13. What is the difference between understanding the truth and understanding doctrine?
Relevant Words of God:
Coming to a real understanding of the actual meaning in God’s word is no simple matter. Don’t just think that if you can interpret the literal meaning of God’s words, and if everyone says it’s good and gives you a thumbs-up, it counts as understanding God’s word. That is not the same as understanding God’s word. If you have gained some light from within God’s word and you have gotten a sense of the true significance of God’s word, if you can express what God’s will is in those words and what they will ultimately achieve, once this is all clear that counts as having some level of understanding of God’s word. So, understanding God’s word is not quite so simple. Just because you can give a flowery explanation of the letter of God’s word does not mean you understand it. No matter how much you can explain the letter of God’s word it is still man’s imagination and way of thinking—it’s useless!
from “Only by Pursuing the Truth Can You Obtain Changes in Your Disposition” in Records of Christ’s Talks
You think that mastering knowledge of the truth is particularly important, and that learning passages of God’s words by heart, speaking about doctrines and discovering formulas within God’s words are all very important, but how people understand the word of God is not important at all. Therefore, you always want to systematize these things so that everyone is singing from the same hymn sheet, saying the same things, and talking about the same doctrines, so they have the same knowledge and keep the same rules—this is your objective. Your doing this appears to be for the sake of people gaining understanding, when on the contrary you have no idea that this is bringing people into the midst of rules that are outside of the truth of God’s words. To allow people to have a real understanding of the truth, you must link it up with reality and with the work, and solve practical problems according to the truth of God’s words. Only in this way can people understand the truth and enter into reality, and only achieving such a result is really bringing people before God. If all you talk about are spiritual theories, doctrines, and rules, if you only put effort into the literal words, all you can achieve is getting people to say the same things and follow rules, but you won’t be able to guide people to understand the truth. You’ll be particularly unable to have people better understand themselves, and achieve repentance and transformation.
from “Without the Truth It Is Easy to Offend God” in Records of Christ’s Talks
If you’ve read a lot of God’s word but only understand the meaning of the text and you do not have first-hand knowledge of God’s word through your practical experiences, you won’t know God’s word. As far as you are concerned, God’s word is not life, but just lifeless letters. And if you only hold fast to lifeless letters, you cannot grasp the essence of God’s word, nor will you understand His will. Only when you experience His word in your actual experiences will the spiritual meaning of God’s word open itself up to you, and it is only in experience that you can grasp the spiritual meaning of many truths, and only through experience that you can unlock the mysteries of God’s word. If you do not put it into practice, then no matter how clear His word, the only thing you’ve grasped hold of is empty letters and doctrines, which have become religious regulations to you. Isn’t this what the Pharisees did? If you practice and experience God’s word, it becomes practical to you; if you do not seek to practice it, then God’s word to you is little more than the legend of the third heaven. …
… Truly understanding God’s word occurs when you practice the truth, and you must understand that “only by practicing the truth can it ever be understood.” Today, after reading the word of God, you can merely say that you know God’s word, but you can’t say that you understand it. Some say that the only way to practice the truth is to understand it first, but this is only half right and not entirely accurate. Before you have knowledge of a truth, you have not experienced that truth. Feeling that you understand something you hear in a sermon is not truly understanding, but is just having the literal words of the truth, and isn’t the same as understanding the true meaning therein. Just because you have a skin-deep knowledge of the truth doesn’t mean you actually understand it or recognize it; the true meaning of the truth comes from having experienced it. Therefore, only when you experience the truth can you understand it, and only when you experience the truth can you grasp the hidden parts of it. To experience it in depth is the only way to grasp the connotations of the truth, to understand the essence of it.
from “Practice the Truth Once You Understand It” in The Word Appears in the Flesh
Whether the knowledge that you are talking accords with the truth largely depends on whether you have practical experience. Where there is the truth in your experience, your knowledge will be practical and valuable. Through your experience, you can also gain discernment and insight, deepen your knowledge, and increase your wisdom and common sense in conducting yourself. The knowledge spoken by people who do not possess the truth is doctrine, no matter how high. This type of person may well be very intelligent when it comes to matters of the flesh but cannot make distinctions when it comes to spiritual matters. This is because such people have no experience at all in spiritual affairs. These are people who are not enlightened in spiritual affairs and do not understand the spirit. Regardless of which aspect of knowledge you talk about, as long as it is your being, then it is your personal experience, your real knowledge. What those who speak only doctrine, that is, those who do not possess the truth or reality, talk about can also be said to be their being, because their doctrine is only arrived at from deep contemplation and is the result of their mind pondering deeply, but it is only doctrine, it is nothing more than imagination!
