God’s Work, God’s Disposition, and God Himself III
Our past few fellowships have had a big impact on every one of you. As of now, people can finally really feel the true existence of God and that God is actually very close to man. Although people may have believed in God for many years, they have never truly understood His thoughts and ideas as they do now, neither have they truly experienced His practical deeds as they do now. Whether it be knowledge or actual practice, most people have learned something new and achieved a higher understanding, and they have realized the error in their own past pursuits, realized the superficiality of their experience and that too much of their experience is not in line with God’s will, and realized that what man most lacks is knowledge of God’s disposition. This knowledge on man’s part is merely a type of perception-based knowledge; to rise to the level of rational knowledge requires a gradual deepening and strengthening through one’s experiences. Before man truly understands God, subjectively it could be said that they do believe in the existence of God in their hearts, but they have no real understanding of specific questions such as what kind of God He actually is, what His will is, what His disposition is, and what His real attitude toward mankind is. This greatly compromises people’s faith in God, preventing their faith from ever achieving purity or perfection. Even if you are face to face with God’s word, or feel that you have encountered God through your experiences, it still cannot be said that you completely understand Him. Because you do not know God’s thoughts, or what He loves and what He hates, what makes Him angry and what brings Him joy, you therefore do not have a true understanding of Him. Your faith is built on a foundation of vagueness and imagination, based on your subjective desires. It is still far from an authentic belief, and you are still far from being a true follower. Explanations of the examples from these Bible stories have allowed humans to know God’s heart, what He was thinking at every step in His work and why He did this work, what His original intention and His plan were when He did it, how He achieved His ideas, and how He prepared for and developed His plan. Through these stories, we can gain a detailed, specific understanding of God’s every specific intention and every real thought during His six thousand years of management work, and His attitude toward humans at different times and in different eras. If people can understand what God was thinking, what His attitude was, and the disposition He revealed as He faced every situation, this can help every person to more deeply realize God’s true existence, and more deeply feel His practicality and authenticity. My goal in telling these stories is not for people to understand biblical history, nor is it to help them become familiar with the verses of the Bible or the people in it, and it is especially not to help people understand the background of what God did during the Age of Law. Rather it is to help people understand God’s will, His disposition, and every little part of Him, and gain a more authentic and more accurate understanding and knowledge of God. This way, people’s hearts can, little by little, open up to God, become close to God, and they can better understand Him, His disposition, His essence, and better know the true God Himself.
Knowledge of God’s disposition and what He has and is can have a positive impact on people. It can help them have more confidence in God and help them achieve true obedience and fear for Him. Then, they will no longer blindly follow or worship Him. God does not want fools or those who follow a crowd blindly, but rather a group of people who have in their hearts a clear understanding and knowledge of God’s disposition and can act as God’s witnesses, people who, because of His loveliness, because of what He has and is, and because of His righteous disposition, would never abandon God. As a follower of God, if in your heart there is still a lack of clarity, or there is ambiguousness or confusion about God’s true existence, His disposition, what He has and is, and His plan to save mankind, then your faith cannot gain God’s praise. God does not want this type of person to follow Him, and He does not like this type of person coming before Him. Because this kind of person does not understand God, they are unable to give their heart to God—their heart is closed to Him, so their faith in God is full of impurities. Their following of God can only be called blind. People can only gain true belief and be true followers if they have true understanding and knowledge of God, which engenders within them true obedience and fear of God. Only in this way can they give their heart to God and open it up to Him. This is what God wants, because everything they do and think can withstand God’s test and can bear witness to God. Everything I communicate to you regarding God’s disposition, or what He has and is, or His will and His thoughts in everything that He does, and from whichever perspective, from whichever angle I talk about it, it is all to help you be more certain of God’s true existence, more truly understand and appreciate His love for mankind, and more truly understand and appreciate God’s concern for people, and His sincere desire to manage and save mankind.
Today we will first summarize God’s thoughts, ideas, and His each and every move since He created mankind. We will take a look at what work He has carried out, from creating the world to the official start of the Age of Grace. We can then discover which of God’s thoughts and ideas are unknown to man, and from there we can clarify the order of God’s management plan, and thoroughly understand the context in which God created His management work, its source and development process, and also thoroughly understand what results He wants from His management work—that is, the core and the purpose of His management work. To understand these things we need to go back to a distant, still and silent time when there were no humans …
When God arose from His bed, the first thought that He had was this: to create a living person—a real, living human—someone to live with and be His constant companion; this person could listen to Him, and He could confide in and speak with him. Then, for the first time, God scooped up a handful of dirt and used it to create the very first living person according to the image that He had imagined in His mind, and then He gave this living creature a name—Adam. Once God had this living and breathing person, how did He feel? For the first time, He felt the joy of having a loved one, a companion. He also felt for the first time the responsibility of being a father and the concern that comes along with it. This living and breathing person brought God happiness and joy; He felt comforted for the first time. This was the first thing God had ever done that was not accomplished with His thoughts or even words, but was done with His own hands. When this kind of being—a living and breathing person—stood in front of God, made of flesh and blood, with body and form, and able to speak with God, He experienced a kind of joy He had never felt before. God truly felt His responsibility, and this living being not only tugged at His heart but warmed and moved His heart with every little move he made. When this living being stood in front of God, it was the first time He had the thought to gain more of such people. This was the series of events that began with this first thought that God had. For God, all of these events were occurring for the first time, but in these first events, no matter what He felt at the time—joy, responsibility, concern—there was no one for Him to share it with. Starting from that moment, God truly felt a loneliness and a sadness that He had never experienced before. He felt that man could not accept or comprehend His love and concern, or His intentions for man, so He still felt sorrow and pain in His heart. Although He had done these things for man, man was not aware of it and did not understand. Aside from happiness, the joy and comfort man brought to Him quickly brought with it His first feelings of sorrow and loneliness. These were God’s thoughts and feelings at that time. While God was doing all these things, in His heart He went from joy to sorrow and from sorrow to pain, and these feelings were mixed with anxiety. All He wanted to do was to make haste to let this person, this mankind know what was in His heart and understand His intentions sooner. Then, they could become His followers and share His thoughts and align with His will. They would no longer merely listen to God speak and remain speechless; they would no longer be unaware of how to join God in His work; above all, they would no longer be people indifferent to God’s requirements. These first things that God did are very meaningful and hold great value for His management plan and for human beings today.
After creating all things and mankind, God did not rest. He was restless and eager to carry out His management, and to gain the people He so loved among mankind.
