Should a Church be a 508(c)(1)(A) church?


A Publication of Churches Under Christ Ministry


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Jerald Finney
Copyright © November 30, 2017


When a church depends on a man made law, other than the First Amendment to the United States Constitution which is a statement of the Bible principle of separation of church and state, she has become a legal entity. En1. This grieves our Lord. En2.

508(c)(1)(A) refers to a law, §508(c)(1)(A) of the Internal Revenue Code (26 U.S. Code § 508(c)(1)(A). Some churches rely on this law, rather than another law, § 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, to establish tax exempt status.

§ 508. Special rules with respect to section 501(c)(3) organizations. “(a) New organizations must notify secretary that they are applying for recognition of section 501(c)(3) status. “(c) Exceptions. “(1) Mandatory exceptions. Subsections (a) and (b) shall not apply to— “(A) churches, their integrated auxiliaries, and conventions or associations of churches” (26 U.S.C. § 508). [Emphasis mine.]

By relying on §508(c)(1)(A) or 501(c)(3), a church has chosen to put herself under the authority of a law made by Congress which establishes a religion and denies the free exercise of religion. She is now either under civil government and God or under civil government only. By choosing to place herself under the rules that come with those laws, the church has become a legal entity, abandoned her non-taxable status as a First Amendment church, and put herself under the Fourteenth Amendment. She has agreed that, should the party she has contracted with, the IRS, a civil government agency, charge that she has violated the rules that come with 501c3 and 508, her only recourse is to comply with the order or go to her chosen authority, federal court, to contest the government order. You see, she now is a legal entity, and all disagreements between the parties to the agreement, the church and the government, must be decided by her authority, the courts of the civil government. A church who places an authority other than the Lord Jesus Christ over her has grieved our Lord by violating New Testament commandment to churches.

Permit me to explain:

  1. The First Amendment is a statement of the biblical principle of separation of church and state . When a church relies on the First Amendment, they are relying on a biblical principle. Should the biblical principle be abused or ignored by the civil government, so be it—a church should then rely and act only on the biblical principle. See En3 for links to resources which explain the First Amendment.
  2. To rely on §508(c)(1)(A) (or 501c3, of course) contradicts the First Amendment. The First Amendment religion clause states: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

    Obviously, §508(c)(1)(A) is a law made by Congress which regards an establishment of religion; §508(c)(1)(A) also prevents the free exercise of religion because a church which claims §508(c)(1)(A) status thereby submits themselves to some control by the federal government in that the church becomes subject to the rules that come with IRC 501(c)(3) status. §508(c)(1)(A) does not state that the First Amendment forbids Congress from making any law in violation of the First Amendment; and that, therefore, a church is non-taxable. §508(c)(1)(A) is a law made by Congress which states that Congress, by law, is declaring an exemption for churches. Thus, by a clear reading of the First Amendment, §508(c)(1)(A) is clearly contradicts the First Amendment.
  3. The correct position which is held by the Internal Revenue Service (“IRS”) is that a 508 church has submitted herself to the same rules that come with 501(c)(3) regulation and given up her First Amendment status. The IRS makes this position clear.
  4. A New Testament church (a church organized according to the principles of the New Testament), among other things, receives no income, has no employees or staff, and runs no businesses (daycare, “Christian” schools, “Bible” colleges, seminaries, cafes, etc.). Church members of a New Testament Church give their tithes and offerings to God, not to a religious organization, for use in ways consistent with New Testament teaching. All monies given to God are disbursed in accordance to the guidelines of the New Testament, and no money is left over. Let us use our common sense, if not our biblical sense: Even a business which makes no profit pays no taxes. A church which has no income cannot be taxed.

In conclusion, if a church does not apply for 501(c)(3) tax exempt status or claim §508(c)(1)(A) tax exempt status, and if she is organized as a New Testament church, the First Amendment  requires the federal and state government to recognize the non-taxable status of that church. No matter what the civil government claims, that church cannot be taxed anyway because she has no income; she gives her tithes, offerings, and gifts to God, not to a government created religious organization. See En4 for resources which more thoroughly explain church 501(c)(3) and 508 status.

For a more thorough explanation see Church Internal Revenue Code § 508(c)(1)(A) Tax Exempt Status.


The Bible Answer to the Question, “Is an Incorporated 501(c)(3) or 508 Church a Church of Christ?” (Prepared for a talk given at the September 16-19 Liberty Baptist Church of Albuquerque, NM, Southwest Baptist Heritage Camp Meeting. Click here to go to Part I of the video of that presentationClick here to go to Part II of that presentation, “Why a Church Is Not a Business.” Part II was removed from Part I. In Part II, Jerald Finney invited Evangelist and Pastor Terry Woodside to tell his story which demonstrates that a church which is a non-legal entity cannot be sued in America. Click here to go to the page which has links to all sermons and presentations at that meeting.)


Endnotes

En1  Is a church a spiritual or legal entity? gives a short explanation. For a more thorough analysis see Separation of Church and State: God’s Churches – Spiritual or Legal Entities? Links to online edition as well as PDF of 2nd edition.

En2 Does God Care if our Church is Incorporated?

En3 Is Separation of Church and State Found in the Constitution? is a short article which explains the First Amendment. Within that article are links to more thorough studies.

En4  Church Internal Revenue Code § 508 Tax Exempt Status; Federal government control of churches through 501(c)(3) tax exemptionThe church incorporation-501(c)(3) control schemeSeparation of Church and State: God’s Churches – Spiritual or Legal Entities? 

A “Christian” Refuge of Lies: An Expose of “The Church that Birthed America”

A Publication of Churches Undef Christ Ministry


“Christian” revisionists never tell the true history of America. They never tell you about, for example, Obadiah Holmes, who was viciously beaten by the Puritans, or about the four Quakers who were hanged for returning to Massachusetts after being banned for their religious views, or about the many Baptists whose properties were taken by the establishment, etc.

See, for more proof of the thesis of this article, some of the authorities in the Endnotes below and also List of Scholarly Resources Which Explain and Comprehensively Document the True History of Religious Freedom in America.

For more on Christian Revisionism, see David Barton’s Christian Revisionism, Exposing the dangers of David Barton’s teachings, The Consequences of Christian and Secular Revisionism, The Trail of Blood of the Martyrs of Jesus/A Case of Premeditated Murder: Christian Revisionists on Trial .


Jerald Finney
Copyright © November 27, 2017


“Wherefore hear the word of the LORD, ye scornful men, that rule this people which is in Jerusalem. Because ye have said, We have made a covenant with death, and with hell are we at agreement; when the overflowing scourge shall pass through, it shall not come unto us: for we have made lies our refuge, and under falsehood have we hid ourselves: Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD, Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner stone, a sure foundation: he that believeth shall not make haste. Judgment also will I lay to the line, and righteousness to the plummet: and the hail shall sweep away the refuge of lies, and the waters shall overflow the hiding place. And your covenant with death shall be disannulled, and your agreement with hell shall not stand; when the overflowing scourge shall pass through, then ye shall be trodden down by it.” Isaiah 28.14-18.


This article was inspired by The church that birthed America which was published in World Magazine and linked to on sermonaudio.com. World Magazine falsely claims that it reports “the news from a Christian worldview—interpreting world events under the reality of the Christian faith.” The magazine actually is a prime example of publishers, for the masses, of “Christian” revisionism. The church that birthed America is another offering, in a continuing stream of deceit, which misleads well-meaning “Christians” in the arena of spiritual warfare. This type of biased and misleading information is constantly served from many directions to mislead “Christians” in America.

The church that birthed America is a short article distributed as propaganda to those “Christians” who do not have time to study CRC (Catholic/Reformed/Calvinists) historical and theological deceit. CRC are strangers and foreigners to truth, fellowcitizens with pseudo-saints, of the household of the god of this world. They are built on the foundation of the Pope and clergy, Augustine being the chief corner stone; in whom their building fitly framed together groweth into an unholy temple, built together an habitation of lies. Prominent CRC include constitutional scholars like Edward S. Corwin,[i] and theologians, pastors and writers such as R.J. Rushdooney, Francis Schaeffer, Gary DeMar, Gary North, Charles Stanley, D. James Kennedy, David Barton, Roger Federrer and many others who tirelessly carry the torch of Christian Revisionism directly to mainline “Christians” in America—soldiers on the battlefield, led by the deceivers, to establish “a city set on a hill” (See Matthew 5.14).

Puritans hung 4 Quakers for returning to Massachusetts after being banished for their religious beliefs.

The problem is that CRC walks in darkness, rather than light. “For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved” (John 3.20). That is why they lie about history. True history reveals that they, led by the theology of Augustine and continued by Calvin, Luther, Knox, the Church of England, and other Protestants, have tortured and killed tens of millions of those they labeled to be “heretics.” A study of their theology reveals that they will again kill heretics and those who do not honor, at least outwardly, all Ten of the Commandments and much of the Levitical law if and when they again have power to do so. Secular scholars and writers know this and write about it. See List of Scholarly Resources Which Explain and Comprehensively Document the True History of Religious Freedom in America for verification. Since historic fact can be verified, these CRC “Christians” and their followers, through their lies which they refuse to repent of, cause the world to blaspheme the name of Christ.

Many believers on that lowest level, myself included for a long time, go out from their “churches” and huddle together in the Republican Party seeking to turn America around. They place their hopes, both spiritual and earthly, in politics. Without their support, the whole pyramid of lies would topple. The bottom dwellers idolize and praise the men above them. They follow “Christian” revisionist lies not only in the political arena but also into their churches and church schools through, for example, the Accelerated Christian Education curriculum.

I left that darkness some thirteen years ago when the Lord shined the light of truth into the darkness of the Christian historic and theological revisionism maze I was in. For many years, I had done no independent study. After all, those I depended upon were Christians, were they not? They would not lie, especially about historic fact which can be checked by those who have the time to do so, would they? They have no motive to lie, do they? I found that I had not been correctly answering all these questions.

I had one vital question that none of the “Christian” historical literature I read could answer; and I searched far and wide for many years. Finally, a secular book by a law professor[ii] headed me in the right direction. In reading it, I saw referenced, in the endnotes, works by men like Isaac Backus, Roger Williams, Dr. John Clark, and many others who were influential in a colonial spiritual warfare. Then I came across a Baptist history book with its invaluable bibliography.[iii] I started looking for, buying, and reading the old books cited in those works as well as additional writings cited in the books I continued to study. I kept finding more sources and reading as many as I could. More and more facts I had never been informed of kept coming to my attention. I discovered motives, theological understandings, historical facts, Bible truths which CRC had hidden from me and untold numbers of other Christians. I discovered why CRC lies. CRC theologian R.J. Rushdooney explained the reason, “It is alright to lie to those who have no right to know the truth.”

From Augustine to this very day, CRC have never changed their tactics. Of course, they can no longer kill the dissenters, but that is not their fault. Baptists in the colonies understood how CRC operate. As Isaac Backus[iv] noted, concerning the revisionism and lies of the leaders of the established churches in the American colonies:

  • “[I] appeal to the conscience of every reader, whether he can find three worse things on earth, in the management of controversy, than, first, to secretly take the point disputed for truth without any proof; then, secondly, blending that error with known truths, to make artful addresses to the affections and passions of the audience, to prejudice their minds, before they hear a word that the respondent has to say; and thirdly, if the respondent refuses to yield to such management, then to call in the secular arm to complete the argument?”[v]
The beating of Obadiah Holmes by the Puritans in Massachusetts

Because of the never ending CRC campaign of deceit which always uses these tactics, very few Christians have ever heard the undeniable fact that the Puritans came to America for religious freedom for themselves only; of the Puritan and Anglican establishments in the American colonies; the persecutions of dissenters by the establishments; colonial leaders of the dissent, their writings and monumental achievements—men such as Roger Williams,[vi] Dr. John Clarke, Obadiah Holmes,[vii] Shubal Stearnes, Daniel Marshall, Isaac Backus, and John Leland;[viii] the many dissenters in the colonies persecuted by the CRC; the written debates between Roger Williams and the Puritan John Cotton (writings which are still available); the very insightful and accurate religious histories and writings of men such as Roger Williams, Dr. John Clarke, and Isaac Backus which exposed the lies and persecutions of the Puritans; the Baptist preachers in Virginia who were persecuted for preaching outside the authority of the established Anglican church; the four Quakers hanged by the Puritans in the late 1650s and early 1660s because they returned to the colony after being banished as “heretics” by the established church (after which England ordered Massachusetts to send any alleged “heretics” to England for trial); the actual positions of Thomas Jefferson and James Madison on the issue of separation of church and state; and many more undeniable facts which the CRC do not wish you to know.

Examined in the light of truth, The church that birthed America would be laughable if not for the fact that untold numbers of “Christians” actually believe it. Here is a brief look at the article in light of truth. The Anglicans settled Jamestown in 1607, so, the Pilgrims were not even the first to land in America. The settlers of Jamestown set up an Anglican establishment.

The church that birthed America, does give some truth about the story of the Pilgrims. Truth is fine with CRC when it contributes to the cause. But then, the revisionism to lies begins. The article states: “As we recite our own litany this Thanksgiving, our thoughts will turn to the prosperous nation that grew from Bradford’s ‘desolate wilderness.’” Contrast that statement with some solid facts, some history between their landing in Plymouth and the establishing of the United States of America with the adoption of the United States Constitution in 1790?

