the church is owned by the Lord Jesus Christ who said, “And I 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. 16.18)(Emphasis mine).” A New Testament church remains a spiritual entity only and owns no property. God Betrayed explains how an American church can assemble on property without owning it, etc.

Dr. Brown asserts that churches usually incorporate to limit liability.

However, in addition to limited liability, other reasons for incorporating are given by members of “churches:” incorporating protects their personal assets (1) from liability for the debts of the corporation, (2) from the torts and criminal acts of the corporation, and (3) from liability on contracts entered into by the corporation. Although such arguments are partially correct, they are misleading. These arguments are spurious for several reasons which are more thoroughly discussed in God Betrayed. The corporate veil can be pierced. Limited liability is not absolute as is explained in God Betrayed. Also, biblical principle is against a church going into debt; and if she does go into debt, not only does the Word of God teach that God expects her to honor her debts; but also that church has become a legal entity because she can be sued if she defaults on her debts and she can sue if the other party to the debt defaults on her agreements surrounding the indebtedness. As to torts and criminal acts, only visible members of a New Testament church can commit such acts. A New Testament church cannot commit a tort or a crime. Thus, only people (members), not a New Testament church (a spiritual entity only and not a legal entity), can be charged with a tort or crime to which they have allegedly either been principal or party. As to contracts, a New Testament church (a spiritual entity) has no need to and cannot enter into contracts. One can get around these principles only by means of human reasoning which are contrary to God’s principles.

Dr. Brown asks the question, “Is becoming an incorporated church the same as being a state licensed church?”

This question is a diversionary tactic. Of course the two are not the same; but, according to biblical principles, to license a church is a wicked act, and to incorporate a church is a wicked act. I have already pointed out many of the reasons why incorporation is wrong. God Betrayed gives other reasons and is much more detailed.

Dr. Brown then asks, “What about theological objections to incorporation?”He recommends not incorporating if one has theological objections.

  • The Word of God does not leave such an important issue up for grabs, and God expects His children to seek out and apply the principles He has laid down. God Betrayed is theological. Unlike most lawyers, including many or most of those who call themselves Christian, the foundation for all that I believe, as stated in God Betrayed, is biblical. My authority is not Supreme Court cases or civil laws. In God Betrayed, I first go to the Bible and explain the biblical principles of government, church, and separation of church and state. Then I examine history, Supreme Court decisions, and civil law (specifically incorporation, 501(c)(3), and other related laws as regards churches) in light of biblical principle. My main message is to New Testament churches, churches who want to be New Testament churches in obedience to biblical principle due to love for God, and to any other churches or Christians who want to know truth concerning these vital issues.
  • The real question should be, “What does the Bible teach about incorporation?” God Betrayed explains the biblical principles concerning incorporation (and 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status) for churches and the consequences for violating those principles. God teaches that a church which incorporates has committed a wicked act. That church may continue to operate within God’s permissive will, but as with the nation Israel, the only true theocracy which has ever existed,  when she rejected God as ruler (and God permitted Israel to reject Him), once a church dishonors her relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ, that church is on a slippery slope down. The end result will be spiritual apostasy, moral awfulness, and political tyranny. As the Bible teaches, the only remedy for apostasy is judgment.

Dr. Brown states that the Christian Law Association (“CLA”) has some excellent printed material that explains these issues simply and thoroughly.

I disagree. Although simplistic, CLA explanations on the issue of incorporation (and 501(c)(3) status) of churches are wrong according to biblical principles. As a Christian, I contributed to the CLA for a few years and respected much of what they did, as I still do concerning some of their work. Then I was called by God to become a lawyer. A few years ago, I began an intense study of the Bible, history, and the law concerning the issue of separation of church and state. I discovered that CLA founds what it believes on man’s statutory and case law, interprets the Bible according to man’s statutory and case law, revises history, and disseminates myths about the issue of separation of church and state (which involves the issues of incorporation and 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status for churches). In fact, David Gibbs of the CLA once taught biblical principles concerning these issues but was persuaded by powerful pastors who had decided that they were going to seek incorporation and 501(c)(3) status that he should go with them on the issue. According to some sources, these pastors told him that if he did so they would establish his legal practice. It is irrefutable that after Attorney Gibbs switched his position, his earthly power and influence were multiplied many times over and the CLA began to thrive materially as an earthly entity with the financial support of thousands of churches and believers. Perhaps he felt that he should go with them to help and protect them, just as Jeremiah went with some of the Jews to Egypt against God’s warning. However, Jeremiah still spoke total truth as given him by God.

Dr. Brown then states that “Incorporated churches are not ‘state run churches.’”

  • In fact, incorporated churches, as fully explained in God Betrayed, are two-headed monsters. “Thus, whenever there is an incorporated church, there are two entities—the one, the church as such, not owing its ecclesiastical or spiritual existence to the civil law, and the other, the legal corporation—each separate, although closely allied. The former is voluntary and is not a corporation or a quasi corporation. On the other hand, a corporation which is formed for the acquisition and taking care of the property of the church, must be regarded as a legal personality, and is in no sense ecclesiastical in its functions (66 AM. JUR. 2D Religious Societies § 5 (2007)).”
  • An incorporated church gets part of her powers from God and part from the civil government. She is under two heads. Part of the church, as a legal entity, can sue and be sued as to both earthly and some spiritual matters. Part of the church must have elected officers who conduct business meetings, meet statutory requirements, etc.
  • This bifurcation of a church has other consequences. As has been shown, the state is sovereign of the incorporated part of a church. “Sovereign” means: possessed of supreme power or unlimited in extent: ABSOLUTE (BLACK’S LAW DICTIONARY (6th Ed., 1990), definition of “sovereign”). Incorporation of churches creates contracts between the state and the corporation, the state and the members of the corporation, between the members themselves, and between the members and the corporation. Contract (agreement between two or more parties) is not biblical. The Bible teaches that the proper way to agree with another or others is through biblical covenant (covenant between two or more people and God).  The contracts created by incorporation entangle the incorporated church with earthly satanic concerns, solutions, and procedures. Furthermore, the statutory requirements as to the form and content of the articles or certificates of incorporation must be substantially followed. As sovereign, the state has ultimate authority in interpreting the articles of incorporation as well as the various contracts involved in incorporation should disputes be taken to court. By incorporating, a church gives up much of its First Amendment protection. It must, for example, keep records and make those records available to the state, on demand. Only a church which is not satisfied with the freedom and provisions afforded the church by God (which are, by the way, implemented by the First Amendment) seeks incorporation.
  • An incorporated church must deal with all the government red tape that comes with incorporation. The incorporated church must now elect officers, hold business meetings, notify members of those meetings pursuant to statutory requirements, keep records, etc. All these secular activities take tremendous time, energy, and resources which could be used in pursuing the God-given purposes of a church. The incorporated church which does not comply with statutory requirements is being dishonest and could face further problems from her sovereign state.

Notice that Jesus said that “the gates of hell shall not prevail against [my church].” What about the church that is partly under God and partly under Satan? That church has fallen for Satan’s seduction:

“SEDUCTION, n. … 2. Appropriately, the act or crime of persuading a female, by flattery or deception, to surrender her chastity. A woman who is above flattery, is least liable to seduction; but the best safeguard is principle, the love and purity of holiness, the fear of God and reverence for his commandments. (AMERICAN DICTIONARY OF THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE, NOAH WEBSTER (1828))”

A corporation cannot be the bride of Christ, the wife of Christ. The incorporated part of an incorporated church is not the bride of Christ, the wife of Christ, but rather an extramarital illicit relationship existing alongside the marriage. An incorporated church, having compromised her love for her Husband, will continue to make incremental compromises, and ultimately (perhaps in 1, 5, 10, 50, 100, or 200 years or more) will fall into heresy and apostasy. And from the beginning of that initial compromise, the Lord, even though longsuffering in His love and mercy, is grieving because of His wife’s compromise; and the compromising church gives up at least a portion of the power of God.

With the above information it should already be completely obvious to any born again believer who loves the Lord and who has been saved any length of time at all that a church should never incorporate. Scripture contains no principle consistent with church incorporation or incorporation in general. In fact, everything about incorporation is anti-biblical. If one who loves the Lord and comes into this understanding is in a church that is already incorporated, he will do all he can to shed the 501(c)(3) and/or corporate status of that church.

