1. Differentiation Between the Work of God and That of Man
Relevant Words of God:
The work of God Himself involves the work of all of mankind, and it also represents the work of the entire era, which means that God’s own work represents every dynamic and trend of the work of the Holy Spirit, whereas the work of the apostles comes after God’s own work and follows from it, and it does not lead the era, nor does it represent trends of the Holy Spirit’s work in a whole era. They only do the work man ought to do, which has nothing at all to do with the management work. The work God does Himself is a project within the management work. Man’s work is only the duty that people who are used fulfill, and it is unrelated to the management work. Despite the fact that they are both the work of the Holy Spirit, due to differences in identities and representations of the work, there are clear and substantive differences between God’s own work and the work of man. Moreover, the extent of the work done by the Holy Spirit varies on objects with different identities. These are the principles and scope of the work of the Holy Spirit.
Excerpted from “God’s Work and Man’s Work” in The Word Appears in the Flesh
The work that God Himself does is entirely the work He intends to do in His own management plan and it pertains to the great management. The work done by man consists of supplying their individual experience. It consists of finding out a new path of experience beyond that trodden by those who have gone before, and of guiding their brothers and sisters while under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. What these people supply is their individual experience or the spiritual writings of spiritual people. Although these people are used by the Holy Spirit, the work they do is unrelated to the great work of management in the six-thousand-year plan. They are merely those who have been raised up by the Holy Spirit in different periods to lead the people in the stream of the Holy Spirit, until the functions they can perform are at an end or until their lives come to an end. The work they do is only to prepare an appropriate path for God Himself or to continue a certain aspect of the management of God Himself on earth. In themselves, these people are unable to do the greater work of His management, nor can they open up new ways out, even less can any of them bring to a conclusion all of God’s work from the former age. Therefore, the work they do represents only a created being performing his function and cannot represent God Himself performing His ministry. This is because the work they do is unlike that done by God Himself. The work of ushering in a new age is not something that can be done by man in God’s place. It cannot be done by any other than God Himself. All the work done by man consists of performing his duty as a created being and is done when he is moved or enlightened by the Holy Spirit. The guidance that these people provide consists entirely of showing man the path of practice in daily life and how he should act in harmony with the will of God. The work of man neither involves the management of God nor represents the work of the Spirit. As an example, the work of Witness Lee and Watchman Nee was to lead the way. Be the way new or old, the work was premised upon the principle of remaining within the Bible. Whether it was to restore the local church or build the local church, their work had to do with establishing churches. The work they did carried on the work that Jesus and His apostles had left unfinished or had not further developed in the Age of Grace. What they did in their work was to restore what Jesus had in His early work asked of the generations coming after Him, such as keeping their heads covered, receiving baptism, breaking bread, or drinking wine. It could be said that their work was to keep to the Bible and to seek paths within the Bible. They made no new advances of any kind. Therefore, one can see in their work only the discovery of new ways within the Bible, as well as better and more realistic practices. But one cannot find in their work the present will of God, much less find the new work that God in the last days plans to do. This is because the path they walked was still an old one—there was no renewal and no advancement. They continued to hold onto the fact of the crucifixion of Jesus, to observe the practice of asking people to repent and confess their sins, to adhere to the sayings that he who endures to the end shall be saved and that man is the head of woman, and woman must obey her husband, and even more to the traditional notion that sisters cannot preach, but only obey. If such manner of leadership had continued to be observed, the Holy Spirit would never have been able to carry out new work, to set people free from doctrine, or to lead them into a realm of freedom and beauty. Therefore, this stage of work, which changes the age, must be done and spoken by God Himself; otherwise no man can do so in His stead. Thus far, all the work of the Holy Spirit outside of this stream has come to a standstill, and those who were used by the Holy Spirit have lost their bearings. Therefore, since the work of the people used by the Holy Spirit is unlike the work done by God Himself, their identities and the subjects on behalf of whom they act are likewise different. This is because the work the Holy Spirit intends to do is different, and on this account those who alike do work are accorded different identities and statuses. The people used by the Holy Spirit may also do some work that is new and may also eliminate some work done in the former age, but what they do cannot express the disposition and the will of God in the new age. They work only to do away with the work of the former age, and not in order to do new work for the purpose of directly representing the disposition of God Himself. Thus, no matter how many outdated practices they abolish or how many new practices they introduce, they still represent man and created beings. When God Himself carries out work, however, He does not openly declare the abolishment of the practices of the old age or directly declare the commencement of a new age. He is direct and straightforward in His work. He is forthright in performing the work He intends to do; that is, He directly expresses the work that He has brought about, directly does His work as originally intended, expressing His being and disposition. As man sees it, His disposition and so too His work differ from those in ages past. However, from the perspective of God Himself, this is merely a continuation and further development of His work. When God Himself works, He expresses His word and directly brings the new work. In contrast, when man works, it is through deliberation and study, or it is an extension of knowledge and systematization of practice founded on the work of others. That is to say, the essence of the work done by man is to follow an established order and to “walk old paths in new shoes.” This means that even the path walked by the people used by the Holy Spirit is built upon that launched by God Himself. So, when all is said and done, man is still man, and God is still God.
