Posted by: SandreS | November 30, 2009

God’s Outsiders: The Called-Out Ones (A Biblical Look at God’s Ecclesia), Part 28

Would Paul Have Qualified for “501c3” Status?

The following is taken directly from the IRS code:

IRC 501(c)(3) – Religious Purposes

Churches are a subset of IRC 501(c)(3) organizations organized and operated for religious purposes. See, e.g., De La Salle Institute v. United States, 195 F. Supp. 891 (N.D. Cal. 1961); Chapman v. Commissioner, 43 T.C. 358, 363 (1967).

501(c)(3) Requirements

An organization must be described in IRC 501(c)(3) to qualify as a church under IRC 170(b)(1)(A)(i), although it need not be recognized as such by the Service (given that churches are exempt from the filing requirements of IRC 508(a) and (b)).

In determining if a religious organization is a church within the meaning of IRC 170(b)(1)(a)(i), 508(c)(1)(A), or 6033(a)(2)(A), consider if the organization has the following characteristics:

    A distinct legal existence;
    A recognized creed and form of worship;
    A definite and distinct ecclesiastical government;
    A formal code of doctrine and discipline;
    A distinct religious history;
    A membership not associated with any other church or denomination;
    A complete organization of ordained ministers ministering to their congregations;
    Ordained ministers selected after completing prescribed courses of study;
    A literature of its own;
    Established place of worship;
    Regular congregations;
    Regular religious services;
    Sunday schools for the religious instruction of the young;
    Schools for the preparation of its ministers; and
    Any other facts and circumstances that may bear upon the organization’s claim for church status.

Now we have one simple question: Would Paul have qualified?

If not, then how is it that we can follow him, and yet we can qualify for this religious, governmentally sanctioned distinction?

Pressing the Issue

In Paul’s day, Israel’s religion had long been a part of the Roman religious system. It was a legitimately recognized religion by the government. It was religio licita (had official religious license) from Rome.

Did it ever occur to you why Paul, a Roman born citizen, had legal battles and ended up executed by Rome?

When Paul started his ministry he was undoubtedly recognized under the religio licita of Judaism; but he received progressive “revelations” (II Corinthians 12:1) from the Lord concerning “the mystery” (Ephesians 3:3). The more truth he received and taught, the more he distanced himself and the ecclesia from Israel. The more clearly and strongly he taught, “rightly dividing the Word of Truth” (II Timothy 3:15), the more he was saying in essence, “This is not that,” “the church the Body of Christ is not Israel.” From town to town, and speech by speech, he was pounding nails in his own coffin. He was identifying the church, the Body of Christ as being outside of the religious system. He operated religio illicita (as an illegal, unlicensed religion); but this was his intent, for which he would lay down his life!

He builds too low who builds beneath the skies. (Anon.)

Paul gives us a solemn warning:

… Let every man take heed how he builds … (I Corinthians 3:10).

Clyde L. Pilkington, Jr.
Bible Student’s Notebook
© 2000, 2009

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