Dr. Brown then refers to Hale v. Hinkle.

He is partially right about his observations concerning that case. Although God Betrayed very briefly mentions Hale v. Hinkle, 201 U.S. 43 (1906), the case could be eliminated from the book without compromising any assertions in the book. Dr. Brown is correct when he states that the case did not deal with a church. He says that “this ruling had nothing to do with a church and does not mean that a church is a state run entity.” This statement is only partially true in that a church was not involved in the case. However, Hale v. Hinkle presents general incorporation law, and the principles in the case are applied to the issue of church incorporation. For example, an incorporated church does give up some of its constitutional protections such as its First Amendment Rights while retaining only due process and equal protection rights just as the corporate officer in Hale v. Hinkle gave up Constitutional rights, as Dr. Brown mentions in his article.

Dr. Brown closes his article by saying he has “no particular advice to offer for a church to get or refuse to get incorporated.”

In effect, Dr. Brown is stating that God does not care what a church does concerning incorporation since, as he puts it, “It is an issue to decide for themselves.” In other words, according to Dr. Brown, the Bible can be read to both support and condemn incorporation. However, when one opens the Word of God, one opens the mind and heart of God concerning this issue as well as many others.

Loving God is preeminent for a believer and for a church. One does not love God by just asserting that he loves God. Jesus said, “If ye love me, keep my commandments (John 14.15).” The greatest commandment is to love the Lord with all one’s heart, soul, mind, and strength (Mt. 22.37; Mk. 12.30; Lk. 10.27).

Love is action. This love which Christ has for His church and which he desires His church to show Him is seen in the Song of Solomon which is primarily an expression of pure marital love, and secondarily of Christ and His heavenly bride, the church. Song of Solomon  8.7 says, “Many waters cannot quench love, neither can the floods drown it: if a man would give all the substance of his house for love, it would be utterly contemned.”  “Contemned” means “despised, scorned, slighted, neglected, or rejected with disdain (AMERICAN DICTIONARY OF THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE, NOAH WEBSTER (1828), definition of “CONTEMNED.”).” God despises, scorns, slights, neglects, or rejects with disdain all that a church does, whatever professions of love she makes, if those acts and/or professions are without love. A church that does not honor Christ as a wife is to honor her husband, her bridegroom, by remaining chaste, does not display love for the Lord. Thus, loving ones neighbor by witnessing to him, sending missionaries to him, leading him to the Lord,  or helping him materially or any other way in obedience to the second commandment—“Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself”—is vanity in God’s eyes if one ignores the greatest commandment. Souls will still be saved because of the grace of God, but not as many, especially in the long run, as would be saved had the churches displayed love for their bridegroom, husband, and head.

This fact is also articulated in the New Testament. The Lord Jesus is jealous over His churches.  If we do not love the Lord Jesus, He despises all the “Christian” work we do and the money we put in the offering plate:

“Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing (I Co. 13.1-3).”

“In a theological sense, [‘charity’] “includes supreme love to God and a universal good will to men. 1 Cor. xiii. Col. iii. 1 Tim. I (AMERICAN DICTIONARY OF THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE, NOAH WEBSTER (1828), definition of “CHARITY.”).”  Love is an act of the will. A church refutes its proclamations of love for the Lord when it wholly or partially takes the church from under the headship of her Husband, the Lord Jesus Christ.

Love “[r]ejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth (I Co. 13.6).” Iniquity means “Injustice, unrighteousness, … [w]ant of rectitude [rightness in principle or practice], … a sin or crime; wickedness (Ibid., definitions of “INIQUITY” and “RECTITUDE.”)….” Bible truth makes clear that the love of Christ for His church is immense, that He wants to be the only Head and companion of the church which is likened to His wife and bride, and that for a church to even partially put herself under or associate with another entity is a great wickedness and repudiates all professions of love for the Lord. As shown in Section VI of God Betrayed, the church that secures a 501(c)(3) tax-exemption and/or incorporates puts herself partially under another head, commits a wicked sinful act in violation of biblical principle, rejoices in iniquity, and refutes its professions of love for the Lord.

The Lord Jesus gave a warning to the church at Ephesus:

 “I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them which are evil: and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars: And hast borne, and hast patience, and for my name’s sake hast laboured, and hast not fainted. Nevertheless, I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love. Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent (Re. 2.2-5).”

As Dr. J. Vernon McGee teaches us, this warning was for every church that has lost her love for the Lord Jesus:

“It was a warning of danger of getting away from a personal and loving relationship with Jesus Christ. The real test of any believer, especially those who are attempting to serve Him, is not your little method or mode or system, or your dedication, or any of the things that are so often emphasized today. The one question is: Do you love Him? Do you love the Lord Jesus? When you love Him, you will be in a right relationship with Him, but when you begin to depart from the person of Christ, it will finally lead to lukewarmness. The apostate church was guilty of lukewarmness. It may not seem to be too bad, but it is the worst condition that anyone can be in. A great preacher in upper New York state said: ‘Twenty lukewarm Christians hurt the cause of Christ more than one blatant atheist.’ A lukewarm church is a disgrace to Christ (J. Vernon McGee, Revelation, Volume I (Pasadena, California: Thru the Bible Books, 1982), pp. 121-122).”

As the Lord Jesus Christ is jealous over His churches, so should pastors and church members be jealous, with a godly jealousy, over the church they belong to, just as Paul was:

“For I am jealous over you with godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ. But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.  For if he that cometh preacheth another Jesus, whom we have not preached, or if ye receive another spirit, which ye have not received or another gospel, which ye have not accepted, ye might well bear with him (II Co. 11.2-4; Lk. 18.8; II Ti. 3.1-8).

The church that really loves her Husband, the Lord Jesus Christ, will seek to maintain her purity, to be subject to her Husband in all things whether that church is persecuted or not. All the professions of love, all the good deeds, the hymns sung, and the messages preached by a church which does not totally submit herself in all things to her Husband, are contemned by the Lord. A church that takes a 501(c)(3) tax exemption, an incorporation, a license, or any type permit from the state, or puts herself under the state in any way, becomes an earthly legal entity subject to the jurisdiction of an earthly power, the civil government. Such a “church” is in fact a two headed monster. In spite of her emotions and professions of love for the Lord, according to her acts she shows, based upon God’s definition of love in the Bible, that she does not love the Lord Jesus Christ.

Spurious rationale for church corporate-501(c)(3) status: Winning souls is the most important thing/The Most Important Thing: Loving God and/or Winning Souls?

Jerald Finney
Copyright © December 10, 2012

Contents:

Preface

I. Introduction
II. The Spirit Filled Walk of the Believer and God’s
Churches and the greatest Commandment
III. The love relationship between Christ and His
churches
A. Practical experience demonstrates the love
relationship between Christ and His churches
B. Old Testament insights concerning the marriage
relationship between Christ and His churches
C. Additional New Testament insights into the love
relationship between Christ and His churches
D. A I Corninthians 13 analysis of the love
relationship between Christ and His churches
IV. Conclusion

The sermon, “The Church Who Left Their First Love” given at Old Paths Baptist Church in Northfield, Minnesota on September 2, 2012 compliments this article, giving additional insights.

Preface

This is a teaching and helps ministry motivated by love: love for our Lord first, and love for others second. I can find no more important subject than the love relationship between Christ and His children and Christ and His churches. Since I am convinced that this is a God-called ministry, I conduct this ministry at my own expense. I do not wish to dishonor my Lord by seeking worldly gain or riches through this ministry or by teaching heresy. Since I am not paid, nor do I seek to be paid for my work in this ministry, I will be convinced only by solid biblical reasoning. In other words, no one can buy me since my Lord, and my Lord only, has paid it all. My highest allegiance is to Him.

If you can disprove what I am teaching, you have an obligation—to God first, and to your brother in Christ second—to correct me. I will not accept conclusory statements backed up by nothing. I will only accept Holy Spirit guided insights based upon biblical principles and the application of legal and historical facts to those principles. If you prove me wrong, I have an obligation to repent, ask your forgiveness, and correct my teachings. If what I am saying is true, you have an obligation to God to conform your actions to God’s principles, including, if need be, repenting and reorganizing your church according to the principles of God.

