Tag Archives: God and government

Pray for All Rulers? 1 Timothy 2.1-6

Jerald Finney
Copyright © July 18, 2012
Revised on May 27, 2014

Click here to go to “Self-exam Questions: Pray for All Rulers? 1 Timothy 2.1-6”
[To be added when time permits]

Links to all chapters of “Render Unto God the Things that Are His: A Systematic Study of Romans 13 and Related verses” is at the bottom of this article.

The Bible instructs Christians to pray for their leaders, but within the framework laid out within His Word:

1Ti.2.1“1 I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; 2 For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. 3 For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; 4 Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth. 5 For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; 6 Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time” (1 Ti. 2.1-6).

The above admonition of Paul to Timothy, which tells Christians to pray for all men including their leaders, also instructs Christians that such prayers should be that leaders be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth so that they will organize society under God—that is, according to God’s principles so that Christians can “lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty.”

11Thus, when one prays for his leaders according to the teaching of 1 Ti. 2.1-6, he is praying that leaders will be saved and will lead toward achieving the purposes of civil government as instructed by God in the Bible.

Three God-given purposes of Gentile civil government are stated or can be inferred from Scripture. Perhaps the most important purpose of civil government is to teach. Just as “[t]he law is a ‘schoolmaster’ to bring us unto Christ” (Ga. 3.24), a nation, by its laws, teaches. The laws of a nation have a didactic effect—they teach. Lawrence McGarvie observed:

“American law tended to operate as if it had a life of its own, shaping society to conform to legal values by directing the actions of individuals. Recognizing law’s relative autonomy, [some] scholars … contend that law acted to infuse the new society—including the judges—with a system of rules and principles derived from liberal ideology. Many authors have noted the incremental pace of legal change. Law’s structural dependence on the Constitution, common-law precedent, and the procedural dictates of pleading recognizable legal arguments mitigated any societal tendencies toward rapid transformation. Instrumentalism, as a theory of understanding law, fails to fully appreciate its institutional inertia, the multiplicity of forces involved in its creation, and its hegemonic role as a relatively autonomous body of values, beliefs, and doctrine that provides the means of ‘discourse’ in a nation of law” (Mark Douglas McGarvie, One Nation Under Law: America’s Early National Struggles to Separate Church and State (DeKalb, Illinois: Northern Illinois University Press, 2005), p. 12).

God also ordained civil government to control evil (Ro. 13.3-4; see also, 1 Pe. 2.13-14, 1 Ti. 1.9-11, and God Betrayed, Section I which is reproduced in The Biblical Doctrine of Government on this website for a thorough discussion of civil government and its God-given purposes.).

Click the image above to go to the article
Click the image above to go to the article “Is Separation of Church and State Found in the Constitution?”

The third God-ordained purpose of Gentile civil government is to operate under Him; and He gives each nation a choice of whether or not that nation will do so. Keep in mind that a nation which operates under God and according to His principles for civil government will, for one thing, provide for religious liberty (also called freedom of conscience or soul liberty and includes freedom of speech, association, and press and a right to petition government for a redress of grievances).

1Ti.2.5,6

An application of God’s principles in civil law would be laws regulating hunting. God told mankind in the Noahic covenant: “Every living thing that liveth shall be food for you” (Ge. 9.3a). Thus, God gave man the authority to hunt animals, but not the “right to engage in mass and wanton slaughter of the animal kingdom.” Likewise, God placed man in the Garden of Eden to “dress it and keep it” (Ge. 2.15), not to destroy it. “So God requires man to exercise wise stewardship in his use of the animal kingdom and of natural resources in general” (John Eidsmoe, God and Caesar: Biblical Faith and Political Action (Eugene, Oregon: Wipf and Stack Publishers, 1997), p. 8).