Excerpted from “The Mystery of the Incarnation (1)” in The Word Appears in the Flesh
In the Age of Grace, Jesus also spoke many words and did much work. How was He different from Isaiah? How was He different from Daniel? Was He a prophet? Why is it said that He is Christ? What are the differences between them? They were all men who spoke words, and their words appeared more or less the same to man. They all spoke words and did work. The prophets of the Old Testament spoke prophecies, and similarly, so could Jesus. Why is this so? The distinction here is based on the nature of the work. To discern this matter, you must not consider the nature of the flesh, nor should you consider the depth or superficiality of their words. Always you must first consider their work and the effects their work achieves in man. The prophecies spoken by the prophets at the time did not supply the life of man, and the inspirations received by those such as Isaiah and Daniel were merely prophecies, and not the way of life. If not for the direct revelation of Jehovah, none could have done that work, which is not possible for mortals. Jesus, too, spoke many words, but such words were the way of life from which man could find a path to practice. That is to say, first, He could supply the life of man, for Jesus is life; second, He could reverse the deviations of man; third, His work could succeed that of Jehovah in order to carry on the age; fourth, He could grasp the needs within man and understand what man lacks; fifth, He could usher in a new age and conclude the old. That is why He is called God and Christ; not only is He different from Isaiah but also from all other prophets. Take Isaiah as a comparison for the work of the prophets. First, he could not supply the life of man; second, he could not usher in a new age. He was working under the leadership of Jehovah and not to usher in a new age. Third, the words he spoke were beyond him. He was receiving revelations directly from the Spirit of God, and others would not understand, even having listened to them. These few things alone are sufficient to prove that his words were no more than prophecies, no more than an aspect of work done in Jehovah’s stead. He could not, however, completely represent Jehovah. He was Jehovah’s servant, an instrument in Jehovah’s work. He was only doing work within the Age of Law and within the scope of the work of Jehovah; he did not work beyond the Age of Law. On the contrary, the work of Jesus differed. He surpassed the scope of Jehovah’s work; He worked as God incarnate and underwent crucifixion in order to redeem all mankind. That is to say, He carried out new work outside of the work done by Jehovah. This was the ushering in of a new age. In addition, He was able to speak of that which man could not achieve. His work was work within the management of God and involved the whole of mankind. He did not work in just a few men, nor was His work meant to lead a limited number of men. As for how God was incarnated as a man, how the Spirit gave revelations at that time, and how the Spirit descended upon a man to do work—these are matters that man cannot see or touch. It is utterly impossible for these truths to serve as proof that He is God incarnate. As such, distinction can only be made among the words and work of God, which are tangible to man. Only this is real. This is because matters of the Spirit are not visible to you and are known clearly only by God Himself, and not even God’s incarnate flesh knows all; you can only verify whether He is God from the work He has done. From His work, it can be seen that, first, He is able to open up a new age; second, He is able to supply the life of man and show man the way to follow. This is sufficient to establish that He is God Himself. At the very least, the work He does can fully represent the Spirit of God, and from such work it can be seen that the Spirit of God is within Him. As the work done by God incarnate was mainly to usher in a new age, lead new work, and open up a new realm, these alone are sufficient to establish that He is God Himself. This thus differentiates Him from Isaiah, Daniel, and the other great prophets.
