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Introduction to Section VI, Chapter 1 of God Betrayed: Separation of Church and State/The Biblical Principles and the American Application


Jerald Finney
Copyright © December 10, 2012


Note. This is a modified version of Section VI, Chapter 1 of God Betrayed: Separation of Church and State/The Biblical Principles and the American Application.


Many factors have contributed to the attacks on God’s Word and the apostasy of the church—for example, the enlightenment, the industrial revolution, and Darwinism. Enlightenment thought or humanism was brought into the church as religious modernism. Humanistic principles infiltrated most churches, including fundamental Bible believing churches, which moved from acting and preaching with the goal of glorifying God to acting and preaching with the goal being the happiness of man.

Religious apostasy was followed by moral awfulness which resulted in political anarchy. First, God and His principles were attacked and religious apostasy grew. Then followed moral depravity and then the denial by civil government of God’s authority and any established order under God. As to the first stage in the downfall of America, the states of the new nation invited the churches to an ungodly relationship with civil government through incorporation. Then, in the twentieth century the legislative and executive branches of the federal government, through the Internal Revenue Code (“IRC”), extended another invitation to churches to become more entangled and controlled by government. Most churches eagerly accepted that invitation. In the midst of these unions with civil government, religious modernism and revisions and interpretations of the Word of God were infiltrating churches and Christian educational institutions to one degree or another.

Jesus Christ is the head of His church in all things. However, God will permit a church to betray Him and take herself from under Christ in one thing, some things, or all things. Placing a church under some person or power in only one thing greatly displeases the Lord because doing so violates biblical precept. God’s Word did not say, “and gave him to be the head over all things to the church except one thing” or “all things except secular or earthly matters,” or “all things except property.” God’s Word says, “all things.”

“If Christ Jesus have left such power with the civil rulers of the world, [kingdoms and counties, or] for the establishing, governing, and reforming his church, what is become of his care and love, wisdom and faithfulness, since in all ages since he left the earth, for the general [beyond all exception] he hath left her destitute of such qualified princes and governors, and in the course of his providence furnished her with such, whom he knew would be [and all men find] as fit as wolves to protect and feed his sheep and people” (Isaac Backus, A History of New England With Particular Reference to the Denomination of Christians called Baptists, Volume 1 (Eugene, Oregon: Wipf & Stock Publishers, Previously published by Backus Historical Society, 1871),  p. 158, quoting from 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).)!

It is impossible for a New Testament Church to remain a New Testament church if that church chooses to do one thing which may result in legal subjection to the civil government. In other words, when a New Testament church does anything contrary to Scripture which gives even partial claim of sovereignty over that church to the state, that church has committed a wicked act which subjects her to another head, thereby greatly displeasing the Lord. That church has betrayed the Lord.

Doing one thing that subjects a church to the state creates a legal entity. “Legal entity” means:

“Legal existence. An entity, other than a natural person, who has sufficient existence in legal contemplation that it can function legally, be sued or sue and make decisions through agents as in the case of corporations” (BLACK’S LAW DICTIONARY 893-894 (6th ed. 1990), definition of “legal entity.”).

Corporations are legal entities. On the other hand, a pastor/trustee may hold legal title to real and/or corporal personal property for the benefit of the Lord Jesus Christ through a Declaration of Trust without having created a legal entity. “Any kind of property, whether real or personal, freehold or leasehold, and any interest therein, whether legal or equitable, may be impressed with a trust. While the question of what property is made subject to a trust is determined by the terms of the trust, as a general proposition a property interest must be transferable to be the subject of an express trust.” (76 AM. JUR. 2D Trusts § 247 (2007)). Real property includes movable and tangible things such as furniture, merchandise, etc. (BLACK’S LAW DICTIONARY 1217, definition of “Property.”). Such a trust is not the church, and the church remains a purely spiritual entity. The pastor/trustee merely holds the property, as fiduciary, for the benefit of the beneficiary, the Lord Jesus Christ. In other words, such a trust is merely a way for a trustee to hold property for someone else’s benefit. It is important to understand that some types of trusts such as business trusts and charitable trusts are legal entities which differ legally from this type of pure trust. Some pseudo legal scholars who are above their heads in dealing with legal matters have referred to legal principles for those types of trusts in his analysis of this type of pure trust.

Furthermore, although there is no precedent in Scripture for a New Testament church, a strictly spiritual entity, to own property, a New Testament church obviously must occupy real property to exist. “Real property” means: “Land, and generally whatever is erected or growing upon or affixed to land” (Ibid., p. 1219, definition of “Real property.”). Hereinafter, the author will use the term “property” in referring to “real property.” In America, a New Testament church may occupy property in a manner consistent with biblical principle in at least three ways. As will be shown in Chapter 7 infra, a church may use property held by a pastor/trustee, under a Declaration of Trust, for the benefit of the Lord Jesus Christ. Second, a church may use and occupy property if the owner gives the church permission to do so. Or third, a pastor/trustee, under a Declaration of Trust, may lease property to be used by a church for the benefit of the Lord Jesus Christ.

A church who holds real and/or personal property through a corporation has partially placed herself under the control of someone other than the Lord Jesus Christ. Such a church is not under Christ in “all things,” and operates with two heads. A church who further seeks tax exemption under IRC § 501(c)(3) (26 U.S.C. § 501(c)(3) (2007)) (“501(c)(3)”) has agreed to further limitations and controls by a secular head.

True born again Christians in America have been blessed beyond measure. The First Amendment provided for religious liberty. Christians in America had the opportunity to keep God’s church pure and undefiled and to perform the great commission (“Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mk. 16.15) without persecution from state or federal governments. What did they do? First, many churches ignored the sound biblical advice of men like Isaac Backus and entered into contracts with the state; that is, they incorporated. Then, when given the opportunity starting in the twentieth century, churches further submitted themselves to another head when they sought 501(c)(3) tax exemption.

To Baptists, passing from persecution to religious liberty without persecution was like God delivering the Israelites from Egyptian bondage and entering the Promised Land. God said to the Israelites in Egypt, “And I am come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians, and to bring them up out of that land unto a good land and a large, unto a land flowing with milk and honey” (Ex. 3.8a). God did deliver them into that Promised Land. God gave them many instructions and warnings prior to their entry into that land:

“And it shall be, when the LORD thy God shall have brought thee into the land which he sware unto thy fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give thee great and goodly cities, which thou buildedst not, And houses full of all good things, which thou filledst not, and wells digged, which thou diggedst not, vineyards and olive trees, which thou plantedst not; when thou shalt have eaten and be full; Then beware lest thou forget the LORD, which brought thee forth out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage.  Thou shalt fear the LORD thy God, and serve him, and shalt swear by his name. Ye shall not go after other gods, of the gods of the people which are round about you; (For the LORD thy God is a jealous God among you) lest the anger of the LORD thy God be kindled against thee, and destroy thee from off the face of the earth. Ye shall not tempt the LORD your God, as ye tempted him in Massah. Ye shall diligently keep the commandments of the LORD your God, and his testimonies, and his statutes, which he hath commanded thee. And thou shalt do that which is right and good in the sight of the LORD: that it may be well with thee, and that thou mayest go in and possess the good land which the LORD sware unto thy fathers” (De. 6.10-18).
“When the LORD thy God shall bring thee into the land whither thou goest to possess it, and hath cast out many nations before thee, the Hittites, and the Girgashites, and the Amorites, and the Canaanites, and the Perizzites, and the Hivites, and the Jebusites, seven nations greater and mightier than thou; And when the LORD thy God shall deliver them before thee; thou shalt smite them, and utterly destroy them; thou shalt make no covenant with them, nor shew mercy unto them: Neither shalt thou make marriages with them; thy daughter thou shalt not give unto his son, nor his daughter shalt thou take unto thy son. For they will turn away thy son from following me, that they may serve other gods: so will the anger of the LORD be kindled against you, and destroy thee suddenly. But thus shall ye deal with them; ye shall destroy their altars, and break down their images, and cut down their groves, and burn their graven images with fire. For thou art an holy people unto the LORD thy God: the LORD thy God hath chosen thee to be a special people unto himself, above all people that are upon the face of the earth” (De. 7.1-6).