God wants every Gentile nation to choose to operate under Him—that is, under His principles as given in His Word. If a nation will do that, Christians and non-Christians will live a quiet and peaceable life; and everyone will be free to choose God, no god, or false gods or gods since, as is shown in God Betrayed, separation of church and state is a biblical principle for Gentile nations. This will achieved only if the leaders are saved and apply the principles of Scripture.

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

  1. Introduction to “Render unto God the Things that Are His: A Systematic Study of Romans 13 and Related Verses” (Chapter 1 of Render Unto God the Things that Are His: A Systematic Study of Romans 13 and Related Verses. This material was also covered in less detail in God Betrayed, Section III, Chapters 5, 6.)
  2. Doth not your Master pay tribute? Matthew 17.24-27 (Chapter 2 of Render Unto God the Things that Are His)
  3. Render unto Caesar…? Luke 20.25, Matthey 22.21, Mark 22.17 (Chapter 3 of Render Unto God the Things that Are His)
  4. Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers? Romans 13 (Chapter 4 of Render Unto God the Things that Are His)
  5. Submit to every ordinance of man? 1 Peter 2.13 (Chapter 5 of Render Unto God the Things that Are His)
  6. Pray for all rulers? 1 Timothy 2.1-6 (Chapter 6 of Render Unto God the Things that Are His)
  7. Conclusion to “Render unto God the Things that Are His: A Systematic Study of Romans 13 and Related Verses” (Chapter 7 of Render Unto God the Things that Are His)

Biblical Teaching on Civil Government


Jerald Finney
Copyright © May 14, 2011


Click here to go to “Self-exam Questions: Biblical Teaching on Civil Government”


Preface

The material for this article is from Section I, Chapter 5 of God Betrayed/Separation of Church and State: The Biblical Principles and the American Application. The Endnote has more information on this and other books by Jerald Finney. The complete book will be reproduced in these articles, and the audio teachings on this blog also cover the book in abbreviated form.


Biblical Teaching on Civil government

dispensation_3a

In spite of conscience and the restraint of the Holy Spirit, what happened without civil government? Very soon after the fall,

5“GOD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And it repented the LORD that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart…. And God looked upon the earth, and behold, it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted his way upon the earth. And God said unto Noah, the end of all flesh is come before me; for the earth is filled with violence through them; and, behold, I will destroy them with the earth.” After the flood, “[T]he LORD said in his heart, I will not again curse the ground any more for man’s sake; for the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth; neither will I again smite any more every thing living, as I have done” (Ge. 6.5-7, 12-13; 8.21).

When man, operating in an economy of God, has totally failed in his responsibilities under God, the only remedy is God’s judgment. Therefore, at that point God exercised His only option, judged man, and for the first time, in the Noahic Covenant, gave man the responsibility for ruling over man for Him and under Him—God ordained human or civil government. God initiated the Dispensation of Human Government. “For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God” (Ro. 13.1b,c). He did so at the flood: He declared:

“And surely your blood of your lives will I require; at the hand of every beast will I require it, and at the hand of man; at the hand of every man’s brother will I require the life of man. Whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man” (Ge. 9.5-6).

“God gave man the right to take the life of a man, which in the very nature of the case gave man the authority to govern others. Unless [civil] government has the right to the highest form of punishment, its basic authority is questionable and insufficient to protect properly those it governs” (Charles C. Ryrie, Dispensationalism (Chicago: Moody Press, 1995), p. 53).

Although the Bible did not, in those verses in which God first established civil government, call the institution which He ordained at that point civil government, that is what it was. It was the first time God ordained that man was to exercise authority, direction, or control over man. In addition to conscience and the restraint of the Holy Spirit, God instituted civil government. He ordained civil government to secure for man a temporal good—the protection of mankind from violence while on the earth. Only God had the power to prevent civil government, and only God had the power to institute civil government. It was apparent, in context, that He desired man to operate civil government under Him, according to His rules.