Next, not long after God created human beings, we see from the Bible that there was a great flood across the entire world. Noah is mentioned in the record of the flood, and it can be said that Noah was the first person to receive God’s call to work with Him to complete a task of God. Of course, this was also the first time God had called upon a person on the earth to do something according to His command. Once Noah finished building the ark, God flooded the earth for the first time. When God destroyed the earth with the flood, it was the first time since creating human beings that He felt overcome with disgust toward them; this is what forced God to make the painful decision to destroy this human race through a flood. After the flood destroyed the earth, God made His first covenant with humans, a covenant to show that He would never again destroy the world with floods. The sign of this covenant was the rainbow. This was God’s first covenant with mankind, so the rainbow was the first sign of a covenant given by God; the rainbow is a real, physical thing that exists. It is the very existence of the rainbow that makes God often feel sadness for the previous human race which He lost, and serves as a constant reminder for Him of what happened to them…. God would not slow His pace—He was restless and eager to take the next step in His management. Subsequently, God selected Abraham as His first choice for His work throughout Israel. This was also the first time God selected such a candidate. God resolved to begin carrying out His work of saving mankind through this person, and to continue His work among this person’s descendants. We can see in the Bible that this is what God did with Abraham. God then made Israel the first chosen land, and began His work of the Age of Law through His chosen people, the Israelites. Once again for the first time, God provided to the Israelites the express rules and laws that mankind should follow, and He explained them in detail. This was the first time God had provided human beings with such specific, standardized rules for how they should give sacrifices, how they should live, what they should do and not do, which festivals and days they should observe, and principles to follow in everything they did. This was the first time God had given mankind such detailed, standardized regulations and principles about how to live their lives.
Each time that I say “the first time,” it refers to a type of work that God had never before undertaken. It refers to work that did not exist before, and even though God had created mankind and all manner of creatures and living things, this is a type of work that He had never done before. All of this work involved God’s management of mankind; it all had to do with people and His salvation and management of them. After Abraham, God once again made another first—He chose Job to be the one who lived under the law and who could withstand the temptations of Satan while continuing to fear God, shun evil, and stand witness for God. This was also the first time that God allowed Satan to tempt a person, and the first time He made a bet with Satan. In the end, for the first time He gained someone who was capable of standing witness for and bearing witness to Him while facing Satan, and someone who could thoroughly shame Satan. Since God had created mankind, this was the first person He had gained who was able to bear witness for Him. Once He had gained this man, God was even more eager to continue His management and carry out the next stage in His work, preparing the location and the people He would choose for the next step of His work.
After fellowshiping about all of this, do you have a true understanding of God’s will? God considers this instance of His management of mankind, of His salvation of mankind, as more important than anything else. He does these things not only with His mind, not only with His words, and certainly not with a casual attitude—He does all of these things with a plan, with a goal, with standards, and with His will. It is clear that this work to save mankind holds great significance for both God and man. No matter how difficult the work is, no matter how great the obstacles are, no matter how weak humans are, or how deep mankind’s rebelliousness is, none of this is difficult for God. God keeps Himself busy, expending His painstaking effort and managing the work He Himself wants to carry out. He is also arranging everything and exercising His sovereignty over all those people on whom He will work and all the work He wants to complete—none of this has ever been done before. This is the first time God has used these methods and paid such a great price for this major project of managing and saving mankind. While God is carrying out this work, little by little He is expressing and releasing to mankind, without reservation, His painstaking effort, what He has and is, His wisdom and almightiness, and every aspect of His disposition. He releases and expresses these things as He has never done before. So, in the entire universe, aside from the people who God aims to manage and save, there have never been any creatures so close to God, that have had such an intimate relationship with Him. In His heart, mankind, which He wants to manage and save, is most important; He values this mankind above all else; even though He has paid a great price for them, and even though He is continually hurt and disobeyed by them, He never gives up on them and continues tirelessly in His work, with no complaints or regrets. This is because He knows that sooner or later, people will awaken to His call and be moved by His words, recognize that He is the Lord of creation, and return to His side …
After hearing all of this today, you may feel that everything that God does is very normal. It seems that humans have always felt some of God’s intentions for them from His words and from His work, but there is always a certain distance between their feelings or their knowledge and what God is thinking. That is why I think it is necessary to communicate with all people about why God created humankind, and the background behind His wish to gain the mankind He hoped for. It is essential to share this with everyone, so that everyone is clear in their heart. Because God’s every thought and idea, and every phase and every period of His work tie into, and are closely linked to, His entire management work, therefore when you understand God’s thoughts, ideas, and His will in every step of His work, it is the same as understanding how the work of His management plan came about. It is on this foundation that your understanding of God deepens. Although everything God did when He first created the world, which I mentioned previously, for now seems to be merely “information,” irrelevant to the pursuit of truth, over the course of your experience there will however be a day when you do not think this is something so simple as a couple of pieces of information, nor that it is simply some kind of mystery. As your life progresses, once God has some place in your heart, or once you more thoroughly and deeply understand His will, then you will truly understand the importance and the necessity of what I am talking about today. No matter the extent to which you accept this now, it is still necessary for you to understand and know these things. When God does something, when He carries out His work, no matter if it is with His ideas or His own hands, no matter if it is the first time He has done it or the last, ultimately, God has a plan, and His purposes and His thoughts are in everything He does. These purposes and thoughts represent God’s disposition, and they express what He has and is. These two things—God’s disposition and what He has and is—must be understood by every single person. Once a person understands His disposition and what He has and is, they can gradually understand why God does what He does and why He says what He says. From that, they can then have more faith to follow God, to pursue truth and a change in their disposition. That is to say, man’s understanding of God and his faith in God are inseparable.
