3 The Church in its Temporal Aspect Part A

PROVERBS 31:10-13

The church in its temporal aspect is introduced to us in Proverbs. Meet if you will, the virtuous woman.

Proverbs 31:10 Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies.

Virtuous: having or showing high moral standards.     
Similar words: clean, righteous, moral, honest, principled, blameless, unimpeachable, just, respectable, sinless, godly, and trustworthy.

These are a few of the temporal words used to describe the people we need to be if we are to carry the name of Christ and be a part of His Kingdom. What kind of value does He place on our ability and effort to achieve this? Virtuous in its Hebrew form is paniyn {pä·nen}, which means round jewel or pearl. With that understanding, let's hear it in Christ own words.

Matthew 13:47 And again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a merchant-man, seeking goodly pearls, who, when he had found one pearl of great price, he went and sold all that he had and bought it.

Christ suffered the pains of death that such a Church might come into being. More than that, He gave us all an example of a life lived in willing obedience to the leadings of the Spirit and the ways of God and the Kingdom. Therein lays our example and that which we strive for. Remember, led by the Holy Spirit to be willingly obedient to the ways of God. One leads to the other, but more importantly one cannot happen without the other. This labor produces the testimony we seek to give the world. Ask yourself how much this is worth to you.

Proverbs 31:11-12
31:11 The heart of her husband doth safely trust in her, so that he shall have no need of spoil.
31:12 She will do him good and not evil all the days of her life.

In the modern world these verses could be shunned for their obvious sexist overtones. They definitely imply that a good wife is a loyal and true servant of her husband's temporal assets. That she will manage his holdings by his standards and expectations in his absence. This was the norm in Solomon's day because though it was not illegal for a woman to own property or businesses, it was uncommon and socially frowned upon. In a world gone by we can understand easily the implications inferred and the way it colored our understanding of the true nature of the church/woman. By using the wife of Solomon's time as a base-line example, the Church was to administer all of Christ holdings making preparation for His return. In other words we were to be obedient to God's ways and faithful in caring for His property and His children or face the reprisal of an angry Lord. Brethren, I believe that this master servant relationship is correct, but only in the short term and insufficient for the fullness of understanding we seek. If the fullness of God's Church was a fear based servitude, sometime in the last 3000 years Zion would have come. I believe growth is needed for us to understand all we need to know about this woman/church.

Genesis 2:29-30 
2:29 And Adam said, This I know now is bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh. She shall be called woman, because she was taken out of man.
2:30 Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife; and they shall be one flesh.

In our target verses we are being exposed to something much more important than commanded servitude and obedient service. If we were to put a name to the relationship between man and wife, we would call it covenant. According to the fullness of doctrines, God's relationship with us as His church is also called covenant. If we are to serve to the fullest measure of our abilities, we must open our hearts up to the fullest meaning of this relationship. We are asked to grow in our covenant, understand fully the covenant we made, and apply this understanding to our perception of the true nature of the woman/church we seek.   

Proverbs 31:11-12
31:11 The heart of her husband doth safely trust in her, so that he shall have no need of spoil.
31:12 She will do him good and not evil all the days of her life.

Our covenant labor is to join God in His work of bringing about the immortality and eternal life of man

DC 22:23b and there is no end to my works, neither to my words; for this is my work and my glory, to bring to pass the immortality, and eternal life of man.

Most theologians even those within the fullness of the Gospel, define covenant as an agreement between two people, each bearing an equal weight of responsibility for maintaining the agreed to conditions. Most of the Christian world believes that God sets the conditions of the covenant and it is man's responsibility to adhere to those conditions. Again we are faced with a master and servant situation that in truth, fails to create the oneness God seeks for His covenant people. God defines covenant as that which creates unity in a way no contract can. He does so using covenant-marriage as the example.

Genesis 2:30 Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife; and they shall be one flesh.

Brothers and sisters, the point of covenant is for two to become one. Both must recognize that which makes them different and seek for those attitudes and desires, which will make them the same. In covenant with God through Jesus Christ we seek to leave behind our lonely existence, as sinful man in bondage to doubt and fear to join with others in the freedom of like mind, like faith, and oneness. In this same covenant God seeks to do away with His need to judge mankind for all its sinful deeds. Our God-given ability to choose and God's own respect for that ability requires Him to be the judge He never wanted to be. His hearts desire is have all recognize and accept His justice, which allows Him to fill the world with His mercy and welcome all of creation into His heavenly abode forever.