He ordained civil government for the earthly benefit of man—to control evil—as is contextually apparent: Before the flood:

kjv_genesis_6-5“… God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination2 of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually…. And God looked upon the earth, and behold, it was corrupt: for all flesh corrupted his way upon the earth. And God said unto Noah, The end of all flesh is come before me; for the earth is filled with violence through them: and behold, I will destroy them with the earth” (Ge. 6.5, 12-13).

“[A]nd the Lord said in his heart, I will not again curse the ground any more for man’s sake; for the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth; neither will I again smite any more every thing living, as I have done” (Ge. 8.21).

Mankind was so utterly corrupt that the only solution was for God to destroy every man, woman, and child, except the one righteous family. This total corruption of mankind, except for Noah and1 his family, had occurred in a relatively short period of time after Adam and Eve had been expelled from the Garden of Eden. At the same time that God judged man by the flood, He ordained civil government, in order to control the violence that resulted from the wickedness of man, to secure for mankind as a whole a temporal good. Some leaders have realized this. Alexander Hamilton asked and answered his own question:

“Why has government been instituted at all? Because the passions of men will not conform to the dictates of reason and justice without constraint” (M. Stanton Evans, The Theme Is Freedom (Washington, D.C.: Regency Publishing, 1994), p. 193 cited in William P. Grady, What Hath God Wrought? (Knoxville, TN: Grady Publications, Inc. 1999), p. 72).

Civil government was established within the covenant God made with Noah. “The elements of the Noahic Covenant are:

“(1) The relation of man to the earth under the Adamic Covenant is confirmed (Gen. 8.21).
“(2) The order of nature is confirmed (Gen. 8.22).
“(3) Human government is established (Gen. 9.1-6).
“(4) Earth is secured against another universal judgment by water (Gen. 8.21; 9.11).Gen 9-13
“(5) A prophetic declaration is made that from Ham will descend an inferior and servile posterity (Gen. 9.24, 25). (Pastor Joey Faust says of this portion of Scofield’s note: “Scofield’s old note missed the fact that the curse of being servile was on Canaan (only one branch of Ham’s seed). This is why Canaan was dominated by Israel. But the first kingdoms of the world were all Hamite (Nimrod, Egypt, etc.), until Nebuchadnezzar (Semite) began to rule the world. All subsequent powers were Japhethetic.
“I do not think it would serve any purpose to try to make the curse of servitude to be on all of Ham’s seed. This was the error of some postmil preachers in the Southern states. I have two lengthy articles on the southern states, and how they saw the South as the New Canaan, and the actual Kingdom of God. These quotes are online at http://www.kingdombaptist.org under Baptist history, etc.”).
“(6) A prophetic declaration is made that Shem will have a peculiar relation to Jehovah (Gen. 9.26, 27). All divine revelation is through Semitic men, and Christ, after the flesh, descends from Shem.
“(7) A prophetic declaration is made that from Japheth will descend the ‘enlarged’ races (Gen. 9.27). Government, science, and art, speaking broadly, are and have been Japhetic, so that history is the indisputable record of the exact fulfillment of these declarations” (1917 Scofield Reference Edition, n. 2 to Genesis 9.1, p. 16).

God ordered man to multiply and populate the earth: “And God blessed Noah and his sons, and said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth” (Ge. 9.1).

Noah ShamedWould man obey God on the basis of conscience, the restraint of the Holy Spirit, and human government? Man almost immediately failed to govern under God—Noah became drunk and incapable of ruling. Furthermore, Noah’s descendants rebelled against God’s command to populate the whole earth. The pattern has continued with every nation that has ever or will ever exist until Christ returns. The covenant God made with Noah was to continue: It was to be an “everlasting covenant”  (Ge. 9.12) for “perpetual generations” (Ge. 9.16). Thus, the covenant is in effect today.