If what people gain knowledge of and come to understand is God’s disposition and what He has and is, then what they gain will be life that comes from God. Once this life has been wrought inside you, your fear of God will become greater and greater. This is a gain that comes very naturally. If you do not want to understand or know about God’s disposition or His essence, if you do not even want to ponder over or focus on these things, I can tell you with certainty that the way you are currently pursuing your faith in God can never allow you to meet His will or gain His praise. More than that, you can never truly attain salvation—these are the final consequences. When people do not understand God and do not know His disposition, their hearts can never truly open up to Him. Once they have understood God, they will begin to appreciate and savor what is in His heart with interest and faith. When you appreciate and savor what is in God’s heart, your heart will gradually, bit by bit, open up to Him. When your heart opens up to Him, you will feel how shameful and contemptible your exchanges with God, your demands of God, and your own extravagant desires were. When your heart truly opens up to God, you will see that His heart is such an infinite world, and you will enter into a realm you have never experienced before. In this realm there is no cheating, there is no deception, there is no darkness, and no evil. There is only sincerity and faithfulness; only light and rectitude; only righteousness and kindness. It is full of love and care, full of compassion and tolerance, and through it you feel the happiness and joy of being alive. These things are what God will reveal to you when you open up your heart to Him. This infinite world is full of God’s wisdom and omnipotence; it is also full of His love and His authority. Here you can see every aspect of what God has and is, what brings Him joy, why He worries and why He becomes sad, why He becomes angry…. This is what every single person can see who opens up their heart and allows God to come in. God can only come into your heart if you open it up to Him. You can only see what God has and is, and you can only see His intentions for you, if He has come into your heart. At that time, you will discover that everything about God is so precious, that what He has and is is so worthy of treasuring. Compared to that, the people who surround you, the objects and events in your life, and even your loved ones, your partner, and the things you love, are hardly worth mentioning. They are so small, and so lowly; you will feel that no material object will ever be able to draw you in again, or that any material object will ever again be able to entice you to pay any price for it. In God’s humility you will see His greatness and His supremacy. Moreover, you will see in some deed of God that you previously believed to be quite small His infinite wisdom and His tolerance, and you will see His patience, His forbearance, and His understanding of you. This will engender in you an adoration for Him. On that day, you will feel that mankind is living in such a filthy world, that the people by your side and the things that happen in your life, and even those you love, their love for you, and their so-called protection or their concern for you are not even worth mentioning—only God is your beloved, and it is only God that you treasure the most. When that day comes, I believe that there will be some people who say: God’s love is so great, and His essence is so holy—in God there is no deceit, no evil, no envy, and no strife, but only righteousness and authenticity, and everything that God has and is should be longed for by humans. Humans should strive for and aspire to it. On what basis is mankind’s ability to achieve this built? It is built on the basis of their understanding of God’s disposition, and their understanding of God’s essence. So understanding God’s disposition and what He has and is, is a lifelong lesson for every person; this is a lifelong goal pursued by every person who strives to change their disposition, and strives to know God.
We just talked about all the work that God did, the series of unprecedented works that He carried out. Every one of these things is relevant to God’s management plan, and to God’s will. They are also relevant to the disposition of God Himself and His essence. If we want to understand more of what God has and is, we cannot stop at the Old Testament or at the Age of Law—we need to continue onward, following along with the steps God took in His work. So, as God ended the Age of Law and began the Age of Grace, let our own footsteps follow behind, into the Age of Grace—an age full of grace and redemption. In this age, God again did something very important that had never before been done. The work in this new age for both God and mankind was a new starting point—a starting point that consisted of yet another new work done by God that had never done before. This new work was unprecedented, something beyond the powers of imagination of humans and all creatures. It is something that is now well known to all people—for the first time, God became a human being, and for the first time He began new work in the form of a man, with the identity of a man. This new work signified that God had completed His work in the Age of Law, and that He would no longer do or say anything under the law. Neither would He say or do anything in the form of the law or according to the principles or rules of the law. That is, all His work based on the law was halted forever and would not be continued, because God wanted to begin new work and do new things. His plan once again had a new starting point, and so God had to lead mankind into the next age.
Whether this was joyful or ominous news to humans depended on the essence of each individual person. It could be said that to some people this was not joyful news, but ominous, because when God began His new work, those people who just followed the laws and rules, who just followed the doctrines but did not fear God, tended to use God’s old work to condemn His new work. For these people, this was ominous news; but for every person who was innocent and open, who was sincere to God and willing to receive His redemption, God’s first incarnation was very joyful news. For, ever since humans first were brought into existence, this was the first time God had appeared and lived among mankind in a form that was not the Spirit; this time, He was born of a human and lived among people as the Son of man, and worked in their midst. This “first” broke down people’s notions; it was beyond all imagination. Moreover, all of God’s followers gained a tangible benefit. God not only ended the old age, but He also ended His old working methods and working style. He no longer asked His messengers to convey His will, He was no longer hidden in the clouds, and no longer appeared or spoke to humans commandingly through thunder. Unlike anything before, through a method unimaginable to humans that was difficult for them to understand or accept—becoming flesh—He became the Son of man in order to begin the work of that age. This act of God caught mankind totally unprepared; it made them embarrassed, because God had once again started new work that He had never done before. Today, we will take a look at what new work God accomplished in the new age, and we will consider what there is for us to learn about from this new work in terms of God’s disposition and what He has and is.
The following are words recorded in the New Testament of the Bible:
1. Mat 12:1 At that time Jesus went on the sabbath day through the corn; and His disciples were an hungered, and began to pluck the ears of corn and to eat.
2. Mat 12:6–8 But I say to you, That in this place is one greater than the temple. But if you had known what this means, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice, you would not have condemned the guiltless. For the Son of man is Lord even of the sabbath day.
Let us first take a look at this passage: “At that time Jesus went on the sabbath day through the corn; and His disciples were an hungered, and began to pluck the ears of corn and to eat.”
Why have I selected this passage? What connection does it have to God’s disposition? In this text, the first thing we know is that it was the Sabbath day, but the Lord Jesus went out and led His disciples through the corn fields. What is even more “treacherous” is that they even “began to pluck the ears of corn and to eat.” In the Age of Law, Jehovah God’s law stipulated that people could not casually go out or take part in activities on the Sabbath—there were many things that could not be done on the Sabbath. This action on the part of the Lord Jesus was puzzling for those who had lived under the law for a long time, and it even provoked criticism. As for their confusion and how they talked about what Jesus did, we will put that aside for now and first discuss why the Lord Jesus chose to do this on the Sabbath, of all days, and what He wanted to communicate to people who were living under the law through this action. This is the connection between this passage and God’s disposition that I want to talk about.