The Pilgrims arrived in 1630 and are much admired by Americans for the hardships they endured. As a matter of human compassion, the Pilgrims were hospitable to all; and, at first, grudgingly tolerated those of other creeds. However, they gradually began to close their doors to those of other creeds. “Plymouth was a Church-State ruled by a governor and a small and highly select theological aristocracy, a Church-State with various grades of citizenship and non-citizenship.”[ix] By 1651 the government of Plymouth colony was enforcing the laws of Congregationalist Massachusetts. “By the time Plymouth was united with Massachusetts in 1691 all major differences between the two had disappeared.”[x]

The Puritans, unlike the Pilgrims who wanted to separate from the Church of England, arrived in 1629 and wanted to purify the Church from within. “The State, in their view, had the duty to maintain the true Church; but the State was in every way subordinate to the Church.”[xi] Having suffered long for conscience sake, they came for religious freedom, for themselves only. “They believed [in] the doctrine of John Calvin, with some important modifications, in the church-state ruled on theocratic principles, and in full government regulation of economic life.”[xii] Although they differed from the Church of England and others on some doctrines, “[t]he Puritans brought 2 principles with them from their native country, in which they did not differ from others; which are, that natural birth, and the doings of men, can bring children into the Covenant of Grace; and, that it is right to enforce & support their own sentiments about religion with the magistrate’s sword.”[xiii]

The church that birthed America then connects the Pilgrims and others sent later from English Reformed Church in Amsterdam to the founding of churches and two Great Awakenings, global evangelism, and great missionary movements. To fully explain how totally fabricated this is cannot be done in this short article. Let us just consider one matter: the two Great Awakenings. In America at least, the Puritans and Pilgrims had nothing to do with them, other than trying to stamp out the fires caused by the First Great Awakening.

Here are a few facts concerning the First Great Awakening:

  • “George Whitefield’s first visit to New England during the Great Awakening around 1740 brought revival. Whitefield preached in buildings owned by churches, out of doors (many times church buildings could not contain the crowds seeking to hear him), and at colleges such as Yale. As a result of Whitefield’s preaching, in a brief six weeks period, the religious climate of New England was changed. The churches experienced unprecedented growth. Entire communities flocked to hear the gospel, and hundreds were converted in single localities….
  • “As a result of the offenses of the Great Awakening, Whitefield was not warmly received by many of the establishment when he returned to New England in 1744. In fact, he faced a confused situation. Although multitudes supported him and continued to attend his revival meetings, a formidable body of opposition to him and his methods had developed in his absence of four years. The faculty of Harvard College condemned Whitefield, the Connecticut legislature declared that no minister should preach in the parish of another without the incumbent’s consent, and later the General Court forbade all itinerant preaching with penalty of loss of right to collect one’s legal salary and imprisonment. He found few pulpits open to him, and a barrage of declarations and testimonies was aimed at him. Most of the ministers of the established churches, as well as the faculties of Yale and Harvard Colleges were opposed to him. Nonetheless, he continued to preach, the revival continued, and many, including Shubal Stearns and Daniel Marshall, two men who were to become Baptists and chief instruments for carrying the Great Awakening to the South, were converted as a result of being strongly moved by Whitefield.[xiv]

The church that birthed America then makes some more statements which do not seem to be connected to the rest of the article and then concludes, “[America] has been used to bless the whole world. Let’s pause to consider that blessing this Thanksgiving along with the bounty before us. A blessing we pilgrims again make take to other desolate wildernesses of the world.” ??????

In conclusion, may I inquire, “Is the author 8 years old?” Why would anyone give any serious consideration to this infantile hogwash?  “The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light” (Ro. 13.12).

Endnotes

[i] Edward S. Corwin is the foremost American constitutional scholar of the twentieth century. Even so, he was guilty of using the tactics described by Isaac Backus. Why? Corwin was born in Plymouth, Michigan on January 19, 1878. He received his undergraduate degree from the University of Michigan in 1900; and his Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania in 1905. He was invited to join the faculty of Princeton University by Woodrow Wilson in 1905. In 1908 he was appointed the McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence. He authored many books on United States constitutional law, and he remained at Princeton until he retired in 1946. He fought against separation of church and state. He died on April 23, 1963 and was buried in Princeton Cemetery. Princeton University. New Light Presbyterians founded the College of New Jersey in 1746 in order to train ministers.  Following the untimely deaths of Princeton’s first five presidents, John Witherspoon became president in 1768 and remained in that office until his death in 1794.

[ii] McGarvie, Mark Douglas. One Nation Under Law: America’s Early National Struggles to Separate Church and State. DeKalb, Illinois: Northern Illinois University Press, 2005.

[iii] Lumpkin, William L. Baptist History in the South. Shelbyville, Tennessee: Bible and Literature Missionary Foundation.

[iv] Isaac Backus was born in Connecticut in 1723/24, a time when those dissenting from the views of the established church were persecuted. He withdrew from the established Congregational church, became a Separate, and later a Baptist. As a Separate and later a Baptist, he was persecuted and witnessed, researched, and wrote about the persecutions going on in New England. He was a leader in the fight for religious liberty in America. For more information on Isaac Backus see, e.g., William G. McLoughlin, Isaac Backus and the American Piestic Tradition (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1967); Isaac Backus on Church, State, and Calvinism, Pamphlets, 1754-1789, Edited by William G. McLoughlin (Cambridge, Mass.: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1968); Isaac Backus, A History of New England With Particular Reference to the Denomination of Christians Called Baptists, Volumes 1 and 2 (Eugene, Oregon: Wipf & Stock, Previously Published by Backus Historical Society, 1871).

Isaac Backus and others such as Roger Williams, and John Clarke led the fight against the establishment of the church in the early history of America, and to their efforts we owe the First Amendment to the United States Constitution which guarantees religious liberty.

[v] Backus, A History of New England…, Volume 1, p. 150. This comment followed and preceded illustrations of how those in favor of church/state marriage, infant baptism, etc. advance their cause.  On pp. 151-152, Mr. Backus illustrated how those in favor of infant baptism argued their position, pointing out the fallacies of their arguments. Their tactics have not changed, although in America, due to the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, they no longer can call upon civil government to enforce their beliefs and persecute dissenters.

[vi] Roger Williams was the founder of Rhode Island, the first government in history with complete freedom of conscience. Due to the efforts of Mr. Williams, Dr. John Clarke, and others who followed America has the First Amendment to the United States Constitution which gives freedom of conscience.
Roger Williams understood the importance of truth. He wrote a dialogue between truth and peace in which we find these words:

Peace. Dear truth, I know thy birth, thy nature, thy delight. They that know thee will prize thee far above themselves and lives, and sell themselves to buy thee. Well spake that famous Elizabeth to her famous attorney, Sir Edward Coke; ‘Mr. Attorney, go on as thou hast begun, and still plead, not pro Domina Regina, but pro Domina Veritate.
“Truth. It is true, my crown is high; my scepter is strong to break down strongest holds, to throw down highest crowns of all that plead, though but in thought, against me. Some few there are, but oh! how few are valiant for the truth, and dare to plead my cause, as my witnesses in sackcloth, Rev. xi. [3]; while all men’s tongues are bent like bows to shoot out lying words against me?
“Peace. Oh! how could I spend eternal days and endless dates at thy holy feet, in listening to the precious oracles of thy mouth! All the words of thy mouth art truth, and there is no iniquity in them. thy lips drop as the honey-comb.  But oh! since we must part anon, let us, as thou saidst, improve our minutes, and according as thou promisedest, revive me with thy words, which are sweeter than the honey and the honey-comb.”

Honest historians tell his story. Christian revisionists do not. Williams exposed the Puritans for what they were, both theologically and in practice. He published a book in 1644 which effectively destroyed Puritan theology and exposed the persecutions of those the Puritans in the New World labeled to be “heretics.”

[vii] When Dr. John Clarke and two friends went to Massachusetts they were persecuted. In 1651, he, Obadiah Holmes, and John Crandal went to visit a friend in Boston. They were on “an errand of mercy and had traveled all the way from their church in Newport to visit one of their aging and blind members, William Witter.” They stayed over, and held a service on Sunday. During that service, they were arrested and jailed. Before they were brought to trial, they were forced to attend a Congregational Puritan religious meeting. There, they refused to remove their hats, and Dr. Clarke stood and explained why they declared their dissent from them. They were charged with denying infant baptism, holding a public worship, administering the Lord’s Supper to an excommunicated person, to another under admonition, proselytizing the Baptist way and rebaptizing such converts, and failing to post security or bail and other ecclesiastical infractions. He asked for a public debate on his religious views, which the Puritans avoided. “Clarke said they were examined in the morning of July 31 and sentenced that afternoon without producing any accuser or witness against them,” and that “Governor John Endicott even insulted the accused and denounced them as ‘trash.’”[vii]  Dr. Clarke was “fined twenty pounds or to be well whipped;” Mr. Crandal was fined five pounds, only for being with the others; and Mr. Holmes was held in prison, where sentence of a fine of thirty pounds or to be well whipped was entered. A friend paid Mr. Clarke’s fine. Mr. Clarke and Mr. Crandal were released.

Mr. Holmes was beaten mercilessly. His infractions were denying infant baptism, proclaiming that the church was not according to the gospel of Jesus Christ, receiving the sacrament while excommunicated by the church, and other spiritual infractions. Mr. Holmes refused to pay his fine, prepared for the whipping by “communicat[ing] with [his] God, commit[ting] himself to him, and beg[ging] strength from him.”  Holmes was confined over two months before his whipping. He related the experience of being whipped for the Lord as follows, in part:

“And as the man began to lay the strokes upon my back, I said to the people, though my flesh should fail, and my spirit should fail, yet my God would not fail. So it please the Lord to come in, and so to fill my heart and tongue as a vessel full, and with an audible voice I broke forth praying unto the Lord not to lay this sin to their charge; and telling the people, that now I found he did not fail me, and therefore now I should trust him forever who failed me not; for in truth, as the strokes fell upon me, I had such a spiritual manifestation of God’s presence as the like thereof I never had nor felt, nor can with fleshly tongue express; and the outward pain was so removed from me, that indeed I am not able to declare it to you, it was so easy to me, that I could well bear it, yea, and in a manner felt it not although it was grievous as the spectators said, the man striking with all his strength (yea spitting in [on] his hand three times as many affirmed) with a three-corded whip, giving me therewith thirty strokes. When he had loosed me from the post, having joyfulness in my heart, and cheerfulness in my countenance, as the spectators observed, I told the magistrates, You have struck me as with roses; and said moreover, Although the Lord hath made it easy to me, yet I pray God it may not be laid to your charge.”

Mr. Holmes “could take no rest but as he lay upon his knees and elbows, not being able to suffer any part of his body to touch the bed whereupon he lay.” Two men who shook Mr. Holmes’ hand after the beating were, without trial and without being informed of any written law they had broken, sentenced to a fine of forty shillings or to be whipped. Although they refused to pay the fines, others paid their fines and they were released.

[viii] For an excellent discussion of John Leland (and some others), see, e.g. Carl H. Esbeck, Dissent and Disestablishment: The Church-State Settlement in the Early American Republic, 2004 BYU L. Rev. 1385,  (2004).

[ix] William H. Marnell, The First Amendment: Religious Freedom in America from Colonial Days to the School Prayer Controversy (Garden City, New York: Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1964), p. 48.

[x] Leo Pfeffer, Church, State, and Freedom, (Boston: The Beacon Press, 1953), p. 66, citing Sanford H. Cobb, The Rise of Religious Liberty in America (New York: The McMillan Co., 1902), pp. 70-71.

[xi] Marnell, p. 40.

[xii] Marnell, p. 48.

[xiii] Backus, A History of New England, Volume 1, pp. 34-35.

[xiv] Jerald Finney, God Betrayed/Separation of Church and State: The Biblical Principles and the American Application (Austin, Tx.: Kerygma Publishing Co., 2008), pp. xv-xvi; see pp. 249-250, 254, 261, and 265 for more on the First Great Awakening. (The quotes omit the footnotes with authorities. One can go to the book and find the authorities by clicking here to go to online PDF of this book.)

 

Is a church a spiritual or legal entity?


A Publication of Churches Under Christ Ministry


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 Jerald Finney
Copyright © November 27, 2017


To answer this question, one must define “legal entity” and “spiritual entity.” See What is a legal entity? for explanation of  “legal entity.” See What is a spiritual entity? for explanation of “spiritual entity.”

Ep.2.19-22God desires His churches be a spiritual entities, not spiritual and legal entities: “Church” in this essay refers to God’s churches, New Testament churches, churches under Christ and Christ alone. A church is composed of spiritual beings, born again believers.

  • 1 Peter 2:5 says, speaking to born again believers: “Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.”
  • Ephesians 2.19-22: “Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God; And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.”

Ephesians presents the local church. Chapters 1-3 are about the heavenly calling of the church and are doctrinal. Chapters 4-6 are about the earthly conduct of a church and are practical. Believers and churches sit in heavenly places in Christ Jesus as they walk on the earth where they are to do God’s work in the family, on the job, in the church, and in the world. Click here to go to more detailed studies on the doctrine of the church from Ephesians and other books in the Bible. They are to walk in the spirit (See, for example, Galatians 5).

Ep.1.19-23_1In Ephesians 1.19-23 we learn that God set Christ “at his own right hand in heavenly places.” The suffix “ly” means “like” or “from,” and when added to a noun creates an adjective. So “heavenly” means like or from heaven. “Heavenly places” therefore means places like or from heaven. When a person is born again of the spirit, he becomes a new creature and the Holy Spirit indwells that person. See, e.g., 2 Corinthians 5.17, Ephesians 2.1-6.

God has put all things under Christ’s “feet and gave him to be the head over all things to the church” (Ephesians 1:22). Colossians 1:18: “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.” His body is to walk on the earth, and be connected to Him. The body is to be connected to the Head. The New Testament makes clear that Christ desires that a church be spiritual, that all the church does be spiritual, that a church have only one head, a spiritual Head, the Lord Jesus Christ.

Again, a believer and a church are to be connected to Christ who is the head. A church is “his body, the fullness of him that filleth all in all (23).” He made believers to “sit together in Ep.1.22-23_3heavenly places in Christ Jesus” while they walk on the earth as new creatures indwelt and led by the Holy Spirit, doing His work as instructed by the Word of God.

Again, Christ desires to be the only head of His churches. Ephesians 1:22 “And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church.” Colossians 1:18 “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.”

