Copyright © August 16, 2015
Note. The material covered in this article is explained in much more detail in Separation of Church and State/God’s Churches: Spiritual or Legal Entities? which is free on the internet in both online and PDF form or may be ordered in softback form by going to Order information for books by Jerald Finney.
God desires those who are saved to become spiritual, not remain carnal (1 Co. 3). When a child of God becomes spiritual, he is then in a position to judge all things since he has the mind of Christ (1 Co. 2.14-16). Likewise, a church is to be a spiritual body or organism made up of born-again spiritual beings (see, e.g., 1 Co. 12, Ep. 4), not a worldly organization made up of earthly minded, earthly named (CEO, secretary, treasurer, employees-not one of these positions comports with and all of these positions are contrary to New Testament church doctrine-etc.), earthly acting (as laid out in non-biblical methods of operation including non-profit corporation law, Internal Revenue Code law, or any adaption of man’s methods or methods of operation) congregation of unsaved and/or saved people.
The spiritual organism that is a church is to be organized according to the guidelines of the New Testament only; Christ is to be her only head (Ep. 5.23-32, Co. 1.18); etc. See, “Eleven Earmarks of a First Amendment [New Testament] Church” which is found in Quick Reference For Churches Seeking To Organize According To New Testament Guidelines.
A church can hold no property and be a New Testament church. A church who places herself under any other head(s) or becomes any kind of legal entity grieves our Lord. Legal entities include non-profit corporations (sole or aggregate), unincorporated associations, business and charitable trusts, 501(c)(3) religious organizations, etc. All these types of legal status are the creation of state or federal law; any church who organizes under man’s law is a creature of the state.
How can church members give to God as opposed to giving to a religious organization such as First Baptist Church, Inc.? How can a church meet on property without being the legal owner of that property? How can church members utilize hymnals if those hymnals are owned by God, not the church? In other words, how can God be declared to be the true, beneficial, and equitable owner of the tithes and offerings of the church (the church members) and of real and personal property which is utilized by a New Testament church? How can this be done without making the church the legal owner of the property?
God’s law tells us how—by recognizing that God, not a religious organization, is the true, equitable, and beneficial owner of all things, including all money and all real and personal property; by further recognizing that God has entrusted all worldly money and properties to men; and finally by recognizing that God desires (but does not force) men are to utilize that money and property for His benefit (for His glory). A church in America can do this in a way which is both biblical and legal. This can be accomplished in such a manner that a church remains a spiritual entity only, as opposed to a legal entity; that is such that the church does not become the legal owner of the money, property held in trust for Him. A church can do this by establishing an ordinary Bible trust.
The concept of trust is biblical. The Bible is, among other things, a Declaration of Trust (“DOT”). OF course, the Bible does not use that term; but, as will be shown in this article, it declares the concept of trust and accompanying terms (trust estate; trustor, grantor, or settlor; trustee, and beneficiary) This is covered in some detail in Section VI, Chapter 7 of God Betrayed. (Click here for the online version of that chapter; that chapter, among other things, compares the ordinary trust to incorporation and explains how the ordinary trust complies with both legal and Bible principles.). The Bible makes clear that God has entrusted all men, as trustees, with temporal, material things. He has trusted His children, born again believers, as trustees of the spiritual things of God as well as with the material things which God has given them. Here are a few examples: Adam and Eve were trustees of the Garden of Eden, Moses of the children of Israel, the Kings of Israel and Judah of their respective nations, the Levites of the Jewish religion, the prophets of the word of God entrusted to them, etc.
“If therefore ye have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches? And if ye have not been faithful in that which is another man’s, who shall give you that which is your own” (Luke 16:11-12)? “But as we were allowed of God to be put in trust with the gospel, even so we speak; not as pleasing men, but God, which trieth our hearts” (1 Thessalonians 2:4). “According to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, which was committed to my trust” (1 Timothy 1:11).
The concept of the trust, trustor (God), trustee (individuals), and beneficiary (God, the true, beneficial, and equitable owner of all things) is clearly stated in Luke 19.12-23 and also Luke 20.9-16:
Luke 19.12-23: “He said therefore, A certain nobleman went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom, and to return. And he called his ten servants, and delivered them ten pounds, and said unto them, Occupy till I come. But his citizens hated him, and sent a message after him, saying, We will not have this man to reign over us. And it came to pass, that when he was returned, having received the kingdom, then he commanded these servants to be called unto him, to whom he had given the money, that he might know how much every man had gained by trading. Then came the first, saying, Lord, thy pound hath gained ten pounds. And he said unto him, Well, thou good servant: because thou hast been faithful in a very little, have thou authority over ten cities. And the second came, saying, Lord, thy pound hath gained five pounds. And he said likewise to him, Be thou also over five cities. And another came, saying, Lord, behold, here is thy pound, which I have kept laid up in a napkin: For I feared thee, because thou art an austere man: thou takest up that thou layedst not down, and reapest that thou didst not sow. And he saith unto him, Out of thine own mouth will I judge thee, thou wicked servant. Thou knewest that I was an austere man, taking up that I laid not down, and reaping that I did not sow: Wherefore then gavest not thou my money into the bank, that at my coming I might have required mine own with usury?”