When the Lord Jesus came, He used His practical actions to tell the people that God had departed the Age of Law and had begun new work, and that this new work did not require the observation of the Sabbath. God’s coming out from the confines of the Sabbath day was just a foretaste of His new work; the real and great work was still to come. When the Lord Jesus began His work, He had already left behind the “shackles” of the Age of Law, and had broken through the regulations and principles of that age. In Him, there was no trace of anything related to the law; He had cast it off entirely and no longer observed it, and He no longer required mankind to observe it. So here you see the Lord Jesus went through the corn fields on the Sabbath, and that the Lord did not rest; He was outside working, and not resting. This action of His was a shock to people’s notions and it communicated to them that He no longer lived under the law, and that He had left the confines of the Sabbath and appeared before mankind and in their midst in a new image, with a new way of working. This action of His told people that He had brought with Him new work, work that began with emerging from being under the law, and departing from the Sabbath. When God carried out His new work, He no longer clung to the past, and He was no longer concerned about the regulations of the Age of Law. Neither was He affected by His work in the previous age, but instead worked on the Sabbath just as He did on every other day, and when His disciples were hungry on the Sabbath, they could pick ears of corn to eat. This was all very normal in God’s eyes. For God, it is permissible to have a new beginning for much of the new work He wants to do and the new words He wants to say. When He begins something new, He neither mentions His previous work nor continues to carry it out. Because God has His principles in His work, when He wants to begin new work, it is when He wants to bring mankind into a new stage of His work, and when His work will enter a higher phase. If people continue to act according to the old sayings or regulations or continue to hold fast to them, He will not remember or approve that. This is because He has already brought new work, and has entered a new phase of His work. When He initiates new work, He appears to mankind with a completely new image, from a completely new angle, and in a completely new way so that people can see different aspects of His disposition and what He has and is. This is one of His goals in His new work. God does not cling to old things or walk the well-trodden path; when He works and speaks, He is not as prohibitive as people imagine. In God, all is free and liberated, and there is no prohibition, no constraints—what He brings to mankind is freedom and liberation. He is a living God, a God who genuinely, truly exists. He is not a puppet or a clay figure, and He is totally different from the idols that people enshrine and worship. He is living and vibrant, and what His words and work bring to mankind is all life and light, all freedom and liberation, because He holds the truth, the life, and the way—He is not constrained by anything in any of His work. No matter what people say and no matter how they see or assess His new work, He will carry out His work without a qualm. He will not worry about anyone’s notions or finger-pointing as concerns His work and words, or even their strong opposition and resistance to His new work. No one among all of creation can use human reason, or human imagination, knowledge, or morality to measure or define what God does, to discredit, disrupt or sabotage His work. There is no prohibition in His work and what He does; it will not be constrained by any man, event, or thing, neither will it be disrupted by any hostile forces. As far as His new work is concerned, He is an ever-victorious King, and any hostile forces and all the heresies and fallacies of mankind are trampled under His footstool. No matter which new stage of His work He is carrying out, it will surely be developed and expanded in mankind’s midst, and it will surely be carried out unhindered throughout the entire universe until His great work has been completed. This is God’s almightiness and wisdom, His authority and power. Thus, the Lord Jesus could openly go out and work on the Sabbath because in His heart there were no rules, no knowledge or doctrine that originated from mankind. What He had was God’s new work and God’s way. His work was the way to free mankind, to release people, to allow them to exist in the light and to live. Meanwhile, those who worship idols or false gods live every day bound by Satan, restrained by all kinds of rules and taboos—today one thing is prohibited, tomorrow another—there is no freedom in their lives. They are like prisoners in shackles, living life with no joy to speak of. What does “prohibition” represent? It represents constraints, bonds, and evil. As soon as a person worships an idol, they are worshiping a false god, an evil spirit. Prohibition comes along when such activities are engaged in. You cannot eat this or that, today you cannot go out, tomorrow you cannot cook, the next day you cannot move to a new house, certain days must be selected for weddings and funerals and even for giving birth to a child. What is this called? This is called prohibition; it is the bondage of mankind, and it is the shackles of Satan and evil spirits controlling people and restraining their hearts and bodies. Do these prohibitions exist with God? When speaking of the holiness of God, you should first think of this: With God there are no prohibitions. God has principles in His words and work, but there are no prohibitions, because God Himself is the truth, the way, and the life.
Now let us look at the following passage from the scriptures: “But I say to you, That in this place is one greater than the temple. But if you had known what this means, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice, you would not have condemned the guiltless. For the Son of man is Lord even of the sabbath day” (Mat 12:6–8). What does the word “temple” refer to here? To put it simply, it refers to a magnificent, tall building, and in the Age of Law, the temple was a place for priests to worship God. When the Lord Jesus said “in this place is one greater than the temple,” who did “one” refer to? Clearly, the “one” is the Lord Jesus in the flesh, because only He was greater than the temple. What did those words tell people? They told people to come out of the temple—God had already left the temple and was no longer working in it, so people should seek God’s footsteps outside of the temple and follow His steps in His new work. When the Lord Jesus said this, there was a premise behind His words, which was that under the law, people had come to see the temple as something greater than God Himself. That is, people worshiped the temple rather than worshiping God, so the Lord Jesus warned them not to worship idols, but to instead worship God, for He is supreme. Thus, He said: “I will have mercy, and not sacrifice.” It is evident that in the eyes of the Lord Jesus, most people living under the law no longer worshiped Jehovah, but were merely going through the motions of sacrificing, and the Lord Jesus determined that this constituted idol worship. These idol-worshipers saw the temple as something greater and higher than God. In their hearts there was only the temple, not God, and if they were to lose the temple, then they would lose their dwelling place. Without the temple they had nowhere to worship and could not carry out their sacrifices. Their so-called “dwelling place” is where they used the false pretense of worshiping Jehovah God in order to stay in the temple and carry out their own affairs. Their so-called “sacrificing” was just them carrying out their own personal shameful dealings under the guise of conducting their service in the temple. This was the reason people at that time saw the temple as greater than God. The Lord Jesus spoke these words as a warning to people, because they were using the temple as a front, and sacrifices as a cover for cheating people and cheating God. If you apply these words to the present, they are still equally valid and equally pertinent. Although people today have experienced different work of God than the people in the Age of Law experienced, their nature essence is the same. In the context of the work today, people will still do the same type of things as are represented by the words, “the temple is greater than God.” For example, people see fulfilling their duty as their job; they see bearing witness to God and battling the great red dragon as political movements in defense of human rights, for democracy and freedom; they turn their duty to utilize their skills into careers, but they treat fearing God and shunning evil as nothing but a piece of religious doctrine to observe; and so on. Are not these behaviors essentially the same as “the temple is greater than God”? The difference is that, two thousand years ago, people were carrying out their personal business in the physical temple, but today, people carry out their personal business in intangible temples. Those people that value rules see rules as greater than God, those people that love status see status as greater than God, those that love their career see careers as greater than God, and so on—all their expressions lead Me to say: “People praise God as the greatest through their words, but in their eyes everything is greater than God.” This is because as soon as people find an opportunity along their path of following God to display their own talents, or to carry out their own business or their own career, they distance themselves from God and throw themselves into their beloved career. As for what God has entrusted to them, and His will, those things have long since been discarded. What is the difference between the state of these people and those who conducted their own business in the temple two thousand years ago?
Next, let us take a look at the last sentence in this passage: “For the Son of man is Lord even of the sabbath day.” Is there a practical side to this sentence? Can you see the practical side? Every single thing that God says comes from His heart, so why did He say this? How do you understand it? You may understand the meaning of this sentence now, but at the time when it was spoken not many people did because mankind had just come out of the Age of Law. For them, departing from the Sabbath was a very difficult thing to do, not to mention understanding what a true Sabbath is.