The Bible has much more to say, but that is enough to establish Bible precept, which describes the church as a spiritual entity or body built by the Lord Jesus Christ, over whom Christ is to be the Head in all things. See, for example, Ephesians 4 and 1 Corinthians 12 for more on the spiritual and eternal organism or body which is the local church.

God allows churches a choice. A church can choose to be what God wants it to be, an eternal spiritual entity under God only; or a church can choose to be a temporal earthly entity such as a 501c3 corporation under both God and man or under man only.

Spiritual blessings follow obedience; curses follow disobedience even though a church under God and man, or under man only, may have some temporal earthly success for a time. In fact, many churches, especially mega-churches are very successful businesses posing as “churches,” under God.

The Bible clearly teaches that the unholy always corrupts the holy when the two are combined. Corruption is inevitable when church and state are intermixed. As history shows, the official corrupted “church,” which was married to and used the state to enforce many of its unholy ways, was vile to the core. The Reformers became especially aware of the corruption within the Roman “church.” The churches which arose out of the Reformation adopted many of the heresies of the Roman spiritual harlot which they rebelled against and discarded.

To quote a great Bible teacher: “The church that sets out to spiritualize the world will soon find that the world will secularize the church. When wheat and tares compromise, it is the wheat that suffers. Light and darkness, right and wrong, good and evil, truth and error are incompatibles, and when they compromise it is the light, the right, the good, and the truth that are damaged.”[1] As Pastor Hank Thompson, has preached:

  • “Holy means set apart for God.  You cannot bring that which is holy and unholy together without making the holy things unholy. Holy things combined with unholy things do not make the unholy holy. It always makes the holy unholy. Being around someone who is sick may make a well person sick. Being around a well person won’t make a sick person well. If you are grounded and touch the ground and a power line at the same time, you are cooked. If you try to touch God and touch the world, you will be corrupted.”[2]

TaxExemptStatusCorruptsThe Holy Bible, the basic source for all truth proclaims:

  • “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. And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters saith the Lord Almighty.” (2 Corinthians 6.14-18).
  • Luke 16:13 “No servant can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon” (Luke 16.13.)[3]

History proves this. Union of church and state corrupted the civil government, the Roman “church” and the people, except for a remnant.  It also corrupted the established Protestant churches and the nations which had established Protestant churches.

For a more thorough explanation of the doctrine of the church, see the resources in En 4.


Endnotes

[1] W. Graham Scroggie, born 1877, twelve times the Bible teacher at the famous Keswick, England conference, They Knew Their God, Vol. 5, 194 cited in The Berean Call, February 2006, p. 5, available at www.thebereancall.org. Separation is a Biblical principle that runs throughout scripture—Pastor Hank Thompson gave a tremendous sermon on “Separation” on Sunday evening, February 12, 2006.

[2] “Separation.” Sermon preached at Capitol City Baptist Church in Austin, Texas by Pastor Hank Thompson, February 12, 2006. See pp. 149-150 of God Betrayed (this is a link to the PDF).

[3] The doctrine of separation is taught extensively in the Word of God.

[4] What Is a Church and What Upholds Her Integrity? [Article], Bible Studies on the Doctrine of the Church, The Biblical Doctrine of the Church, The Biblical Doctrine of the Church


Is it illegal for a church in America not to incorporate? Does a church have to be a 501c3?


A Publication of Churches Under Christ Ministry


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Jerald Finney
Copyright © November 28, 2017


From IRS Publication 1828

It is not illegal for a church in America not to incorporate and a church does not have to be 501c3.

A church in America can choose to remain under the Lord Jesus Christ only. The First Amendment to the United States Constitution and corresponding provisions in the constitutions of all 50 states make this clear. The First Amendment is a statement of America’s highest man made law and the a 1947 U.S. Supreme court case applied the establishment clause to the states. So the states are bound, not only by their own state constitutions, but also by the First Amendment. Of course, the federal government is bound by the First Amendment and is not subject to any state constitution. Incorporation is a matter of state law. 501c3 is a matter of federal law.

The First Amendment states:

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

Minnesota Constitution Article I., Bill of Rights:

Preamble: We, the people of the state of Minnesota, grateful to God for our civil and religious liberty, and desiring to perpetuate its blessings and secure the same to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution.

Sec. 16. Freedom of conscience; no preference to be given to any religious establishment or mode of worship. The enumeration of rights in this constitution shall not deny or impair others retained by and inherent in the people. The right of every man to worship God according to the dictates of his own conscience shall never be infringed; nor shall any man be compelled to attend, erect or support any place of worship, or to maintain any religious or ecclesiastical ministry, against his consent; nor shall any control of or interference with the rights of conscience be permitted, or any preference be given by law to any religious establishment or mode of worship; but the liberty of conscience hereby secured shall not be so construed as to excuse acts of licentiousness or justify practices inconsistent with the peace or safety of the state, nor shall any money be drawn from the treasury for the benefit of any religious societies or religious or theological seminaries.

The constitutions of the other states have similar provisions.

Below are some quotes from court cases, from the IRS Code, and from some other legal resources. You can go directly to these cases online by clicking the links attached to this article.

Here is a quote from Everson, U.S. S.Ct. 1947:

“Neither a state nor the Federal Government can set up a church. Neither can pass laws which aid one religion, aid all religions, or prefer one religion over another. Neither can force or influence a person to go to or to remain away from church against his will or force him to profess a belief or disbelief in any religion. No person can be punished for entertaining or professing religious beliefs or disbeliefs, for church attendance or nonattendance. No tax in any amount, large or small, can be levied to support any religious activities or institutions, whatever they may be called, or whatever form they may adopt to teach or practice religion. Neither a state nor the Federal Government can, openly or secretly, participate in the affairs of any religious organizations or groups, and vice versa. In the words of Jefferson, the clause against establishment of religion by law was intended to erect ‘a wall of separation between Church and State.

Now, let’s look at a case from Tennessee:

KOPSOMBUT-MYINT BUDDHIST CENTER, v. STATE BOARD OF EQUALIZATION, 728 N.W. 2d 327 (1986) Court of Appeals of Tennessee, Middle Section, at Nashville. Permission to Appeal Denied, April 6, 1987. IMPORTANT POINT: Property held in trust for a Buddhist Temple qualifies for a property tax exemption, if the property is used for religious purposes and the owner, any stockholder, officer, member or employee of such institution is not lawfully entitled to receive and pecuniary profit from the operations of that property in competition with like property owned by others which is not exempt. Property held in trust and which otherwise qualifies for the exemption is to be exempted from property tax.  Of note, for emphasis, it was obvious that corporate, 501(c)(3) status was not a prerequisite for religious property tax exemption. Also, this case deals with a “trust,” not a “business trust” “charitable trust” or some other type of trust that is a legal entity.” As to the trust relationship, the court stated:

  • “A valid trust need not be in writing. It can be created orally unless the language of the written conveyance excludes the existence of a trust. Sanderson v. Milligan,585 S.W.2d 573, 574 (Tenn. 1979); Linder v. Little,490 S.W.2d 717, 723 (Tenn. Ct. App. 1972); and Adrian v. Brown, 29 Tenn. App. 236, 243, 196 S.W.2d 118, 121 (1946). However, when a party seeks to establish an oral trust, it must do so by greater than a preponderance of the evidence. Sanderson v. Milligan, 585 S.W.2d 573, 574 (Tenn. 1979); Hunt v. Hunt, 169 Tenn. 1, 9, 80 S.W.2d 666, 669 (1935); and Browder v. Hite, 602 S.W.2d 489, 493 (Tenn. Ct. App. 1980).
  • “The existence of a trust requires proof of three elements: (1) a trustee who holds trust property and who is subject to the equitable duties to deal with it for the benefit of another, (2) a beneficiary to whom the trustee owes the equitable duties to deal with the trust property for his benefit, and (3) identifiable trust property. See G.G. Bogert & G.T. Bogert, The Law of Trusts and Trustees 1, at 6 (rev. 2d ed. 1984) and Restatement (Second) of Trusts § 2 comment h (1957). We find that the Kopsombut-Myint Buddhist Center has proved the existence of each of these elements by clear and convincing evidence.” [p. 333].

From Tennessee Application for Property Tax Exemption:

“PLEASE ANSWER ALL QUESTIONS AND SUPPLY THE REQUIRED SUPPORTING DOCUMENTATION: (1) Quitclaim or warranty deed for real property; (2) Corporate Charter & Bylaws or if unincorporated, a copy of any other document that explains the organization’s governing structure; (3) Financial information for the last fiscal year (i.e., Form 990 if required by IRS, or income/expense statement/budget); (4) Photograph of property; (5) Personal property schedule/list for personal property only applications.”

WAUSHARA COUNTY v. Sherri L. GRAF, 166 Wis.2d 442 (1992), 480 N.W.2d 16, Supreme Court of Wisconsin. Submitted on briefs October 4, 1991.Decided February 17, 1992The Supreme Court of Wisconsin reviewed the evidence and concluded that “The evidence indicates that Basic Bible was established to evade taxation. Basic Bible failed to meet its burden of proving that it is a “church” or “religious association” under [Wisconsin law]. The court held that Basic Bible was not property tax exempt.” The fact that the church held “in trust” the property for which a property tax exemption was sought was not a factor in the decision. The Court concluded that incorporation and 501(c)(3) status is not a prerequisite for church property tax exemption; and, again, made clear that the fact that the church held the property “in trust” did not disqualify the church from property tax exemption. 

Of course, I could give you many other opinions from state and federal courts that make clear that a church does not have to incorporate.

Now let’s briefly look at Internal Revenue Code Sections 501(c)(3) and 508. A church may apply for 501c3 or claim 508 tax exempt status. See Endnote for links to more resources which explain 501c3 and 508.

The IRS knows the 1st A and the above laws. They know churches do not have to incorporate or get 501c3 or 508 status. The First Amendment and corresponding state constitutional provisions alone make clear that a church does not have to incorporate or get 501c3. The courts know this. The IRS knows the law. The IRS, in Publication 1828, says:

The IRS knows that churches do not have to incorporate and that they can organize in a variety of ways. IRS Publication 1828 says on page 1:

“Churches and religious organizations may be legally organized in a variety of ways under state law, such as unincorporated associations, nonprofit corporations, corporations sole and charitable trusts.”

[Notice that these are not the only way a church can organize—OPBC uses a way that has been used by churches from time immemorial. Court cases establish that churches were using the concept of the simple trust in the 1800s. This manner of organization was the way churches organized in the New Testament.]

So why do churches get 501c3 status? IRS Publication 1828 says on page 2:

“Although there is no requirement to do so, many churches seek recognition of tax-exempt status from the IRS because this recognition assures church leaders, members and contributors that the church is recognized as exempt and qualifies for related tax benefits.”

Also many pastors, churches, and Legal Scholars also know that churches do not have to incorporate of get 501c3 status. See relevant law review articles and cases at Law Review Articles: 501(c)(3), 1st Amendment History, etc., and Law on Church Organization (Trusts, Property tax, etc.).

Old Paths Baptist Church is not an incorporation not does it have 501c3 status. I have helped many other churches stay out of or get out of corporate 501c3 status. We are not hiding this, we are publishing it to the world. Why? Because what we are telling you is the truth and because you can please God by keeping your church connected to her God-ordained Head without persecution.

The law, the First Amendment and state constitutional provisions, the courts, the IRS all know these things. Yet, some pastors don’t know it. They say, “We must obey man’s law and get incorporated and get 501c3.” “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.”


Endnote

Federal government control of churches through 501(c)(3) tax exemption; The church incorporation-501(c)(3) control schemeChurch Internal Revenue Code § 508 Tax Exempt Status; Internal Revenue Code Section 501(c)(3); Exemption Requirements-501(c)(3) Organizations; Internal Revenue Code Section 508

 

Who is the head of an incorporated church?


A Publication of Churches Under Christ Ministry


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Jerald Finney
Copyright © November 28, 2017


There are two possibilities:

  1. The Lord and the state of incorporation are the heads of an incorporated church.
  2. The state of incorporation is the head of the incorporated church.

Permit me to explain.

Both possible scenarios occur when churches do not understand the Bible doctrine of the church to one degree or another. They do not understand God’s eternal, spiritual precepts as stated in the New Testament nor do they understand man’s temporal earthly law. Let me give a list of some things that corporate churches do not understand and do not want to understand. For a comprehensive examination, see the resource below. Among other things, they do not understand:

  1. that Christ loves the church and gave Himself for it;
  2. that he wishes to be the only builder of His churches;
  3. that He wishes to empower His churches without help from anyone to include civil government;
  4. that Christ desires to be the only Head of His churches;
  5. that He is jealous of His churches;
  6. that He desires His churches to be eternal spiritual entities only;
  7. how a church can walk on earth being connected to a heavenly Head only;
  8. that the Holy Spirit lives in believers thereby making it possible for believers and churches to walk in the spirit only (Galatians 2:20: “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me”);
  9. that man creates corporations;
  10. that God the Son and He only establishes His churches;
  11. that the only head of a New Testament church is the Lord Jesus Christ;
  12. that the sovereign of the corporation is the state;
  13. that corporations are earthly temporal organizations whereas God desires churches to be eternal spiritual bodies or organisms;
  14. that when one combines the eternal with the temporary, the eternal is polluted;
  15. that incorporation, being the product of heresy, is a big step toward apostasy;
  16. that corporation is an artificial being, invisible, intangible, and existing only in contemplation of man made law;
  17. that a corporation is an artificial person or legal entity created by or under the authority of the laws of the state;
  18. that 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;
  19. that a corporate charter is a contract that requires that the controlling sovereign party, the civil government, be appealed to though government agency and the courts for resolution of conflicts;
  20. that many contractual controversies are thereby created whereby the church can sue the state, the members can sue other members, the members can sue the church and the church can sue the members;
  21. the corporate church agrees to set us extra-biblical offices (CEO, secretary, etc.) to handle many church affairs;
  22. that “… 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 purely voluntary and is not a corporation or a quasi corporation;”
  23. that a corporate church, at best, is a two-headed monster, partially under the Lord Jesus Christ and partially under the civil government of incorporation.