Today, the most common reasons given by churches for incorporating and seeking 501(c)(3) status are (1) to obey every ordinance of man (2) limited liability; (3) to allow a church to hold property; (4) convenience—it is easier to get a tax deduction for tithes and offerings given to an incorporated 501(c)(3) religious organization than for tithes and offerings given to a New Testament church; (5) one’s convictions; and (6) winning souls is  more important than loving God; if a church is incorporated, don’t cause problems. Just continue winning souls because winning souls is more important than anything else, including loving God.

This article will deal with the second false reason, limited liability. Other articles cover the other five reasons:  

  1. Render Unto God the Things that Are His: A Systematic Study of Romans 13 and Related Verses When a pastor is asked why his church is incorporated, he will often quickly answer: “Because of Romans 13 [Romans 13:1-2 “Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation.” Or “We are to obey every ordinance of man.” He may also rely on some other verses. All these verses are examined in this online booklet which is also in online PDF form on this website. Not only that, no law requires a church to get incorporated or apply for 501(c)(3) status or claim 508 status. Instead, the highest law in America protects the right of churches to choose to remain free from corporate and 501(c)(3) or 508 status. See, e.g., First Amendment Protection of New Testament Churches/Federal Laws Protecting State Churches (Religious Organizations) 
  2. Limited liability (corporate status actually increases the liability of church members) (Section VI, Chapter  of God Betrayed; Chapter 6 of Separation of Church and State).
  3. Spurious rationale for incorporating: to hold property (Section VI, Chapter 7 of God Betrayed; Chapter 7 of Separation of Church and State).
  4. Spurious rationale for church corporate-501(c)(3) status: tax exemption and tax deductions for contributions OR Tax reasons given for church corporate 501(c)(3) status: a biblical and legal analysis (Section VI, Chapter 8 of God Betrayed; Chapter 8 of Separation of Church and State).
  5. Spurious rationale for church corporate-501(c)(3) status: one’s convictions (Not included in God Betrayed or Separation of Church and State).
  6. Spurious rationale for church corporate-501(c)(3) status: winning souls is more important than loving God/The Most Important Thing: Loving God and/or Winning Souls.

I. Introduction

Many churches, even “Bible believing churches” with saved pastors and members, state that the salvation of souls (witnessing to others in order to lead them to salvation) is more important than making sure that a church is not entangled with the civil government. Of course, salvation of souls is very important. The Great Commission is still in the Bible; but so is the principle that God desires His people and His churches to love Him. In fact, loving God is the greatest commandment. Loving God, according to the Bible is more important than loving one’s neighbor. However, if one loves God, he will love his neighbor. Please continue reading to the end to see how the Word of God makes this clear. Should you disagree with me, please contact me and give me the biblical basis for your disagreement. If God’s people and God’s churches love God first, many more souls will be saved, since churches who love God will have the power of God rather than a form of godliness.

Of course, churches (not to speak of individuals and families) dishonor their love relationship with Christ in many ways. My ministry is primarily concerned with a much neglected and egregious sin of churches as to their relationship with Christ—the union of churches with civil government through incorporation, unincorporated association status, corporation sole, and Internal Revenue Code Section 501(c)(3) tax exempt status.

I have addressed the biblical principles and the facts concerning legal entities and 501(c)(3) in books, articles on this “Separation of Church and State” blog, and audio teachings. This article is concerned only with the most important of the many sub-issues which must be developed to fully understand the issue of the God-desired relationship between church and state. What does it mean for a church to love God? How does a church demonstrate that she loves God or not? Other sub-issues—such as the God-given definition, purposes, and organization of a church—are covered in God Betrayed/Separation of Church and State: The Biblical Principles and the American Application (For free audio teaching on the book, click this link: “Free abridged audio of God Betrayed;” to order the book, click the following link: “Books”. Click the following link to preview God Betrayed: Link to preview of God Betrayed.).

Application of biblical principles to incorporation, other methods of making a church a legal enitity, and Internal Revenue Code § 501(c)(3) tax exempt status makes clear that churches who become legal entities such as corporations and get 501(c)(3) status violate several biblical principles including the principle of separation of church and state, thereby dishonoring the love relationship between Christ and His church. Nonetheless, many churches use the excuse that the most important thing is winning souls to justify proceeding in the flesh and dishonoring their love relationship between Christ and His church by incorporating and obtaining 501(c)(3) status. However, as the Word of God teaches and reality reveals, corporate 501(c)(3) churches become more and more anemic with the passing of time. They do this because they resort to anti-biblical devises and place themselves at least partially under another sovereign and the anti-biblical rules of that sovereign

II. The Spirit Filled Walk of the Believer and of God’s
Churches and the Greatest Commandment

Just as it is important for a family to understand God’s definition, purposes, and principles for family, so it is important that a church family understand the God-given definition, purposes, and principles for a church and her members in order to fully understand and apply the biblical principle of separation of church and state. Very importantly a New Testament church is a purely spiritual entity made up of saved individuals who are instructed to walk in the spirit. A church will be spiritual only to the degree that the members, individually and as a church, walk in the spirit. Part of the walk of believers requires them to make sure that the church they are members of continues to organize and operate according to New Testament principles.

Scripture teaches that the most important thing for a church is the love relationship between Christ and His churches. Nothing a church can do overrides the importance of honoring that relationship. Jesus responded to “[a] lawyer, [who] asked a question, tempting [Jesus], and saying Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and prophets” (Mt. 22.37-40. See also, Mk. 12.28-34 and Lu. 10.25-28 (Mk. 12.28-34 and Lu. 10.25-28 add loving God with “all thy strength” along with “all thy heart, soul and mind” to the greatest commandment.”)). These commandments were also stated in the Old Testament (See, e.g, De. 6.5 and the Ten Commandments in Ex. 20.1-17).

Most believers will agree with the principle (How can believers who have even a rudimentary knowledge of God’s Word deny this?). Sadly, many miss the mark in the definition and application of love since they have not studied and meditated on relevant biblical teachings and applied them in the real world.

The Bible teaches that loving God first will result in loving one’s neighbor by witnessing to him, helping him, sending missionaries to him, etc. When one loves God with all his heart, soul, mind, and strength, loving one’s neighbor comes naturally and “is like unto [loving God]” (Mt. 22.37-39; Lu. 10.27; Mk. 12.29-31). One who loves God with all his heart, soul, mind and strength will carry out the Great Commission, seek to lead others to salvation, disciple believers, help his neighbors, and walk in the spirit individually and as a church (keep his church body a spiritual entity subject only to the Lord Jesus Christ).

However gifted, moral, or refined, the natural man is absolutely blind to spiritual truth, and impotent to enter the kingdom; for he can neither obey, understand, nor please God because he is not born again and the Spirit of God does not dwell within him. “Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit” (Jn.  3.3, 5, 6).

Only believers are indwelt by the Holy Spirit. “Hereby know we that we dwell in him, and he in us, because he hath given us of his Spirit” (I Jn. 4.13). Only one who has the Spirit of God dwelling in him can love God. This does not mean that such a person actually loves God, at least with all his heart, soul, mind, and strength. It does not mean that a believer walks in the spirit (See Jn. 6.63; Ro. 8.1-13; Ga. 5.16-25; Ep. 5.1-17). Positionally, when one is saved, in the reckoning of God, the old man is crucified, and the believer is exhorted to make this good in experience, reckoning it to be so by definitely “putting off” the old man and “putting on” the new (Col. 3.8-14; Ep. 4.24). “And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness” (Ep. 4.23-24). The fruit God desires from Christians is spiritual. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law” (Ga. 5:22-23).

As has been pointed out, born-again believers are instructed to love God with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength. In God’s point of view, doing for others may help a person and make his live temporarily happier, but the Word of God teaches that doing for others is not love if one does not love God. The lost man does not know or love God, and he has no clue as to eternal matters. The natural man can only impart earthly, temporal help to others. Although this is not in and of itself a bad thing, this alone—from God’s point of view—is not love.