The sentence “the Son of man is Lord even of the sabbath day” tells people that everything about God is not of a material nature, and although God can provide for all of your material needs, once all of your material needs have been met, can the satisfaction from these things replace your pursuit of truth? That is clearly not possible! God’s disposition and what He has and is, which we have fellowshiped about, are both the truth. Its value cannot be measured against any material objects, no matter how valuable, nor can its value be quantified in terms of money, because it is not a material object, and it supplies the needs of each and every person’s heart. For every person, the value of these intangible truths should be greater than the value of any material things that you might value, should they not? This statement is something you need to linger over. The key point of what I have said is that what God has and is and everything about God are the most important things for every single person and cannot be replaced by any material object. I will give you an example: When you are hungry, you need food. This food can be more or less good or more or less unsatisfactory, but as long as you have your fill, that unpleasant feeling of being hungry will no longer be there—it will be gone. You can sit in peace, and your body will be at rest. People’s hunger can be resolved with food, but when you are following God and feel that you have no understanding of Him, how can you resolve the emptiness in your heart? Can it be resolved with food? Or when you are following God and do not understand His will, what can you use to make up for that hunger in your heart? In the process of your experience of salvation through God, while pursuing a change in your disposition, if you do not understand His will or do not know what the truth is, if you do not understand God’s disposition, then will you not feel very uneasy? Will you not feel a strong hunger and thirst in your heart? Will these feelings not prevent you from feeling at rest in your heart? So how can you make up for that hunger in your heart—is there a way to resolve it? Some people go shopping, some seek out their friends to confide in, some people indulge in a long sleep, others read more of God’s words, or they work harder and expend more effort to fulfill their duties. Can these things resolve your actual difficulties? All of you fully understand these kinds of practices. When you feel powerless, when you feel a strong desire to gain enlightenment from God to allow you to know the reality of the truth and His will, what do you need most? What you need is not a full meal, and it is not a few kind words, let alone the transient comfort and satisfaction of the flesh—what you need is for God to directly and clearly tell you what you should do and how you should do it, to clearly tell you what the truth is. After you have understood this, even if you gain only a tiny bit of understanding, will you not feel more satisfied in your heart than if you had eaten a good meal? When your heart is satisfied, does not your heart and your entire being gain true rest? Through this analogy and analysis, do you understand now why I wanted to share with you this sentence, “the Son of man is Lord even of the sabbath day”? Its meaning is that what comes from God, what He has and is, and everything about Him, are greater than any other thing, including the thing or the person you once believed you treasured most. That is to say, if a person cannot gain words from the mouth of God or they do not understand His will, they cannot gain rest. In your future experiences, you will understand why I wanted you to see this passage today—this is very important. Everything that God does is truth and life. The truth is something that people cannot lack in their lives, and it is something they can never do without; you could also say that it is the greatest thing. Although you cannot look at it or touch it, its importance to you cannot be ignored; it is the only thing that can bring rest to your heart.
Is your understanding of truth integrated with your own states? In real life, you first have to think of which truths relate to the people, events, and things you have encountered; it is among these truths that you can find God’s will and connect what you have encountered with His will. If you do not know which aspects of the truth relate to the things you have encountered but instead go directly to seek God’s will, this is a blind approach which cannot achieve results. If you want to seek the truth and understand God’s will, first you need to look at what kind of things have happened to you, which aspects of the truth they are related to, and look for the specific truth in the word of God that relates to what you have experienced. Then you look for the path of practice that is right for you in that truth; in this way you can gain an indirect understanding of God’s will. Searching for and practicing the truth is not mechanically applying a doctrine or following a formula. The truth is not formulaic, neither is it a law. It is not dead—it is life itself, it is a living thing, and it is the rule that a created being must follow in life and the rule a human must have in life. This is something that you must, as much as possible, understand through experience. No matter what stage you have arrived at in your experience, you are inseparable from God’s word or the truth, and what you understand of God’s disposition and what you know of what God has and is are all expressed in God’s words; they are inextricably linked with the truth. God’s disposition and what He has and is are, in themselves, the truth; the truth is an authentic manifestation of God’s disposition and what He has and is. It makes what He has and is concrete, and it makes a clear statement of what He has and is; it tells you more straightforwardly what God likes, what He does not like, what He wants you to do and what He does not permit you to do, which people He despises and which people He delights in. Behind the truths that God expresses, people can see His pleasure, anger, sorrow, and happiness, as well as His essence—this is the revealing of His disposition. Aside from knowing what God has and is, and understanding His disposition from His word, what is most important is the need to reach this understanding through practical experience. If a person removes themselves from real life in order to know God, they will not be able to achieve that. Even if there are people who can gain some understanding from the word of God, their understanding is limited to theories and words, and there arises a disparity with what God Himself is really like.
What we are communicating about now is all within the scope of the stories recorded in the Bible. Through these stories, and through analyzing these things that happened, people can understand His disposition and what He has and is that He has expressed, allowing them to know every aspect of God more broadly, more deeply, more comprehensively, and more thoroughly. So, is the only way to know every aspect of God through these stories? No, it is not the only way! For what God says and the work He does in the Age of Kingdom can better help people know His disposition, and know it more fully. However, I think it is a bit easier to know God’s disposition and to understand what He has and is through some examples or stories recorded in the Bible that people are familiar with. If I take the words of judgment and chastisement and the truths that God expresses today, word for word, to enable you to know Him in this way, you will feel it is too dull and too tedious, and some people will even feel that God’s words seem to be formulaic. But if I take these Bible stories as examples to help people know God’s disposition, they will not find it boring. You could say that in the course of explaining these examples, the details of what was in God’s heart at the time—His mood or sentiment, or His thoughts and ideas—have been told to people in human language, and the goal of all this is to allow them to appreciate, to feel that what God has and is is not formulaic. It is not a legend, or something that people cannot see or touch. It is something that truly exists, that people can feel and appreciate. This is the ultimate goal. You could say that people living in this age are blessed. They can draw on Bible stories to gain a broader understanding of God’s previous work; they can see His disposition through the work that He has done; they can understand God’s will for mankind through these dispositions that He has expressed, and understand the concrete manifestations of His holiness and His care for humans, and in this way they can reach a more detailed and deeper knowledge of God’s disposition. I believe that all of you can now feel this!