Shortly after the flood, God divided the world into nations: “By these were the isles of the Gentiles divided in their lands; every one after his tongue, after their families, in their nations” (Ge. 10.5). God probably did this because if all worldly government were concentrated in one world government, the potential for evil would be unlimited:

“Rulers are sinful and given too much authority can become oppressive tyrants. Nations check each other’s power. A one-world government would have no check on its power. No one could check violations on legal limitations and guarantees. World government has the potential for world tyranny” (John Eidsmoe, God and Caesar: Biblical Faith and Political Action. (Eugene, Oregon: Wipf and Stack Publishers, 1997), p. 210).

“The people, instead of obeying God’s command to scatter and fill the earth, conceived the idea of1staying together and building the tower of Babel to achieve their aim. Fellowship with man replaced fellowship with God” (Ryrie, p. 53). Soon after this division into nations, mankind attempted to build the world’s first “United Nations” building. “And they said, Go to, let us build us a city and a tower, whose top may reach unto heaven; and let us make us a name, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth” (Ge. 11.4). This is what was wrong with their attempt:

“It was a picture of salvation by works, Tower_of_Babel 3reaching heaven by one’s own efforts; one of its probable purposes was astrology or Satan worship, as with the ziggurat towers in ancient Babylonia; it was based on pride and self-exaltation. In addition, its purpose was to keep the people together in a one-world government instead of spreading them out into national entities as God had intended. The Jewish historian Flavius Josephus, writing shortly after the time of Christ, says:
‘Now it was Nimrod who excited them to such an affront and contempt of God…. He also gradually changed the government into tyranny—seeing no other way of turning them from the fear of God, but to bring them into a constant dependence upon his power. He also said … that he would build the tower too high for the waters to be able to reach and that he would avenge himself on God for destroying their forefathers….’

“As we can read in Genesis 11.5-9, God frustrated the building of the tower by causing the people to speak different languages. God then reaffirmed nationalism: ‘And from thence did the Lord scatter them abroad upon the face of all the earth’ (Genesis 11.9). God further reaffirms nationalism in Deuteronomy 32.9 and Acts 17.26. National entities will continue even during Christ’s millennial rule on earth (Isaiah 2.4; 66.18; Revelation 12.5; 20.3, 8), and perhaps even in heaven (Revelation 21.24, 26)” (Eidsmoe, God and Caesar, pp. 210-212, citing The Complete Works of Flavius Josephus (Grand Rapids: Kregel, 1974), p. 30).

Thus, God again judged man for his failure to keep His command to populate the whole earth. God confused their language. Since they could no longer speak the same language, the builders could no longer understand one another. They separated and relocated to different parts of the earth. They began to populate the entire earth.

The New Testament teaches that one God-given purpose of Gentile civil government is to control evil:

“For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same: For he is a minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is a minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil” (Ro. 13.3-4; see also, 1 Pe. 2.13-14).

“Knowing this, that the law is not made for a righteous man, but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for unholy and profane, for murderers or fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers, For whoremongers, for them that defile themselves with mankind, for menstealers, for liars, for perjured persons, and if there be any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine; According to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, which was committed to my trust” (1 Ti. 1.9-11).

A second purpose can be inferred from an admonition of Paul to Timothy—to organize society under God, that is according to God’s principles:

“I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time” (1 Ti. 2.1-6).

For example, an application of God’s principles in civil law would be laws regulating hunting. In the Noahic covenant, mankind is told: “Every living thing that liveth shall be food for you” (Ge. 9.3a). Thus, God gave man the authority to hunt animals, but not the “right to engage in mass and wanton slaughter of the animal kingdom.” On the other hand, God placed man in the Garden of Eden to “dress it and keep it” (Ge. 2.15), not to destroy it. “So God requires man to exercise wise stewardship in his use of the animal kingdom and of natural resources in general” (Eidsmoe, God and Caesar, p. 8). God wants every Gentile nation to choose to operate under Him—that is, under His principles as given in His Word. If a nation will do that, Christians will live a quiet and peaceable life and non-Christians will be free to choose God, no god, or false gods or gods since, as will be seen in later articles (See also, Section III of God Betrayed/Separation of Church and State: The Biblical Principles and the American Application), separation of church and state is a biblical principle for Gentile nations.