God is, and He desires His children to be, primarily concerned with the spiritual, the eternal. “While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal” (II Co. 4.18). Only the saved man can offer anyone eternal hope in addition to helping him with temporal matters (see I Co. 2.1-16). One who loves God first will love and serve his fellow man as to eternal matters first, and temporal matters second; helping others without loving God first is not loving others from God’s eternal spiritual viewpoint.

If one loves, God dwells in him, and he will be a light to others. “No man hath seen God at any time. If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us” (I Jn. 4.12). “And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him” (I Jn. 4.16). “For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (II Co. 4.6).

III. The Marriage Relationship between Christ and His Churches

Christ is the Bridegroom/Husband/Head of His churches. As to the issue of separation of church and state, this is particularly important. The church is called the bride of the Lamb (Jn. 3.28, 29). The church is “married” to Christ. “Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that ye should be married to another, evento him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God” (Ro. 7.4). Christ wants to be the only Head of His churches (Ep. 1.22; 5.23-33; Col. 1.15-18).

The apostle Paul, from whom Christians are given almost all doctrine of the church, was very concerned about the spiritual status and fruit of God’s churches. Paul spoke of the church as the virgin espoused to one Husband, and reveals that Eve is a type of the church as bride and wife of Christ. Paul said to churches, “I am jealous over you with godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ” (II Co. 11.2). Because of this jealousy over Christ’s church, Paul feared, “lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so [the minds of church members] should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ” (II Co. 11.3).

God, as revealed by the apostle Paul, likens the marriage relationship of husband and wife to the relationship of Christ and His church:

“For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wivesbe to their own husbands in every thing. 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.  That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish…. For no man ever hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church: For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones.  For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh.  This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church. Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband” (Ep. 5.23-27, 29-33).

A. Practical Experience demonstrates the love
relationship between Christ and His Churches

The Bible tells believers how God feels concerning certain actions of His churches. The Husband-wife and Bridegroom-bride analogies depicting Christ and His churches have important implications. From the Husband-wife analogy, we know that Christ, likened to a husband, wants to be over His wife, the church, in all things; and He is jealous when His wife, even if remaining for some purposes under Christ, also puts herself under another head. God obviously wants us to know how important this relationship is and how God feels when a church dishonors that relationship. New Testament teaching concerning the relationship of Christ and His churches (as we have already seen and will examine moreinfra), practical experience regarding the husband-wife relationship of man and woman as analogized by God to the marriage of Christ and His churches, and Old Testamentpassages concerning the Husband-wife relationship between God the Father and Israel reveal to the believer how God feels about the relationship of Christ and his churches.

Concerning practical experience, what godly husband would not be jealous if his wife came to him, arms around another man, and said:

“You know that I love you very much. I appreciate your love for me and all you do for me. I have entered into an agreement with Joe. I want you to know that I have decided that I am going to meet with Joe a couple of times a week for breakfast, or lunch, or dinner; and maybe occasionally meet with him just to talk. He cares for me, and he can give me additional advice and information which will be very helpful to me and which you are not able to give, although the advice you do give is most appreciated and helpful as far as it goes and as far as it is correct. He will also help me financially, since you cannot give me all that I need and want. I will still love and honor you. I know that my relationship with Joe will be alright with you.”

How would a husband feel about such an arrangement? Would it affect the marriage in any way? Would not it affect the way the husband and wife treat and respond to one another? Would the husband be jealous? In many such situations, would not the result be a ruined marriage and family? Thus God’s Word uses reality to reveal to us that Christ is jealous over His church and is grieved when His spiritual wife puts herself under the state through incorporation and 501(c)(3) tax exempt status or in any other manner. (See God Betrayed, Section VI and/or Jerald Finney, God’s Churches: Spiritual or Legal Entities?(Austin, TX: Kerygma Publishing Co., 2009; these books are summarized in the audio teachings found on the following link: “Articles and audio teachings.”) for a thorough explanation of the incorporation and 501(c)(3) tax exemption of churches).

What happens when a wife starts to have an affair, even a non-sexual affair? She may be able to hide her earthly affair from her husband, but she cannot hide the effects of the affair. (Of course, a church cannot hide her affair from the Lord.) The attitude, speech, and actions of the wife change. Her relationship with her husband changes. Her husband now has to share his time with another who is partially over his wife. Joy leaves the marriage. Many times, if she does not repent, the marriage is destroyed. Even if she repents, she and her husband will never forget. Hopefully, he will forgive.

In many ways, it is the same with the local assembly that enters into an unholy union with the civil government. Many times, the church who does so tries to minimize the dishonor and grief she has caused her Husband, the Lord Jesus Christ. Many of those who even think about the possible implications of what they have done say, “Well, if my new partner ever tells me that I cannot preach salvation, he will have gone too far.” The pastor and members of such a church actually, if not knowingly, are saying by their actions:

“The Lord and his ways are not sufficient. The civil government takes better care of me than does the Lord. Civil laws are wiser and more beneficial than the precepts of the Word of God. The civil government protects the church, allows the church to enter into contracts, gives the church limited liability, gives the church tax exemption (not realizing that God makes the church non-taxable which is not good enough), allows my people to deduct their contributions, etc.”; or “Romans 13 requires a church to incorporate and get 501(c)(3) status (click the following link for an article which addresses this argument: “American Abuse of Romans 13.1-2 and Related Verses“.).

Any rationale given to justify a union of church and state is spurious, and the Christian who offers such reasoning either does not understand or ignores the Word of God in these matters. He does not understand that God instructs him that the Lord is to be the only Head over His churches, that he is at the very least combining the holy with the unholy, or that he is at worst committing spiritual adultery, and that disastrous consequences, sooner or later, are ahead. He does not understand the spiritual effects that such an unholy relationship has upon the church body, church members individually and as families, and upon society as a whole.

Like the people of the nation Israel, not satisfied with proceeding directly under God as a theocracy, demanded and were granted a king by God, a church who is not satisfied with being solely under God will incorporate, get 501(c)(3) status, organize as a charitable trust, or become a legal entity by some other means. That church may still be blessed by God to some extent; but, like Israel (See I S. 8, 12.16-25), she has committed a great wickedness and started down a slippery slope. After taking the first step to dishonor her Husband, additional steps follow. The church and her members proceed, to a significant extent, according to earthly rules and procedures designed by the god of this world, not by Christ as given in His Word. Incremental compromises begin and continue, resulting in negative spiritual effects to the church, her members and families, and society to one degree or another. Sooner or later complete apostasy will likely result.

Unlike many earthly husbands who have been betrayed, God can and will forgive and forget if a wayward church repents and turns back to the Lord. Christ said to the church at Ephesus who had left her first love (Christ), “Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent” (Re. 2.5). How vexing to see that most men of God can understand the importance of honoring the marriage relationship between man and woman, but cannot understand the importance of honoring a more important marriage relationship.

B. Old Testament insights concerning the marriage relationship

The Old Testament offers additional insights about the marriage relationship between Christ and His churches. There God describes His feelings about the Husband-wife relationship. Israel is depicted as the wife of Jehovah God the Father who is called the Husband of Israel.

Isaiah 54 deals with Israel the restored wife of Jehovah & security and blessing of restored Israel. God the Father was the Husband of Israel.  “For thy maker is thine husband; the LORD of hosts is his name; and thy Redeemer the Holy one of Israel; The God of the whole earth shall he be called” (Is. 54.5).

Hosea depicts the dishonored wife (Israel), and the sinful people. “… Plead with your mother, plead: for she is not my wife, neither  am I her husband. Let her  therefore put away her  whoredoms out of her  sight, and her adulteries from between her breasts; Lest I  strip her naked, and set her  as in the day that she was born, and make her as a wilderness, and set her like a dry land, and slay her with thirst. And I will not have mercy on her children; for they be the children of whoredoms. For their mother hath played the harlot: she that conceived them hath done shamefully: for she said, I will go after other lovers, that give me  my bread and  my water, my wool and my flax, mine oil and my drink” (Ho. 2.2-5).

Hosea 4.6-11 speaks of the willful ignorance of Israel: “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee, that thou shalt be no priest to me: seeing thou has forgotten the law of thy God, I will also forget my children…” (See Ho. 4).