The children of Israel did not do as the Lord had commanded them:

“And it came to pass, when Israel was strong, that they put the Caananites to tribute, and did not utterly drive them out” (Jud. 1.28).
“They did not destroy the nations, concerning whom the LORD commanded them: But were mingled among the heathen, and learned their works. And they served their idols: which were a snare unto them. Yea, they sacrificed their sons and their daughters unto devils, And shed innocent blood, even the blood of their sons and of their daughters, whom they sacrificed unto the idols of Canaan: and the land was polluted with blood. Thus were they defiled with their own works, and went a whoring with their own inventions. Therefore was the wrath of the LORD kindled against his people, insomuch that he abhorred his own inheritance. And he gave them into the hand of the heathen; and they that hated them ruled over them” (Ps. 106.34-41).

As shown in Section IV, Americans owe their religious liberty primarily to the Baptists. But many of those same Baptists who had been persecuted for so long in the fight for religious liberty proved again that man never changes—they never saw or they ignored the fact that incorporation entangled churches with the state contrary to biblical principle. Baptists—like the Israelites who, after God brought them into the Promised Land—did not complete the job God had given them. With religious freedom and material prosperity, many Baptists stopped searching the Bible for God’s truth in all matters and betrayed Christ by using their newly acquired freedom to partially subjugate themselves to an earthly power—the state. They practiced pragmatism and introduced a little leaven into many of their churches. They decided that they would proceed according to that which “worked.” God became a means, not an end. Their goal, at least partially, in the beginning became the happiness of man and not the glory of God. They had more important work to do than worrying about contending further for the sovereignty of God over His wife, the church. To remain totally under God and thereby glorify Him would be inconvenient. To incorporate would provide certain earthly benefits and give protection under the contract clause of the United States Constitution.

The results of Israel not obeying God took hundreds of years to play out. At first, the theocracy of Israel was directly under God who ruled through judges:

“[The period of the theocracy of Israel under the judges was] a time of deep declension of the people as they turned from God, the unseen Leader, and descended to the low level of ‘In those days there was no king in Israel: every man did that which was right in his own eyes’ (compare Judges 1.1 with 20.18). This should have been an era of glowing progress, but it was a dark day of repeated failure.
“The ‘hoop’ of Israel’s history [began] with the nation serving God. Then they took certain steps downward. They did evil in the sight of the Lord and served Baalim (see Judges 2.11). They forsook the Lord and they served Baal and Ashtaroth. The anger of the Lord was hot against Israel, and He delivered them into the hands of their enemies. Israel entered a time of servitude. Soon Israel cried out to God in their sad plight and distress. They turned to God and repented. God heard their prayers and raised up judges through whom they were delivered. Then again the nation served God.
“Soon the same old story repeated itself” (J. Vernon McGee, Joshua and Judges (Pasadena, California: Thru the Bible Books, 1980), p. 112-113).

Judges 17 through 21 chronicles events in Israel which represented the state of society at that time. In Judges 17 and 18 God presents the low spiritual state in Israel due to apostasy. In Judges 19 God gives an example of the moral awfulness to which Israel had descended. In Judges 20 and 21 God records the political anarchy of Israel, the final step down by a nation.

After that, the Israelites rejected the headship of God and demanded a king like the other nations. God allowed their request. Even though the nation Israel rejected God’s perfect will, Israel, before the nation split, and Judah, after the division, were blessed by God when ruled by good kings. Israel after the division never had a good king.

As long as the population at least honored the Word of God in most respects, the consequences were not dire. Why? The Bible teaches that God permits deviation from his perfect or directive will:

“It is important to distinguish between the directive and the permissive will of God…. God will take up His people and, so far as possible, bless them, even when they are out of His best. In Israel’s choice of a king (1 Sam. 8:7-9); in the turning back from Kadesh (Deut. 1:19-22); in the sending of the spies; in the case of Balaam—illustrations of this principle are seen. It is needless to say that God’s permissive will never extend to things morally wrong. The highest blessing is ever found in obedience to His directive will” (1917 Scofield Reference Edition, n. 1 to Genesis 46.3, p. 65).

Will a believer and/or a church say to God, “Thy will be done;” or will a believer and/or a church set its goal as the happiness of man and not the glory of God? God allows men to choose. He will say to a particular person and/or church who deviates from His will, “Go ahead and do it your way.” What kind of person are you? What kind of church do you belong to?

The experience of the Israelites in rejecting God and demanding a king is very similar to a church rejecting God as her only Head and seeking incorporation and 501(c)(3) status. When Samuel was judge over Israel, the Israelites demanded a king to rule over them so that they might also, as they put it, “be like all the nations; and that our king may judge us, and go out before us, and fight our battles” (1 S. 8.19). “[T]he 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. According to all the works which they have done since the day that I brought them up out of Egypt even unto this day, wherewith they have forsaken me, and served other gods, so do they also unto thee. Now therefore hearken unto their voice: howbeit yet protest solemnly unto them, and shew them the manner of the king that shall reign over them” (1 S. 8.7-9).

Samuel, at God’s direction, told the people the bad consequences of rejecting the theocracy and choosing to be ruled by a king (1 S. 8.10-17). “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” (1 S. 8.19-20). Samuel later reminded them that the Lord had always, through His appointed judges, delivered them from their oppressors when  they repented of their evil (See 1 S. 12.6-11) and of their reason for seeking a king: “And when ye saw that Nahash the king of the children of Ammon came against you, ye said unto me, Nay; but a king shall reign over us: when the LORD your God was your king” (1 S. 12.12).

Although Israel’s demanding a king was called a “great wickedness” (1 S. 12.17), which they perceived after Samuel foretold and God sent “thunder and rain” (1 S. 12.17-18) on the day of the wheat harvest, the people did not repent of that evil. The people acknowledged their wickedness and asked Samuel to pray to God “that [they] die not” (1 S. 12.19), but they did not repent. Knowing that asking for a king was a great evil, they said to Samuel, “Pray for thy servants unto the LORD thy God, that we die not: for we have added unto all our sins this evil, to ask for a king” (1 S. 12.19). They were only concerned about their own temporal selves, their own happiness, and not the glory of God. Would not God have been greatly pleased and glorified had they repented, rejected their king, and asked God to rule over them as before? Samuel replied to them:

“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. Moreover as for me, God forbid that I should sin against the LORD in ceasing to pray for you: but I will teach you the good and the right way: Only fear the LORD, and serve him in truth with all your heart: for consider how great things he hath done for you.  But if ye shall still do wickedly, ye shall be consumed, both ye and your king” (1 S. 12.20-25).

The contrast between God as King and a man as king became readily apparent. Samuel said, “Now therefore behold the king whom ye have chosen, and whom ye have desired! and, behold, the LORD hath set a king over you” (1 S. 12.13). Saul, as king, quickly revealed the contrast. David (David, with all his faults, was called a man after God’s own heart.), and Solomon to a degree, were good kings of Israel before the division; and a few good kings (but mostly bad kings) ruled Judah, and all the kings of Israel after the division were bad. Furthermore, all the administrations under the kings, as the people had been warned (See 1 S. 8.11-18), consumed resources and the services of citizens that could have been enjoyed by the people and directed toward the glory of God. Israel separated from Judah because Rehoboam, the son of Solomon, in answer to their request to “make thou the grievous service of thy father, and his heavy yoke which he put upon us, lighter and we will serve thee” (1 K. 12.4),replied to them, “And now whereas my father did lade you with a heavy yoke, I will add to your yoke: my father hath chastised you with whips, but I will chastise you with scorpions” (1 K. 12.1). With time, the people and the kings continued to sink further into evil, the nation divided, and ultimately, after hundreds of years, the nations of Israel and Judah, as God had warned them, were taken into captivity.