Within the scope of the work that the Lord Jesus completed in the Age of Grace, you can see another aspect of what God has and is. This aspect was expressed through His flesh, and people were able to see and appreciate it because of His humanity. In the Son of man, people saw how God in the flesh lived out His humanity, and they saw God’s divinity expressed through the flesh. These two types of expression allowed people to see a very real God, and they allowed people to form a different concept of God. However, during the period of time between the creation of the world and the end of the Age of Law, that is, before the Age of Grace, the only aspects of God that were seen, heard, and experienced by the people were God’s divinity, the things that God did and said in a non-material realm, and the things that He expressed from His real person that could not be seen or touched. Often, these things made people feel that God was so towering in His greatness that they could not get close to Him. The impression God usually gave people was that He flickered in and out of their ability to perceive Him, and people even felt that every single one of His thoughts and ideas was so mysterious and so elusive that there was no way to reach them, much less even attempt to understand and appreciate them. For people, everything about God was very distant, so distant that people could not see it, could not touch it. He seemed to be high up in the sky, and seemed not to exist at all. So for people, understanding God’s heart and mind or any of His thinking was unachievable, and even beyond their reach. Even though God performed some concrete work in the Age of Law, and He also issued some specific words and expressed some specific dispositions to allow people to appreciate and to perceive some real knowledge about Him, yet in the end, these expressions of what God has and is came from a non-material realm, and what people understood, what they knew was still about the divine aspect of what He has and is. Mankind could not gain a concrete concept from this expression of what He has and is, and their impression of God was still stuck within the scope of “a spiritual body that is hard to get close to, that flickers in and out of perception.” Because God did not use a specific object or an image belonging to the material realm to appear before people, they remained unable to define Him using human language. In people’s hearts and minds, they always wanted to use their own language to establish a standard for God, to make Him tangible and to humanize Him, such as how tall He is, how big He is, what He looks like, what exactly He likes and what His personality is. Actually, in His heart God knew that people were thinking this way. He was very clear on people’s needs, and of course He also knew what He should do, so He carried out His work in a different way in the Age of Grace. This new way was both divine and humanized. In the period of time that the Lord Jesus was working, people could see that God had many human expressions. For example, He could dance, He could attend weddings, He could commune with people, speak with them, and discuss things with them. In addition to that, the Lord Jesus also completed a lot of work that represented His divinity, and of course all of this work was an expression and a revelation of God’s disposition. During this time, when God’s divinity was realized in ordinary flesh in a way that people could see and touch, they no longer felt that He was flickering in and out of perception or that they could not get close to Him. On the contrary, they could try to grasp the will of God or understand His divinity through every movement, through the words, and through the work of the Son of man. The incarnate Son of man expressed God’s divinity through His humanity and conveyed the will of God to mankind. And through His expression of God’s will and disposition, He also revealed to people the God that cannot be seen or touched who dwells in the spiritual realm. What people saw was God Himself in tangible form, made of flesh and blood. So the incarnate Son of man made things such as the identity of God Himself, God’s status, image, disposition, and what He has and is, concrete and humanized. Even though the external appearance of the Son of man had some limitations regarding the image of God, His essence and what He has and is were entirely able to represent the identity and status of God Himself—there were merely some differences in the form of expression. We cannot deny that the Son of man represented the identity and status of God Himself, both in the form of His humanity and in His divinity. During this time, however, God worked through the flesh, spoke from the perspective of the flesh, and stood before mankind with the identity and status of the Son of man, and this gave people the opportunity to encounter and experience the true words and work of God among mankind. It also allowed people insight into His divinity and His greatness in the midst of humility, as well as to gain a preliminary understanding and definition of the authenticity and reality of God. Even though the work completed by the Lord Jesus, His ways of working, and the perspective from which He spoke differed from God’s real person in the spiritual realm, everything about Him truly represented God Himself, whom mankind had never seen before—this cannot be denied! That is to say, no matter in what form God appears, no matter from which perspective He speaks, or in what image He faces mankind, God represents nothing but Himself. He can represent neither any one human, nor any of corrupted mankind. God is God Himself, and this cannot be denied.
Next, we will take a look at a parable told by the Lord Jesus in the Age of Grace.
Mat 18:12–14 How think you? if a man have an hundred sheep, and one of them be gone astray, does he not leave the ninety and nine, and goes into the mountains, and seeks that which is gone astray? And if so be that he find it, truly I say to you, he rejoices more of that sheep, than of the ninety and nine which went not astray. Even so it is not the will of your Father which is in heaven, that one of these little ones should perish.
This passage is a parable—what kind of feeling does it give to people? The way of expression—the parable—used here is a figure of speech in human language, and as such it belongs within the scope of human knowledge. If God had said something similar in the Age of Law, people would have felt that such words were not truly consistent with who God was, but when the Son of man delivered these words in the Age of Grace, it felt comforting, warm, and intimate to people. When God became flesh, when He appeared in the form of a man, He used a very appropriate parable that came from His own humanity, in order to express the voice of His heart. This voice represented God’s own voice and the work He wanted to do in that age. It also represented an attitude that God had toward people in the Age of Grace. Looking from the perspective of God’s attitude toward people, He compared each person to a sheep. If a sheep was lost, He would do whatever it took to find it. This represented a principle of God’s work at that time among mankind, when He was in the flesh. God used this parable to describe His resolve and attitude in that work. This was the advantage of God becoming flesh: He could take advantage of mankind’s knowledge and use human language to speak to people, and to express His will. He explained or “translated” to man His profound, divine language that people struggled to understand in human language, in a human way. This helped people understand His will and know what He wanted to do. He could also have conversations with people from the human perspective, using human language, and communicate with people in a way they understood. He could even speak and work using human language and knowledge so that people could feel God’s kindness and closeness, so that they could see His heart. What do you see in this? Is there any prohibition in God’s words and actions? The way people see it, there is no way that God could use human knowledge, language, or ways of speaking to talk about what God Himself wanted to say, the work He wanted to do, or to express His own will. But this is erroneous thinking. God used this type of parable so that people could feel the realness and the sincerity of God, and see His attitude toward people during that time period. This parable awakened people who had been living under the law for a long time from a dream, and it also inspired generation after generation of people who lived in the Age of Grace. By reading the passage of this parable, people know God’s sincerity in saving mankind and understand the weight and importance accorded to mankind in God’s heart.