Excerpted from “The Difference Between the Ministry of God Incarnate and the Duty of Man” in The Word Appears in the Flesh
You must know how to differentiate God’s work from the work of man. What can you see in the work of man? There are many elements of man’s experience in his work; what man expresses is what he is. God’s own work also expresses what He is, but His being is different from man’s. Man’s being represents man’s experience and life (what man experiences or encounters in his life, or the philosophies for living he has), and people living in different environments express different beings. Whether you have experiences of society and how you actually live in your family and experience within it can be seen in what you express, whereas you cannot see in the work of God incarnate whether He has social experiences. He is well aware of the essence of man and can reveal all kinds of practices pertaining to all kinds of people. He is even better at revealing the corrupt dispositions and the rebellious behavior of humans. He does not live among worldly people, but He is aware of the nature of mortals and all the corruptions of worldly people. This is His being. Though He does not deal with the world, He knows the rules of dealing with the world, because He understands human nature fully. He knows about the Spirit’s work that man’s eyes cannot see and man’s ears cannot hear, both of today and of the past. This includes wisdom that is not a philosophy for living and wonders that are hard for people to fathom. This is His being, open to people and also hidden from people. What He expresses is not the being of an extraordinary person, but the inherent attributes and being of the Spirit. He does not travel the world but knows everything of it. He contacts the “anthropoids” who have no knowledge or insight, but He expresses words that are higher than knowledge and above great men. He lives within a group of obtuse and numb people who are without humanity and who do not understand the conventions and life of humanity, but He can ask mankind to live out normal humanity, at the same time revealing the base and low humanity of mankind. All this is His being, higher than the being of any flesh-and-blood person. For Him, it is unnecessary to experience a complicated, cumbersome, and sordid social life to do the work He needs to do and reveal the essence of corrupt mankind thoroughly. A sordid social life does not edify His flesh. His work and words only reveal man’s disobedience and do not provide man with experience and lessons for dealing with the world. He does not need to investigate society or man’s family when He supplies man with life. Exposing and judging man is not an expression of the experiences of His flesh; it is His revelation of man’s unrighteousness after having known man’s disobedience for a long time and abhorring mankind’s corruption. The work He does is all meant to reveal His disposition to man and to express His being. Only He can do this work; it is not something a flesh-and-blood person could achieve.
Excerpted from “God’s Work and Man’s Work” in The Word Appears in the Flesh
The work God does is not representative of the experience of His flesh; the work man does is representative of his experience. Everyone talks about their personal experience. God can express the truth directly, while man can only express the experience that corresponds to his having experienced the truth. God’s work has no rules and is not subject to time or geographical constraints. He can express what He is at anytime, anywhere. He works as He pleases. Man’s work has conditions and context; without them, he would be unable to work and unable to express his knowledge of God or his experience of the truth. To tell whether something is God’s own work or man’s work, you must simply compare the differences between the two.
Excerpted from “God’s Work and Man’s Work” in The Word Appears in the Flesh
God becomes flesh solely to lead the age and set in motion new work. It is necessary for you to understand this point. This is much different from the function of man, and the two cannot be mentioned in the same breath. Man needs to be cultivated and perfected over a long period before he can be used to carry out work, and the kind of humanity that is needed is of an especially high order. Not only must man be able to sustain the sense of normal humanity, but he must further understand many of the principles and rules governing his conduct in relation to others, and, moreover, he must commit to studying even more about the wisdom and ethical knowledge of man. This is what man should be furnished with. However, this is not so for God become flesh, for His work neither represents man nor is the work of man; it is, rather, a direct expression of His being and a direct implementation of the work that He ought to do. (Naturally, His work is carried out at the appropriate time, not casually or at random, and it is begun when it is time to fulfill His ministry.) He does not take part in the life of man or the work of man, that is, His humanity is not furnished with any of these (although this does not affect His work). He only fulfills His ministry when it is time for Him to do so; whatever His status, He simply forges ahead with the work that He ought to do. Whatever man knows of Him and whatever man’s opinion of Him, His work is wholly unaffected.