Now, first let us consider the first scenario – that is, the Lord and the state are the heads of the church. This happens when an incorporated church complies with some of the Lord’s New Testament commandments for churches. Such a church operates in God’s permissive will, not His perfect will. They are like Israel. God established Israel to be under God only; God dealt directly with them as they pursued their earthly God-given goals, work, and religious activities.

Israel rejected the theocracy and demanded a king (1 Samuel 8). God told them He would nonetheless bless them if they would “turn not aside from following the Lord, but serve the Lord with all [their] heart …” (See 1 Samuel 12.20-22 for God’s whole admonition). But once Israel took that first step, the slide down and away from the Lord continued until Israel was completely apostate. The New Testament prophesies the same pattern of apostasy for His churches. We are witnessing it before our eyes in America.

God the Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, ordained the church and walked with the church until His ascension. When He ascended, He sent the Holy Spirit to walk in and with believers and His churches under His Headship only; their spirits from heaven (heavenly) making the places where they walk together on earth heavenly.

Sadly, most churches are completely under civil government; they are completely apostate. They are under civil government only.

If a church does not become a temporal, earthly, legal entity through incorporation or any other acts, and if that church seeks to honor God in all things, she is under God only.


The Bible Answer to the Question, “Is an Incorporated 501(c)(3) or 508 Church a Church of Christ?” (Prepared for a talk given at the September 16-19 Liberty Baptist Church of Albuquerque, NM, Southwest Baptist Heritage Camp Meeting. Click here to go to Part I of the video of that presentationClick here to go to Part II of that presentation, “Why a Church Is Not a Business.” Part II was removed from Part I. In Part II, Jerald Finney invited Evangelist and Pastor Terry Woodside to tell his story which demonstrates that a church which is a non-legal entity cannot be sued in America. Click here to go to the page which has links to all sermons and presentations at that meeting.)


Recommended for more in depth study:

Separation of Church and State: God’s Churches – Spiritual or Legal Entities? Links to online edition as well as PDF of 2nd edition.

On the apostasy of Israel and the church see essays on apostasy linked to at:
The Biblical Doctrine of the Church

A Call to Anguish: Churches Reject God’s Authority


Recommended sermon which further explains this preliminary article:
Authority, the Greatest Thing in the Universe
Dr. Greg Dixon 2005.
This sermon explains the two meanings of power as used in the Bible and the importance of authority and power and correct doctrine to a church. It explains how great men of God can proceed according to some false doctrine and the consequences thereof.

Recommended: listen to this 7 min. 24 sec. excerpt from a sermon, in conjunction with this article:
A Call to Anguish


Jerald Finney
Copyright © November 21, 2017


A Call to Anguish: Churches Reject God’s Authority

1God grieves because His people neither understand nor honor His authority and His precepts. God’s grief calls churches and believers to anguish, but few grieve, few cry, few pray, few even know that there is a call to anguish. The call started a long time ago. Authentic churches in the colonies and then the new nation, even though warned by God’s remnant, betrayed their roots and compromised the authority of God. Their betrayal passed on to future churches. The betrayal of God increased exponentially for 225 plus years to this very day. This article points out one proof of the consequences of this betrayal that should call believers and churches to anguish.

God ordained civil government and laid out its jurisdiction. God gave civil government no authority or ability to define “church.” God defines “church” in the New Testament.  God also made clear that church and state were to remain totally separate. Yet, that was never the case, except for a remnant, in either the American colonies or the states.

How far off base would civil government go in the definition of “church” as multitudes of organizations sought and continue to seek non-profit corporation and tax exempt status? Let us look at an illustration. “A New Religion Forms That Will Worship A ‘Godhead’ Based On AI” states in the introduction:

“Anthony Levandowski has already filed paperwork with the IRS for the nonprofit corporation that is going to run this new religion.  Officially, this new faith will be known as ‘Way Of The Future.’” The article goes on to explain the tenets of the “Way Of The Future,” which include a faith in science which will create a “Godhead” which will make things better and a denial of the existence of God.

Had God remained the sole authority for churches, organizations  like “Way of the Future” could have existed, but they could not have received official sanction and “benefits” from any authority, earthly or heavenly.

Religious Americans, to include many Baptists alongside obviously heretical or apostate Protestants and Catholics, gave civil government the power, the authority to define “church.” Civil government took to the task, first in issues involving state non-profit corporate status; then, later in the twentieth century, income tax exemption status.

As to federal tax exemption law, the authority has developed a process and rationale to determine whether an organization applying for 501(c)(3) tax exempt status is a “church.” When determining whether an organization is a “church,” a “religious organization,” or a “religious society,” the IRS (and court, if the IRS ruling is appealed), has a 14 part criteria, which—though not all-conclusive since other factors will be considered when deemed appropriate by the IRS—is a man-made definition; a definition which is partially contrary to the Word of God. En 1 gives the IRS definition of church with link to online IRS webpage; En 2 discusses a sample IRS ruling; En 3 briefly discusses some cases which have attempted to define church and links directly to those cases.

The IRS agency makes initial determinations, but the ultimate authority is the judiciary. Regardless of the ruling of the IRS, the losing party can appeal to the appropriate court asking for reversal and laying out their arguments for their position. Ultimately, the case could go all the way to man’s highest authority on issues such as this, the United States Supreme Court.

What is wrong with this? God made clear that Christ in heaven is to be the only authority (power or head) “over all things to” His churches. Put another way, a church, the spiritual body whose feet walk and work on earth, is to be connected to only one spiritual head, Christ in heaven. This connection was made after Christ ascended to heaven and filled the members of the church with the Holy Ghost on the day of Pentecost (Ac. 2.4). God the Son, before his ascension, walked with his disciples and apostles. God the Holy Ghost now indwelt them, thereby giving them a direct spiritual link to their God-ordained Head who was now in heaven.

  • “And what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power, Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places, Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come: And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, Which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all” (Ep. 1.19-23).
  • “Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God; And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit” (Ep. 2.19-23).
  • “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. 1.18).

From the above verses, and many more that could be quoted, one sees that God desires his churches to be spiritual entities or bodies (See also, e.g., Ep. 4 and the whole book of Ep., Col., and 1 Co. 12 for more on churches as spiritual bodies) connected to their only God ordained Head, the Lord Jesus Christ in heaven, while walking and working for the glory of God as heavenly, spiritual, eternal entities only here on the earth. Churches are to be “builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit,” not built together as corporate 501(c)(3) or 508 organizations according to man’s earthly, temporal, legal laws.

Most of the credit for the door being opened to Godless “religions” to gain the ability to be labeled as “churches” lies with not only with Protestants and Catholics but also with the progenitors of those martyrs who gave their lives standing for New Testament principles, one of which is separation of church and state. Once they had an opportunity to do so, the majority of even authentic Baptist believers and churches who honored and even died standing for the principle of separation of church and state while persecuted betrayed their head, their authority, the Lord Jesus Christ. They incorporated, and with the advent of tax exempt law, they applied for tax exempt status; along with many new breeds of “churches.”

All incorporated and/or 501(c)(3) and 508 “churches” operate under the authority of both the state government of incorporaton and the federal government, even those who also have or once had some connection to the Lord Jesus Christ. The latter sometimes operate partially under Jesus Christ and partially under civil government; sometimes solely under the authority of civil government.

New Testament churches who obtain state non-profit corporation status and get federal tax exempt status partially or totally lose the power of God.  They are no longer spiritual entities only under the authority, headship or power of Christ alone. They have chosen to become earthly legal entities partially or totally connected to earthly heads, the government of the state of incorporation and the federal government. Without the power of God, they are ill-equipped to do their work: the perfecting of the saints (inside the assembly), the work of the ministry, the edification of the body of Christ, going into all the world and preaching the gospel to every creature (Mk. 16.15), and performance of other duties outside the assembly. They no longer resemble the spiritual bodies described in the New Testament:

  • “And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ:  From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.” (Ep. 4.11-16)[Bold emphasis mine]
  • See also, e.g., 1 Co. 12.

Aditionally, by mixing church and state, churches opened the door to the untenable situation where an earthly temporal civil government which has neither the authority nor the ability to understand spiritual matters is granted power over the church and put in charge of defining “church,” “religious organization,” “religious society,” etc. This mixing of the holy with the unholy has resulted in the inevitable consequences we see shaping up as a result of civil government definition of “church.”

2In conclusion, should the IRS and/or the court decide that “Way Of The Future” is a qualified tax exempt religious organization or church, true churches will coexist as earthly legal entities alongside not only already existing corporate 501(c)(3) organizations such as Planned Parenthood, the Church of Wicca, and the Church of Satan, but also another Godless and God-defying organization which directly challenges God and His existence. Because they do not remain under their God-ordained authority (power or headship)—the Lord Jesus Christ—they will possess either no power of God or, at best, a watered down power of God. They betray their Lord, they lose God’s power, God grieves, and they could care less!

Churches have betrayed God, lost the power of God, and caused our Lord who loved the church and gave himself for it to grieve by incorporating and getting 501(c)(3) status.  Where is the anguish?

Listen to the powerful clip from sermon A Call to Anguish.

[For complete studies which cover all issues (such as the Ro. 13 issue, the incorporation issue, etc.) see the resources linked to in En 4.]

Endnotes

En 1 Churches Defined

“The term church is found, but not specifically defined, in the Internal Revenue Code. With the exception of the special rules for church audits, the use of the term church also includes conventions and associations of churches as well as integrated auxiliaries of a church.

“Certain characteristics are generally attributed to churches.  These attributes of a church have been developed by the IRS and by court decisions.  They include:

  • Distinct legal existence
  • Recognized creed and form of worship
  • Definite and distinct ecclesiastical government
  • Formal code of doctrine and discipline
  • Distinct religious history
  • Membership not associated with any other church or denomination
  • Organization of ordained ministers
  • Ordained ministers selected after completing prescribed courses of study
  • Literature of its own
  • Established places of worship
  • Regular congregations
  • Regular religious services
  • Sunday schools for the religious instruction of the young
  • Schools for the preparation of its members

“The IRS generally uses a combination of these characteristics, together with other facts and circumstances, to determine whether an organization is considered a church for federal tax purposes.

“Source:  Publication 1828, Tax Guide for Churches and Religious Organizations.”

See DEFINING “CHURCH” – THE CONCEPT OF A CONGREGATION by Robert Louthian and Thomas Miller for a discussion of court application of the above criteria.

En 2: Internal Revenue Service Private Letter Ruling 8833001, 1988 PRL LEXIS 1594:

Just one illustration of what can happen when the civil government determines if an organization is a church, when IRS officials determine what constitutes a church within the meaning of IRC § 170(b)(1)(A)(i), follows. The threshold question in determining whether an organization is a church described in § 170(b)(1)(A)(i) is whether the organization qualifies as a religious organization described in § 501(c)(3). Using the 14-part IRS test to determine whether a religious organization was a church, IRS officials held that an organization with the following purpose as stated in its articles of incorporation and bylaws was a church: “[T]o establish an ecumenical church to help people learn to pay attention, wake up, and discover what both Christ and Buddha referred to as one’s true self.

The ruling stated:

“The organization was established to develop an ecumenical form of religious practice, place greater significance on the modes of religious expression that would unify western and eastern modes of religious practice, place greater significance on the mystical or interior experience of religious truth than that of most western church denominations, and be more spiritually satisfying to members than other existing church organizations.”

In other words, the IRS determined that an organization whose purpose was directly contrary to the principles for a church laid down by the Lord in His Word was a church.

Note. The above ruling is available on LEXIS, a legal website which charges for its services. The website can be assessed in some public law libraries and law firm libraries.

En 3: A small sampling of cases which have attempted to define church and links directly to those cases. These cases cite many other cases which deal with the definition of “church”:

PARSHALL CHRISTIAN ORDER v. BOARD OF REVIEW, COUNTY OF MARION, 315 N.W.2d 798 (1982)(Supreme Court of Iowa)

A family organized as an incorporated 501(c)(3) “religious society” and claimed property tax exemption. “People may not transform their families into religious organizations and thereby obtain exemption for property over which their dominion and use remain unaffected. Granting tax exempt status to PCO would exalt form over substance and violate the rule of construction that exemption statutes are strictly construed.” The case cites and discusses various cases from other jurisdictions.

Ideal Life Church of Lake Elmo v. Washington County, 1981, 304 N.W.2d 308 (Supreme Court of Minnesota)

Purported religious organization which was organized and operated primarily for motive of tax avoidance by private individuals in control of 501(c)(3) corporation, had no formally trained or ordained ministry, had no sacraments, rituals, education classes or literature of its own, had no liturgy other than simple meetings resembling mere social gatherings or discussion groups and did not require a belief in any supreme being or other being, and whose doctrine and beliefs were intentionally vague and nonbinding upon its members and whose members freely continued to practice other religions, was not a “church” as such term was used in state’s tax exemption laws.

In re Collection of Delinquent Real Property Taxes, State of MN v. American Fundamentalist Church, 1995, 530 N.W.2d 200 (S.Ct. Minnesota) rehearing denied

Threshold question in determining whether real property is “church” entitled to tax exemption is whether entity claiming exemption is “church” within meaning of statute…. The organization in this case was an incorporated 501(c)(3) church. Test for determining whether organization is “church” entitled to tax exemption is subjective one, focusing on sincerity of belief and taking into account evidence on objective issues. … Principal motivation for organizing religious corporation was tax minimization and therefore, organization was not “church” and, therefore was not entitled to real property tax exemption in view of evidence that most of financial contributions to organization came from individual founder, that most of founder’s income came from taxpayer, that founder was primary beneficiary of organization’s financial actions, and that founder and his wife, who was co-founder, dominated meetings of organization’s board of trustees.