Many churches in America have reached the point that Israel eventually reached after rejecting God. After Judah was taken into captivity, some were not taken into captivity, but were permitted to stay in Israel. Jeremiah warned them:

“And now therefore hear the word of the LORD, ye remnant of Judah; Thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; If ye wholly set your faces to enter into Egypt, and go to sojourn there; Then it shall come to pass, that the sword, which ye feared, shall overtake you there in the land of Egypt, and the famine, whereof ye were afraid, shall follow close after you there in Egypt; and there ye shall die.  So shall it be with all the men that set their faces to go into Egypt to sojourn there; they shall die by the sword, by the famine, and by the pestilence: and none of them shall remain or escape from the evil that I will bring upon them” (Je. 42.15-17).

Against the warnings of God’s prophet, Jeremiah, they decided to go to Egypt (See Je. 42-44). They declared (falsely as to the blessings for worshipping the queen of heaven):

As for the word that thou hast spoken unto us in the name of the LORD, we will not hearken unto thee. But we will certainly do whatsoever thing goeth forth out of our own mouth, to burn incense unto the queen of heaven, and to pour out drink offerings unto her, as we have done, we, and our fathers, our kings, and our princes, in the cities of Judah, and in the streets of Jerusalem: for then had we plenty of victuals, and were well, and saw no evil.  But since we left off to burn incense to the queen of heaven, and to pour out drink offerings unto her, we have wanted all things, and have been consumed by the sword and by the famine. And when we burned incense to the queen of heaven, and poured out drink offerings unto her, did we make her cakes to worship her, and pour out drink offerings unto her, without our men?” (Je. 44.16-19)

Jeremiah pointed out God’s judgment of Israel for their idolatry which left Israel a land of “desolation, and an astonishment, and a curse, without an inhabitant” (Je. 44.22).

Like that remnant, some churches in America who know the truth refuse to repent of their evil. Their goal remains the happiness of man, not the glory of God. Many others simply do not know how to proceed to disentangle themselves.

The spiritual apostasy of churches in America has resulted in moral awfulness (which is obvious to any American Christian) and political anarchy. America is experiencing political anarchy because God has been discarded by the federal government. The philosophy of history exemplified by Israel in the Old Testament has played out in America. America is being judged and will be judged more severely, and the fault lies at the door of believers and churches.

As shown in Section I, Christ, the prophets and other men of God, have warned individuals, families, churches, America and every nation of the consequences of failure to submit to Him and His principles. Deviation from God’s directive will always bring bad consequences, sooner or later. To dishonor God on the highest level is soon followed by dishonor in many other ways, and God’s patience and mercy extend only so far. The overall trend after disobedience to God in Israel and in America’s churches and America today was and is always downward, away from God. This principle applies to a corporate 501(c)(3) religious organization in America. With a good pastor (in matters other than the headship issue), as with Judah when she had a good king, an incorporated 501(c)(3) religious organization may still be blessed by God, but not as she would be had she honored her marriage to the Lord Jesus Christ. Even with a good pastor, such an organization does not enjoy the full power of God, since, by her own choice, part of her power and blessings come from the state. Most likely such a church will begin to compromise the Word of God and the principles of God. Sooner or later that church will have a pastor who is not good. As more people are attracted by liberal churches, the number of Bible believing individuals and churches diminishes. The remnant grows smaller by the day. This is demonstrated by the growth of liberal “Bible believing churches,” and the churches of the Faith Movement, the Church Growth Movement, and the Emerging Church Movement as shown in Section II. Many of the churches in those movements are either incorporated 501(c)(3) religious organizations with God-fearing pastors (who did not understand the importance of keeping the marriage to the Lord pure and undefiled) or religious organizations started by new pastors such as Rick Warren.  This state of affairs has been reached in a relatively short time. America, as of 2007, has, since the Constitution, existed only two hundred eighteen years, not nearly as long as Israel had been in the land before the dispersion.

Originally, before and after the ratification of the United States Constitution, the only church involvement with the state was through incorporation. Any incorporation of churches at any time was and is wicked, and modern incorporation significantly subjects churches to the state. Churches rationalized that to incorporate was the pragmatic thing to do. By incorporating, they received protection from the state. They could contract—for example, they could contract with their pastors for his salary. Churches could hold property and receive bequests. As pointed out in “Recent Accelerated Apostasy in America” and other articles on this website, their goal was the happiness of man, not the glory of God. God became a means to an end, not the end. Churches reasoned, without examining Scripture, that doing certain things “worked” and therefore that doing those things was good or even of God.

In the twentieth century incorporated churches further freely submitted to civil government in both earthly and spiritual matters. The federal government took advantage of the new status of churches in order to control, educate, and define them. 26 United States Code (“U.S.C.”)(IRC) § 501(c)(3), an unconstitutional law which violates the First Amendment religion clause when applied to churches, has lured churches into entanglement with the federal government. As did the Israelites, God’s people in America turned from serving Him fully and entered into unholy alliances with the state and federal governments. Although churches may claim that incorporation only subjects a church to civil government in earthly matters, it is obvious that corporate 501(c)(3) churches submit to the civil government in some spiritual matters. Not only that, churches and church members become entangled in satanic rules and procedures that, if honored (and they should be honored by such an incorporated church since God’s people should always strive to keep their agreements, even anti-biblical contracts they willingly enter into), consume tremendous physical and material resources. The modern American incorporated 501(c)(3) religious organization many times contends with their new sovereign over what she may say and do. (See “1,000 Pastors who pledge to defy IRS and preach on politics from pulpit ahead of election misunderstand the law and the hierarchy of lawfor more on this matter.)

By incorporating, a church creates numerous contracts—a contract between the church and the state, a contract between the members or stockholders of a corporation, and between the corporation and its members or its stockholders—which substantially affect the church and the members. Contract, as opposed to biblical covenant, is a satanic/ humanistic/enlightenment principle. A contract is “a binding agreement between two or more persons or parties; esp., one legally enforceable” (WEBSTER’S COLLEGIATE DICTIONARY 251 (10th ed. 1995), definition of “contract.”). God is not included in a civil contract, whereas biblical covenant always includes God and His principles.

Just as marriage of man and woman is a biblical covenant which includes God, the marriage of Christ and His church is a biblical covenant. The Bible compares not only Christ and His church but also Jehovah and Israel to husband and wife. “For thy maker is thine husband; the LORD of hosts is his name; and thy Redeemer the Holy one of Israel; The God of the whole earth shall he be called” (Is. 54.5).  Experience and the Word of God teach man how a husband feels when his wife is unfaithful. The Old Testament teaches that God the Father felt the same way when Israel committed spiritual whoredom. Ezekiel 16 speaks of the harlotry of Jerusalem. God said to Jerusalem: “But as a wife that committeth adultery, which taketh strangers instead of her husband! They give gifts to all whores: but thou givest thy gifts to all thy lovers, and hirest them, that they may come unto thee on every side for thy whoredom” (Eze. 16.32-33).  “Surely as a wife treacherously departeth from her husband, so have ye dealt treacherously with me, O house of Israel, saith the LORD” (Je. 3.20)  God pleaded with Israel and his people to return unto Him. “… [T]hou has played the harlot, with many lovers; yet return again to me saith the Lord…” (Je. 3.1). “Turn, O Backsliding children saith the LORD; for I am married unto you…” (Je. 3.14). God’s grief over Jerusalem was displayed by Jesus when He lamented the rebellion of Jerusalem: “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, which killest the prophets, and stonest them that are sent unto thee; how often would I have gathered thy children together, as a hen doth gather her brood under her wings, and ye would not!” (Lu. 13.34).

God gave some object lessons as to the way He felt about Israel’s spiritual fornication. Ezekiel was made a sign to Israel: God told him not to mourn the death of his wife (Eze. 24.15-27). Likewise, God used Hosea to communicate His feelings. Hosea was told to marry a woman who, after they had children, left him and became a harlot. “For their mother hath played the harlot: she that conceived them hath done shamefully: for she said, I will go after my lovers, that give me my bread and my water, my wool and my flax, mine oil and my drink. Therefore, behold, I will hedge up thy way with thorns, and make a wall, that she shall not find her paths. And she shall follow after her lovers, but she shall not overtake them; and she shall seek them, but shall not find them: then shall she say, I will go and return to my first husband: for then was it better with me than now. For she did not know that I gave her corn, and wine, and oil, and multiplied her silver and gold, which they prepared for Baal” (Ho. 2.5-8).