A third, and the most important purpose of civil government is to teach. Just as “[t]he law is a “schoolmaster” to bring us unto Christ” (Ga. 3.24) a nation, by its laws, teaches. The laws of a nation, as do God’s laws, have a didactic effect; that is, they teach. Lawrence McGarvie observed:

“American law tended to operate as if it had a life of its own, shaping society to conform to legal values by directing the actions of individuals. Recognizing law’s relative autonomy, scholars such as Michael Grossberg, Christopher Tomlins, and Mark Tushnet contend that law acted to infuse the new society—including the judges—with a system of rules and principles derived from liberal ideology. Many authors have noted the incremental pace of legal change. Law’s structural dependence on the Constitution, common-law precedent, and the procedural dictates of pleading recognizable legal arguments mitigated any societal tendencies toward rapid transformation. Instrumentalism, as a theory of understanding law, fails to fully appreciate its institutional inertia, the multiplicity of forces involved in its creation, and its hegemonic role as a relatively autonomous body of values, beliefs, and doctrine that provides the means of ‘discourse’ in a nation of law” (Mark Douglas McGarvie, One Nation Under Law: America’s Early National Struggles to Separate Church and State (DeKalb, Illinois: Northern Illinois University Press, 2005), p. 12).

aA nation under God will base its law upon biblical principles and such a civil government teaches its citizens the biblical principle that they have freedom of conscience (See Section III of God Betrayed/Separation of Church and State: The Biblical Principles and the American Application), but that individuals should choose to conform their wills to the will of God. Everyone in such a nation may choose the one true God, god, gods, or no gods at all. If under God, a nation teaches and points to truth, including the ultimate truth that Jesus stated: “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (Jn. 14.6). This is why it is important, for example, that government leaders, officials, and others pray in no other name than the name of Jesus. On the other hand, a nation which is not under God teaches the principles of Satan, the god of this world. A civil government not under God will allow or require official government prayers in the name of any god, no god at all, and perhaps also in the name of Jesus.

The Noahic Covenant was written to Gentile nations. Gentile nations were to always proceed15 under God’s original plan for civil government. Later, as will be shown, God called out a nation, Israel, for specific purposes applicable only to that one nation. Israel was to operate as a theocracy directly under God. Israel was to be the center of God’s dealings with nations. God’s treatment of every Gentile nation depended and depends upon that nation’s treatment of Israel.

Thus, the Bible teaches that God can prevent man from setting up civil government, and He can ordain civil government.  He is the Highest Power. At the same time, because God has given man free will, God does not force civil government to operate under Him and within the sphere of its God-given authority. Regardless, all other powers, including all other governments and civil government officials and leaders are under the Supreme Government and subject to His rules. “Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God” (Ro. 12.1).

All that God showed man as recorded in the Old Testament failed to convince mankind, excluding a remnant, that God was who He claimed to be, that His rules and principles could not be changed, that judgment falls upon individuals and institutions which do not operate according to His principles. As Isaac Backus observed: “Yet all this [all that God had done in the Garden of Eden, the flood, the ordaining of civil government] did not remove the dreadful distemper from man’s nature, for the great Ruler of the universe directly after the flood gave this as one reason why he would not bring such another while the earth remains, namely, For the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth” (Backus, Isaac. “An Appeal to the Public for Religious Liberty,” Boston 1773, an essay found in Isaac Backus on Church, State, and Calvinism, Pamphlets, 1754-1789, Edited by William G. McLoughlin. Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1968, p. 310, citing Ge. 4.19; 6.13, 15; 8.21).  “So that if he was to drown them as often as they deserved it, one deluge must follow another continually” (Ibid., pp. 310-311).

Having ordained civil government, God desires nations to know Him, to operate under Him according to His principles, and to glorify Him. This is clearly taught in the Word of God. That will be the subject of the next article.