FELLOWSHIP OF HUMANITY (a Nonprofit Corporation) v. COUNTY OF ALAMEDA, 153 Cal.App.2d 673 (California Court of Appeals. First Dist., Div. One1957)

The precise question involved in the instant case–whether the reverence of a deity is a prerequisite to the receiving of a tax exemption for church property. A humanist organization organized as a nonprofit corporation under the laws of California, Fellowship of Humanity, applied for property tax exemption on the ground that the property was used “solely and exclusively for religious worship….” The fundamental question–is a belief in God or gods essential to “religious worship,” as those terms are used in the state Constitution? The answer of the court: “No.”

WAUSHARA COUNTY v. Sherri L. GRAF, 166 Wis.2d 442 (1992), 480 N.W.2d 16, Supreme Court of Wisconsin. Submitted on briefs October 4, 1991.Decided February 17, 1992

The Supreme Court of Wisconsin reviewed the evidence and concluded that “The evidence indicates that Basic Bible was established to evade taxation. Basic Bible failed to meet its burden of proving that it is a “church” or “religious association” under [Wisconsin law]. The court held that Basic Bible was not property tax exempt.” The fact that the church held “in trust” the property for which a property tax exemption was sought was not a factor in the decision. The Court concluded that incorporation and 501(c)(3) status is not a prerequisite for church property tax exemption; and, again, made clear that the fact that the church held the property “in trust” did not disqualify the church from property tax exemption.

En 4 For further study for the interested believer:

·  Render Unto God the Things that Are His: A Systematic Study of Romans 13 and Related Verses

·  The Biblical Doctrine of Government

·  The Biblical Doctrine of the Church

·  The Biblical Doctrine of Separation of Church and State

·  The History of the Religious Freedom in America

·  God Betrayed/Union of Church and State in America (covers church incorporation and 501c3 and 508 status, among other things)

·  Separation of Church and State: God’s Churches – Spiritual or Legal Entities?

· The Trail of Blood of the Martyrs of Jesus/A Case of Premeditated Murder: Christian Revisionists on Trial

What God Has Committed to Man’s Trust: “Ye cannot serve God and mammon”: Steward or Trustee?

Jerald Finney
Copyright  November 8, 2017

“Trust” is a Bible relationship that is recognized, not created, by man’s law. See Endnote 1. Many historic churches have honored this Bible relationship so as to keep their churches free from entanglement with civil government. See Endnote 2. Many American churches are presently declaring this trust relationship. See Endnote 3. 

Recently, at an Unregistered Baptist Fellowship Conference, a gentleman said to me something others have commented on over the years, “We use the term steward because Biblical law is over man’s law.” His statement raises the question: “Why not use the term ‘steward’ instead of ‘trustee’ in describing the ‘trust’ relationship with property?” This article will look at Bible teaching for the answer and address some collateral matters:  the meanings of the words “steward,” “trust,” “trustee,” “beneficiary,” “trust estate;” the eternal and temporal applications of the relationship; just versus unjust stewardship according to God; and the consequences of just and unjust application of the relationship.

Both “steward” and “trust” are Bible terms. “Steward” refers to the person to whom someone commits the care and management of his goods for his benefit. The term “trust” refers to the relationship created. The term “trustee,” a derivative of the word “trust,” is the equivalent of the term “steward.”

The term “trust” refers to both temporal/earthly and eternal/heavenly or spiritual relationships. “Trust” relationships are found throughout the Bible, even when the word “trust” or “steward” is not mentioned. Luke 16 speaks of a temporal material trust, and relates that trust to an eternal spiritual trust. 1 Thessalonians 2.4, and Titus 1.11 speak specifically and solely of the eternal spiritual trust. The first time the relationship is mentioned is in Genesis 1.27-31, where obviously although not explicitly stated, the relationship is both earthly and spiritual:

  • “27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. 28 And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth. 29 And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat. 30 And to every beast of the earth, and to every fowl of the air, and to every thing that creepeth upon the earth, wherein there is life, I have given every green herb for meat: and it was so. 31 And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good. And the evening and the morning were the sixth day.”

All such earthly and spiritual relationships have several essentials: the possession(s); the true, equitable, and beneficial owner of the possession(s); the commitment by the true owner of the possession(s) to another’s care and management; and the one to whom is entrusted the care and management of the possession(s) for the benefit of the true owner. Every Bible dispensation presents a specific stewardship under God.

Only once in the Bible, in Luke 16.1-13, are the words “steward” and “trust” used in the same passage. That passage is concerned with an earthly steward dealing with earthly possessions of his earthly master, the true owner of the possessions. There, “steward” refers to the person who has a duty to manage the goods of his master, for his master’s benefit. However, the Lord makes a connection between one’s earthly stewardship and his eternal stewardship (“Stewardship” means the office of a steward). The Lord says, “If therefore ye have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches? … “Ye cannot serve God and mammon” (Lk. 16.11, 13).

As has been pointed out, “steward” has the same meaning as “trustee.” So why not use “steward” instead of using derivatives of the word “trust,” to include “trustee.” The conclusion will answer this question; but first, this brief article takes a further look at “steward” and “trust.”

God entrusted mankind with all possessions, real and personal as well as spiritual. He owned all things—even the body, soul and spirit of man—but left all things, including the real estate, to man to be used for Him. God trusted man with all His earthly and eternal possessions. God committed all to his trust. He was “steward” or “trustee,” the one to whom God entrusted management and care of His possessions.

Now, let us examine the term “steward” and “stewardship” from a Bible perspective. Then we will look at “trust” and related terms—“trustor,” “trustee,” and “trust estate.”

The term “steward” is found in Genesis 15.2, 43.19, 44.1, 44.4; 1 Kings 16.9; Daniel 1.11; Matthew 20.8; Luke 8.3, 12.42; 16.1,2, 3, 8; 1 Corinthians 4.1,2; Titus 1:7. The word “stewardship” is used only three times in the Bible, all in Luke 16, verses 2, 3, and 4. “Stewardship” simply means “The office of a steward.”

A steward is a man who has charge of another’s goods. As defined in the Webster’s 1828 Dictionary, “steward” means: “(1) A man employed in great families to manage the domestic concerns, superintend the other servants, collect the rents or income, keep the accounts, &c. See Gen. xv. 2—xliii. (2) In Scripture and theology, a minister of Christ, whose duty is to dispense the provisions of the gospel, to preach its doctrines and administer its ordinances. It is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful. 1 Cor. iv.”

The first meaning of “steward” is reflected in several passages of the Bible: Genesis 15.2, 43.19, 44.1, 44.4; 1 Kings 16.9; Matthew 20.8; Luke 8.3, 12.42, 16.1-13 (parable of the unjust steward). Certainly, although not directly dealing with the eternal meaning, many of those stewardships have spiritual applications: Matthew 20.8; Luke 12.42-48 (levels of punishment based upon whether or not the steward knew the Lord’s will), 16.1-13.

The eternal application alone is seen in 1 Corinthians 4.1, 2: “Let a man so account of us, as of the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God.  Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful.”; and Titus 1.7: “For a bishop must be blameless, as the steward of God; not selfwilled, not soon angry, not given to wine, no striker, not given to filthy lucre.”.

The story of a rich man and his unjust steward, which is related in Luke 16.1-13, is very instructive. The terms “trust” and “steward” are used in that parable. The master committed his goods to the steward’s trust (verses 1 and 11). The master was the beneficiary, “the true, beneficial, and equitable owner.”

The steward in this parable was an out-and-out-crook. He was guilty of malfeasance in office and misappropriation of funds. He wasted the goods of his master. His day of reckoning had come (Lk. 16.3). He was afraid of losing his stewardship, felt he could not do manual work, and was ashamed to beg. However, he, like many, was not ashamed to steal (verse 3). He did not repent, nor did he have regret or remorse for his actions. He was crooked—called “clever” by the world’s standards. He had no training for other work, his age was probably against him, he was too proud to beg, but he was not ashamed to be dishonest. He called all his master’s debtors and gave them big discounts.

The Bible tells us that the world loves its own but hates those who belong to God. “If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you” (Jn. 15:18-19). In Galatians 1.3-4, Paul says, “Grace be to you and peace from God the Father, and from our Lord Jesus Christ, Who gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God and our Father.” Again in Romans 12.2 Paul says, “And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him” (1 Jn. 2:15).

The first commandment of the world is “self-preservation.” A shady business deal is winked at, questionable practices countenanced, and a clever crook is commended by the world. The law is on the side of the crook and the criminal many times. Every man, according to the world’s law, is innocent until proven guilty. God takes the opposite approach. God says that a man is guilty until proven innocent. “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God” (Ro. 3.23). A man can never be innocent before God, but he can be justified before Him. When a man trusts Jesus Christ as his Savior, he is justified by faith. See, e.g., Ro. 8.1.

The master did not punish the unjust steward, but commended him. Apparently the rich man got rich using the same kind of principles that his unjust steward used and he commended him, saying that the steward had done wisely. In what way? According to the principles of the world. This is the world that hates Christ. It makes its own rules. The law of the world is “dog eat dog.” The worldly master commended his worldly steward for his worldly wisdom according to his worldly dealings. The Lord Jesus said, “… For the children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light.” That is, the children of this world, of this age, use their money more wisely than do the children of light.

Then, our Lord makes the most shocking and startling statement of all. It concerns the relationship of the “mammon of righteousness,” that is, riches, money: “Make to yourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness; that, when ye fail, they may receive you into everlasting habitations” (Lk. 16.9). Money is not evil in itself; it is amoral. The love of money is the root of all evil. For believers, money is to be spiritual. Our Lord said that we should lay up for ourselves treasures in heaven. We should be wise in the way we use our money. Then when we “fail” or come to the end of life, we will be welcomed in heaven.

Believers are spiritual stewards (trustees) of all that God commits to their trust; all of which is spiritual. We own nothing as believers. We are responsible to God for how we use His goods. We are to use the “mammon of unrighteousness” to gather spiritual wealth:

“He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much: and he that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much. If therefore ye have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches?  And if ye have not been faithful in that which is another man’s, who shall give you that which is your own. No servant can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.” (Lk. 16.10-13).

In this parable, the Lord Jesus is saying, “Do you think God is going to trust you with heavenly riches if you are not using properly or rightly the earthly possessions which He has given you?” Are you serving God or mammon? You cannot serve both.

Now, let us look at “trust” and related terms. “Trustor,” “trustee,” and “trust estate” are derivatives of the word “trust.” The concept of trust if found throughout the Bible. The suffix “-ee” added to trust results in a new word meaning a person with to whom something is entrusted. A “trustor” is one who entrusts monies and properties to a “trustee” who holds the money and property entrusted to him in “trust” for the benefit of the true, equitable, and beneficial owner, the “beneficiary.”

Some meanings of trust, as given in the 1828 Webster’s Dictionary, are:(1) Confidence; a reliance or resting of the mind on the integrity, veracity, justice, friendship or other sound principle of another person. He that putteth his trust in the Lord shall be safe. Proverbs 20.25. (2) Something committed to a person’s care for use or management, and for which an account must be rendered. Every man’s talents and advantages are a trust committed to him by his Maker, and for the use or employment of which he is accountable.”

In the context of definition (2), the word “trust” is mentioned four times in the Bible:

  1. “But as we were allowed of God to be put in trust with the gospel, even so we speak; not as pleasing men, but God, which trieth our hearts” (1 Thes. 2.4).
  2. “According to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, which was committed to my trust” (1 Ti. 1:11).
  3. “O Timothy, keep that which is committed to thy trust, avoiding profane and vain babblings, and oppositions of science falsely so called” (1 Ti. 6:20).
  4. “If therefore ye have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who [what trustor] will commit to your trust the true riches? And if ye have not been faithful in that which is another man’s, who shall give you that which is your own” (Lk. 16:11-12)?

In all these references, that which God entrusted was not material and spiritual, but spiritual only—“the true riches.”

The Lord spoke of this concept of trust, in conjunction with an earthly temporal example, in Matthew 25.14-30 and Luke 19.12-27, although He used neither the word “trust” nor “steward or stewardship.” He spoke of an earthly master leaving certain amounts of his goods or money with his servants, according to their abilities. Actually, the more important parallel spiritual meaning was to the Lord and His servants. The master had an absolute right to his own goods, but he distributed to his servants to be used for the benefit of the master, the servants to be awarded according to their profitable use of the property entrusted to them. Some used the money productively and upon the master’s return presented him with a profit. The property belonged to the master, and the servants were to use it for the master’s benefit, not for their own benefit. Of course, they would be rewarded if they used the property wisely for the benefit of the master. One servant in each example returned only the original amount left in trust with them. The master instructed that the goods which he had left with the unprofitable servants be taken from them, and they were left with nothing. The profitable servants were rewarded by the master. In the story found in Matthew, the Master said, “[C]ast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Mt. 25.30). Men, as servants of the Master are likewise left in trust of all things for His benefit and will be rewarded or punished according to their use of His goods.

In conclusion, the words “steward” and “trustee” signify the same thing. However, the use of the term “trustee,” a word derived from the word “trust” by adding the suffix “-ee”  is preferable to the use of “steward” when describing the entire relationship. Why? For five reasons taken together. First, the terms “steward” and “trustee” mean the same thing.

Second, the one time “trust” and “steward” are used in the same immediate verses, “steward” denotes the person with the responsibility over another’s goods and “trust” is used to signify the fiduciary relationship with the master’s goods or property (Lk. 16). Even though “steward” is the one with the duty to rightly administer the goods the master commits to his trust, the name given to the arrangement is “trust.”

Third, no where in the Bible are all the terms involved in the relationship reduced to singular (as “trustor”) or modified terms (as “trust estate”).

Thus, fourth, the use of “trust” and derivatives is more practical. The term “trust” as a noun (and as an adjective) and its derivatives, more succinctly describe all aspects of the relationship: “trustor,” “trustee,” and “trust estate.” On the other hand, the term “stewardship” is less adaptable: one can interchange “steward” and “trustee;” but the word “trust” describes the overall relationship. No word derived from “steward” describes the person who establishes the stewardship (the “trustor”). No word derived from “steward” describes the estate the steward is responsible for (“trust estate”)—er, perhaps the “stewardship estate?”; but stewardship means the office of a steward. Parallel words leave less room for argument and misunderstanding. Imagine trying to explain these matters to a lost person.