Like He will restore Israel, God told Hosea to restore his wife.

The Lord Jesus, as Husband of His church, likewise grieves at the unfaithfulness of His church. Christ and His wife, the church, are one flesh. He loves the church as Himself. “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. So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church” (Ep. 5.25-29).

Obviously, God, through Scripture and practical experience, has conveyed to born again believers all they need to know in order to understand Christ’s extreme love for His Church and the grief He suffers when His wife places herself, even partially, under another head.

Most churches in America, in choosing to place themselves under the state through incorporation and 501(c)(3) tax exempt status, made the same choice that the Israelites made—they chose to place themselves under someone besides God so that their new “king” may judge them, go out before them, fight their battles. They entered into an illicit relationship with the state. Good pastors who now understand church-state issues have been called to some of those churches. They are presented with a dilemma.

As could have been predicted from “rightly dividing the Word of Truth,” the civil government is doing the opposite of what the church wished (except for temporal benefits which increase the temporary “happiness of man”); and most incorporated 501(c)(3) religious organizations and members do not realize what is happening. The civil government has educated many or most “Christians” in anti-biblical principles and used the church to further its satanic purposes. In effect, many churches have become mere arms of the state. Civil government officials, who have absolutely no understanding of Romans 13 point out to miseducated or willfully ignorant church pastors and members—many of whom eagerly follow the directions of their illegitimate master—that under Romans 13 it is the duty of the church to serve the state at the whim of the state. In effect, churches have “rendered unto Caesar the things that are God’s.” Many such religious organizations use tithes and offerings, government money, money obtained from begging on street corner, and/or money from advertisements on television, radio, and elsewhere to carry on their ministries, giving donors tax-deduction acknowledgements available because of 501(c)(3) status. In other words, these incorporated 501(c)(3) religious organizations depend upon the power, authority, reasoning, and techniques of civil government to achieve their goals. Can you imagine our Lord, when Satan offered Him all the kingdoms of the world (See En1), if the Lord would bow down and worship him—that is, if the Lord would operate under satanic principles—accepting Satan’s offer (See Mt. 4.8-9; Lu. 4.5-7)? Instead, the Lord gave us the correct example by quoting Scripture: “Then saith Jesus unto him, Get thee hence, Satan; for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve” (Mt. 4.10; Lu. 4.8). Can you imagine the Apostle Paul, any other apostle, or persecuted Christians down through the ages when asked “by what authority do you these things,” responding, “by the authority of the state.”

“Churches” which operate even partially by authority of the state get some of their power from the state, not from God. If the power is not of God, it is of Satan. At least a portion of their power is earthly and temporary, not heavenly and eternal. They cannot say as did Peter to the man lame from birth, “Silver and gold have I none; but such as I have give I thee: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk” (See Ac. 3.6). In fact, many churches have turned to another gospel, the social gospel, as their sole or primary offer to mankind. They give mankind temporary “help” but either leave out eternal spiritual matters or depend upon their methods, instead of those methods prescribed by God’s Word, to lead men to earthly “salvation.” They “[h]av[e] a form of godliness, but deny[] the power thereof” (See 2 Ti. 3.5). Paul told Christians to turn away from such (Ibid.).

Without God’s power spearheaded by New Testament churches, there will be no great revivals like those which occurred around the time of the adoption of the Constitution and for years thereafter. Without renewed and more active attention and awakening to the things of God, individuals, families, churches, and the nation will continue down the road to destruction.

Related to this issue of separation of church and state is the issue of the relationship of God and state. How would a nation under God operate? First, the goal of such a nation—the glory of God—would be clearly and emphatically stated in its constitution. According to its stated purpose, a nation under God would totally implement the principle of biblical covenant which includes two or more people or a nation and God in any agreement unleavened in any way by enlightenment principles such as the principle of contract or any other unbiblical principle. A nation under God would make known that all men have freedom of conscience as proscribed by the Word of God, but that the nation would proceed under the principles of the Word of God, the principles of Christianity, when addressing issues within its God-given jurisdiction in the criminal or civil law. Biblical principle would be used to determine the jurisdiction of civil government and civil government would operate only within the jurisdiction given it by God in His Word. A nation under God would recognize the sovereignty of God and would open up all civil government activities in Jesus name and only in Jesus name. A nation under God, although inherently recognizing the legitimacy of the New Testament church by recognizing the one true God and His principles, would not grant any type material benefits to false religions or to any churches. Such a nation would legitimately proclaim to its citizens and to all nations in the world that it is “one nation under God” whose goal was “the glory of God.”

After God called Israel to be a theocracy directly under Him, the Gentile nations continued under the dispensations of conscience and human government. “For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves: Which shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another” (Ro. 2.14-15).

God still desired Gentile nations to choose to be under Him, but sadly both Israel and Gentile nations have governed for self and not God. The Word of God makes clear that Gentile nations, like Israel, are without excuse. “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness; Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them.  For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse” (Ro. 1.18-20). Romans 1.21-23 gives the seven stages of Gentile world apostasy, and Romans 1.24-32 gives the results of Gentile world apostasy.

Since America is not a nation under God, America has subverted the biblical concept of the relationship of church and state, God and state, and God and the church. Churches, even most “fundamental Bible believing churches,” have been willing, or willingly ignorant accomplices in this subversion. As will be shown, the states through incorporation and the Federal Government through the IRC have moved into the spiritual arena and invited churches to become established state religious organizations which are to a great degree controlled by the state. Most churches have eagerly accepted the invitations.

Civil government has no authority over a New Testament church, but it does have authority over incorporated 501(c)(3) religious organizations. Although the IRS recognizes that there is a distinction between churches and other types of religious organizations, a Moslem mosque, a Hindu temple, a “church” of Satan, a Wiccan “church,” Planned Parenthood, and any type religious organization that meets the test laid down by the Internal Revenue Service is treated exactly as or better than an incorporated 501(c)(3) “church” is treated. In the IRC, a 501(c)(3) church is included with a group of “religious organizations.” At the same time, the IRS and civil government have become involved with the exercise of religion, so that there is no “free exercise thereof” for the 501(c)(3) religious organization as intended by those who ratified the First Amendment. Some organizations which are not churches are classified as churches.

Through offering incorporation and later the 501(c)(3) tax exemption to churches, almost all of the states and the federal government opened the door, and most churches promptly entered and became incorporated 501(c)(3) religious organizations. Incorporation of churches was offered by states and did not violate the First Amendment because originally the First Amendment applied only to the federal government. However, the federal government was given some authority over the contracts created by incorporation because of the contract clause of Article I, Section 10 of the United States Constitution. Churches sought incorporation partly to gain federal government protection of the contract with the state.  The 501(c)(3) tax exemption further tied the church to the federal government. Through those devices, state and federal governments have successfully tempted most churches to entangle themselves with civil government, thereby removing themselves partially or totally from under the Headship of Christ and the First Amendment and placing themselves under the jurisdiction of the state of incorporation and the federal government.

Even though the civil government made an offer, churches did not have to accept it. Most did. Since the ratification of the First Amendment, the federal government has never forced a church to incorporate or get 501(c)(3) status. The Supreme Court still understands that the state cannot legally interfere with a church who does not willingly submit itself to the state. Inevitably, the population of America became more and more corrupted; and a time came when most Americans and most civil leaders were lost and without any understanding whatsoever of biblical principles and the nature of God. Furthermore, many or most church members were either lost or were spiritual babies who sought convenience rather than the truths of the Word of God concerning the issue of separation of church and state. As a result, churches have run to the civil government seeking incorporation and 501(c)(3) tax exempt status and put themselves under bondage to civil government.

In effect, as will be shown in this section, the incorporation-501(c)(3) tax exemption is nothing more than an exemption-education-control scheme. The state knows that it cannot control and educate a New Testament church. Civil government cannot tell a New Testament church what to believe, say, or do. The state has no control over such a church. A New Testament church will submit to only one Husband—the Lord Jesus Christ. She gets her spiritual orders from God’s Word, not the civil government. A New Testament church believes and acts upon God’s Words. On the other hand, an incorporated, 501(c)(3) religious organization, in addition to being involved in a wicked act against her Husband, is subject to the teaching and control of civil government.

