The Apostles of the first century church were Jewish. But God had a Reformation in mind. The word “reformation” comes from two words, “re” and “formation.” God said the rules were about to change. The Lord was re-forming the church to expand out freely to the Gentile nations as well. This was a huge change, and met with opposition from those who were used to old ways. God gave this disturbing idea to Peter in a dream. At first Peter argued with God.
In the dream “he saw heaven opened and something coming down that looked like a big sheet being lowered to earth by its four corners. In it were all kinds of animals, reptiles, and birds. Then a voice said to Peter, ‘Get up, Peter; kill and eat.’ But Peter said, ‘No, Lord! I have never eaten food that is unholy or unclean.’ But the voice said to him again, ‘God has made these things clean, so don’t call them ‘unholy’!’ This happened three times, and at once the sheet was taken back to heaven” (Acts 10:11-16).
Just as the dream finished, three men came from a Gentile’s house and asked for Peter to come with them to the man’s house. When Peter got there, this Gentile man wanted to hear all about Jesus. The man’s name was Cornelius. He and his entire household got born again and immediately had the proof of it when they all spoke with tongues. Neither Peter nor the men that went with him could deny that the rules had changed. Their idea of the church was re-formed.
“Peter began to speak: ‘I really understand now that to God every person is the same. In every country God accepts anyone who worships him and does what is right. You know the message that God has sent to the people of Israel is the Good News that peace has come through Jesus Christ. Jesus is the Lord of all people!’” (Acts 10:34-36).
“The Jewish believers who came with Peter were amazed that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been given even to the nations [Gentiles]” (v. 45).
That was a very big deal in the church. It was the very first Reformation.
The second Reformation is the one we all know about with Martin Luther. His re-formation changed the way people of the church related to God. He freed up the Bible for regular people to read, not having to pass through the rules of papal interpretation. The invention of the printing press now made access to the Bible publically available. Every person could read the good news of God and His son Jesus for themselves.
The third Reformation is here in America, just on the cusp of breaking out across the nation. Since 1954 most of the churches of America have signed the papers to be incorporated under 501c3 status. They can get tax exempt status and give members an IRS tax deduction for donating. But by incorporating as a 501c3, a church agrees to stand down to the state. They agree to “act on the behalf of the Government in carrying out governmentally approved policies.”
The IRS Code 501c3 reads: “No part of the activities of which is carrying on propaganda, or otherwise 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.”
One pastor under the 501c3 rule stated: “Take the last presidential election. There were numbers of things that I knew that I was never able to say from the pulpit because if you advance the cause of one candidate or impede the cause of the other you can lose your tax exemption. That would have been disastrous not only for the church, but for our school and our seminary.”
According to the IRS itself, under tax Code 508©(1)(A) the church “is automatically tax-exempt.” Not only that, but according to the IRS Publication 526, a church doesn’t need to become a 501c3 for contributions to be taken as tax deductions.
So why did churches believe they had to become 501c3 incorporated?
- Ignorance (We didn’t know any better).
- Bandwagon logic (Everyone else is doing it). And
- Professional advice (Many attorneys and CPAs recommend it).
When it comes to legal and tax matters, most people just assume that the “licensed professionals” know what they’re talking about. Little do people realize that far too many attorneys never personally study the law for themselves, and are merely parroting what they’ve heard other attorneys say. Once a myth gets started in the legal profession, it tends to spread, particularly when the myth can make a lot of money for the attorneys who take advantage of it.
But God is once again on the Reformation front. He is challenging the stubborn Peter pastors of our day. He is in the process of re-forming the churches of America to set them free of the tyranny of the gag order that now besets so many. Pastors are awakening all over America. The re-formation of American churches is exploding. We will see tremendous results in the months and years to come.
And just like the Reformation in Acts 10 with Peter and the Reformation of the 1500s with Martin Luther, the Word of God will explode and expand throughout the nations of the world and in the lives of each individual who comes into this new liberty in Christ.
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