Finally, American law, although not establishing the Bible concept of trust, recognizes it. In so doing, American law uses the Bible term “trust” and its derivatives.  For example, American Jurisprudence 2d Trusts, a highly regarded encyclopedia of American law, describes “trust” in § 1, as follows:

  • “The fundamental nature of a trust is the division of title, with the trustee being the holder of legal title and the beneficiary that of equitable title. By definition, the creation of a trust must involve a conveyance of property.
  • “A ‘trust’ exists where the legal title to property is held by one or more persons, under an equitable obligation to convey, apply, or deal with such property for the benefit of other persons. A trust has been defined as a fiduciary relationship with respect to property, subjecting the person by whom the title to the property is held to equitable duties to deal with the property for the benefit of another person, which arises as a result of a manifestation of an intention to create it. The Restatement definition is similar, providing that a trust, when not qualified by the word ‘resulting’ or ‘constructive,’ is a fiduciary relationship with respect to property, arising from a manifestation of intention to create that relationship and subjecting the person who holds title to the property to duties to deal with it for the benefit of charity or for one or more persons, at least one of whom is not the sole trustee.
  • “Caution: A trust consists not only of property, but also of the trust instrument, the trust’s beneficiaries and trustees, and the trust administrator [if any].”

American Jurisprudence 2d, Trusts § 2 makes clear that a “trust” is not a legal entity, but merely a fiduciary relationship with property. For one thing, this means that the one cannot sue the trust, since it is not recognized as a legal entity. This is not true of a “business trust,” a “charitable trust” or some other legal extensions of the “trust” relationship.

“No particular words are necessary to create a trust if there exists reasonable certainty as to the intended property, object, and beneficiary. Further, the purpose and intention, rather than the use of any particular term, determines whether a valid trust has been established.” American Jurisprudence 2d, Trusts § 65.

The important thing for the born again believer, regardless of the terms used, is that he handle the use of God’s properties, all of which are spiritual to a born again believer, according to the principle of trust as described in the Bible. Those faithful and wise churches who remain under God only will be blessed by their Lord. However, churches who choose to leave their first love by placing themselves at least partially under the state (for example, corporate (aggregate of sole) 501(c)(3) or 508 churches), have left their first love and betrayed their Lord’s trust. They are unfaithful and act unwisely; they act either knowingly or unknowingly and will  punished accordingly (see Lk. 12.42-48; see also Lk. 16 discussed above).

See En 4 for links to additional resources.

Endnotes

En 1: See, for explanation, How a Church Can Organize To Remain a New Testament Church (Holding Property in Trust for God Is a Scriptural Principle Recognized by the Legal System).

En 2: In WAUSHARA COUNTY v. Sherri L. GRAF, 157 Wis.2d 539 (1990), 461 N.W.2d 143, Court of Appeals of Wisconsin. Submitted on briefs December 8, 1989. Decided August 2, 1990 the court reviewed pertinent Wisconsin  statutes back to 1849 to determine if a church or religious organization must be incorporated for its property to be tax exempt [under state law]. Annotation to the law said: “A church consists of those who are communicants, have made a public profession of religion and are united by a religious bond of common spiritual welfare. It is the spiritual body…. we must hold that the mere fact that [a] church or religious society had not yet been incorporated at the time of the delivery of [a] deed in no way frustrated the trust thereby created, if such trust was otherwise valid.” Fadness v. Braunborg, 73 Wis. 257, 278-79, 41 N.W. 84, 90 (1889) (emphasis in original)….  In Holm v. Holm, 81 Wis. 374, 382, 51 N.W. 579, 581 (1892), the facts included that the Norwegian Evangelical Lutheran Church of Roche-a-Cree was a voluntary association until February 7, 1889. The court noted that “[p]rior to that date the title to the churches in which the members of the association worshiped was vested in trustees named in . . . deeds, and their successors in office. . . . The trusts imposed by such deeds appear to have been valid upon the principles stated by this court in Fadness v. Braunborg. . . .Id. …In Franke v. Mann, 106 Wis. 118, 131, 81 N.W. 1014, 1018-19 (1900), the court further said that ‘[w]hat has been said is in harmony with the law regarding trusts for religious uses….’ The Basic Bible Church established that title to the real estate subject to foreclosure was held in the name of the trustees for the benefit of the church. We conclude that the trust constituted an ‘entity’ which could claim tax exemption under sec. 70.11(4), Stats., for the benefit of the Basic Bible Church.”

On appeal, the Wisconsin Supreme Court in WAUSHARA COUNTY v. Sherri L. GRAF, 166 Wis.2d 442 (1992), 480 N.W.2d 16,  1992 approved, but did not restate, the reasoning above.

In KOPSOMBUT-MYINT BUDDHIST CENTER, v. STATE BOARD OF EQUALIZATION, 728 S.W. 2d 327 (1986) Court of Appeals of Tennessee, Middle Section, at Nashville. Permission to Appeal Denied, April 6, 1987, the court inferred a “trust” from the wording of a “joint venture” in 1982 and held that property held in trust for a Buddhist Temple qualifies for a property tax exemption, if the property is used for religious purposes and the owner, any stockholder, officer, member or employee of such institution is not lawfully entitled to receive and pecuniary profit from the operations of that property in competition with like property owned by others which is not exempt. The court stated, as regards trusts:

  • “A valid trust need not be in writing. It can be created orally unless the language of the written conveyance excludes the existence of a trust. Sanderson v. Milligan,585 S.W.2d 573, 574 (Tenn. 1979); Linder v. Little, 490 S.W.2d 717, 723 (Tenn. Ct. App. 1972); and Adrian v. Brown, 29 Tenn. App. 236, 243, 196 S.W.2d 118, 121 (1946). However, when a party seeks to establish an oral trust, it must do so by greater than a preponderance of the evidence. Sanderson v. Milligan, 585 S.W.2d 573, 574 (Tenn. 1979); Hunt v. Hunt, 169 Tenn. 1, 9, 80 S.W.2d 666, 669 (1935); and Browder v. Hite, 602 S.W.2d 489, 493 (Tenn. Ct. App. 1980).
  • “The existence of a trust requires proof of three elements: (1) a trustee who holds trust property and who is subject to the equitable duties to deal with it for the benefit of another, (2) a beneficiary to whom the trustee owes the equitable duties to deal with the trust property for his benefit, and (3) identifiable trust property. See G.G. Bogert & G.T. Bogert, The Law of Trusts and Trustees § 1, at 6 (rev. 2d ed. 1984) and Restatement (Second) of Trusts § 2 comment h (1957). We find that the Kopsombut-Myint Buddhist Center has proved the existence of each of these elements by clear and convincing evidence.” [p. 333].

Efforts of scholars to trace the origin have been futile. Trusts, Trust-Like Concepts and Ius Commune, 8 Eur. Rev. Private L. 453 (2000), C. H. van Rhee: ” … Whether these origins are Roman, Canonical or Germanic [or of some other origin] remains an unresolved question. …” Of course, scholars went to ancient history, but did not go to the most ancient history, the Bible. For more insights on this, see How a Church Can Organize To Remain a New Testament Church (Holding Property in Trust for God Is a Scriptural Principle Recognized by the Legal System).

En 3: Many churches are now organized in accordance with the Bible trust relationship. More are honoring God in this matter on a regular basis: the Biblical Law Center has organized over a dozen in the last year and a half, as well as scores of churches over the last 30 years.  No matter what terms a Christian uses, he should do all in accordance with Bible principle for the glory of God.

En 4: Click here to go to links to studies which show, from the law books, exactly what incorporation and Internal Revenue Code Section 501(c)(3) are.

How a Church Can Organize To Remain a New Testament Church (Holding Property in Trust for God Is a Scriptural Principle Recognized by the Legal System)

Powerpoint: The Basics of the Bible Principle of Trust in Church Organization Explanation of “Trust,” as opposed to “Business Trust,” “Charitable Trust,” and other kinds of trusts. How can you know who to trust for the truth about these matters? How can you know if what is presented here is the truth? Etc.

Click here to go to PDF of comments which help explain the Powerpoint directly above. The presenter also stated other things, but these notes cover the most important matters.

What is a Church under Christ (a New Testament church), and What Upholds Her Integrity?


Jerald Finney
Copyright © November 6, 2017


Endnote 1 gives James Madison’s objections to a bill that would have incorporated a church in federal jurisdiction which he included with his veto and links to the whole story concerning that matter.

Endnote 2 quotes some court cases, with online links directly to those cases, on church incorporation and other matters. One case explains that, with an incorporated church, as opposed to a church which is not a legal entity, there are two entities, the one spiritual and the other legal. Another court in WATSON v. JONES, 80 U.S. 679 (____), 13 Wall. 679. Supreme Court of the United Statesconcludes that it has no jurisdiction over the matter. The important thing to notice is that the authority is the court. Since the church contracted with the state by incorporating, the members (individual or groups of members) can go to their authority not only for resolution of disputes but also for decision as to whether the authority has jurisdiction. A member can sue a member, members, the church or the state; members can sue a member, members, the church, or the state; the church can sue a member or members, etc. The contract makes clear that the controlling party is the state.

Endnote 3 briefly explains the meaning of “the church” as used in the Bible and in this article.


What is a Church, and What Upholds Her Integrity?

Christ’s church or assembly was a mystery that was not revealed in the Old Testament; it was “kept secret since the world began, But is now made manifest, and by the scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, made known to all nations for the obedience of faith” (Ro. 16.25-26; see also, Ep. 2.9, 3.9). Jesus announced it and the Epistles of the Apostle Paul explained it. That the Gentiles were to be saved was no mystery (Ro. 9.24-33, 10.19-21). The mystery “hid in God” was the divine purpose to make of Jew and Gentile a wholly new thing—the institution of the church to be manifested in local New Testament churches until the marriage of the lamb (Heb. 12.22-24; Re. 19.7-10)—Christ’s body.  In the church, and in the church only, the distinction between Jew and Gentile disappears, and there is one “new man,” the church where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circucmcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free: but Christ is all, and  in all.” (Ep. 2.14, 15; Col. 3.10, 11). The revelation of this mystery which was foretold but not explained by Christ (Mt. 16.18) was committed to the Apostle Paul. God “made known unto us [believers together with Christ in a local church body] the mystery of his will, according to his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath proposed in himself” (Ep. 1.9, 2.5-6).

Our Lord announced the purpose of His churches, His assemblies, but wholly without explanation as to how, when, or of what materials, those churches should be built, or what should be their position, relationships, privileges or duties. The Epistles of Paul develop the doctrine of the church. In those epistles, the New Testament church, the “mystery which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God” (Ep. 3.9), is fully revealed, and fully instructed as to her unique place in the counsels and purposes of God. Through Paul alone we know that a church is not an organization, but an organism, the body of Christ, instinct with His life, and heavenly in calling, promise, and destiny. Through him alone we know the nature, purpose, and form of organization of local churches, and the right conduct of such gatherings. This article will not address all those facets of a church, but will concentrate on the nature of a local church body.

The Apostle Paul was a man well educated in earthly and temporal matters before his salvation. As an apostle, Paul rejected his worldly wisdom gained in “higher education.” Before his conversion, he studied in Tarsus under Gamaliel (Ac. 22.3). He was a Pharisee of Pharisees.

  • “Tarsus was actually the center of Greek learning to that day. The finest Greek university in Paul’s day was in Tarsus, not in Athens or Corinth which had passed their zenith. Tarsus was a thriving Greek city and an educational center…. Undoubtedly Paul had been brought up in that university in Tarsus and had a Greek background, but he had also been in Jerusalem where he had studied under Gamaliel. He had worked on his doctorate in Jerusalem under the outstanding scholar of that day, Gamaliel.” (J. Vernon McGee, Acts, Volume II (Pasadena, California: Thru the Bible Books, 1984), p. 258)

Despite his worldly education, which he obtained before his conversion, Paul declared:

  • “And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power. Howbeit we speak wisdom among them that are perfect: yet not the wisdom of this world, nor of the princes of this world, that come to nought: But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory: Which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. But God hath revealed them to us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God. For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual. But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. But he that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man. For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ” (1 Co. 2.1-16) [Bold emphasis mine].

Thus Paul first made clear that, as a spiritual man called as an Apostle, he discarded his worldly education gained as a lost carnal man. After he got saved he relied only upon his knowledge of God; and he made clear that only the born-again believer, led by the Spirit, was qualified to handle spiritual matters. Paul also asserted that rulers, “the princes of this world,” do not possess spiritual wisdom, indicating that most leaders are not Christians (undoubtedly, almost all leaders, and almost all leaders of civil government when he wrote the above words, are not and were not Christians) and are blind to spiritual matters.

Persecuted Christians down through the ages have understood this and therefore have refused, even under penalty of torture, imprisonment, and/or death to submit the church and spiritual matters to the ungodly. This was especially apparent under the Roman Empire at the time of Christ and after. See The Trail of Blood of the Martyrs of Jesus.