Jeremiah 2-6 discusses the harlotry of Israel toward her Husband, Jehovah, and His warnings and promises to her depending upon whether she repents. “Turn, O backsliding children saith the LORD; for I am married unto you…. Surely as a wife treacherously departeth from her husband, so have ye dealt treacherously with me, O house of Israel, saith the LORD” (Je. 3.14, 20).

Various people in the Old Testament are types of Christ and the church, the Bridegroom and the bride. For example, Rebecca was a type of the church, the “called out” virgin bride of Christ. Isaac was a type of the Bridegroom, who loves through the testimony of the unnamed Servant: “Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory[.]” (I Pe. 1.8). Isaac was a type of the Bridegroom who goes out to meet and receive his bride.

“For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first[.]” (I Th. 4.14-16).

“Typically, the book of Ruth may be taken as a foreview of the church—Ruth, as the Gentile bride of Christ, the Bethlehemite who is able to redeem” (1917 Scofield Reference Edition, Headnote to Ru., p. 315).

The coming of the Bridegroom is cause for great rejoicing by the believer, the friend of the Bridegroom (See, e.g., Jn. 3.29). The marriage of the Lamb to His bride the church will be a glorious event which will occur in heaven:

“Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready. And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints. And he saith unto me, Write, Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb. And he saith unto me, These are the true sayings of God” (Re. 19.7-9; see also, Re. 21.9-22.17).

C. Additional New Testament insights into the love
relationship between Christ and His churches

As we have seen, the husband is to be the only head of the wife, and Christ is to be the only Head of His churches (See Ep. 5.23-27, 29-33 quoted above). “And hath put all thingsunder his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church” (Ep. 1.22). “[Christ] is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature: For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whetherthey be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him and for him: And he is before all things, and by him all things consist. And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence” (Col. 1.15-18).

Christ, likened unto a husband, because of His love for His churches, gave Himself to redeem them. He is, in love, sanctifying the church, and will present the church to Himself as a reward for His sacrifice and labor of love, a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing, a perfect church without spot or blemish, “one pearl of great price” (Mt. 13.45-46).

Jesus is the Father’s love-gift to the world: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (Jn. 3.16).

The believer, the church member, is His reward, given Him as a love-gift by the Father. “As thou hast given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him” (Jn. 17.2). “I have manifested thy name unto the men which thou gavest me out of the world: thine they were, and thou gavest them me; and they have kept thy word” (Jn 17.6). “I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me; for they are thine” (Jn. 17.9). “And now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to thee. Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are” (Jn. 17.11). “Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me: for thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world” (Jn. 17.24). Does not the Lamb of God deserve the reward of His suffering: a chaste virgin?

Just as a bridegroom gives gifts to his earthly bride, so Christ gives gifts to His bride, to those whom the Father gave Him. He gives her: (1) Eternal life: “As thou hast given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him” (Jn. 17.2). (2) The Father’s name: “I have manifested thy name unto the men which thou gavest me out of the world: thine they were, and thou gavest them me; and they have kept thy word…. And I have declared unto them thy name, and will declare it: that the love wherewith thou hast loved me may be in them, and I in them” (Jn. 17.6, 26). (3) The Father’s words: “For I have given unto them the words which thou gavest me; and they have received them, and have known surely that I came out from thee, and they have believed that thou didst send me…. I have given them thy word; and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world” (Jn. 17.8, 14). (4)His own joy: “And now come I to thee; and these things I speak in the world, that they might have my joy fulfilled in themselves” (Jn. 17.13). (5) His own glory: “And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one” (Jn. 17.22).

As Christ loves His churches, so should they love Him. Mere emotion and proclamations do not equal love. Jesus said, “If ye love me, keep my commandments” (Jn. 14.15). “He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him” (Jn. 14.21). “Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him” (Jn. 14.23 ). “If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love” (Jn. 15.10).  “Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you” (Jn. 15.14). “For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous” (I Jn. 5.3).

What are Christ’s commandments? As has already been mentioned, the first and greatestcommandment is to love the Lord with all one’s heart, soul, mind, and strength, and thesecond is “like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.”

D. A I Corninthians 13 analysis of the love relationship
between Christ and His churches

This love between Christ and His church and what it entails is seen in the Song of Solomon: The Song of Solomon, “[p]rimarily, is the expression of pure marital love as ordained of God in creation, and the vindication of that love as against both asceticism and lust—the two profanations of the holiness of marriage. The secondary and larger interpretation is of Christ, the Son and His heavenly bride, the Church (2 Cor. 11.1-4, refs.)” (1917 Scofield Reference Edition, Headnote to Song of Solomon, p. 705).

“Many waters cannot quench love, neither can the floods drown it: if a man would give all the substance of his house for love, it would be utterly contemned” (Song of Solomon 8.7). “Contemned” means “despised, scorned, slighted, neglected, or rejected with disdain” (AMERICAN DICTIONARY OF THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE, NOAH WEBSTER (1828), definition of “CONTEMNED.” Unless otherwise indicated, all definitions which follow are from this dictionary.). God despises, scorns, slights, neglects, or rejects with disdain all that a church does, whatever professions of love she makes, if those acts and/or professions are without love. No matter what she says, a church who does not honor Christ as her Husband, her Bridegroom, by remaining pure and chaste, demonstrates that she does not love God with all her heart, soul, mind, and strength. Thus, loving ones neighbor by witnessing to him, sending missionaries to him, helping him materially or any other way in obedience to the second commandment—“Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself”—is vanity in God’s eyes if one ignores the greatest commandment.

This truth is also articulated in the New Testament. The Lord Jesus is jealous over His churches. If we do not love the Lord Jesus, He despises all the “Christian” work we do and the money we put in the offering plate:

“Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am becomeas sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing” (I Co. 13.1-3).

“In a theological sense, [‘charity’] “includes supreme love to God and a universal good will to men. 1 Cor. xiii. Col. iii. 1 Tim. i.” (definition of ‘CHARITY’). I Corinthians 13.4-8 reveals that love is an act of the will and describes what actions constitute love. A church refutes its proclamations of love for the Lord when it wholly or partially takes the church from under the headship of her Husband, the Lord Jesus Christ and/or violates any of the other attributes of love as given in those verses.

Churches who put themselves even partially under another head dishonor their Husband. Such churches, by their actions, show that they do not have a supreme love for God, that they do not love the Lord with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength. Let’s examine I Corinthians 13.4-8 verse by verse and apply it to the love of a church for the Lord Jesus Christ.

“Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up” (I Co. 13.4). “Suffereth long” means that one is patient and forbearing. In other words, he waits upon the Lord. “But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew theirstrength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; andthey shall walk, and not faint” (Is. 40.31).

“But they that wait upon the Lord – The word rendered ‘wait upon’ here (from קוה qavah ), denotes properly to wait, in the sense of expecting. The phrase, ‘to wait on Yahweh,’ means to wait for his help; that is, to trust in him, to put our hope or confidence in him…. “It does not imply inactivity, or want of personal exertion; it implies merely that our hope of aid and salvation is in him – a feeling that is as consistent with the most strenuous endeavors to secure the object, as it is with a state of inactivity and indolence. Indeed, no man can wait on God in a proper manner who does not use the means which he has appointed for conveying to us his blessing. To wait on him without using any means to obtain his aid, is to tempt him; to expect miraculous interposition is unauthorized, and must meet with disappointment. And they only wait on him in a proper manner who expect his blessing in the common modes in which he imparts it to men – in the use of those means and efforts which he has appointed, and which he is accustomed to bless. The farmer who should wait for God to plow and sow his fields, would not only be disappointed, but would be guilty of provoking Him. And so the man who waits for God to do what he ought to do; to save him without using any of the means of grace, will not only be disappointed, but will provoke his displeasure” (Albert Barnes Notes on the Bible…).

A church who loves the Lord and suffers long is patient and waits on the Lord, while using only those means authorized by Him. An incorporated 501(c)(3) church has not “suffered long.”

Charity is kind. “A man who truly loves another will be kind to him, desirous of doing him good; will be gentle, not severe and harsh; will be courteous because he desires his happiness, and would not pain his feelings” (Ibid.). A Church who loves God will not cause God pain or grief by dishonoring her love relationship with the Lord Jesus.

Charity envieth not. One who truly loves another will not envy in the bad sense; that is, he or she “will be kind to him, desirous of doing him good; will be gentle, not severe and harsh; will be courteous because he desires his happiness, and would not pain his feelings” (Ibid.).