Let us take a look at the last sentence in this passage: “Even so it is not the will of your Father which is in heaven, that one of these little ones should perish.” Was this the Lord Jesus’ own words, or the words of the Father in heaven? On the surface, it looks like it is the Lord Jesus who is speaking, but His will represents the will of God Himself, which is why He said: “Even so it is not the will of your Father which is in heaven, that one of these little ones should perish.” People at that time only acknowledged the Father in heaven as God, and believed that this person whom they saw in front of their eyes was merely sent by Him, and could not represent the Father in heaven. That is why the Lord Jesus had to add this sentence to the end of this parable, so that people could really feel God’s will for mankind and feel the authenticity and the accuracy of what He said. Even though this sentence was a simple thing to say, it was spoken with care and love and revealed the Lord Jesus’ humility and hiddenness. No matter whether God became flesh or whether He worked in the spiritual realm, He knew the human heart best, and best understood what people needed, knew what people worried about, and what confused them, and that is why He added this sentence. This sentence highlighted a problem hidden in mankind: People were skeptical of what the Son of man said, which is to say, when the Lord Jesus was speaking He had to add: “Even so it is not the will of your Father which is in heaven, that one of these little ones should perish,” and only on this premise could His words bear fruit, to make people believe their accuracy and improve their credibility. This shows that when God became a regular Son of man, God and mankind had a very uneasy relationship, and that the Son of man’s situation was very embarrassing. It also shows how insignificant the Lord Jesus’ status among humans was at that time. When He said this, it was actually to tell people: You can rest assured—these words do not represent what is in My own heart, but they are the will of the God who is in your hearts. For mankind, was this not an ironic thing? Even though God working in the flesh had many advantages that He did not have in His person, He had to withstand their doubts and rejection as well as their numbness and dullness. It could be said that the process of the work of the Son of man was the process of experiencing mankind’s rejection and experiencing their competing against Him. More than that, it was the process of working to continuously win mankind’s trust and to conquer mankind through what He has and is, through His own essence. It was not so much that God incarnate was waging an on-the-ground war against Satan; it was more that God became an ordinary man and began a struggle with those who follow Him, and in this struggle the Son of man completed His work with His humility, with what He has and is, and with His love and wisdom. He obtained the people He wanted, won the identity and status He deserved, and “returned” to His throne.
Next, let us look at the following two passages of scripture.
Mat 18:21–22 Then came Peter to Him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times? Jesus said to him, I say not to you, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven.
Mat 22:37–39 Jesus said to him, You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like to it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
Of these two passages, one speaks of forgiveness and the other speaks of love. These two topics really highlight the work the Lord Jesus wanted to carry out in the Age of Grace.
When God became flesh, He brought along with Him a stage of His work, which was the specific work tasks and the disposition He wanted to express in this age. In that period, everything that the Son of man did revolved around the work that God wanted to carry out in this age. He would do no more and no less. Every single thing He said and every type of work that He carried out was all related to this age. Regardless of whether He expressed it in a human way with human language or through divine language, and no matter in which way or from which perspective He did so, His goal was to help people understand what He wanted to do, what His will was, and what His requirements of people were. He might use various means and different perspectives to help people understand and know His will, and to understand His work of saving mankind. So in the Age of Grace we see the Lord Jesus using human language most of the time to express what He wanted to communicate with mankind. Even more, we see Him from the perspective of an ordinary guide speaking with people, providing for their needs, and helping them with what they had requested. This way of working was not seen in the Age of Law that came before the Age of Grace. He became more intimate and more compassionate with mankind, as well as more able to achieve practical results in both form and manner. The metaphor about forgiving people seventy times seven really clarifies this point. The purpose achieved by the number in this metaphor is to allow people to understand the Lord Jesus’ intention at the time that He said this. His intention was that people should forgive others—not once or twice, and not even seven times, but seventy times seven. What kind of idea is contained within the idea of “seventy times seven”? It is to cause people to make forgiveness their own responsibility, something they must learn, and a “way” by which they must abide. Even though this was just a metaphor, it served to highlight the crucial point. It helped people to deeply appreciate what He meant and to find the proper ways of practice and the principles and standards of practice. This metaphor helped people to understand clearly and gave them a correct concept—that they should learn forgiveness and forgive any number of times without conditions, but with an attitude of tolerance and understanding for others. When the Lord Jesus said this, what was in His heart? Was He really thinking of the number “seventy times seven?” No, He was not. Is there a number of times God will forgive man? There are many people who are very interested in the “number of times” mentioned here, who really want to understand the origin and the meaning of this number. They want to understand why this number came out of the Lord Jesus’ mouth; they believe that there is a deeper implication to this number. But actually, this was just a figure of human speech which God used. Any implication or meaning must be taken along with the Lord Jesus’ requirements for mankind. When God had not yet become flesh, people did not understand much of what He said, because His words came out of complete divinity. The perspective and context of what He said was invisible and unreachable to mankind; it was expressed from a spiritual realm that people could not see. For people who lived in the flesh, they could not pass through the spiritual realm. But after God became flesh, He spoke to mankind from the perspective of humanity, and He came out of and surpassed the scope of the spiritual realm. He could express His divine disposition, will, and attitude through things humans could imagine, things they saw and encountered in their lives, and using methods that humans could accept, in a language they could understand, and with knowledge they could grasp, to allow mankind to understand and to know God, to comprehend His intention and His required standards within the scope of their capacity and to the degree that they were able. This was the method and principle of God’s work in humanity. Even though God’s ways and His principles of working in the flesh were mostly achieved by means of or through humanity, it truly did achieve results that could not be achieved by working directly in divinity. God’s work in humanity was more concrete, authentic, and targeted, the methods were much more flexible, and in form it surpassed the work carried out during the Age of Law.
Next, let us talk about loving the Lord and loving your neighbor as yourself. Is this something that is directly expressed in divinity? No, clearly not! These were all things that the Son of man spoke about in humanity; only human beings would say something like “Love your neighbor as yourself. Love others as you cherish your own life.” This manner of speaking is exclusively human. God has never spoken in this way. At the very least, God does not have this type of language in His divinity because He has no need of this kind of tenet, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” in order to regulate His love for mankind, because God’s love for mankind is a natural revelation of what He has and is. When have you ever heard God say anything like: “I love mankind as I love Myself”? You have not, because love is in God’s essence and in what He has and is. God’s love for mankind, and His attitude, and the way He treats people are a natural expression and revelation of His disposition. He does not need to deliberately do this in a certain way, or to deliberately follow a certain method or a moral code to achieve loving His neighbor as Himself—He already possesses this type of essence. What do you see in this? When God worked in humanity, many of His methods, words, and truths were expressed in a human way. But at the same time, God’s disposition, what He has and is, and His will were expressed for people to know and understand. What they came to know and understand was exactly His essence and what He has and is, which represent the inherent identity and status of God Himself. That is to say, the Son of man in the flesh expressed the inherent disposition and essence of God Himself to the greatest extent possible and as accurately as possible. Not only was the Son of man’s humanity not a hindrance or a barrier to man’s communication and interaction with God in heaven, but it was actually the only channel and the only bridge for mankind to connect to the Lord of creation. Now, at this point, do you not feel that there are many similarities between the nature and methods of the work done by the Lord Jesus in the Age of Grace and the current stage of work? This current stage of work also uses a lot of human language to express God’s disposition, and a lot of language and methods from mankind’s daily life and human knowledge to express the will of God Himself. Once God becomes flesh, no matter if He is speaking from a human perspective or a divine perspective, lots of His language and methods of expression come through the medium of human language and methods. That is, when God becomes flesh, this is the best opportunity for you to see God’s omnipotence and His wisdom, and to know every real aspect of God. When God became flesh, while He was growing up, He came to understand, learn, and grasp some of mankind’s knowledge, common sense, language, and methods of expression in humanity. God incarnate possessed these things that came from the humans which He had created. They became tools of God in the flesh for expressing His disposition and His divinity, and allowed Him to make His work more pertinent, more authentic, and more accurate when He was working amidst mankind, from a human perspective and using human language. This made His work more accessible and more easily understood for people, thus achieving the results that God wanted. Is it not more practical for God to work in the flesh in this way? Is this not God’s wisdom? When God became flesh, when God’s flesh was able to take on the work that He wanted to carry out, that is when He would practically express His disposition and His work, and that was also the time when He could officially begin His ministry as the Son of man. This meant that there was no longer a “generation gap” between God and man, that God would soon cease His work of communicating through messengers, and that God Himself could personally express all the words and work in the flesh that He wanted to. It also meant that the people God saves were closer to Him, that His management work had entered new territory, and that all of mankind was about to be faced with a new era.