Saved individuals and churches choose either to be free under God or to be in bondage under Satan. God wants His children and churches to be free. “Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free…. If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed” (Jn. 8.31-32, 36).

Anyone who is not saved is in bondage to sin and the devil. “A Christian is free from the guilt of sin, condemnation (Jn. 3.18, 5.24), the power of darkness (Col. 1.13), the sting of death (1 Co. 15.54-57), the law of sin and death (Ro. 8.1), the power of indwelling sin (Ro. 6), the curse of the law (Ga. 3.13), and pride (Ro. 3.27).” (Insights from a sermon by Dr. Roy Thompson at Capitol City Baptist Church in Austin, Texas, on April 20, 2008).

After salvation, one still has to make choices. A church who incorporates and gets 501(c)(3) status chooses to place herself partially under the civil government and loses part of her freedom.

This does not mean that members of a church are free to commit crimes. As to infractions against another or society, the Bible provides that the state is there “to punish evildoers.” Christians are told not to do evil. “If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you: on their part he is evil spoken of, but on your part he is glorified. But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or as a thief, or as an evildoer, or as a busybody in other men’s matters” (1 Pe. 4.14-15).

How many times do Christians and churches allow fear to control, paralyze, and enslave them? God desires to deliver those “who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage” (See He. 2.15). “For he that is called in the Lord, being a servant, is the Lord’s freeman: likewise also he that is called, being free, is Christ’s servant.  Ye are bought with a price; be not ye the servants of men” (1 Co. 7.22-23).

Although the lost man should fear God, the Christian is not to be subject to fear, even the fear of death for practicing his faith. “And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” (Mt. 10.28). “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind” (2 Ti. 1.7). If death is no cause for fear to the Christian, why should anything else frighten, control, paralyze, and/or enslave him against the will of God?

Since the founding of the nation, Christians in America have suffered little persecution. When persecution for the Lord’s sake comes, the true Christian should rejoice as did persecuted apostles and Christians down through the ages: “Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.  Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you” (Mt. 5.11-12).

Jesus said to the church in Smyrna, the suffering persecuted church, and only one of two churches against which the Lord had nothing bad to say: “Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life” (Re. 2.10).Unfortunately, most church members are more American than they are Christian; submission to biblical principles only is impractical and too contrary to the American way of life. The laws passed by the civil government provide that the church who submits to state authority will be able to attract and keep members who are more concerned about their material than their spiritual well-being; who are more concerned with temporary happiness and the absence of fear than with the glory of God. Many church members, including many pastors, either due to biblical ignorance and/or motivated by fear and greed, have misinterpreted or ignored fundamental Bible principles in order to become an arm of the state. Many times good pastors led the move to combine the churches they pastored with the state because they blindly followed their Bible college or seminary education. Also, many good pastors have inherited state-entangled churches and cannot decide what to do about it.

Endnote

The 1917 Scofield Reference Edition, n. 2 to Mt. 4.8, p. 998: “The Greek word kosmos means ‘order,’ ‘arrangement,’ and so, with the Greeks, ‘beauty’; for order and arrangement in the sense of system are at the bottom of the Greek conception of beauty.

      “When used in the N.T. of humanity, the ‘world’ of men, it is organized humanity–humanity in families, tribes, nations–which is meant. The word for chaotic, unorganized humanity–the mere mass of man is thalassa, the ‘sea’ of men (e.g. Rev. 13:1). For ‘world’ (kosmos) in the bad ethical sense, ‘world system’ John 7.7, refs.

Spurious Rationale for church corporate-501(c)(3) status: tax exemption and tax deduction for contributions OR Tax Reasons Given for Church Corporate/501(c)(3) Status: A Biblical and Legal Analysis


Jerald Finney
Copyright © December 10, 2012


Note. This is a modified version of Section VI, Chapter 8 of God Betrayed: Separation of Church and State/The Biblical Principles and the American Application;  Chapter 8 of Separation of Church and State/God’s Churches: Spiritual or Legal Entities?


Contents:

Preface
I. Introduction
II. Tax reasons for which churches seek 501(c)(3) tax exemption
III. The deductibility of gifts to New Testament churches
IV. Another reason some churches seek 501(c)(3) status: the convenience offered state 501(c)(3) church members
V. Conclusion
Note

Preface

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

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

I. Introduction

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

This article will deal with the fourth false reason, tax reasons. Other articles cover the other five reasons:  

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

This article will deal with the third and fourth reasons listed above: civil government recognition of tax exempt status assures church leaders, members, and contributors that the church is recognized as exempt and qualifies for related tax benefits (For example, contributors to a church that has been recognized as tax exempt would know that their contributions generally are tax-deductible); and convenience. “Church Incorporation Increases Liability of Church Members” looks at the first reason, limited liability. “Analysis of another reason given for church corporate status” addresses the second reason, to hold property.” In addition, audio teaching on these issues are available on this website (see the categories at left); and Jerald Finney has written on these issues in (See God Betrayed/Separation of Church and State: The Biblical Principles and the American Application and/or Separation of Church and State/God’s Churches: Spiritual or Legal Entities? and other books by Jerald Finney for a thorough analysis of these matters. Click the following link to preview God Betrayed: Link to preview of God Betrayed.  These books and many other resources are available on the “Books” page of  the “Church and State Law” website.)

The author judges, as instructed by Scripture, all spiritual matters which he examines by the Word of God (1 Co. 2). After all, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works” (2 Ti. 3.16-17; see also, e.g. 2 Pe. 1.19-21). The Bible is therefore written by the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit guides the born again believer who meditates upon God’s Word in conjunction with reality, historical fact, and law concerning a given subject into truth concerning the matter which he is examining (See, e.g., Jn. 16.13; 1 Jn. 4.6; 2 Ti. 2.15-26). Only when a believer, a family, a church, and a nation do this will they escape the “snare of the devil who are taken captive by him at his will” (2 Ti. 2.15-26). Sadly, many individuals (including pastors), families, and churches who profess to be Bible believers have been deceived as to biblical principle, historical fact, and law concerning the preeminent issue of separation of church and state. Many churches who proclaim that they preach the Word of God have been mislead about historical fact, law, and biblical principle concerning this issue.

God chose every Christian to be a soldier (2 Ti. 2.4). He wants us to “endure hardness as a good soldier of Jesus Christ” (2 Ti. 2.3). God told us, “No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier” (2 Ti. 4). We are further told to walk in the Spirit, not in the flesh (Ga. 5). Our weapons are to be spiritual only (Ep. 6.10-18). Only when we fight with the spiritual armor as specified by God may we “be able to stand against the wiles of the devil” (Ep. 6.11). This is because “we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of darkness of this world, against spiritual wichedness in highplaces” (Ep. 6.12).

And yet most Christians, including pastors, and churches walk in the flesh in at least one way. They combine the church with the state by incorporating and getting Internal Revenue Code (“IRC”) § 501(c)(3) (“501(c)(3)”) status for earthly or fleshly reasons.

The author has fully examined the biblical principles as well as the application of those principles to the law of church incorporation and 501(c)(3) status in audio teachings, books, and articles. To fully understand these matters requires study, something which most “Christians” are unwilling to do. Some are willfully ignorant in that they just do not want to face truth. Others may be lazy, and some just don’t have the time. Pastors, evangelists, and missionaries have no good excuse. They are looked up to by other Christians for biblical guidance and leadership. They hold a high position of trust under our Lord.

II. Tax reasons for which churches seek 501(c)(3) tax exemption

As the author has shown in his articles, audio teachings, and books, according to IRC § 508, churches are an exception to the 501(c)(3) filing requirement (See, e.g., “Laws Protecting New Testament Churches in the United States: Read Them for Yourself;” “An Abridged History of the First Amendment,” etc.). Churches which do not file for exempt status under 501(c)(3) are non-taxable. Other types of religious organizations are not so: “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” (IRS Publication 1828 (2009), p. 3): this link may be slow to download. Internal Revenue Service publications are not the law, just a comment on the law.).

