Pictured above is Pastor John MacArthur.
I received the following e-mail the other day:
California Pastor Says ‘God Has Not Granted Civic Rulers Authority’ Over How The Church Meets | CBN News
david huston firstname.lastname@example.org To:Jerald Finney Sun, Jul 26 at 11:08 AM
Good day brother Finney! I couldn’t wait to send this hot-off-the-press, “potential” 501(c)(3)-related issue your way! Interestingly, just this past week, SCOTUS sided with Nevada over similar legal questions. Would this fall under the 501(c)(3) prohibition against “violating fundamental public policy” concerns?Moreover, now that John MacArthur et al. has formally [i.e. legally] thrown Grace Community Church’s proverbial hat into the ring of civil and/or legal disobedience – will something like this ultimately boil-down to a 501(c)(3) decision – due to everything you’ve been teaching us about this issue?I hope you’ll be able to take a little bit of time to evaluate this, and maybe write, or speak about it somewhat openly??It’s a shame you can’t sit down and have a face-to-face conversation with the corporate exec. Pastor, John MacArthur, and his corporate legal eagles. And may God bless you immensely brother…have a very blessed week! Thank you for ALL you do, for the perhaps soon coming outward manifestation of the Kingdom of God on planet earth! Brother David HustonTallahassee, FL.
Besides that email, another pastor asked me about the same matter while we were talking over the telephone. We briefly discussed the issue. That pastor forwarded the following email to me (I have removed identifiers):
———- Forwarded message ———
From: ___________________ Date: Mon, Jul 27, 2020 at 9:55 AM Subject: RE: Question To: ___________
Yes, since you are a student / friend of _____ and are much aware of theology and the 501 c 3 crisis, I would be interested in your opinion of Grace Church (a 501 c 3) and John McArthur’s change of position from compliance to resistance. See: https://www.gracechurch.org/news/posts/1988
[My note on the post at https://www.gracechurch.org/news/posts/1988: The post demonstrates that MacArthur does not understand God’s desired relationship between church and state as expressed in the Bible. He does not understand Romans 13 and all Bible teachings on church, state, and God’s desired relationship between church and state as stated in God’s Word (the King James Bible). The short article below cannot delve into all matters raised by MacArthur’s waffling positions and unlearned teachings. For an examination of the Bible postion on these matters, see, for example, God Betrayed/Separation of Church and State: The Biblical Principles and the American Application. For a correct understanding of Romans 13 and related verses, see Render Unto God the Things That Are His. Other relevant and helpful books, in free online form, PDR, and with ordering information for those in print can be accessed at Books by Jerald Finney. The following website has articles, essays, books, and other resources covering relevant issues, law, history and facts for those interested in these the institution Christ loved and gave Himself for, the church: Churches under Christ.]
John … teaches that the church should be subject to all powers (Romans 13:1) and agreed to shut down his church for two months. Suddenly, John reversed his position (probably because the church was sinking like a lead balloon financially) and opened up Grace Church in defiance of Governor Gruesome. …
This is a good case study on the church, [church incorporation and] 501 c 3 status, and confrontation with the State. …
Yes, I would like your thoughts on this. Thank you. Pastor ______________
Please read the following article, the target of the post below, to understand the context. If the quotes are inaccurate or out of contest, please let me know. Again, the link to the article is:
A Warning From God’s Word to Pastor John MacArthur and Grace Community Church
July 29, 2020
One uneducated in these matters may look at the quotes attributed to MacArthur in the article and believe he eloquently articulates the issues very well. However, a believer who has studied these matters immediately sees that his statements are Biblically and legally flawed. The issue is one of authority. The Bible is clear that God gave civil government no authority over churches who honor their relationship with Him and that He desires that Christ be the only head (authority) over His churches. EN [i]. MacArthur’s reference to Grace Community Church’s “faithfulness to Christ” is misplaced. They are not “faithful to Christ” since they chose to deny the authority of Christ in all church matters. The authority of the state offered additional benefits, temporal benefits, beyond those supplied by God, so they reasoned. Churches like this are mightily damaging the cause of Christ in America.
Neither God in His Word nor the United States, because of the First amendment to the Constitution, has granted California, or any other state in the United States, authority over how a church under Christ and Christ alone meets. Grace Community Church (“GCC”) is not such a church because she has freely chosen to place herself under the authority of the state of California (through her non-profit corporation status) and the federal government (through her federal “tax exempt” status). Pastor MacArthur can argue whatever he wishes to argue; but, as he knows, the authority of GCC in the matter involved, the state through its courts, will decide – if the state proceeds with this matter – whether this is an ecclesiastical matter which government officials have a right to interfere “in a way that undermines or disregards the God-given authority of pastors and elders.”