  • “Scripture and all history tell us, that those Caesars were not only arrogant, without God, without Christ, &c.; but professed worshippers, or maintainers, of the Roman gods or devils; as also notorious for all sorts of wickedness; and lastly, cruel and bloody lions and tigers toward the Christians for many hundred years.
  • “Hence I [Roger Williams] argue from the wisdom, love, and faithfulness of the Lord Jesus in his house, it was impossible that he should appoint such ignorant, such idolatrous, such wicked, and such cruel persons to be his chief officers and deputy lieutenants under himself to keep the worship of God, to guard his church, his wife. No wise and loving father was ever known to put his child, no not his beasts, dogs, or swine, but unto fitting keepers.
  • “Men judge it matter of high complaint, that the records of parliament, the king’s children, the Tower of London, the great seal, should be committed to unworthy keepers! And can it be, without high blasphemy, conceived that the Lord Jesus should commit his sheep, his children, yea, his spouse, his thousand shields and bucklers in the tower of his church, and lastly, his great and glorious broad seals of baptism and his supper, to be preserved pure in their administrations—I say, that the Lord Jesus, who is wisdom and faithfulness itself, should deliver these to such keepers? …
  • “[W]hen the Lord appointed the government of Israel after the rejection of Saul, to establish a covenant of succession in the type unto Christ, let it be minded what pattern and precedent it pleased the Lord to set for the after kings of Israel and Judah, in David, the man after his own heart.
  • “But now the Lord Jesus being come himself, and having fulfilled the former types, and dissolved the national state of the church, and established a more spiritual way of worship all the world over, and appointed a spiritual government and governors, it is well known what the Roman Caesars were, under whom both Christ Jesus himself, and his servants after him, lived and suffered; so that if the Lord Jesus had appointed any such deputies—as we find not a title to that purpose, nor have a shadow of true reason so to think—he must, I say, in the very first institution, have pitched upon such persons for these custodies utriusque tabulae, keepers of both tables, as no man wise, or faithful or loving, would have chosen in any of the former instances, or cases of a more inferior nature…”(Roger Williams and Edward Bean Underhill, The Bloudy Tenent of Persecution for Cause of Conscience Discussed and Mr. Cotton’s Letter Examined and Answered (London: Printed for the Society, by J. Haddon, Castle Street, Finsbury, 1848), pp. 204-205).
  • “Christ never delivered His sheep or children to these wolves, his wife and spouse to such adulterers, his precious jewels to such great thieves and robbers of the world, as the Roman emperors were. Paul never appealed to Caesar as judge appointed by Christ Jesus to give definitive sentence in any spiritual or church controversy; but against the civil violence and murder which the Jews intended against him, Paul justly appealed. For otherwise, if in a spiritual cause he should have appealed, he should have overthrown his own apostleship and power given him by Christ Jesus in spiritual things, above the highest kings or emperors of the world beside”(Id., p. 209).
  • “A civil magistrate may be a good subject, a good magistrate, in respect of civil or moral goodness, which thousands want; and where it is, it is commendable and beautiful, though godliness, which is infinitely more beautiful, be wanting, and which is only proper to the Christian state, the commonweal of Israel, the true church the holy nation, Ephes. ii.; 1 Pet. ii” (Id., p. 212).

God, through the Apostle Paul, described what a church under Christ is to be: a local autonomous body of believers; and, as such, a holy temple for the habitation of God through the Spirit (Ep. 2.21, 22); “one flesh” with Christ (Ep. 5.30, 31); and espoused to Him as a chaste virgin to one Husband (2 Co. 11.2-4). A church, under God, owes no allegiance to any tribunal in the universe, except to that of the Lord Jesus Christ unless she willingly and wrongly places herself under the jurisdiction of another (Mt. 16.13-18), and is the body of Christ of which He is the Head (Ep. 1.22, 23).

A church under Christ is made up of born again believers in Christ. A person who was first born of the flesh (a temporal birth) must, in order to be saved, be born again (a spiritual birth) (Jn. 3.3-8). God “quickens” (brings to life; animates) those who are born again; those who before “were dead in trespasses and sins” (Ep. 2.1). For this new creature “old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (2 Co. 5.17).

The new creature in Christ is a spiritual being who is instructed by God to walk in the Spirit. “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3.3). “Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit he cannot enter the kingdom of God” (Jn. 3.5). John the Baptist said, “I indeed baptize you with water, but he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost.” (Mk. 1.8.  See also, Mt. 3.11 and Lk. 3.16). “That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit” (Jn. 3.6). Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (1 Co. 5.17). The Word of God instructs the believer as to his walk:

  • “And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins: Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others. But God, who is rich in mercy for his great love wherewith he loved us, Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) And hath raised us up together and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (Ep. 2.1-6).
  • “Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would. But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness temperance: against such there is no law. And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit” (Ga. 5.16-25; see also, Ep. 5.1-17, Jn. 6.63, Ro. 8.1-13).

Thus, the lost man, the man who has not been born again, is a fleshly man, who walks in the flesh without the indwelling Spirit of God. He is subject only to the law. The believer, a member of a church, a part of the body, is a heavenly man, and a stranger and pilgrim on the earth who is told to be led of the Spirit. He is told that if he is led of the Spirit, he is not subject to the law.

  • “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ” (Ep. 1.3).
  • “But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace are ye saved;) And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (Ep. 2.4-5).
  • “If I have told you earthly things, and ye believe not, how shall ye believe, if I tell you of heavenly things” (Jn. 3.12)?
  • “WHEREFORE, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus” (Heb. 3.1).
  • “Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul” (1 Pe. 2.11).

The word “heavenly” signifies that which is heavenly in contradistinction to that which is “earthly.” The ‘heavenlies’ [or ‘heavenly places’] may be defined as the sphere of the believer’s spiritual experience as identified with Christ in:

  1. nature (2 Pet. 1.4“Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.”);
  2. life (Col. 3.4: “When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory.”; 1 Jn. 5.12“He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life.”);
  3. relationships (Jn. 20.17“Jesus saith unto her, Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God.” Heb. 2.11“For both he that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one: for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren.”);
  4. service (Jn. 17.18“As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world.”; Mt. 28.20Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.);
  5. suffering (Phil. 1.29“For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake;”; 3.10“That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death;”; Col. 1.24“Who now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for his body’s sake, which is the church.”);
  6. inheritance (Rom. 8.16, 17“The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.”);
  7. and future glory in the kingdom (Rom. 8.18-21“For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God. For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who hath subjected the same in hope, Because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.”; 1 Pet. 2.9“But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light.”; Rev. 1.6“And hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.”; 5.10 “And hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth.”).

The believer is a heavenly man, and a stranger and pilgrim on the earth (Heb. 3.1: “Wherefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus.” 1 Pet. 2.11: “Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul.”)

Corporately, believers are to come together as a local spiritual body, a church of Christ. A church under Christ is a local autonomous body of believers; and, as such, it is a holy temple for the habitation of God through the Spirit (Ep. 2.21-22); is “one flesh” with Christ (Ep. 5.30-31); and espoused to Him as a chaste virgin to one Husband (2.Co. 11.2-4). A church, under God, owes no allegiance to any tribunal in the universe, except to that of the Lord Jesus Christ unless she willingly and wrongly places herself under the jurisdiction of another (Mt. 16.13-18), and is the body of Christ of which He is the Head (Ep. 1.22, 23). God gave no one other than Christ the authority to rule over His churches. Churches are not to concern themselves  with temporal matters.

Again, a church of Christ is made up of believers. “And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved” (Ac. 2.47). A New Testament church, made up of spiritual beings, is a spiritual or heavenly body whose ultimate purpose is to glorify God. “The word ‘spiritual,’ found 23 times in the Bible, always means heavenly minded, godly, holy, never self-centered” (Questions and Answers, The Berean Call, January 2007, Volume XXII, No. 1, p. 5, available at www.thebereancall.org.). “Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Co. 10.31). A church, as a spiritual body, is told to be subject to Christ, the Head of the body, in all things (Ep. 1.22-23).

God gives the newly borne spiritual creature a new home. His old home was a temporal earthly home; his new home is an eternal heavenly home. God raises up believers together (the church body), and makes them to sit together “in heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (Ep. 2.6). Such a body is “quickened with Christ” (Ep. 2.5).

The believer and a church are quickened with Christ. Where is Christ? God set Christ “at his own right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also that which is to come.” (Ep. 1.20-21).

Again, believers in a New Testament church are quickened together and built on the chief corner stone, Jesus Christ, who now sits in heaven (Phill. 2.9, Mt.16.19):

  • “To whom coming, as unto a living stone, disallowed indeed of men, but chosen of God, and precious, Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ. Wherefore also it is contained in the scripture, Behold, I lay in Sion a chief corner stone, elect, precious: and he that believeth on him shall not be confounded. Unto you therefore which believe he is precious: but unto them which be disobedient, the stone which the builders disallowed, the same is made the head of the corner, And a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence, even to them which stumble at the word, being disobedient: whereunto also they were appointed.” (1 Pe.2.4-8)

To repeat, the chief corner stone of a New Testament church is Jesus Christ and He now sits in heaven. Churches and believers are to sit with him (Ep. 2.5). A church body is to sit together with Christ in heavenly places, not heavenly and earthly places (Ep. 2.5-6). How can one have a body that is not joined? The body is joined to the head. The head is in heaven. Believers are to sit with Christ and obey Him as they walk on this earth. Yes, believers are the body, on earth, but they are to be connected and subject to their Head which is in heaven.

“Ephesians is the church epistle. Many expositors consider this the highest peak of spiritual truth, the very apex and acme of Bible revelation. Some have even suggested that Ephesians is so profound that none but the very elect (in other words, the chosen few) can understand it. Ephesians reveals the institution of the church as God’s masterpiece, a mystery not revealed in the Old Testament (Ep. 2.10). It is more wonderful than any temple made with hands, constructed of living stones, indwelt by the Holy Spirit.” Dr. J. Vernon McGee, Ephesians.

Ephesians 1-3 is about the heavenly calling of a church and is doctrinal; 4-6 is about the earthly conduct of a church and is  practical. A church is a body, the body of Christ (Ep. 1). A church is a temple (Ep. 2). A church is a mystery (Ep. 3). A church is to walk as He would walk; a believer and a church is a new man and is to walk as a new man (Ep. 4). A church, as the betrothed of the Lord Jesus, is to walk as God’s dear child (Ep. 5). The believer is to walk spiritually in his/her domestic life, his work, and on the field of spiritual battle (Ep. 6). and to wrestle against the wiles of the devil (Ep. 6.10-17, the warfare of the Spirit-filled believer).

The relationship and walk of the spiritual body, the local church, is beautifully described in Ephesians 4:

1 I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called 2 With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; 3 Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4 There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; 5 One Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all. 7 But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ. 8 Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men. 9 (Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth? 10 He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things.) 11 And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; 12 For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: 13 Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: 14 That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; 15 But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: 16 From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.”

Spiritual matters include all things involving a church, including the use of property for the assembly of the saints. God grieves when a church corrupts the body of Christ by putting herself under civil government in order to own anything. A church who chooses to become an earthly entity by incorporating (aggregate or sole) or getting 501(c)(3) or 508 status has betrayed her first love, corrupted the body, profaned the holy, joined with a harlot, and committed spiritual fornication. President James Madison understood this. See Endnote 1 for his letter vetoing a bill which would have incorporated a church in Washington D.C. which was subject to federal law and the First Amendment. See also, Legal Explanation of Incorporation of Churches. Church corporate status puts a church partially under the authority of the state under which the church incorporated. Internal Revenue Code Section 501(c)(3) or 502 status puts a church partially under the authority of the federal government. See Federal government control of churches through IRS Code Sections 501(c)(3) and 508 tax exemption and The incorporation-501(c)(3) control scheme.

A purely spiritual body can hold no temporal or material possessions. If a church owns property, she is an earthly temporal organization working in conjunction with an eternal spiritual organism. She has one Head in heaven, Christ, and another on the earth, civil government. She has agreed to go to her head on earth to resolve many matters. See Endnote 2 for quotes from some courts which state that an incorporated church, as opposed to a church which is not a legal entity, with an incorporated church, as opposed to a church which is not a legal entity, there are two entities, the one spiritual and the other legal.

A church can utilize property without owning it. How? Like the New Testament believers did. They can meet in a house or building owned by someone, not owned by the church (See The Only Way a Church Can Organize to Remain a New Testament Church for explanation of how a church can meet in a permanent meetinghouse without owning it and in accord with Bible principles). No church in the New Testament owned anything temporal or material. To have done so would have violated New Testament church doctrine.

Now that the basics of what a New Testament church is have been explained, one needs to know what the Bible says about how a church maintains her integrity.

Jesus’ first and greatest commandment is: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.” “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 Lk. 10.25-28; these commandments were also in the Old Testament. (De. 6.5, 30.6 and Le. 19.18)). For a church, a spiritual organism or entity, all gifts and actions must be governed by love. If not, the church “is become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal,” is “nothing,” and her actions “profiteth” that church “nothing” (1 Co. 13.1-3). A church cannot buy love; a church nullifies all that it does if it has not love for the Lord Jesus Christ (Song of Solomon 8.7; see The Love Relationship between Christ and His Churches as Depicted in Song of Solomon to gain an understanding of the love between Christ and His churches). If a church leaves her first love to commune with another power, and earthly power such as a civil government, that church may as well forget doing things God’s way and do things man’s way.

Love is shown by action—that is, it is an act of the will and not lust or just an emotion or a verbal profession (See 1 Co. 13). Jesus said,

  • “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).
  • “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…. Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you” (Jn. 15.10, 14).

Only God’s people can exhibit God’s love.  If one loves God and his neighbor as commanded by God, he will automatically keep the New Testament Commandments (which repeat all the Old Testament Commandments except those dealing with the ceremonial law of Israel which included the commandment to keep the Sabbath). The New Testament also adds many more commandments for the believer.

Most rulers are lost. A church, when she incorporates as gets 501(c)(3) or 508 status or becomes a legal entity in any way entangles herself with worldly concerns which consume an inordinate amount of her time and energy by creating new offices and duties which must be performed by her members, and makes the civil government an authority over some, if not most, of her affairs.  She must now work alongside and subject herself to those who are lost. The saved and the lost, those who are to love and those who cannot love, truth and error, earthly and heavenly, temporal and eternal, spiritual life and spiritual death, love and fear, God’s law and man’s law become intertwined.

  • “They are of the world: therefore speak they of the world, and the world heareth them. We are of God: he that knoweth God heareth us; he that is not of God heareth not us. Hereby know we the spirit of truth, and the spirit of error. Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love. In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be a propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another. No man hath seen God at any time. If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us. Hereby know we that we dwell in him, and he in us, because he hath given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and do testify that the Father sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world…. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love. We love him, because he first loved us. If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen? And this commandment have we from him, That he who loveth God love his brother also.” (1 Jn. 4.5-14, 18-21) [Emphasis mine.]