from “God’s Work and Man’s Work” in The Word Appears in the Flesh
Sermon and Fellowship Excerpts for Reference:
Anything that is not from your own experience, whether you learned it from books or from other people’s experience, becomes a doctrine for you. When you experience it, and you reach a result from your experience, then you will obtain a true understanding, and the words you say when you give fellowship will be real; only then does it become true reality. Look at how unbelievers research some theory: They only research from what is written, they research doctrines and weigh them up and then arrive at their conclusions. Especially theologians and pastors, as well as scholars and researchers of theology, after reading a passage of God’s words, they do not seek the truth or seek a true understanding of God from practical experience. Instead, they investigate and weigh up various theories and ultimately arrive at some conclusions. So, are the conclusions which they reach real or doctrinal? They are all doctrinal. This is because they reached these conclusions based on specialized textual research and deliberation, and not based on their own experience. Conclusions reached from literal textual research and from researching the things recorded in the Bible, have created one kind of theory, called theological theory. There is no understanding from experience in this, and there is no enlightenment of the Holy Spirit. The deeper understanding from the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit surpasses that which comes from the superficial meanings of words; it cannot be expressed by any superficial language. The Holy Spirit will enlighten and illuminate you only when you seek the truth after you have entered into the experience. The things that the Holy Spirit enlightens and illuminates for you are the things that are the most real and the things which are the most true for you, and these are the things that you cannot get from the Bible no matter how hard you study it. So today, God asks us to experience the word of God. If, in our experience of the word of God, the Holy Spirit enlightens us, we can then attain a real understanding of God’s words. This real understanding cannot be attained no matter how hard you study the literal meaning of the words of God; this is something that cannot be reached by human thought, and something that you cannot imagine, no matter how hard you try. So, only the truth received from the guidance, enlightenment and illumination of the Holy Spirit is the real understanding of God.
from “Questions & Answers” in Sermons and Fellowship on Entry Into Life I
What really is the difference between words of doctrine and the truth? The truth is the substantive things of God’s word; it represents God’s will. Words of doctrine belong to the category of superficial things, and represent human notions and imaginings. They are not consistent with the truth. Substantive things of the truth are exceptionally practical; they are principled and especially convincing. Once a person understands something substantive, his heart is brightened and attains release—he is no longer subject to the strictures of regulations. On the other hand, words of doctrine are empty and unrealistic. They are nothing but regulations and conventions, and make people particularly susceptible to being constrained and not feeling free. Furthermore, no matter how many words of doctrine someone knows, they cannot bring about a change in his life disposition. They have little fundamental benefit for people. Therefore, words of doctrine simply cannot compare with the truth. The truth can become a person’s life. Once someone accepts the truth it will bring about a change of life disposition. Understanding a great deal of doctrines can only bring a person arrogance, self-importance, pride, and make him lacking in sense. Only when a person has truth as his very life does his practice become real. No matter how many words of doctrine a person understands, he will not possess reality. When he encounters an issue he still won’t know what to practice. All those who are perfected by God are people who possess the truth, while all those who have not undergone perfection by God are people of the words of doctrine. Those who possess the truth are fit for use by God. Their work bears fruit, and they are truly capable of bringing others into God’s presence. Those who focus on words of doctrine do not derive true results from their work. They cannot provide people with the sustenance of authentic experience and understanding, and even less can they use the truth to resolve issues. This is why they are unable to bring others into God’s presence. A person who possesses the truth does not shy away from people seeking out the truth, and he is able to solve all of the practical problems that people have in their faith. Those who emphasize words of doctrine fear people seeking out the truth because they lack real things within themselves, and the doctrines they speak of can’t solve actual problems. Thus, they don’t dare to call on others to raise questions, and of course are even less able to solve practical difficulties. Those who possess the truth dare to face reality; those who focus on words of doctrine do not dare to face reality, rather, they evade it. Such are the principles for discernment between truth and words of doctrine.
from The Fellowship From the Above