No matter what the court decides, the church displeases our Lord by putting herself under an authority other than the Lord Jesus Christ. She, like most American churches, is a spiritual harlot. These churches are doing great harm to the cause of Christ. They have chosen to combine the holy with the unholy and are therefore corrupted. Once a church takes one step that dishonors our Lord Jesus Christ, other steps inevitably follow. The slide toward heresy and apostasy has begun. First incorporation, then gradual compromise of one Bible precept after another. Many solid Bible believing churches planted during the colonial and early national period who chose to incorporate have now fallen away from the faith. Pastor MacArthur and GCC may be right about some things, but they are dead wrong about the relationship they should have with the state of California and the federal government.
GCC has rendered unto Caesar the things that are God’s. God’s Word teaches separation of church and state (not separation of God and state). God ordained civil government. He also ordained the local church. He gave each a distinct jurisdiction. The jurisdiction of a church is eternal, heavenly, and spiritual. The jurisdiction of a civil government is temporal, earthly, and fleshly. God’s Word reveals that civil government and churches under Christ should both be under God; but neither is to be under, over, or combined with the other.
Christ, not Caesar, is the only authority over a church who chooses to remain under Christ and Christ alone. The First Amendment enacted the Bible principle of separation of church and state; it did not separate God and state. Because of the First Amendment, churches have an option: remain under Christ alone without legal persecution, or place yourself under the law and authority of man. The United States Supreme Court separated God and state. To understand the First Amendment and how the Supreme Court separated God and state, see EN [ii].
The First Amendment, and corresponding state constitutional provisions, protect churches who do not submit themselves to civil government. The First Amendment grants religious freedom to churches who choose to remain First Amendment or New Testament churches with Christ as their only head. Churches who choose to become legal entities, established churches such as non-profit corporate 501(c)(3) or 508(c)(1)(A) tax exempt organizations lose much of their First Amendment protection. They are treated as “artificial persons” under The Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution. If GCC had not, of her own free will, chosen to be a legal entity, the state could take no action against the church. The state would not be an authority over the church.
This does not mean that the state could not take action against a member of or members of the church, since every citizen in his or her right mind is a legal entity. A legal entity is an entity that can be charged with a crime, sue, be sued, enter into contracts, own property, or act legally in some other way. Civil governments and church state establishments have taken jurisdiction over, and brutally murdered and tortured, untold millions of believers who would not bow down to Caesar or to the state church. Caesar can kill the body, but not the soul. A civil government, like a church, can choose to be tyrannical and act against the the principles that God proclaims for its guidance, for the time being. The United States become tyrannical and can, but has not to this point, disregard or pervert the meaning of First Amendment religious and soul liberty. Regardless of what the United States or any state therein does, believers and churches “should obey God rather than man” with regard to eternal spiritual matters within the sole jurisdiction of the Lord.
He further states according to the article:
- “As government policy moves further away from biblical principles, and as legal and political pressures against the church intensify, we must recognize that the Lord may be using these pressures as means of purging to reveal the true church,” he wrote.
- “Succumbing to governmental overreach may cause churches to remain closed indefinitely. How can the true church of Jesus Christ distinguish herself in such a hostile climate? There is only one way: bold allegiance to the Lord Jesus Christ.”
He expects the government, composed of heathens, to stay within biblical principles when GCC has strayed so far from New Testament Church Doctrine as declared in the epistles of Paul? He says that the Lord may be using these pressures as a means of purging to reveal “the true church.” True churches are churches who honor their head, the Lord Jesus Christ, in all matters. GCC certainly is not, according to the epistles of Paul, true to the Lord. GCC is not a “true church.”
A true church can distinguish herself in such a hostile climate just as she could have when the climate were not hostile: by doing things God’s way, by remaining a non-legal entity (a non-established church), and by following all God’s guidelines for local church as to nature, purpose, and form of organization. A local church under Christ, unlike GCC, is an organism, the body of Christ; instinct with His life, and heavenly (not earthly) in calling, promise and destiny; and again, such a church is under the authority of the Lord Jesus Christ alone.
Christians and churches, since the beginning of the church age, have been and are being persecuted for their refusal to bow down to civil governments and to church state establishments. Because of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution and corresponding state constitutional provisions, Christians in America have soul liberty and churches can choose to do things God’s way without persecution. EN [iii] GCC has chosen to prostitute herself.
Now, I will briefly address Brother Huston’s question regarding the 501(c)(3) “shall not violate fundamental public policy” rule. Perhaps the state might argue that the church has violated that. As far as I know, that rule has not yet been applied to 501(c)(3) or 508(c)(1)(A) churches; but that does not mean that it will not happen. I expect that it will sooner (or maybe later) be applied to established churches such as GCC in the area of same sex “marriage.” See, EN [iv]. Pastors and “Christian” lawyers have long anticipated that this may occur. They have taken steps such as inserting their Bible beliefs concerning such matters in their corporate Constitutions and by-laws. However, a state court, the authority in the matter – if controlled by anti-Christian, anti-God judges – will find that fundamental public policy outweighs the church’s unilaterally made policies. Not only that, but many churches have already, and more do so by the day, fold on the matter of sexual perversion and same-sex marriage. Satan surely takes great delight in pointing this out to God. Of course, God already knows it and even prophesied the apostasy of the churches. EN [v].