A church who does not love the Lord may as well ignore God’s doctrine of the church. Such a church may as well do things man’s way and depend upon temporal, man-made means for help. She may as well incorporate, get Internal Revenue Code Section 501(c)(3) or 508 status and/or use worldly devises and schemes to attain her goals.  “For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision; but faith which worketh by love” (Ga. 5:6).

The author is doing a book by book study of the doctrine of the church. Click the following to go to that study: Bible Studies on the Doctrine of the Church.

Endnote

En 1: On February 21, 1811 President James Madison vetoed a bill entitled “An Act incorporating the Protestant Episcopal Church in the town of Alexander, in the District of Columbia” the District of Columbia being under federal jurisdiction. He returned the bill with the following objections:

  • Because the bill exceeds the rightful authority to which governments are limited by the essential distinction between civil and religious functions, and violates in particular the article of the Constitution of the United States which declares ‘Congress shall make no law respecting a religious establishment.
  • “The bill enacts into and establishes by law sundry rules and proceedings relative purely to the organization and policy of the church incorporated, and comprehending even the election and removal of the minister of the same, so that no change could be made therein by the particular society or by the general church of which it is a member, and whose authority it recognizes.
  • “This particular church, therefore, would so far be a religious establishment by law, a legal force and sanction being given to certain articles in its constitution and administration. Nor can it be considered that the articles thus established are to be taken as the descriptive criteria only of the corporate identity of the society, inasmuch as this identity must depend on other characteristics, as the regulations established are in general unessential and alterable according to the principles and canons by which churches of the denomination govern themselves, and as the injunctions and prohibitions contained in the regulations would be enforced by the penal consequences applicable to the violation of them according to the local law…”

(Norman Cousins, In God We Trust (Kingsport, Tennessee: Kingsport Press, Inc., 1958), p. 317; also quoted in a book Edited by Lenni Brenner, Jefferson and Madison on Separation of Church and State (Fort Lee, New Jersey: Barricade Books, 2004), p. 198; read the rest of the story online at: http://www.constitution.org/jm/jm_estab.htm).

En 2: Of course, a lot of cases could be cited to show how contracting with the state through incorporation (aggregate or sole), getting 501(c)(3) or 508 status, or becoming a legal entity of any kind places another head, other than the Lord Jesus Christ over a church. This is just a very small sampling. Click case names in blue to go directly to cases online.1Co.6.1-6

WILLIAMS et al. v. JONES et al. 61 So.2d 101, 101-103 (1952) 6 Div. 313. Supreme Court of Alabama. October 23, 1952:

“Wherever 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 legal corporation, each separate though closely allied. The spiritual entity of a church made up of members belonging to it, existing without any special law to that effect, is a different and distinct body in the contemplation of the law from the same body when incorporated under statutes for [103] the purpose—the two having different functions to perform, the one religious and the other civil. Under our statutes for the incorporation of churches, it is to be noted that the members of the church become incorporated, and not simply the trustees required to be elected preparatory to proceeding in the court of probate to obtain incorporation. Each member is an incorporator, recognized as a legal civil body, distinct from the church as a spiritual body, theretofore and thereafter continuously existing. §§ 124, 125, Title 10, Code 1940; Hundley v. Collins, supra; Dismukes v. State, 176 Ala. 616, 58 So. 195Blount v. Sixteenth St. Baptist Church, supra.”

WAUSHARA COUNTY v. Sherri L. GRAF, 166 Wis.2d 442 (1992), 480 N.W.2d 16, Supreme Court of Wisconsin. Submitted on briefs October 4, 1991.Decided February 17, 1992.

“The court of appeals concluded that the circuit court erred as a matter of law and, accordingly, reversed. We agree that the circuit court was indeed in error in holding that incorporation was a requirement for the religious exemption. The opinion of the court of appeals convincingly demonstrates that “the church was not required to show that it was incorporated as a religious society or corporation under ch. 187, Stats., or otherwise, to establish that its property was exempt from [454] taxation.” We need not reiterate the excellent discussion and analysis underpinning that conclusion that appears in the court of appeals opinion. 157 Wis. 2d at 539-49.” “The controlling issue on this review is whether Basic Bible is a ‘church’ or ‘religious association’ entitled to property tax exemption under sec. 70.11(4), Stats” [456].

The excellent discussion and analysis referred to above was rendered in WAUSHARA COUNTY v. Sherri L. GRAF, 157 Wis.2d 539 (1990), 461 N.W.2d 143, Court of Appeals of Wisconsin. Submitted on briefs December 8, 1989. Decided August 2, 1990. The following is from that case: The following is from the analysis:

“The procedures for the incorporation of religious societies were included in ch. 91, Revised Statutes of 1878. Nash’s Wisconsin Annotations (1914), sec. 1990, ch. 91 at 753, states:

“The revisers of 1878 in their note said: ‘Chapter 411, 1876, is taken to have been intended as a revision of the law for the incorporation of religious societies. The privilege of organizing a corporation is extended to all classes and denominations, it not being supposed the law means to be intolerant of any religious belief or to be partial in its offer of privileges.’

[548] The same annotation at page 755 states:

“‘Church” and “Congregation.’ A church consists of those who are communicants, have made a public profession of religion and are united by a religious bond of common spiritual welfare. It is the spiritual body, not the legal one. But a religious society or congregation, under the statute, is a voluntary association of persons, generally but not necessarily in connection with a church proper, united for the purpose of having a common place of worship and to provide a proper teacher to instruct them in doctrines and duties, etc. [Citations omitted.]

“Thus, the legislature distinguished a church, as the spiritual body, from a religious society, incorporated under the statute, as the legal body of a voluntary association of persons united for religious purposes.”

Taylor v. Paradise Missionary Baptist Church. No. 1160034. Supreme Court of Alabama. July 28, 2017:

[Case involved in incorporated 501(c)(3) church] Further, “[a]s is the case with all churches, the courts will not assume jurisdiction, in fact [have] none, to resolve disputes regarding their spiritual or ecclesiastical affairs. However, there is jurisdiction to resolve questions of civil or property rights.” Abyssinia Missionary Baptist Church v. Nixon, 340 So. 2d 746, 748 (Ala. 1976) (citing Williams, supra). As it pertains to the removal of a minister from the church’s pulpit, this Court has stated:

“The civil courts will not take jurisdiction of a controversy arising out of the removal of a minister if the right to the position is merely spiritual or ecclesiastical. But if he has a civil or property right in his position, the civil courts will protect that right. But if there is such right in the minister, which will give the courts jurisdiction, it is well settled that his removal by the appropriate church tribunal is conclusive upon the courts, if there is no violation of contractual right.

“Odoms v. Woodall, 246 Ala. 427, 429, 20 So. 2d 849, 851 (1945). See also Putman v. Vath, 340 So. 2d 26 (Ala. 1976)

“As noted above, ‘it is well settled that [a pastor’s] removal by the appropriate church tribunal is conclusive upon the courts, if there is no violation of contractual right.” Odoms, 246 Ala. at 429, 20 So. 2d at 851. The question then arises as to the jurisdiction of the court to go behind the decision of that tribunal to inquire into its jurisdiction and regularity of its proceedings. . . .’ Id. Although the trial court concluded in its order that it lacked subject-matter jurisdiction to remove Taylor as the pastor of PMBC, it went on to conclude that it had subject-matter jurisdiction to determine whether the removal of Taylor was valid under church law. [The court then cited and discussed several cases which supported this conclusion.]

“The foregoing authorities demonstrate this Court’s willingness to recognize subject-matter jurisdiction in a trial court to determine whether church procedure or law has been followed when a church decides an ecclesiastical matter such as the removal of a pastor from the pulpit or the expulsion of members from the congregation. However, authorities to the contrary also exist. [The court then cited and discussed several cases which contradicted this conclusion.]

“As discussed above, the removal of Taylor as the pastor of PMBC was purely an ecclesiastical matter not involving a property right and the trial court lacked the jurisdiction to consider it. The determination of whether his removal was valid and in accordance with PMBC’s bylaws necessarily required the trial court to delve into matters relating to PMBC’s internal organization and its ecclesiastical or spiritual rule, custom, or law. Based on the decisions in Hundley, supra, Putman, supra, Milivojevich, supra, and Lott, supra, the trial court lacked the jurisdiction to make that inquiry. Accordingly, to the extent that the trial court determined that the removal of Taylor as the pastor of PMBC was valid and, to that end, ordered that his removal be effective immediately, the trial court lacked the subject-matter jurisdiction to make such a determination because the matter was purely ecclesiastical in nature.”

Author’s comments on this case: The church, by becoming a legal entity, a 501(c)(3) corporation, contracted with the state and gave the court jurisdiction over many matters. She went to her authority on a matter some of her members felt was not and others felt was “ecclesiastical,” Her authority had to first decide whether the matter was “ecclesiastical.” In this case here authority decided not. However, with different facts, as shown by some cases which the court analyzed, the court had found the issue to be “ecclesiastical.” All this required tremendous time and energy, time and energy which could have been used doing God’s work in God’s way. A New Testament church is subject to no other tribunal in the world, other than the Lord Jesus Christ.

WATSON v. JONES, 80 U.S. 679 (____), 13 Wall. 679. Supreme Court of the United States:

Note. The court in this case concludes that it has no jurisdiction over the matter. The important thing to notice is that the authority is the court. Since the church contracted with the state by incorporating, the members (individual or groups of members) can go to their authority not only for resolution of disputes but also for decision as to whether the authority has jurisdiction. A member can sue a member, members, the church or the state; members can sue a member, members, the church, or the state; the church can sue a member or members, etc. The contract makes clear that the controlling party is the state.

“This case belongs to a class, happily rare in our courts, in which one of the parties to a controversy, essentially ecclesiastical, resorts to the judicial tribunals of the State for the maintenance of rights which the church has refused to acknowledge, or found itself unable to protect. Much as such dissensions among the members of a religious society should [714] be regretted, a regret which is increased when passing from the control of the judicial and legislative bodies of the entire organization to which the society belongs, an appeal is made to the secular authority; the courts when so called on must perform their functions as in other cases.

“Religious organizations [an incorporated church, in this case] come before us in the same attitude as other voluntary associations for benevolent or charitable purposes, and their rights of property, or of contract, are equally under the protection of the law, and the actions of their members subject to its restraints. Conscious as we may be of the excited feeling engendered by this controversy, and of the extent to which it has agitated the intelligent and pious body of Christians in whose bosom it originated, we enter upon its consideration with the satisfaction of knowing that the principles on which we are to decide so much of it as is proper for our decision, are those applicable alike to all of its class, and that our duty is the simple one of applying those principles to the facts before us.

“[T]he sole inquiry to which we are restricted in our opinion is, whether Avery, McNaughtan, and Leach are also ruling elders, and therefore members of the session of the church…. This is a case of a division or schism in the church. It is a question as to which of two bodies shall be recognized as the Third or Walnut Street Presbyterian Church. There is a controversy as to the authority of Watson and Galt to act as ruling elders [717]….

“The questions which have come before the civil courts concerning the rights to property held by ecclesiastical bodies, may, so far as we have been able to examine them, be profitably classified under three general heads, which of course do not include cases governed by considerations applicable to a church established and supported by law as the religion of the state. [722]

“1. The first of these is when the property which is the subject of controversy has been, by the deed or will of the donor, or other instrument by which the property is held, by the express terms of the instrument devoted to the teaching, support, or spread of some specific form of religious doctrine or belief. [722]

“2. The second is when the property is held by a religious congregation which, by the nature of its organization, is strictly independent of other ecclesiastical associations, and so far as church government is concerned, owes no fealty or obligation to any higher authority. [722]

“3. The third is where the religious congregation or ecclesiastical body holding the property is but a subordinate member of some general church organization in which there are superior ecclesiastical tribunal with a general and ultimate power of control more or less complete, in some supreme [723] judicatory over the whole membership of that general organization. [722-723] …

[The court then explains the rules for deciding the issue in each of the above organizational types and states that the case involved the third type.]

“In this class of cases we think the rule of action which should govern the civil courts, founded in a broad and sound view of the relations of church and state under our system of laws, and supported by a preponderating weight of judicial authority is, that, whenever the questions of discipline, or of faith, or ecclesiastical rule, custom, or law have been decided by the highest of these church judicatories to which the matter has been carried, the legal tribunals must accept such decisions as final, and as binding on them, in their application to the case before them.

“We concede at the outset that the doctrine of the English courts is otherwise. …

“But we need pursue this subject no further. Whatever may have been the case before the Kentucky court, the appellants in the case presented to us have separated themselves wholly from the church organization to which they belonged when this controversy commenced. They now deny its authority, denounce its action, and refuse to abide by its judgments. They have first erected themselves into a new organization, and have since joined themselves to another totally different, if not hostile, to the one to which they belonged when the difficulty first began. Under any of the decisions which we have examined, the appellants, in their present position, have no right to the property, or to the use of it, which is the subject of this suit. [734]

“The novelty of the questions presented to this court for the first time, their intrinsic importance and far-reaching influence, and the knowledge that the schism in which the case originated has divided the Presbyterian churches throughout Kentucky and Missouri, have seemed to us to justify the careful and laborious examination and discussion which we [735] have made of the principles which should govern the case. For the same reasons we have held it under advisement for a year; not uninfluenced by the hope, that since the civil commotion, which evidently lay at the foundation of the trouble, has passed away, that charity, which is so large an element in the faith of both parties, and which, by one of the apostles of that religion, is said to be the greatest of all the Christian virtues, would have brought about a reconciliation. But we have been disappointed. It is not for us to determine or apportion the moral responsibility which attaches to the parties for this result. We can only pronounce the judgment of the law as applicable to the case presented to us, and that requires us to affirm the decree of the Circuit Court as it stands. [734-735]

En 3: “The church” refers to the institution of the church made up of local visible spiritual assemblies just as marriage refers to the the institution of marriage made up of all unions of one man and one woman. “The church” is a synechdoche, a singular noun that stands in the place of a plurality.