Endnote

God Betrayed/Separation of Church and State: The Biblical Principles and the American Application (Link to preview of God Betrayed): may be ordered from Amazon by clicking the following link: God Betrayed on Amazon.com or from Barnes and Nobel by clicking the following link: God Betrayed on Barnes and Noble. All books by Jerald Finney as well as many of the books he has referenced and read may also be ordered by left clicking “Books” (on the “Church and State Law” website) or directly from Amazon by going to the following links: (1) Render Unto God the Things that Are His: A Systematic Study of Romans 13 and Related Verses (Kindle only); (2) The Most Important Thing: Loving God and/or Winning Souls (Kindle only); (3) Separation of Church and State/God’s Churches: Spiritual or Legal Entities? (Link to preview of Separation of Church and State/God’s Churches: Spiritual or Legal Entities?) which can also be ordered by clicking the following Barnes and Noble link: Separation of Church and State on Barnes and Noble.

Does God and/or Civil Government Require Churches to Get 501(c)(3) Status?

Jerald Finney
Copyright © March, 2010
Revised on April 10, 2013

Does the Word of God teach that churches in America should get Internal Revenue Code Section 501(c)(3) (“501c3”) status? What about civil law? Does American law purportedly require that churches get 501c3 status? This article will answer those questions.

Since you will probably want to know something about Jerald Finney before you give any consideration to his positions, this article will begin by providing you with a brief profile of Finney. At the end of the article are links to important Internal Revenue Code laws concerning churches as well as an important note.

The author is a Christian first and a lawyer second. He has no motive to mislead you. In fact, his motivation is to tell you the truth about this matter, and he guards himself against temptation on this and other issues by doing all he does at no charge. He does not seek riches. His motivation is his love for God first and for others second. His goal is the Glory of God. Jerald Finney has been saved since 1982. God called him to go to law school for His Glory. In obedience, Finney entered the University of Texas School of Law in 1990, was licensed and began to practice law, for the Glory of God, in November of 1993.  To learn more about the author click the following link: About Jerald Finney.

The Bible makes clear that God desires that Christians love Him and He tells them what it means to love God. The relationship between God and his children is very important to Him. Likewise, the love relationship between God and His churches is preeminent to Him. After all, “Christ loved the church and gave himself for it” (Ep. 5:25). Do you understand God’s definition of love? Jerald Finney has covered this subject in the booklet, The Most Important Thing: Loving God and/or Winning Souls? which is available on the Order Information on Books by Jerald Finney page of this website, and also free on this website at The Most Important Thing: Loving God and/or Winning Souls in online form as well as in PDF form. Of course, if one loves God, he will win souls.

The author realizes that there are different interpretations of Scripture on any given subject—there are false interpretations and one true interpretation. Christians, including the author, should do everything possible to make sure they correctly divide Scripture since the Bible commands them to do so. In fact, the biblical way for a Christian to make sure that he is right about an issue was given to Timothy and to all Christians by Paul: “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Ti. 2.15). Most Christians rely totally or heavily upon their pastors for leadership in instruction in spiritual matters. Sometimes, as is the case with the author, they rely upon their pastors and others, and are also called themselves to deal specifically with an issue.

To totally understand all the issues and sub-issues involved with the 501c3, one must not only have extensive knowledge of biblical principles, but he must also have an understanding of history and law. You see, the issue of the relationship between church and state is very important to God and His Word completely explains His desired relationship. Historically, true Christians understood the importance of this relationship, and they stood up for their relationship even though they suffered greatly for their stand on this issue—they were imprisoned, drowned, beheaded, burned at the stake, hung, tortured, etc. because they loved their Savior and were willing to do all that He asked them to do.

With that said, let us now go to the issues—first the issue of the truth about civil government requirement that churches get 501c3 status. The unabashed truth is that civil government does not require churches in America to get 501c3 status. They do so completely voluntarily, just as they incorporate on a voluntary basis. Since there is absolutely no law that requires a church to get 501c3 status, no attorney, pastor, or anyone else can show you such a law.