Christ prayed for His disciples stating clearly what He offers mankind and the purpose He serves. Read this passage carefully and recognize it as a prayer that the true strength of covenant will be our oneness with God. 

John 17:19-23 
17:19 And for their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth.
17:20 Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word;
17:21 That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us; that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.
17:22 And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one;
17:23 I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me.

The word covenant is more than just a synonym for agreement or contract. In a contract you agree to little more than conditions within a situation. Covenants are created by a mutual need that neither party is able to fulfill on their own. Common need creates common purpose. A man and a woman share the joy of love. They find they have a common need in that they wish to face life and all its challenges together as devoted companions. The covenant of marriage voices their common need as a common purpose and opens for them a path by which they might stand before God and the world as one in this purpose. Therein is displayed the difference between a contract or agreement, and covenant. Purpose needs covenant because covenant creates purpose.          

In covenant we go beyond trust. We move into the realm of complete assurance that those we made covenant with think as we do, act as we do, and react to the world around us with the same depth of loyalty to the purpose created by the covenant we made. In the case of the husband and the wife, neither are ruler or servant. Instead, both are companions craving the fulfillment of the purpose they created. The beliefs and virtues of one reflect the desires and hopes of the other, because in this............they are one. If we are to be the woman /church we must be able to both commit and trust. We have to be able to commit to the fullness of our covenant with God with a heartfelt belief that God is just as committed to His wish to spread mercy far and wide. Both attitudes are needed, because trust will die without commitment, and commitment is hollow without trust. God's need to be merciful depends on humanity recognizing their need for His mercy. Such is the nature of covenant. 

Helaman 2:25 Thus we may see that the Lord is merciful unto all who will in the sincerity of their hearts, call upon his holy name; yea, thus we see that the gate of heaven is open unto all, even to those who will believe on the name of Jesus Christ, who is the Son of God;

Proverbs 31:13 She seeketh wool, and flax, and worketh willingly with her hands.

In Solomon's time clothing for the family was the responsibility of the wife. Wool and flax were the raw materials of fabric for clothing. The task of transforming these raw materials into fabric was time-consuming and tedious, but for this woman nothing was to be left to chance. In order to assure her family clothing that was clean, strong, and comfortable she started with the raw product. Her labor was a testimony of the need within her to love and protect completely those of her house. For a woman to seek out this task willingly was an act of loving virtue. 

In God's Kingdom the labor of clothing the people falls to the woman/church. It is She who willingly takes the raw humanity of the sinner and through the work of the Gospel, the design of the Church, and the guidance of the Spirit. She is then is able to offer up to God a person of acceptable knowledge and persistent growth, worthy to wear the robes of righteousness. 

2 Nephi 6:34-35 
6:34 Wherefore, we shall have a perfect knowledge of all our guilt, and our uncleanness, and our nakedness;
6:35 And the righteous shall have a perfect knowledge of their enjoyment, and their righteousness, being clothed with purity, yea, even with the robe of righteousness.

Understand if you will the task we have accepted. In the beginning man, and woman wore nothing. They were naked before God and knew nothing but joy.

Genesis 2:31 And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed.

We must realize that even today, we stand naked before God. All that we are, He knows. In the beginning knowing no sin they were clothed in innocence. Because of sin man became aware of this nakedness and they were ashamed. In their shame, they hid from the eyes of God.

Genesis 3:15-16
3:15 And I, the Lord God, called unto Adam, and said unto him, Where goest thou? And he said, I heard thy voice, in the garden, and I was afraid, because I beheld that I was naked, and I hid myself.
3:16 And I, the Lord God, said unto Adam, Who told thee that thou wast naked? Hast thou eaten of the tree whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldst not eat, if so thou shouldst surely die?

With the onset of sin in the life of man, our innocent relationship with God was forever changed. Our knowledge of good and evil coupled with our gift of free will gives us the ability to choose against God, realize that this choice is wrong, and feel in our hearts the full affect of that wrong choice. In short, we can now be ashamed. It has been said that out of all God's creation, man is the only creature that has both the ability and the need to be embarrassed, to feel shame.

God knows that shame is both powerful and distracting. Left to run freely in the heart of man it can overshadow and deter man's ability to fully repent and move on with his growth in God. Both Adam and Eve felt shame because of their nakedness. God covered them that they might forget their shame and move on to the work of repentance.

Genesis 3:27 Unto Adam, and also unto his wife, did I, the Lord God, make coats of skins, and clothed them. 