Charity vaunteth not itself:

“The idea is that of boasting, bragging, vaunting. The word occurs nowhere else in the New Testament. Bloomfield supposes that it has the idea of acting precipitously, inconsiderately, incautiously; and this idea our translators have placed in the margin, ‘he is not rash.’ But most expositors suppose that it has the notion of boasting, or vaunting of one’s own excellences or endowments. This spirit proceeds from the idea of superiorityover others; and is connected with a feeling of contempt or disregard for them. Love would correct this, because it would produce a desire that they should be happy–and to treat a man with contempt is not the way to make him happy; love would regard others with esteem–and to boast over them is not to treat them with esteem; it would teach us to treat them with affectionate regard–and no man who has affectionate regard for others is disposed to boast of his own qualities over them. Besides, love produces a state of mind just the opposite of a disposition to boast. It receives its endowments with gratitude; regards them as the gift of God; and is disposed to employ them not in vain boasting, but in purposes of utility, in doing good to all others On as wide a scale as possible. The boaster is not a man who does good. To boast of talents is not to employ them to advantage to others. It will be of no account in feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, comforting the sick and afflicted, or in saving the world. Accordingly, the man who does the most good is the least accustomed to boast; the man who boasts may be regarded as doing nothing else” (Ibid.).

The application to the church regarding attachments to the civil government is obvious to the spirit filled believer.

Charity is not puffed up (jusioutai). This “word means, to blow, to puff, to pant; then to inflate with pride, and vanity, and self-esteem. [This word the feeling expresses the feelings of pride, vanity, etc.]…. Love[, on the other hand] is humble, meek, modest, unobtrusive” (Ibid.). Pride, vanity, and self-esteem exclude God, and lead to a betrayal of God by turning to another such as the civil government.

“Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil[.]” (I Co. 13.5). Charity “doth not behave itself unseemly” means, “to conduct improperly, or disgracefully, or in a manner to deserve reproach. Love seeks that which is proper or becoming…” (Ibid.). A church who loves the Lord will seek to abide in Christ and His principles for His churches.

Charity “seeketh not her own:”

“It means, to conduct improperly, or disgracefully, or in a manner to deserve reproach. Love seeks that which is proper or becoming in the circumstances and relations of life in which we are placed. It prompts to the due respect for superiors, producing veneration and respect for their opinions… [I]t prompts to the fit discharge of all the relative duties, because it leads to the desire to promote the happiness of all.” (Ibid.).

Churches incorporate, get 501(c)(3) tax exemption, or become legal entities in other ways in violation of their God-given duties thereby disrespecting their Highest Superior.

Charity “is not easily provoked, paroxunetai:”

“The meaning of the phrase in the Greek is, that a man who is under the influence of love or religion is not prone to violent anger or exasperation; it is not his character to be hasty, excited, or passionate. He is calm, serious, patient. He looks soberly at things; and though he may be injured yet he governs his passions, restrains his temper, subdues his feelings. This, Paul says, would be produced by love. And this is apparent. If we are under the influence of benevolence or love to any one, we shall not give way to sudden bursts of feeling. We shall look kindly on his actions; put the best construction on his motives; deem it possible that we have mistaken the nature or the reasons of his conduct; seek or desire explanation (Mt. 5:23-24).… That true religion is designed to produce this, is apparent everywhere in the New Testament, and especially from the example of the Lord Jesus; that it actually does produce it, is apparent from all who come under its influence in any proper manner.” (Ibid.).

A church who becomes a legal entity has not looked soberly at the principles concerning separation of church and state in God’s Word; and she has not governed her passions and subdued her feelings. This is true even though that church may have acted in ignorance without anger or exasperation.

Charity “thinketh no evil.” This proscription does not apply to the issue we are looking at if one interprets it to mean that one is not to think evil of another, his motives or conduct. However, a church who becomes a legal entity has definitely committed an evil act against God whether she knows it or not.

Charity “[r]ejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth” (I Co. 13.6). Iniquity means “Injustice, unrighteous-ness, … [w]ant of rectitude [rightness in principle or practice], … a sin or crime; wickedness….” Jesus is the truth (Jn. 14.6). By following man’s devises and combining Christ’s church with civil government, a church is in effect following man-made principles which are contrary to God’s precepts, committing a great wickedness or sin, and rejoicing in the fact that she is following the methods and provisions of a head other than the Lord Jesus Christ.

Charity “Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things” (I Co. 13.7). A church who is a legal entity is seeking to avoid bearing perceived burdens such as losing rich earthly oriented church members. She is operating outside scriptural principles so that she can enter into contracts—such as contracts to pay her pastor or others a salary (for a church to pay anyone a salary violates biblical principle. See God Betrayed)—limit liability (not knowing that in effect, she is probably increasing risk and liability rather than limiting it. See Ibid., Section VI, Chapter 6), hold property (not knowing that a church can utilize property in America while honoring biblical principles. (See Ibid., Chapter 7), give tax deductions for contributions (See Ibid., Chapter 8), and for other spurious reasons. She may be allegedly seeking to obey what she incorrectly believes is her master, the civil government (See Ibid., Section III, Chapters 5 and 6,and Jerald Finney,Render Unto God the Things that Are His (Austin, TX: Kerygma Publishing Co., 2009)). Finally, she is attempting to avoid any persecution and any adverse affects—she wants to assure her members that they will have no persecution or anything else to endure. A church who is a legal entity is not believing all the Word of God and she is not placing her hope in the Lord. At the very least, part of her hope is in civil government.

“Charity never faileth” (I Co. 13.8). A church who depends upon and subjects herself to the civil government has certainly failed the Lord.

IV. Conclusion

The Lord Jesus gave a warning to the church at Ephesus:

“I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them which are evil: and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars: And hast borne, and hast patience, and for my name’s sake hast laboured, and hast not fainted. Nevertheless, I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love. Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent” (Re. 2.2-5).

As Dr. J. Vernon McGee teaches us, this warning was for every church who has lost her love for the Lord Jesus:

“It was a warning of danger of getting away from a personal and loving relationship with Jesus Christ. The real test of any believer, especially those who are attempting to serve Him, is not your little method or mode or system, or your dedication, or any of the things that are so often emphasized today. The one question is: Do you love Him? Do you love the Lord Jesus? When you love Him, you will be in a right relationship with Him, but when you begin to depart from the person of Christ, it will finally lead to lukewarmness. The apostate church was guilty of lukewarmness. It may not seem to be too bad, but it is the worst condition that anyone can be in. A great preacher in upper New York state said: ‘Twenty lukewarm Christians hurt the cause of Christ more than one blatant atheist.’ A lukewarm church is a disgrace to Christ” (J. Vernon McGee, RevelationVolume I(Pasadena, California: Thru the Bible Books, 1982), pp. 121-122).

As the Lord Jesus Christ is jealous over His churches, so should pastors and church members be jealous, with a godly jealousy, over the church they belong to, just as Paul was (See II Co. 11.1-3).

The church who really loves her Husband, the Lord Jesus Christ, will seek to maintain her purity, to be subject to her Husband in all things. All the professions of love, all the good deeds, the hymns sung, and the messages preached by a church who does not totally submit herself in all things to her Husband are contemned by the Lord since that church, by her actions, shows that she does not love the Lord Jesus Christ with all her heart, soul, mind, and strength. A church who incorporates, organizes as a charitable trust or unincorporated association, takes a 501(c)(3) tax exemption, a license, an employee or taxpayer identification number, any type permit from the state, or puts herself under the state in any way, becomes an earthly legal entity subject to the jurisdiction of an earthly power, the civil government; and, in spite of any professions of love for the Lord, according to her actions, shows that she does not fully love the Lord Jesus Christ.

END

The results of ignoring the biblical principle of separation of church and state


Jerald Finney
Copyright © December 10, 2012


Note. This is a modified version of Section VI, Chapter 9 of God Betrayed: Separation of Church and State/The Biblical Principles and the American Application.