In fact, there is a law that clearly states that you do not have to get 501c3 status: The First Amendment to the United States Constitution. The First Amendment to the United States Constitution prohibits the making of any law respecting an establishment of religion, impeding the free exercise of religion, abridging the freedom of speech, infringing on the freedom of the press, interfering with the right to peaceably assemble or prohibiting the petitioning for a governmental redress of grievances. It was adopted on December 15, 1791, as one of the ten amendments that constitute the Bill of Rights. 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.

The religion clause of the First Amendment, in conjunction with the other clauses of the First Amendment, is a statement of the biblical principle of separation of church and state. To understand this, read An Abridged History of the First Amendment or the more complete version (Section IV of God Betrayed, or Part II of The Trail of Blood of the Martyrs of Jesus which are available free or can be purchased in softback. (See Order information, free PDF, and free online version page for books by Jerald Finney) or. The First Amendment commands that the federal government make no law respecting an establishment of religion or preventing the free exercise thereof.

When I first wrote this article, I stated that Internal Revenue Code § 508 (“508”) is a law that protects churches and states that churches are an exception to getting 501c3 status. That law explicitly states that churches are an exception to the requirement that certain organizations get 501c3 status. However, after years of study, I am convinced that a church should never claim 508 status. A church should rely on the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, not on 508.

508 is a law made by the federal government that regards and establishment of religion and prevents the free exercise thereof. Therefore, a church that agrees to 508 status has agreed to place herself under a law which is unconstitutional as applied to churches (a law which violates the First Amendment when applied to churches) thereby waiving First Amendment status and also weakening the First Amendment. The federal government can also argue that churches who claim 508 status have agreed to the rules of 501c3, since the state may argue that the federal government is granting the exemption under 508 and the church chose to depend upon 508 instead of the First Amendment. The Internal Revenue Service completely understands the First Amendment implications as to churches. The Internal Revenue Service states in Internal Revenue Code Publication 1828: “Unlike churches, religious organizations that wish to be tax exempt generally must apply to the IRS for tax-exempt status unless their gross receipts do not normally exceed $5,000 annually.” One may argue that this interpretation of 508 is too explicit, but the devil is in the details, and the legal system is expert in arguing the details. See, for more thorough explanation, Church Internal Revenue Code § 508 Tax Exempt Status.

501c3 comes with rules that churches agree to honor. Thus, when a church gets 501c3, she places herself under a sovereign other than God to some degree. The author goes into the rules that come along with 501c3 in the following articles: The Internal Revenue Code Section 501(c)(3) Exemption-Definition-Control Scheme, Laws Protecting New Testament Churches in the United States: Read Them for Yourself.

A 501c3 church also has many regulations which it is required to honor. See Publication 4221: Compliance Guide for Tax Exempt Organizations (“Federal tax law provides tax benefits to nonprofit organizations recognized as exempt from federal income tax under section 501(a) of the Internal Revenue Code (the Code). The Code requires that tax-exempt organizations comply with federal tax law to maintain tax-exempt status and avoid penalties….”).

In spite of the irrefutable fact that churches are not required to get 501c3, many Christians will tell you that Romans 13 requires that churches get 501c3 status. Of course, that is a ridiculous statement, since American law clearly gives each church a choice in the matter. No “ordinance of man” requires churches to get 501c3; therefore, churches cannot violate an ordinance which does not exist. To repeat, does God require that a church get 501c3? Of course not, and no “ordinance of man” purportedly requires man to get 501c3.

Another important question, although not at all relevant (as we have seen) to the issue of whether churches in America are required to get 501c3,  is this: “If God is against a church obeying a certain civil law, even if the civil law purportedly requires churches to obey that law, is man to obey the civil law?” When one does an honest and systematic biblical study of the issues involved, the answer becomes very clear. The author has done such a study and has written and taught on this very issue. He has written four books that cover the biblical principles as well as history and law. Again, those books are available free on this website in online form as well as in PDF form or may be ordered in paperback. See Order information, free PDF, and free online version page for books by Jerald Finney.