Luke 20.9-16: “Then began he to speak to the people this parable; A certain man planted a vineyard, and let it forth to husbandmen, and went into a far country for a long time. And at the season he sent a servant to the husbandmen, that they should give him of the fruit of the vineyard: but the husbandmen beat him, and sent him away empty. And again he sent another servant: and they beat him also, and entreated him shamefully, and sent him away empty. And again he sent a third: and they wounded him also, and cast him out. Then said the lord of the vineyard, What shall I do? I will send my beloved son: it may be they will reverence him when they see him. But when the husbandmen saw him, they reasoned among themselves, saying, This is the heir: come, let us kill him, that the inheritance may be ours. So they cast him out of the vineyard, and killed him. What therefore shall the lord of the vineyard do unto them? He shall come and destroy these husbandmen, and shall give the vineyard to others. And when they heard it, they said, God forbid.”
Thus, the Bible makes clear that God, the true, beneficial, and equitable owner, has entrusted (1) all men with the temporal, legal ownership of all temporal material things and (2) believers with spiritual matters, all for His glory. From reading the Bible, including the above verses, one can understand how the Lord feels about believers/churches who violate their spiritual trust by organizing churches under man as legal entities such as non-profit corporations, unincorporated associations, charitable trusts, 501(c)(3) tax exempt religious organizations, etc.
A trustor, settlor, or grantor is one who creates a trust. The trustor gives the trust estate to the trustee to be used according to the directions of the trustor. God was the trustor, settlor, grantor of, for example, the Garden of Eden trust. Adam and Eve were the co-trustees. The trust estate was the Garden of Eden, the earth, and all that is in it. They were given the legal ownership of the earth and all that was in it and were to glorify Him, the true, equitable, beneficial owner, the beneficiary. Adam and Eve’s purpose, as trustees, was to glorify God by overseeing the trust estate according to His directions (See Genesis 1.28-30).
Anytime someone gives money or property to a person who is to use it for the benefit of another, and not for the benefit of the person who is entrusted with the gift (the trustee), the giver is a trustor, settlor, or grantor. The trustee becomes the legal owner of the property, and has a fiduciary duty to use the property for the benefit of the true owner (the beneficiary). The person for whose benefit the money or property is held is the true, equitable, and beneficial owner of the property. In other words, a trust relationship has been created. If the relationship is reduced to writing, the document creating the relationship is called a DOT. The relationship does not have to be made known to the legal system at the time of its creation or thereafter nor must it be in writing. However, if the relationship is brought to light in the legal system, the system will determine the type trust involved and the status of the trustor, trustee, and beneificiary. A DOT which creates an ordinary Bible trust is not to be hidden by a church since it is according to Bible precept. Believers are to proclaim truth to the world, not hide it.
Just as God stated his principles of trust, trustor, trustee, and beneficiary in the Bible, a book or document written for the light of the world, a church who wishes to establish an ordinary trust in line with Bible (and legal, in America) precept is wise to do likewise through a DOT. God proclaimed the principles to all the world; his children should do likewise. Believers are not to follow the principles of Satan and his followers, who love darkness rather than light. Believers are to shine the light of God in a dark world. God desires his children to act according to knowledge, understanding and wisdom. As long as man’s law allows for doing things God’s way, believers do not dishonor God by doing things as provided for by man’s law. When doing things man’s way causes one to disobey God, then a believer is told to “obey God rather than men” (Acts 5.29).
The legal system recognizes several types of trusts. A trustor, settlor, or grantor can create several types of trusts either by written declaration, by actions, or words which encompass all the elements of a trust. This Separation of Church and State Law Ministry (“SCSLM”) recommends a non-legal entity type of trust which in trust law is sometimes called an ordinary trust. This type of trust complies with biblical precept. Wisely, the SCSLM advises creation of the ordinary Bible trust by means of a DOT.
The Bible trust recommended by this ministry has a trustor who creates the trust, a trustee who administers and is legal owner of the trust estate, and names the in fact true, beneficial, and equitable owner of all things, the Lord Jesus Christ. The church remains a non-legal, spiritual entity only.
If a trustee or trustees holds property for a church, the church has become a legal entity because the church is the legal owner of the property. This is true whether the trustee(s) hold(s) the property for the benefit of the true, beneficial, and equitable property of the Lord Jesus Christ or not. Of course, all property must have an earthly owner who is to hold that property for the benefit of the true, beneficial and equitable owner of all things.
Therefore, for a church to remain a spiritual entity only and not a legal entity, the trustee must remain the sole legal entity who holds the money/property for the benefit of the Lord Jesus Christ. God established the concept of trust. The church recognizes that concept by establishing a Bible trust with a trustee and beneficiary. As trustor, the church names the trustee, but the church does not hold the trust estate through a trustee; the trustee holds the trust estate for the benefit of the true, beneficial, and equitable owner of the money/property. The trustee, not the church, is the legal owner. The church is not the trust, nor is the trust the church. The ordinary Bible trust merely creates a fiduciary duty by a trustee to administer the trust estate for the benefit of the Lord Jesus Christ. The trust estate is to be used, not for the benefit of the church, but for the benefit of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Any church may establish an ordinary trust. Few will do so since most believers and churches are carnal and not spiritual. They lose (or never had) the power of God since they are not spiritual. They remain carnal. A carnal state prevents spiritual growth. Their pastors continue to feed them with the milk of the world instead of the meat of the word of God; therefore, there is no increase. Their worldly religious organizations do things the world’s way according to the world’s principles. Thank God for the remnant: Does that include you and your church?