New Testament churches under God are non-taxable. 501(c)(3) religious organizations under civil government are tax exempt. IRC § 508 (the codification of Public Law 91-172 ratified in 1969) provides in relevant part:

Ҥ 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. [Emphasis mine.]
“(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 (2007)) [Emphasis mine.]
Note. A church applies for 501(c)(3) recognition by filling out and filing IRS Form 1023.

§ 508(a),(c) says churches are excepted from obtaining § 501(c)(3) tax exempt status. In other words, churches are non-taxable; and, therefore, churches are an exception to the civil government requirement that certain organizations file for 501(c)(3) tax exempt status. Thus, even the federal government recognizes that a New Testament church is non-taxable.

If a church does not apply for exempt status, and if it is organized as a New Testament church, according to both God’s law (the hightest law) as laid out in the Bible and the First Amendment which agrees with the biblical principle of separation of church and state, the church is non-taxable. A church is better advised to claim First Amendment protection as opposed to  § 508(a),(c) status. If so, a church should not give acknowledgements for tithes and offerings. In a New Testament church, tithes and offerings are given by church members to God, not to the church. In effect, the church does the giving and the recipient is God. This does not mean the church member may not claim deductions for his tithes and offerings. contact attorney Jerald Finney for more on this matter.

If a church successfully applies for exempt status (and maybe if the church claims exempt status under § 508(a),(c)), the government is granted some jurisdiction over the church since the civil government now declares and grants an exemption.

Why then do churches seek 501(c)(3) tax exemption? The IRS gives the answer which pastors and Christians already know: “Although there is no requirement to do so, many churches seek recognition of tax-exempt status from the IRS because such recognition assures church leaders, members, and contributors that the church is recognized as exempt and qualifies for related tax benefits. For example, contributors to a church that has been recognized as tax exempt would know that their contributions generally are tax-deductible” (IRS Publication 1828 (2009), p. 3).

Many Christians who do not love the Lord and who have not studied this matter are fearful and want the assurance of civil government that their tithes and offerings will be tax-deductible. They do not realize that the First Amendment already gives them the assurance that their tithes and offerings will be tax-deductible (one day they may have to fight this issue out in court, but, as of now, the author knows of no non-501(c)(3) church member who has not been allowed the deduction after showing the IRS that the deduction claimed is for tithes and offerings to a church). What is one’s motive for giving: the glory of God or a tax deduction from the civil government?

As will be shown below, many church members also want the convenience given the state church (a church which is a legal entity such as a corporation, corporation sole, charitable trust, unincorporated association, and maybe also a 501(c)(3) religious organization) by the IRS in making their tax deductions for tithes and offerings . Many give tithes and/or offerings because they get a deduction. Some use earthly or fleshly reasoning, displease our Lord, and excuse themselves by saying that they can give more if they get the deduction, as if God could not and would not make up the difference. God does not want our money, He wants our love. If we love Him and our neighbor, all that we have will be His, and our only regret will be that we do not give more, regardless of earthly rules (See “The Most Important Thing: Loving God and/or Winning Souls” for a biblical study of the love relationship between Christ and His churches).

III. The deductibility of gifts to New Testament churches 

Will the IRS disallow a tax deduction for gifts to a New Testament church (a church which is not a legal entity such as an incorporation, unincorporated association, charitable trust, or corporation sole and which does not have 501(c)(3) status)? The IRS Code provides:

“§ 170.  Charitable, etc., contributions and gifts….
“(a) Allowance of deduction.
“(1) General rule. There shall be allowed as a deduction any charitable contribution (as defined in subsection (c)) payment of which is made within the taxable year. A charitable contribution shall be allowable as a deduction only if verified under regulations prescribed by the Secretary. [Emphasis mine.] …
“(c) Charitable contribution defined. For purposes of this section, the term ‘charitable contribution’ means a contribution or gift to or for the use of— …
“(2) A corporation, trust, or community chest, fund, or foundation–
“(A) created or organized in the United States or in any possession thereof, or under the law of the United States, any State, the District of Columbia, or any possession of the United States;
“(B) organized and operated exclusively for religious, charitable, scientific, literary, or educational purposes, or to foster national or international amateur sports competition (but only if no part of its activities involve the provision of athletic facilities or equipment), or for the prevention of cruelty to children or animals;’
“(C) no part of the net earnings of which inures to the benefit of any private shareholder or individual; and
“(D) which is not disqualified for tax exemption under section 501(c)(3) [26 USCS § 501(c)(3)] by reason of attempting to influence legislation, and which does not participate in, or intervene in (including the publishing or distributing of statements), any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for public office” (26 U.S.C. § 170).

The author has found only one case, Morey v. Riddell, 205 F. Supp. 918 (S.D. Cal. 1962), which addresses the issue of deductions for members of a New Testament church. That case held that § 170 applies to what appears from the record to have been, at least for the most part, a New Testament church. The government argued that contributions did not qualify as deductions. The Court held for the church on all points. The government’s arguments and the court’s holdings in Morey follow:

   “(1) The government argued that the church was not in fact an ‘organized association as contemplated by the statute (no distinctive identifying name, no written charter, constitution, bylaws, or operational guide other than the Holy Bible; it had no permanent headquarters, it did not maintain comprehensive records, and its funds were not held in a bank account designated as a church account.)
Held. The members of the church regard themselves simply as members of the body of Christ (as following the teachings of Christ in the NT). They have no denominational name, no written organizational guide supplementary to the NT because they believe to do so would be to add an arbitrary gloss to biblical precepts, thus obscuring the word of God. Yet, in adherence to this philosophy, they have bound themselves together in an organized association. Many of them have worshipped together for years in furtherance of the purposes of the church.  They hold regular public meetings in homes and rented quarters for Bible study, worship and evangelism. They assemble together in ‘camp meetings’. As an association, they sponsor radio broadcasts and print and distribute Bible literature.  They recognize specific individuals as ministers and as church officers, from whom they accept guidance.  Through the years their ministers have regularly performed marriage ceremonies accepted as valid by civil authorities.  Thus, while the church lacks some of the common indicia of organization, it plainly is an organized association of persons dedicated to religious purposes.
(2) The government argued that the church was not organized in the U.S. as required by statute.
Held. The basis for this contention is certain testimony that the church had its beginnings in Jerusalem in 33 A.D. It is perfectly obvious that what was meant by this testimony was that the Christian Church in the all-inclusive sense began in Jerusalem in 33 A.D. There is no doubt that the association constituting the church for whose use the contributions were made was organized in the United States.
(3) the government argued that the church does not qualify as a beneficiary for deductible contributions because no showing has been made that in the event of its dissolution its assets would by operation of law be distributed solely for religious purposes.
Held. This suggestion is prompted by [certain sections of the Income Tax Regulations and the C.F.R. that establish] that upon dissolution its assets must be distributable solely for an exempt purpose, either by terms of its articles of by operation of law. This regulation has no governing force in respect to the determination of the deductibility of plaintiffs’ contributions for two reasons. It had not yet been promulgated at the time the contributions were made and tax returns filed…. The regulation … is obviously intended as a safeguard against the possibility that funds accumulated by an organization by reason of its tax-exempt status might, in the event of its dissolution, be used for purposes other that those to which it was dedicated…. [See case for important part of the analysis.] It is evident that the contributions made by plaintiffs have long since been spent in furtherance of the religious purposes of the church, and that there is no possibility of their application to other uses.
(4) The government argued that the contributions were made by checks payable to the order of four of the church’s ministers.
Held. The government cites several cases in which bequests inured to the benefit of the order. These cases are factually distinguishable because in each case the Court found that the testator intended to make the bequest to the named individual. In the present case, it is clear from the evidence that plaintiffs did not intend to make contributions to ministers, individually, but placed the funds in their hands, as agents, for the use of the church.
 “(5) The government argued that the plaintiff’s contributions were not deductible because they inured to the benefit of individuals (the church’s ministers).
Held. The individuals benefited were the church’s recognized ministers, who employed a portion of the contributions given for the use of the church to pay their living expenses.  Such use of the contributions does not constitute a departure from the statutory requirement that no part of the net profits of the organization shall inure to the benefit of any individual, for the sums expended to meet the living expenses of the ministers were no part of the net profits of the church. They were monies expended to meet legitimate expenses of the church in implementing its religious purposes. These expenses were of the same character as the salaries paid by any religious or charitable organization to its staff. The evidence was clear that the ministers devoted the major portion of their time to work of the church and that the amount of church funds used to pay their modest living expenses was small in comparison to the extent of their services.”