This article will just mention a few Biblical principles and teachings. Clearly, when a man-made law conflicts with God’s law, Christians are instructed by God to obey God’s law. All the apostles, except John, were martyred for adhering to this principle. Likewise,  as mentioned above, Christians down through the ages in and since the primitive church have stood on this principle.

The Bible teaches that God is sovereign over all, and that He ordained all powers that be. Thus, God established or ordained civil government. He gave civil government the responsibility for ruling over men, under Him. He also gave man free will. Since civil government is run by a man, or by men, civil government, like man, is free, under God to honor or dishonor Him and His principles. Of course, God desires that civil government honor Him, but sadly, civil governments rarely do so, and they never permanently do so in this age. This is the clear teaching of history.

To interpret Romans 13 and other verses to mean that Christians are to obey all civil laws which contradict God’s law would mean that Romans 13 is inconsistent in both the immediate and overall context of Scripture. Many Old Testament characters, the apostles, God, God’s own angels, and Christians throughout the last 2000 years who have refused to honor laws of men which require God’s children to submit to man rather than to proceed under God only in certain matters, violated the modern American interpretation of Romans 13. The author goes into all the details on this matter in Render unto God the Things that Are His: A Systematic Study of Romans 13 and Related Verses and in God Betrayed/Separation of Church and State: The Biblical Principles and the American Application (The book is in online form at Render unto God the Things that Are His: A Systematic Study of Romans 13 and Related Verses. Also, click the following links for other articles which teach on this matter: Separation of Church and God, American Abuse of Romans 13:1-2, An Abridged History of the First Amendment.

In conclusion, churches who get 501c3 dishonor the Lord and His principles concerning His desired relationship between church and state. Christians are responsible to God to study His Word and make the practical application of His Word to real life. The relationship between Christ and His churches is very important to Him: “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish” (Ep. 5.25-27).

That relationship has been so important to Christians since the beginning of the Church that they have been willing to die rather than to dishonor it. How important is that relationship to you and your church?

You can read the following Internal Revenue Code laws online by clicking the following links:

1. § 501(c)(3). Exemption from tax on corporations, certain trusts, etc.
2. § 508. Special rules with respect to section 501(c)(3) organizations
3. § 7611. Restrictions on church tax inquiries and examinations
4.§ 1402. [Dealing with taxes on income of pastors]
5. § 107. Rental value of parsonages
6. § 102. Gifts and inheritances (A
ccording to Internal   Revenue Code § 102 tithes and offerings are                        gifts and, therefore, , not income)
7. § 2503. Taxable gifts
8. § 170. Charitable, etc., contributions and gifts

Note. Should you desire to know how your church can organize according to both biblical principles and also within the parameters of American law contact Jerald Finney, a licensed lawyer. Click here for contact information for Jerald Finney.

All conclusions in this article are opinions of the author. Please do not attempt to act in the legal system if you are not a lawyer, even if you are a born-again Christian. Many questions and finer points of the law and the interpretation of the law cannot be properly understood by a simple facial reading of a civil law. For a born-again Christian to understand American law, litigation, and the legal system as well as spiritual matters within the legal system requires years of study and practice of law as well as years of study of Biblical principles, including study of the Biblical doctrines of government, church, and separation of church and state. You can always find a lawyer or Christian who will agree with the position that an American church should become incorporated and get 501(c)(3) status. Jerald Finney will discuss the matter, as time avails, with any such person, with confidence that his position is supported by God’s Word, history, and law. He is always willing, free of charge and with love, to support his belief that for a church to submit herself to civil government in any manner grieves our Lord and ultimately results in undesirable consequences. He does not have unlimited time to talk to individuals. However, he will teach or debate groups, and will point individuals to resources which fully explain his positions.

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