The Great Sin of the Church

After the flood God said to Noah, “This is the sign of the covenant which I make between Me and you, and every living creature that is with you, for perpetual generations: I set My rainbow in the cloud, and it shall be for the sign of the covenant between Me and the earth. It shall be , when I bring a cloud over the earth, that the rainbow shall be seen in the cloud; and I will remember My covenant which is between Me and you and every living creature of all flesh; the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh. The rainbow shall be in the cloud, and I will look on it to remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.”

This rainbow has a New Testament corollary: in the first chapter of Acts it says, “Now when He had spoken these things, while they watched, He was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as He went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel, who also said, ‘Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven.'”

The way that Jesus was taken up into heaven, and that there were two men to speak this way to the disciples is important because it relates to another passage in Genesis concerning Noah. In practically the next passage from the first quote from Genesis it says, “And Noah began to be a farmer, and he planted a vineyard. Then he drank of the wine and was drunk, and became uncovered in his tent. And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father, and told his two brothers outside. But Shem and Japheth took a garment, laid it on both their shoulders, and went backward and covered the nakedness of their father. Their faces were turned away, and they did not see their father’s nakedness.

“So Noah awoke from his wine, and knew what his younger son had done to him. Then he said:

 ‘Cursed be Canaan;

A servant of servants

He shall be to his brethren.’

“and he said:

‘Blessed be the Lord,

The God of Shem,

And may Canaan be his servant.

May God enlarge Japheth,

And may he dwell in the tents of Shem;

And may Canaan be his servant.'”

So: the cloud and the rainbow and the cloud and Jesus, the staring of Ham and the staring of the ‘Men of Galilee’. It is no accident that these events are described the way they are. They reveal the truth of something that had to come, something that has been the state of things for some time. Let us examine what this means.

First of all the cloud is where the rainbow is, upon which God will look and remember that he will not destroy the earth. Jesus ascends into the cloud. Jesus is equivalent to the rainbow. Next Ham looks upon his father’s nakedness, he looks upon his father’s vulnerability. The disciples look upon the cloud, staring at it after Jesus. They are rebuked, if you will, by two men who ask them why they are staring into the cloud. The cloud, with Jesus in it as the rainbow, is God’s vulnerability. He has promised that He will not destroy the earth. What has the Church done? Hasn’t it been looking straight at God’s vulnerability, his forgiveness? It isn’t that forgiveness is a bad thing, nor that God will take it away because we stare at it. It is that all along God has been trying to perform another work, a work that can’t be done if we do nothing but stare at His forgiveness: “This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven.” They are told not to stare because Jesus would come back “in like manner as you saw Him go.”

Jesus told a parable about this. In the 25th chapter of Matthew it says, “For the kingdom of heaven is like a man traveling to a far country, who called his own servants and delivered his goods to them. And to one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one, to each according to his own ability; and immediately he went on a journey. Then he who had received the five talents went and traded with them, and made another five talents. And likewise he who had received two gained two more also. But he who had received one went and dug in the ground, and hid his lord’s money. After a long time the lord of those servants came and settled accounts with them.

“So he who had received five talents came and brought five other talents, saying, ‘Lord, you delivered to me five talents; look, I have gained five more talents besides them.’ His lord said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.’ He also who had received two talents came and said, ‘Lord, you delivered to me two talents; look, I have gained two more talents besides them.’ His lord said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.’

“Then he who had received the one talent came and said, ‘Lord, I knew you to he a hard man, reaping where you have not sown, and gathering where you have not scattered seed. And I was afraid, and went and hid your talent in the ground. Look there you have what is yours.’

“But his lord answered and said to him, ‘You wicked and lazy servant, you knew that I reap where I have not sown, and gather where I have not scattered seed. So you ought to have deposited my money with the bankers, and at my coming I would have received back my own with interest. Therefore take the talent from him, and give it to him who has ten talents.

‘For to everyone who has, more will be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who does not have, even what he has will be taken away. And cast the unprofitable servant into the outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.'”

Once again there are three players here, as there were three sons of Noah, as there were the Men of Galilee and the two men in white apparel, as I dare say are the Early Church, the Church as it is today and the Church of the millennium to come. Which do you think most closely resembles the servant who only got one talent? What is the Church of today doing if it isn’t staring into the cloud, if it isn’t looking at the promise of the rainbow that there won’t again be destruction, focusing almost entirely on God’s forgiveness, taking advantage of that vulnerability of God instead of working with Him to accomplish His purpose?

What is it to bury one’s talent into the ground? Doesn’t the ground represent death? From what does death come? Doesn’t it come from sin. Sin is breaking the law. There is something greater to Christianity than becoming fixated on the law. There is something greater to it than to dance with death in a barely escape from it celebration of forgiveness. Let me illustrate with another passage from Matthew,

“Then the scribes and Pharisees who were from Jerusalem came to Jesus, saying, ‘Why do Your disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat bread.’

“He answered and said to them, ‘Why do you also transgress the commandment of God because of your tradition? For God commanded, saying, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and ‘He who curses father or mother, let him be put to death.’ But you say, ‘Whoever says to his father or mother, “Whatever profit you might have received from me is a gift to God” – then he need not honor his father or mother.’ Thus you have made the commandment of God of no effect by your tradition. Hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy about you, saying:

‘These people draw near to Me with their mouth,

And honor Me with their lips,

But their heart is far from Me.

And  in vain they worship Me,

Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’ ‘

“When he had called the multitude to Himself, He said to them, ‘Hear and understand: Not what goes into the mouth defiles a man; but what comes out of the mouth, this defiles a man.'”

You don’t need to become fixated on doctrine or the law, they have been shown by the need for the sacrifice of Jesus not to bring about life. Instead there is something more, the fruit of the Spirit. For, “Herein is your Father glorified, that you bear much fruit.”

What is this fruit? It is certainly not something consumed by the mouth, rather it is something that comes from within. It is the fruit of the Holy Spirit within us and of our engagement with Him. Perhaps it comes with fear and trembling. Perhaps it comes with joy. Above all it comes from being born again of the same Spirit that He was of. It does not come from burying our talent in the ground, from that dance with death that is the celebration of forgiveness over the bearing of fruit, over the “formation of Christ within us, the hope of glory”.

This fruit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. These are all the things the law would seem to promise, but which it cannot deliver. For Jesus said that love was what the law and the prophets was all about. These come about not by staring into the cloud at forgiveness, but by engaging the Spirit of God and establishing the coming again of Jesus in like manner in our own hearts. It seems to be ok that we aren’t going to blow the world away with our development of this fruit, for we are only able to place what little we have with the bankers, with the Holy Spirit, and gain these fruits as a result of our endeavor. That is our lot as the middle man among the three men. That is our lot as the Church between the Early Church and the Church of the Millennium. That is our lot where we find ourselves amongst the cast of men we live alongside. That is our lot before God, He wants the interest at least.

 

 

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