The IRS agrees that contributions to a non-incorporated, non-501(c)(3) church are deductible: “You can deduct contributions only if you make them to a qualified organization. To become a qualified organization, most organizations, other than churches and governments, as described below, must apply to the IRS…. You can ask any organization whether it is a qualified organization, and most will be able to tell you. Or you can check IRS Publication 78 which lists most qualified organizations. You may find Publication 78 in your local library’s reference section. Or you can find it on the internet athttp://www.irs.gov. You can also call the IRS to find out if an organization is qualified. Call  1-877-829-5500…” (IRS Publication 526 (2009)). [Bold emphasis mine.]

IRS Publication 778 also reflects the provisions of IRC § 508IRS Publication 778 states: “Publication 78 is based on information received in applications seeking recognition of exemption under Internal Revenue Code section 501(c)(3). Churches, their integrated auxiliaries, conventions or associations of churches, and public charities whose annual gross receipts are normally not more than $5,000 may be treated as tax-exempt without filing an application. Also, many churches are included in group exemptions (see below)  Thus, they may not be listed in Publication 78.”

 IRS Publication 526 and IRS Publication 778 comply with the law, IRC § 508, which is quoted in relevant part above.

IV. Another reason some churches seek 501(c)(3) status:
the convenience offered state 501(c)(3) church members

However, the above does not tell the whole story. Another reason some churches seek 501(c)(3) status is that IRS regulations make it more difficult for members to receive tax deductions for tithes and offerings to a New Testament church than to an incorporated 501(c)(3) religious organization. Those regulations are unconstitutional in that they prefer members of corporate-501(c)(3) churches over First Amendment churches (churches who choose to retain their First Amendment and New Testament status). In other words, those regulations encourage carnal and uninformed believers to join churches organized under secular, as opposed to biblical, law.

“A donor cannot claim a tax deduction for any single contribution of $250 or more unless the donor obtains a contemporaneous, written acknowledgment of the contribution from the recipient church or religious organization. A church or religious organization that does not acknowledge a contribution incurs no penalty; but without a written acknowledgment, the donor cannot claim a tax deduction” (IRS Publication 1828 (2009), p. 24).

To receive a deduction, one must have records to prove his contributions. For cash contributions (includes cash, check, electronic funds transfer, debit card, credit card, or payroll deduction) less than $250, he must keep one of the following:

“1. A cancelled check, or a legible and readable account statement that shows:
“a. If payment was by check—the check number, amount, date posted, and to whom paid,
“b. if payment was by electronic funds transfer—the amount, date posted, and to whom paid, or
“c. if payment was charged to a credit card—the amount, transaction date, and to whom paid.
“2. A receipt (or a letter or other written communication) from the charitable organization showing the name of the organization, the date of the contribution, and the amount of the contribution.
“3. The payroll deduction records described next. … (IRS Publication 526 (2009)). See pp. 18-19 for rules for payroll deductions, contributions of $250.00 or more, and for noncash contributions.).

For contributions of more than $250, one must keep one of the following:

“You can claim a deduction for a contribution of $250 or more only if you have an acknowledgement of your contribution from the qualified organization or certain payroll deduction records.
“If you claim more than one contribution of $250 or more, you must have either a separate acknowledgement for each or one acknowledgement that shows your total contributions and the date of each contribution and shows your total contributions.” (Ibid.).

“Acknowledgement. The acknowledgement must meet these tests:

“1. It must be written.
“2. It must include:
“a. The amount of cash you contributed.
“b. Whether the qualified organization gave you any goods or services as a result of your contribution (other than certain taken items and membership benefits), and
“c. A description and good faith estimate of the value of any goods or services described in (b) other than intangible religious benefits, and
“d. A statement that the only benefit you received was an intangible religious benefit, if that was the case. The acknowledgment does not need to describe or estimate the value of an intangible religious benefit. An intangible religious benefit is a benefit that generally is not sold in commercial transactions outside a donative (gift) context. An example is admission to a religious ceremony.
“3. You must get it on or before the earlier of:
“a. The date you file your return for the year you make the contribution, or
“b. The due date, including extensions, for filing the return.”

 “If the acknowledgment does not show the date of the contribution, you must also have a bank record or receipt, as described earlier, that does show the date of the contribution. If the acknowledgment does show the date of the contribution and meets the other tests just described, you do not need any other records” (Ibid.).

“Payroll deductions. If you make a contribution by payroll deduction, you do not need an acknowledgement from the qualified organization. But if your employer deducted $250 or more from a single paycheck, you must keep:

“1. A pay stub, Form W-2, or other document furnished by your employer that date and amount of the contribution, and
“2. A pledge card or other document prepared by or for the qualified organization that shows the name of the organization.

“If your employer withheld $250 or more from a single paycheck, see Contributions of $250 or More, next.” (Ibid.).

Also, according to the IRS, a church may assist the IRS and issue written statements for gifts of $250 or more given the church, which will be honored by the IRS if such receipts contain the following information:

“the name of the church or religious organization; date of contribution; amount of any cash contribution, and description (but not the value) of non-cash contributions; statement that no goods or services were provided by the church religious organization in return for the contribution; statement that goods or services that a church or religious organization provided in return for the contribution consisted entirely of intangible religious benefits, or description and good faith estimate of the value of goods or services other than intangible religious benefits that the church or religious organization provided in return for the contribution.
“The church or religious organization may either provide separate acknowledgments for each single contribution of $250 or more or one acknowledgment to substantiate several single contributions of $250 or more. Separate contributions are not aggregated for purposes of measuring the $250 threshold” (IRS Publication 1828 (2009), p. 24).

A pastor/trustee of a New Testament church holds property for the benefit of the Lord Jesus Christ (See “Analysis of another reason given for church corporate status: to hold property”). Thus, the pastor of a New Testament church, not the church herself, may keep records if he so desires. However, since all monies given are used for legitimate purposes, there are no profits. As to membership records, only those who have been born again are members of a church and only God knows who has been saved and adds to the church. The Bible contains no example of our Lord or the church keeping financial records. Judas stole from the money bag he carried” (See John 12.6). No apostle made an issue of it. Christ knew about it, but did not rebuke him in any way or turn Judas in to the civil authority. No instructions for a church to keep financial records can be found in the New Testament.

IRS regulations require that: “All tax-exempt organizations, including churches and religious organizations (regardless of whether tax-exempt status has been officially recognized by the IRS), are required to maintain books of accounting and other records necessary to justify their claim for exemption in the event of an audit” (IRS Publication 1828 (2009), p. 21).

A New Testament church is not an earthly entity or organization. Therefore, she has no earthly matter to keep records of. Keeping records would require a church to behave somewhat like a business and keep records of tithes and offerings, thereby destroying her status as a spiritual entity. Again, the pastor/trustee of a New Testament church may keep such records if he so desires. A pastor/trustee is not the church. He is just holding property and/or funds in trust for the benefit of the Lord Jesus Christ, an awesome responsibility under the Lord.

In addition, “charitable contribution” under IRC § 170 quoted supra, means “a contribution or gift to or for the use of … a corporation, trust, or community chest, fund, or foundation … organized and operated exclusively for religious [or] charitable … purposes … which is not disqualified for tax exemption under section 501(c)(3) [26 USCS § 501(c)(3)] by reason of attempting to influence legislation, and which does not participate in, or intervene in (including the publishing or distributing of statements), any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for public office.” A New Testament church is not any of the organizations named in IRC § 170 and cannot accept limitations on her spiritual responsibilities. Remember, a New Testament church retains all her protections under the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, as well as under the state constitution and statutes of the state wherein she meets.