God covered Adam and Eve. Were their sins gone? Absolutely not, but they were no longer handicapped by the crippling burden of shame for their sin. They no longer hid from God. I am convinced that shame hampers our ability to truthfully repent. When we as believing children hold up our shame as a payment for our sins, we cheapen Christ's sacrifice on the cross at Calvary. When we accept that forgiveness but retain the shame in our hearts we testify to the world of both our doubt in the ability of God to forgive and the true scope of the forgiveness He offers. Like Adam and Eve, we must accept the covering given by God, forget our nakedness, and move forward toward redemption.

Isaiah 43:25 I, even I, am he that blotteth out thy transgressions for mine own sake, and will not remember thy sins.

Hebrews 10:16-17 
10:16 This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them;
10:17 And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more.

DC 58:9c Behold, he who has repented of his sins, the same is forgiven, and I, the Lord, remembereth them no more.

These passages of scripture prove the fullness of forgiveness offered to us by God. In this mankind can be truly free to move away from sin and move on to the labor of redemption. The testimony of shame hampers both us and any who would accept our shame as an example of how to grow in God. Imagine trying to run a race in the mud. Shame hinders our covenant labor in much the same way. God gives us dry ground to run on. He is both our Father and our biggest cheerleader. He wants us to win the race and join Him in His Kingdom, but the race we run is not without challenges. 

Human nature demands that we resist change. Repentance demands that we eliminate from our life those thoughts and deeds that cause us to sin against God. We like God must put them away from our life and forget they ever existed. If we choose to remember them and visit them, God will remember them, too. 

Jeremiah 14:10 Thus saith the Lord unto this people, Thus have they loved to wander, they have not refrained their feet, therefore the Lord doth not accept them; he will now remember their iniquity, and visit their sins.

To properly assess shame we must ask the question: Does shame promote repentance? In my experience, no it does not. If I feel shame I find very little on my mind but the shameful act I have committed. I refuse to move forward and correct the source of the shame. In my experience of watching the growth of someone full of shame, the testimony they repeat time and again is the act that is the source of their shame. The action and the dynamics of how that act affected their life is the only testimony they have. They refuse to accept any growth except the presence of God and their own salvation from this event. They are standing on a plateau refusing to go any further. As an example after his experience in Damascus Saul of Tarsus could have spent the rest of his life ashamed of all the pain he had caused the Christian community of his day. Instead, he threw aside the shame, repented, and grew to become a major resource for the growth of Christianity in the western world.  

Psalms 103:12 As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us.

Our discussion on sin and shame would not be complete if we fail to recognize man's ability to respond to God and His grace. If we return to our sin, it will be remembered, but this is our choice. Stand in a field and point with one arm to the east and one arm to the west. How far is east from west? At our belly button they meet, at the ends of our finger they are apart, at the limit of our vision they are greatly separated. How far are we from our sin? The choice is ours. 

Proverbs 31:13 She seeketh wool, and flax, and worketh willingly with her hands.

Brethren, examine closely the loving virtue in the labor of the woman/church. She finds a product in its raw state and diligently causes it to be transformed into that which she seeks because she knows the needs of her family. Whether it is wool, flax, or the human spirit, her efforts help it change, allowing it to come to a full measure of its creation. The Church in the fullness of its creation is the nurturing entity that realizes humanities full potential and acts in concert with God's Spirit to create a fellowship worthy of their desire to become God's children. It is then we realize that the fullest measure of our creation is the ability to live as a child of God, free from the lust of the world, and freed from the shame that would hinder us. In that fullness we allow ourselves a deep abiding fellowship with each other, the Spirit, which guides us, Christ who both lived and died for us, and the Father that loves us. 

1 John 4:18 There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear; because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.

We are freed to become a testimony to others of God at work in our life and His willingness to work in their life, too. The gathering of a covenanted people seeking to be Christ's Church is a garden where the seed of righteousness grows to become the fruits of charity that will nourish and sustain the ways of God in the world of man. 

Isaiah 61:9-11 
61:9 And their seed shall be known among the Gentiles, and their offspring among the people; all that see them shall acknowledge them, that they are the seed which the Lord hath blessed.
61:10 I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for he hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, he hath covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decketh himself with ornaments, and as a bride adorneth herself with her jewels.
61:11 For as the earth bringeth forth her bud, and as the garden causeth the things that are sown in it to spring forth; so the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise to spring forth before all the nations.