Excerpted from “The Mystery of the Incarnation (3)” in The Word Appears in the Flesh
The work of man stays within a range and is limited. One person can only do work of a certain phase and cannot do the work of the entire era—otherwise, he would lead people into the midst of rules. The work of man can only apply to a particular time or phase. This is because man’s experience has its scope. One cannot compare the work of man with the work of God. Man’s ways of practice and his knowledge of the truth are all applicable to a particular scope. You cannot say that the path man treads is completely the will of the Holy Spirit, because man can only be enlightened by the Holy Spirit, and cannot be completely filled with the Holy Spirit. The things man can experience are all within the scope of normal humanity and cannot exceed the range of thoughts in the normal human mind. All those who can live out the reality of the truth experience within this range. When they experience the truth, it is always an experience of normal human life enlightened by the Holy Spirit; it is not a way of experiencing that deviates from normal human life. They experience the truth enlightened by the Holy Spirit on the foundation of living their human lives. Moreover, this truth varies from person to person, and its depth is related to the state of the person. One can only say that the path they walk is the normal human life of someone pursuing the truth, and it may be called the path walked by a normal person enlightened by the Holy Spirit. One cannot say that the path they walk is the path the Holy Spirit takes. In normal human experience, because people who pursue are not the same, the work of the Holy Spirit is also not the same. In addition, because the environments people experience and the ranges of their experience are not the same, and because of the admixture of their mind and thoughts, their experience is mixed to different degrees. Each person understands a truth according to their different, individual conditions. Their understanding of the real meaning of the truth is not complete and is only one or several aspects of it. The scope of the truth man experiences differs from person to person in line with each person’s conditions. In this way, the knowledge of the same truth, as expressed by different people, is not the same. This is to say, man’s experience always has limitations and cannot completely represent the will of the Holy Spirit, nor can the work of man be perceived as the work of God, even if what is expressed by man corresponds very closely to God’s will, and even if the experience of man is very close to the perfecting work that the Holy Spirit performs. Man can only be God’s servant, doing the work that God entrusts to him. Man can only express knowledge enlightened by the Holy Spirit and truths obtained from his personal experiences. Man is unqualified and does not meet the conditions to be the outlet of the Holy Spirit. He is not entitled to say that his work is the work of God. Man has man’s working principles, and all men have different experiences and possess varying conditions. Man’s work includes all his experiences under the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit. These experiences can only represent man’s being and do not represent the being of God or the will of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, the path man walks cannot be said to be the path walked by the Holy Spirit, because the work of man cannot represent the work of God, and man’s work and man’s experience are not the complete will of the Holy Spirit. Man’s work is susceptible to falling into rules, and the method of his work is easily confined to a limited scope, and is unable to lead people to a free way. Most followers live within a limited scope, and their way of experiencing is also limited in its scope. Man’s experience is always limited; the method of his work is also limited to a few types and cannot be compared with the work of the Holy Spirit or the work of God Himself. This is because man’s experience, in the end, is limited. However God does His work, it is unbound by rules; however it is done, it is not limited to a single method. There are no rules whatsoever to God’s work—all His work is released and free. No matter how much time man spends following Him, he cannot distill any laws that govern God’s ways of working. Although His work is principled, it is always done in new ways and always has new developments, and it is beyond man’s reach. In a single period, God may have several different types of work and different ways of leading people, making it so people always have new entries and changes. You cannot discern the laws of His work because He is always working in new ways, and only thus do followers of God not become bound by rules. The work of God Himself always avoids people’s notions and counters them. Only those who follow and pursue Him with a true heart can have their dispositions transformed and be able to live freely, not subjected to any rules or restrained by any religious notions. The work of man makes demands of people based on his own experience and what he himself can achieve. The standard of these requirements is limited within a certain scope, and the methods of practice are also very limited. Followers thus unconsciously live within this limited scope; as time passes, these things become rules and rituals. If the work of one period is led by someone who has not undergone God’s personal perfecting and not received judgment, his followers will all become religionists and experts in resisting God. Therefore, if someone is a qualified leader, that person must have undergone judgment and accepted being perfected. Those who have not undergone judgment, even though they may have the work of the Holy Spirit, express only vague and unreal things. With time, they will lead people into vague and supernatural rules. The work that God performs does not accord with the flesh of man. It does not accord with man’s thoughts, but counters man’s notions; it is not tainted with vague religious colorings. The results of God’s work cannot be achieved by someone who has not been perfected by Him; they are beyond the reach of man’s thinking.
Excerpted from “God’s Work and Man’s Work” in The Word Appears in the Flesh