The author believes that a New Testament church cannot have employees. First, he believes that to do so is unbiblical. Secondly, to do so subjects the church to Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA) taxes which consist of Social Security and Medicare taxes. (Ibid., p. 18).

“Whether a church or religious organization must withhold and pay employment tax depends upon whether the church’s workers are employees. Determination of worker status is important. Several facts determine whether a worker is an employee. For an in-depth explanation and examples of the common law employer-employee relationship, see “IRS Publication 15-A, Employer’s Supplemental Tax Guide.  Those IRS definitions do not apply to members of a New Testament church involved in ministry because those members do not receive wages. The IRS states:

“Wages paid to employees of churches or religious organizations are subject to FICA taxes unless one of the following exceptions applies: (1) wages are paid for services performed by a duly ordained, commissioned, or licensed minister of a church in the exercise of his or her ministry, or by a member of a religious order in the exercise of duties required by such order, (2) the church or religious organization pays the employee wages of less than $108.28 in a calendar year, or (3) a church that is opposed to the payment of social security and Medicare taxes for religious reasons [files Form 8274]…. If such an election is made, affected employees must pay Self-Employment Contributions Act (SECA) tax… (IRS Publication 1828 (2009) p. 18).”

Other IRS rules apply to taxes on compensation of ministers. A New Testament church cannot pay wages or any type of compensation to her pastor or anyone else. According to the Bible, members of such a church can give gifts to take care of a pastor, but those gifts are not wages and are not required by contract or any other earthly rule.

Unlike exempt organizations or businesses, civil law provides that a church is not required to withhold income tax from the compensation that it pays to its duly ordained, commissioned, or licensed ministers for performing services in the exercise of their ministry” (Ibid., p. 18-19). In fact, a New Testament church cannot “compensate” anyone since she is a spiritual entity, and therefore can hold no property of any kind, nor can she hold money. Members as individuals can give tithes and offerings to be used for biblically approved uses. Such gifts are can be held by a pastor/trustee who holds property and money for the benefit of the Lord Jesus Christ and disperses money given for biblically acceptable ministries and uses.

Furthermore, anyone can give a gift or gifts to anyone else. According to the Internal Revenue Code § 102, gifts up to a certain amount are not income and therefore, not taxable. In 1998, gifts of up to $10,000 were not taxable, and that limit has increased each year since according to the formula laid out in Internal Revenue Code § 2503.

V. Conclusion

The Bible lays out the guidelines for churches. No matter what civil law says, a church and her members should adhere to those guidelines, even if inconvenienced, penalized, and/or persecuted. American law is more favorable to true New Testament churches than are the laws of almost all other nations, but the law has become somewhat convoluted, especially regarding deductions for the tithes and offerings of New Testament church members. The conveniences which the federal government offers churches through the 501(c)(3) exemption-definition-control scheme actually violates the First Amendment (See “The Internal Revenue Code § 501(c)(3) Exemption-Definition-Control Scheme” for more information on 501((3)). The First Amendment to the United States Constitution declares that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof….”

The complications, inconveniences, and penalties caused members of New Testament churches have come about because the great majority of churches and pastors have not honored the Lord in their understanding of and application of the biblical doctrine of the church. They have not determined, as did the Apostle Paul, to present their church as a chaste virgin to Christ (See II Co. 11.2). In other words, most churches do not love the Lord as He loves His churches (See,  “The Most Important Thing: Loving God and/or Winning Souls“). Most incorporate (or become unincorporated associations or corporations sole) and get 501(c)(3) status. As to this matter at least, they walk in the flesh, not in the Spirit. As the author chronicles in Section VI of God Betrayed/Separation of Church and State: The Biblical Principles and the American Application and in other articles and audio teachings, after the adoption of the First Amendment, many “Bible believing” churches who had fought long and hard for religious liberty ignored the sound biblical advice of men like Isaac Backus and began to run to the state to incorporate. In the twentieth century churches sought 501(c)(3) status when it became available. They violated biblical principles, displeased the Lord, and gave up much of their First Amendment rights and protection.

“Nearly 30 years ago, an eminent minister insisted before Congress that: [T]he first amendment … should not permit the state to tell the church when it is being ‘religious’ and when it is not. The church must be permitted to define its own goals in society in terms of the imperatives of its religious faith. Is the Christian church somehow not being religious when it works on behalf of healing the sick, or for the rights of minorities, or as peacemaker on the international scene? No, the church itself must define the perimeters of its outreach on public policy questions” (Richard W. Garnett, A Quiet Faith? Taxes, Politics, and the Privatization of Religion. 42 B.C. L. Rev. 771, 772, 2001, citing Legislative Activity By Certain Types of Exempt Organizations: Hearings Before the House Ways and Means Committee, 92d Cong., 2d Sess. 99, 305 (1972) quoted in Edward McGlynn Gaffney, Jr., On Not Rendering to Caesar: The Unconstitutionality of Tax Regulation of Activities of Religious Organizations Relating to Politics, 40 DePaul L. Rev. 1, 20 (1990)).

A New Testament church is protected by God forever, and temporally by the First Amendment. On the other hand, a state incorporated church enters into a contract with the state, the sovereign of the corporation. By so doing, the incorporated church assumes a second personality—that of an artificial person, a legal entity, capable of suing and being sued (See “Separation of Church and State: Christians Who Call Evil Good and Good Evil” for more information on the meaning of church incorporation.). Incorporation provides for civil governmental regulation in many areas, and it does not protect the church from all governmental interference with matters outside the contract. When a church seeks and acquires 501(c)(3) status, she thereby has agreed to certain restrictions and that she will abide by public policy (See “The Internal Revenue Code § 501(c)(3) Exemption-Definition-Control Scheme” for more information on 501(c)(3) tax exemption.). She also submits herself to anti-biblical teaching from civil government through the IRS. Most egregious of all, she, like Israel who asked for a king, has committed a great wickedness against God by putting herself, at least partially, under another head. We are witnessing the undesirable consequences which follow church incorporation and 501(c)(3).

Most churches walk in the flesh and not the spirit as to the issue of separation of church and state and are guilty of one or more of the following, among other things: using far more resources to build magnificent edifices than to reach the lost; catering to individual’s flesh instead of preaching against sin, proclaming the true Gospel of salvation, and teaching the deeper principles and doctrines of Scripture; and organizing and running “businesses” instead of New Testament churches to one degree or another. The results are: churches, believers, and church families lack the power of God; many individuals, families, churches, and the nation follow Satan and his principles; and, most importantly, far fewer souls in America, as a percentage, are being saved than would be the case would churches only get serious about the love relationship between Christ and His churches.

Note

All legal conclusions in this article are those of the author, a Christian and a licensed attorney. 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. One who has not paid the price and done his homework in these matters cannot gain a correct understanding of the issues by reading a few articles over the internet—including articles in this “Separation of Church and State” blog—or elsewhere; by studying cases and law himself; by consulting with lawyers, pastors, or Christians of state churches; by consulting with lawyers, pastors, or Christians who embrace a false theology; and/or by consulting with pastors or Christians who have no actual training in a bona fide law school and who have not practiced law.  Those with the proper credentials and who specialize can see and understand things that others cannot. The Lord wishes a church to be a spiritual body and each member of that body to practice the gift with which God has entrusted him. Many “Christians,” including many “Christian” lawyers who are making a lot of money by recommending legal status (non-profit corporation, 501(c)(3) tax exemption, etc), sometimes motivating the unknowledgeable through fear tactics, and helping churches to get legal entity status are not qualified under God and/or under man to advise on church-state issues. Every church and every believer is responsible to God in all matters pertaining to faith and practice, even in matters which require a deep understanding of biblical principles and man’s laws relating thereto.

The author is totally aware that many “Bible believing” pastors and Christians will not seek truth regarding these preeminent legal and spiritual facts and doctrines. He is at peace though, because he has done what the Lord has called him to do—declare the truths about these matters. That is all he can do. After all, the religious crowd did not have ears to hear and rejected the truths which were declared to them by God Himself, the Lord Jesus Christ.

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.

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.

END