God ordained a theocracy, the nation Israel, to be directly under His authority alone. Israel wanted to be like all the other nations and demanded a king. I Samuel 8. Samuel was “displeased and prayed unto the Lord.” “And the LORD said unto Samuel, Hearken unto the voice of the people in all that they say unto thee: for they have not rejected thee, but they have rejected me, that I should not reign over them” (1 Samuel 8:7). God, through Samuel, then warned them about the actions of an earthly king.
- “Nevertheless the people refused to obey the voice of Samuel; and they said, Nay; but we will have a king over us; That we also may be like all the nations; and that our king may judge us, and go out before us, and fight our battles. And Samuel heard all the words of the people, and he rehearsed them in the ears of the LORD. And the LORD said to Samuel, Hearken unto their voice, and make them a king. And Samuel said unto the men of Israel, Go ye every man unto his city.” 1 Samuel 8:19-22.
God wants his people in this age of grace, those who are saved, and His churches to remain under Him alone. But He honors the free will of man. He gave Israel what they requested. Israel, at least, acknowledged that they had committed a great evil, but Israel did not repent. 1 Samuel 12:19. God, through Samuel, told them:
- “And Samuel said unto the people, Fear not: ye have done all this wickedness: yet turn not aside from following the LORD, but serve the LORD with all your heart; And turn ye not aside: for then should ye go after vain things, which cannot profit nor deliver; for they are vain. For the LORD will not forsake his people for his great name’s sake: because it hath pleased the LORD to make you his people.” 1 Samuel 12:20-22.
However, Israel had taken the first step away from their lover. The slide into apostasy had begun. The Old Testament history chronicles the downward slide of Israel into apostasy and judgment. Just as the Lord, through His prophets, told Israel in advance all that was to come, He has told Christians and churches of the future history of the world, of nations, and of the churches, to include the apostasy that is now apparent to one studied in the Word of God. The apostasy of the churches parallels the apostasy of the nation Israel. Once a church takes that first step to dishonor her espoused, other steps inevitably follow, unless the church repents. God’s message to GCC, as made clear from a study of His Word, is “Turn to me and repent of this great wickedness which you have done.”
Millions blaspheme the name of the Lord as they view worldly organizations like GCC, churches with a form of godliness, who call on the name of God but deny the power thereof. Lost people know a business disguised as a church when they see it. The percentage of churchgoers, much less born again believers, in the United States is diminishing at an alarming rate because of fake churches and false teachers who have betrayed God.
Note. See EN [vi] for links to short essays which explain related matters such as “What is a corporation,” “What is 501(c)(3),” etc.
EN [i] To fully understand this, see God Betrayed/Separation of Church and State: The Biblical Principles and the American Application.
- Is Separation Of Church And State Found In The Constitution?
- First Amendment Protection of New Testament Churches/Federal Laws Protecting State Churches (Religious Organizations)
- Is Separation Of Church And State Found In The Constitution?
- An Abridged History of the First Amendment
- The History of the First Amendment
See, for an explanation of how the Supreme Court has removed God from practically all civil government matters: The Supreme Court Reinterprets the First Amendment and Removes God.
- The Proper Response by believers and churches to Obergefell, the United States Supreme Court same sex marriage decision(063015)
- The Republican Response to Obergefell Wrong!!!!!!(070715)
- The Hierarchy of Law as it relates to sodomy and sodomite marriage(060115)
- Will Churches in America Have a Choice about Sodomite Marriage: A short critique of the Article “Christian schools will have no choice about gay marriage: Column” as it relates to churches(052315)
- Preaching on Sodomy in a Hate Crime Atmosphere (061610)
- Romans 13.18-32 Lessons Learned from Street Preaching Encounter with a Reprobate(121117)
EN [v] See the articles and essays on the apostasy of the church at: The Biblical Doctrine of the Church.
- What is a Spiritual entity?
2. What is a legal entity?
3.Is a church a Spiritual entity, a legal entity, or a Spiritual/legal entity?
4. Is it illegal for a church in America not to incorporate? Does a church have to be a 501c3?
5. Does God Care if our Church is Incorporated?
6. Should a Church Be a 508 Church?
7. Does a church in America need an Employer (Tax) ID Number?
8. Did President Trump do away with 501(c)(3) Requirements?
9. What does church, inc. mean?
10. Who Is the head of an incorporated church?
11. What is 501c3?
12. What is 508?
13. What is the history of the First Amendment?
14. What is the History and Meaning of “Establishment of Religion” in America?
15. What is an established church?
16. What is a First Amendment Church?
17. Question from a Church Concerning Church Organization
18. The Bible Answer to the Question, “Is an Incorporated 501(c)(3) or 508 Church a Church of Christ?”