As a result of earthly concerns for property, tax deductions, and the receipt of benefits from the state, most American churches have betrayed God and placed themselves under the jurisdiction of the state. Furthermore, corporate 501(c)(3) churches are to some extent controlled by the state and are run as businesses to one degree or another: Trustees and corporate officers or officers or employees many times control everything about the church, including the preaching, and, yes, the pastor. However far the effects of becoming a corporate 501(c)(3) religious organization extend, such a church, like the Israelites who demanded a king, has committed a great wickedness by submitting to another head. Very few churches are New Testament churches.  This wickedness grieves the Lord. Very few churches seek to remain pure. God said in His Word:

“As obedient children, not fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts in your ignorance; But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; Because it is written, Be ye holy, as I am holy. Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers, But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot” (1 Pe. 1.14-16, 18-19).

The result of this betrayal is far reaching. The most obvious and damaging consequence is that the whole Word is not preached. Churches have gotten in such debt that pastors cannot preach the whole Word because they would offend some visible church members, especially some of the visible rich members.  Incremental compromise after incremental compromise in preaching eventually adds up to outright heresy and apostasy (2 Pe. 2.1-3, 18: “[False prophets and teachers] shall bring in damnable heresies and [apostasy]. And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the truth shall be evil spoken of.  And through covetousness shall they …. with feigned words make merchandise of you:…  For when [these false teachers] speak great swelling words of vanity, they allure through the lusts of the flesh, through much wantonness, those that were clean escaped from them who live in error.”  See the whole second chapter of II Peter.).

“Preach the word; be instant in season, out or season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables” (AMERICAN DICTIONARY OF THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE, NOAH WEBSTER (1828) definition of “FABLE”: A feigned story or tale, intended to instruct or amuse; a softer term for a lie.).

Many of God’s children have been deceived. Peter wrote to believers, “Ye therefore, beloved, seeing ye know these things before, beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own steadfastness” (2 Pe. 3.17).

I believe that  when we say, “Bless God, by submitting myself to civil government, I can be more effective in winning souls and doing God’s work,” God says, “OK, let’s see how well you do—how many souls are saved in the long-run, and what is the fate of the church—when you do it your way in the flesh.”

The sincere but misguided Christian who asks, “What about all those souls that are being saved under the ministry of a particular incorporated 501(c)(3) church?” is promoting a practical religion that, in the long run, produces disastrous results.  What are the results of God’s church submitting itself to the government? A few of a multitude of examples follow:

(1) Barna Research reports that just 4% of Americans have a biblical Worldview (See David Kupelian, The Marketing of Evil—How Radicals, Elitists and Pseudo Experts Sell us Corruption Disguised as Freedom, cited in Issues in Education, September Quarter, 2006).
(2) Marketers of evil have convinced church leaders that they are not to be leaders in society but to be content to hide behind the four walls of their church (Ibid.).
(3) We, yes even we in the church, have traded Western civilization for vain delusion, cheap thrills, and illogical doctrines (Ibid.).
(4) Marketing has changed our most basic beliefs—within our lifetime, much of what Americans universally abhorred has been packaged and sold to us as “enlightened” even “noble,” when previous generations regarded evil as self-destructive (Ibid).
(5) The percentage of “Protestant” churches (included in the survey were the Mormons, other non-christian groups, and some New Age devotees which were classified as “Protestant”) dropped from 63% to 52% from 1993 through 2002 and is probably now less than 50% (Albert Mohler Jr., “America’s Vanishing Protestant Majority—What does it Mean?” http://www.AlbertMohler.com, June 23, 2006, available at http://www.albertmohler.com/commentary_read.php?cdate=2006-06-23).
(6) Among mainline Protestant denominations [as well as among the Baptists and Independent Baptists, I might add], theological liberalism has eroded the entire system of Christian doctrine, leading to the evaporation of faith and the secularization of those churches.  Once the churches  have been thoroughly secularized, what value remains in church membership and denominational identification (Ibid.)?
(7) The Laodicean Christian is oblivious to those First Amendment prerequisites pioneered by his Philadelphia Forefathers—”Thou has a little strength, and hast kept my word, and hast not denied my name.” (Rev. 3.8c) (Dr. William P. Grady, What Hath God Wrought?, p. 480).
(8) Pleasure has replaced persecution, revision has undermined the Word, and Ecumenical evangelism has denied the Name (Ibid.).

Foremost, God is not pleased with a church who prostitutes herself. The church who refuses to return to her first love will suffer the consequences.

Churches, because of the subjugation to civil government, have been confined to their four walls, preach what the state says they can preach, and do what the state tells them to do. Churches and pastors that submit to civil government are taught, controlled, and defined, at least to some degree, by civil government.  Such churches are anemic (lacking force, vitality, or spirit) to a greater or lesser degree. They are no longer a spiritual body, but a “religious organization” which is a legal entity. Being dead spiritually, eventually their doors will close and they will either disappear or continue to exist as an arm of the state with little spiritual effect in the world. The dead will minister to the dead, and ultimately, the dead will have no one to minister to.

Conclusion (Section VI, Chapter 10 of God Betrayed: Separation of Church and State/The Biblical Principles and the American Application)


Jerald Finney
Copyright © December 10, 2012


Note. This is a modified version of Section VI, Chapter 10 of God Betrayed: Separation of Church and State/The Biblical Principles and the American Application.


God left all things, including the mind, body, and soul of man himself, in trust with man. God’s desire is for man to include God in every covenant, not for man to contract with man or with any other entity. A covenant which includes God is spiritual. Contract, a device conceived by man, leaves God and His principles out of the equation and therefore is not pleasing to God.

The Constitution, the product of a blend of enlightenment and biblical thinking, created a partly humanistic atmosphere by implementing some enlightenment principles. On the other hand, thank God for some biblical principles such as separation of church and state which are included in the Constitution. As a result of the spiritual fight of God’s persecuted people, the principle of separation of church and state/religious liberty/freedom of conscience was implemented in the First Amendment.

Satan inspired men, brilliant men, to include certain humanistic principles in the Constitution. The two most devastating of these were the goal of the nation under the Constitution—the happiness of man—and the contract principle as implemented in Article I, Section 10 of the Constitution. These principles seem good according to man’s reasoning “under the sun.” After all, humanism says that man, who is basically good, has the reasoning ability without God’s guidance and principles to solve all problems and bring about happiness for all. To God, such reasoning is foolish and vain and speeds the occurrence of ill-consequences.

The contract principle has been used by the legal system to construct a humanistic environment and has successfully destroyed, among other things, knowledge of the real meaning of the two types of marriage in existence in this nation—the marriage of man and woman, and the marriage of Christ and His church. The ultimate consequence of treating the marriage as a contract is occurring before our eyes. Marriage is disdained by many. People “shack up” to see if it will work before “tying the knot.” Some just “shack up” without having any thought of marrying. The state effort to define marriage as a contract between any two or more persons, whether they be men, women, or any combination thereof is well under way. This destruction of the knowledge of what marriage is has resulted in the destruction of family.

Likewise, the contract principle has been used to destroy knowledge or encourage willful ignorance concerning the marriage of Christ and His church. Provisions for incorporation seduced spiritual entities, churches, and persuaded them to place themselves under an earthly head, the state. Incorporation requires churches to comply with satanic earthly principles and procedures in some matters rather than God’s spiritual biblical principles and procedures in all matters. Corporate trustees of incorporated churches conduct church matters according to contract principles. They walk in the flesh and not in the spirit. The corporation, not God, according to state law but contrary to God’s Word, owns the property utilized by the church. The members own the corporation. The members/owners of the church, not the pastor, are the overseers, rulers, and trustees of the church. The members/owners many times exercise their contractual powers given them by their sovereign state to control the pastor, even hiring or firing pastors at will.

In addition to incorporation, civil government has also enticed incorporated churches to become religious organizations under federal law, the IRC. The IRC presents an exemption-education-control scheme which most churches, motivated by fear and greed, have not been able to resist. Some corporate 501(c)(3) churches ease their consciences by claiming that they can do more for God with state help and by using state methods, which are designed to keep the gospel within the four walls of a building. Some corporate 501(c)(3) churches have not studied the issue. In effect, corporate 501(c)(3) churches lose the power of God; and more seriously, grieve our Lord by placing themselves under an additional head. The result has been disastrous consequences for individuals, families, churches, and the nation.

The principle of separation runs throughout God’s Word. Christians in America have therefore betrayed the trust God placed in them as his children and His church. They have mixed the spiritual with the earthly, including combining the church with the state.

“Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you” (2 Co. 6.14-17).

Like Balaam who, working for the civil authority, was able, for reward, to conceive of a plan to corrupt the children of Israel, so have leaders conceived of plans to successfully corrupt God’s churches in America. “It is that union of the world and the church who is spiritual unchastity (James 4.4)” (1917 Scofield Reference Edition, n. 2 to Revelation 2.14, pp. 1332-1333). “Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God” (Ja. 4.4).  Isaac Backus wisely observed:

“When God took the nation of Israel to be his church, he was an husband unto them. Jer. xxxi. 32.  And Moses said unto him, If thy presence go not with us, carry us not up hence. For wherein shall it be known here, that I and thy people have found grace in thy sight?  is it not in that thou goest with us? So shall we be separated, I and thy people, from all the people that are upon the face of the earth. Exod. xxxiii. 15, 16. But Balaam, for an earthly reward, taught Balak how to destroy that separation.  And it was done by the Midianites, among whom Balaam dwelt, who enticed Israel into adultery and idolatry; and those Midianites were of the posterity of Abraham. Numb. xxv. 6; xxxi. 8, 16; Gen. xxv. 4. And how many children of believers are now guilty of this iniquity! for covetousness is idolatry. Col. iii. 5. And many make a god of their belly. Phil. iii. 19. And idolatry is also adultery in the sight of God, who said of the church of Israel, Their mother hath played the harlot; she that conceived them hath done shamefully; for she said, I will go after my lovers, that give me my bread and my water, my wool and my flax, mine oil and my drink. Hosea ii. 5. All lawful things, but they were sought in an unlawful way. So one apostle says of many teachers and professors, An heart they have exercised with covetous practices; cursed children; who have forsaken the right way, and are gone astray, following the way of Balaam the son of Bosor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness; but was rebuked for his iniquity; the dumb ass, speaking with man’s voice, forbade the madness of the prophet. II Peter ii. 14, 15, 16. Another says, Woe unto them; for they have gone in the way of Cain, and ran greedily after the error of Balaam for reward, and perished in the gainsaying of Core. Jude 11. And Christ says by a third, I have a few things against thee, because thou hast there them that hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balak to cast a stumblingblock before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed unto idols, and to commit fornication. Rev. ii. 14. Now, since covetousness and luxury are idolatry in the sight of God, and idolatry is also adultery, how many are there in the world who entice Christians into these evils, in order to grasp the honors and profits of religion to themselves! Yea, and who go out from the ways of God to gratify their love of the world! I John ii. 15, 19. These be they who separate themselves, sensual, having not the Spirit. Jude 19. Mystery Babylon is the mother of harlots, and abominations of the earth. Rev. xvii. 5” (Isaac Backus, A History of New England With Particular Reference to the Denomination of Christians called Baptists, Volume 2 (Eugene, Oregon: Wipf & Stock Publishers, Previously published by Backus Historical Society, 1871), pp. 367-68, 377).

Of course, this betrayal extends far beyond the issue of church and state. Many of God’s children, marriages, and families have operated according to man’s rules instead of honoring the relationships between God and each individual son of God, between the parties to a marriage and God, and between families and God. They are more American than they are Christian. Men have sought material wealth, not spiritual wealth. Even should men look to God’s rules, they have not understood that the key is the relationship, not the rules. If one truly loves God, obedience to His principles will follow. Many of today’s “Christians” dress, act, look like, and bow down to the world. In America today, a church may look historically sound on the outside, while on the inside the foundations are being destroyed. Inside the facade are rotten timbers:

“And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say? Whosoever cometh to me, and heareth my sayings, and doeth them, I will shew you to whom he is like: He is like a man which built an house, and digged deep, and laid the foundation on a rock: and when the flood arose, the stream beat vehemently upon that house, and could not shake it: for it was founded upon a rock. But he that heareth, and doeth not, is like a man that without a foundation built an house upon the earth; against which the stream did beat vehemently, and immediately it fell; and the ruin of that house was great” (Lu. 6.46-49).

A church who subjects herself in any way to any head other than the Lord Jesus Christ, according to the Word of God, has some termites eating away at the structure of that church. Those termites have been in many of America’s churches since the nation was constituted and before. They kept eating away to the point that the door has been left open for a proliferation of religious liberalism through the Church Growth Movement and now the Emerging Church Movement. Many of the megachurches as well as some “Bible believing churches” are churches by declaration only, are rotten to the core, and are perverting truth and misleading millions. They are the dead ministering to the dead. Other fundamental churches blend the world with the Word of God.

Bible believing churches, especially some fundamental Bible believing churches—not the liberal churches and the churches of the Church Growth Movement—led the way to heresy. They took the first step towards heresy and apostasy when they betrayed their Lord and Savior and Husband and placed themselves under a worldly head. They did not heed the warnings, and they did not seek biblical truth about the issue. They became pragmatic and supplemented or replaced the goal of “the glory of God” with the goal of “the happiness of man.”

The author, until after he began a serious study of this subject in 2003, preached and taught that Christians must apply the principles in II Chronicles 7.14 to church and America in order to bring America back under God. That verse says, “If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.” The author emphasized that if “good Christians” pray for America, America will seek God’s face and turn from her wicked ways.

The author incorrectly interpreted II Chronicles 7.14. In context, that verse was written to an earthly nation, God’s chosen people, and called for a national repentance by the Jews. Israel’s main sin was that she “laid hold on other gods, and worshipped them, and served them” (See 2 Sa. 7.16-22).  Today, Christians, not Israel or America in general, are God’s chosen people with whom He is working. A New Testament church is a spiritual, not an earthly, entity. Churches in America—just as did the nation Israel which, in asking for a king, rejected God as head—placed themselves under another head, the state. That led to heresy in other areas. Finally, apostasy overran many American churches, first churches which succumbed to modernism starting in the late nineteenth century. America is now seeing the inevitable result of deviation from God’s plan in Faith Movement churches, many churches which still call themselves fundamental Bible believing, many of the megachurches, and emerging churches.

II Chronicles 7.14 can only be applied today, if at all, to the church and not to the nation in general. As has been pointed out, Gentile nations continue under the dispensations of conscience and human government, still accountable to God. God’s rules and admonitions toward Israel do not apply to Gentile nations and therefore to America. Of course, God would bless America if America chose to proceed under God and His principles, the chief of which is God’s promise to bless those who bless Israel. But the nation is not part of the church and vice-versa. In other words, the verse cannot be applied in such a way that if the church meets all the requirements of the verse, the nation will be healed. Rather, if the church meets all the requirements, the church will be healed. Churches, in order to satisfy requirements in the verse, must seek God’s face and turn from their wicked ways, one of which is the union of church and state in any way, but primarily union through incorporation and 501(c)(3) status. If pastors and Christians cannot seek God’s face, establish the proper goal by, for one thing, choosing to place God in His desired place over His churches, how can they hope to see God over a nation which has rejected God?

Every born again believer should attempt to make sure that he and the church he attends honors the Lord Jesus in all things. Thank God that churches in America can still choose to be “under God” without going underground. This may not be true much longer. But in persecution much more than in compromise and union with the world, the believer, unlike the lost person, is free and can praise and glorify the Lord.

”Praise ye the LORD. Praise ye the LORD from the heavens: praise him in the heights. Praise ye him, all his angels: praise ye him, all his hosts. Praise ye him, sun and moon: praise him, all ye stars of light. Praise him, ye heavens of heavens, and ye waters that be above the heavens. Let them praise the name of the LORD: for he commanded, and they were created. He hath also stablished them for ever and ever: he hath made a decree which shall not pass. Praise the LORD from the earth, ye dragons, and all deeps: Fire, and hail; snow, and vapour; stormy wind fulfilling his word: Mountains, and all hills; fruitful trees, and all cedars: Beasts, and all cattle; creeping things, and flying fowl: Kings of the earth, and all people; princes, and all judges of the earth: Both young men, and maidens; old men, and children: Let them praise the name of the LORD: for his name alone is excellent; his glory is above the earth and heaven” (Ps. 148.1-13). [Emphasis mine.]