Everyone who has read the Bible knows that many events happened when the Lord Jesus was born. The greatest among those events was Him being hunted by the king of devils, which was an event so extreme that all of the city’s children who were aged two years old and under were slaughtered. It is evident that God assumed great risk by becoming flesh among humans; the great price that He paid for completing His management of saving mankind is also evident. The great hopes that God held for His work among mankind in the flesh are also evident. When God’s flesh was able to take on work among mankind, how did He feel? People should be able to understand that to some degree, should they not? At the very least, God was happy because He could start carrying out His new work among mankind. When the Lord Jesus was baptized and officially began His work to fulfill His ministry, God’s heart was overwhelmed with joy because after so many years of waiting and preparation, He could finally wear the flesh of a normal man and begin His new work in the form of a man of flesh and blood, whom people could see and touch. He could finally speak face-to-face and heart-to-heart with people through the identity of a man. God could finally come face to face with mankind through the medium of human ways and human language; He could provide for mankind, enlighten them, and help them using human language; He could eat at the same table and live in the same space with them. He could also see human beings, see things, and see everything the way humans saw them and even through their own eyes. For God, this was already His first victory of His work in the flesh. It could also be said that it was an accomplishment of a great work—this of course was what God was happiest about. Starting from then, God felt, for the first time, a sort of comfort in His work among mankind. All of the events that came to pass were so practical and so natural, and the comfort that God felt was so true. For mankind, each time a new stage of God’s work is accomplished, and each time God feels gratified, that is when mankind can come closer to God and to salvation. To God, this is also the launch of His new work, forging onward in His management plan, and, moreover, these are the times when His intentions approach complete fulfillment. For mankind, the arrival of such an opportunity is fortunate, and very good; for all those who await God’s salvation, it is momentous and joyous news. When God carries out a new stage of work, then He has a new beginning, and when this new work and new beginning are launched and introduced among mankind, it is when the outcome of this stage of work has already been determined and accomplished and the final effect and fruit already seen by God. This is also when these effects make God feel satisfied, and, of course, it is when His heart is happy. God feels reassured because, in His eyes, He has already seen and determined the people He is looking for, and has already gained this group of people, a group that is able to make His work successful and bring Him satisfaction. Thus, He puts aside His worries, and He feels happy. In other words, when the flesh of God is able to embark upon new work among man, and He begins to, without obstruction, do the work that He must do, and when He feels that all has been accomplished, then for Him, the end is already in sight. Because of this He is satisfied, and His heart is happy. How is God’s happiness expressed? Can you imagine what the answer might be? May God cry? Can God cry? Can God clap His hands? Can God dance? Can God sing? If so, what would He sing? Of course, God could sing a beautiful, moving song, a song that could express the joy and happiness in His heart. He could sing it for mankind, for Himself, and for all things. God’s happiness can be expressed in any way—all of this is normal because God has joys and sorrows, and His various feelings can be expressed in various ways. This is His right, and nothing could be more normal and proper. People should not think anything else of it. You should not try to use the “band-tightening spell”[a] on God, telling Him He should not do this or that, He should not act this way or that, and in this way limit His happiness or any feeling He might have. In people’s hearts God cannot be happy, cannot shed tears, cannot weep—He cannot express any emotion. Through what we have communicated during these two fellowships, I believe you will no longer see God in this way, but will allow God to have some freedom and release. This is a very good thing. In the future if you are able to truly feel God’s sadness when you hear about Him being sad, and you are able to truly feel His happiness when you hear about Him being happy, then at least you will be able to clearly know and understand what makes God happy and what makes Him sad. When you are able to feel sad because God is sad, and feel happy because God is happy, He will have fully gained your heart and there will no longer be any barrier between yourself and Him. You will no longer try to constrain God with human imaginings, notions, and knowledge. At that time, God will be alive and vivid in your heart. He will be the God of your life and the Master of everything about you. Do you have this kind of aspiration? Are you confident that you can achieve this?
Next, let us read the following passages from the scriptures:
Prayer (Mat 6:5–8)
The Parable of the Net (Mat 13:47–50)
Mat 22:37–39 Jesus said to him, You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like to it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
Let us first look at each of the various parts of “The Sermon on the Mount.” What do all of these different parts touch upon? It can be said, with certainty, that the contents of these various parts are all more elevated, more concrete, and closer to people’s lives than the regulations of the Age of Law. To speak in modern terms, these things are more relevant to people’s actual practice.
Let us read about the following specific content: How should you understand the beatitudes? What should you know about the law? How should anger be defined? How should adulterers be dealt with? How is divorce to be spoken about, and what kind of rules are there about it? Who can get divorced and who cannot get divorced? How about vows, an eye for an eye, loving your enemies, and being charitable? And so on. All of these things relate to every aspect of the practice of mankind’s belief in God, and of their following God. Some of these practices are still applicable today, though they are shallower than what is currently required of people—they are fairly elementary truths which people encounter in their belief in God. From the time when the Lord Jesus began working, He was already beginning to carry out work on the life disposition of humans, but these aspects of His work were based on the foundation of the law. Did the rules and the ways of speaking about these topics have anything to do with the truth? Of course they did! All of the previous regulations and principles, as well as these sermons in the Age of Grace, were related to God’s disposition and what He has and is, and of course, to the truth. No matter what God expresses, and no matter what mode of expression or language He uses, the things that He expresses all have their foundation, origin, and starting point in the principles of His disposition and what He has and is. This is absolutely true. So even though these things He said seem a little shallow now, you still cannot say that they are not the truth, because they were things that were indispensable for people in the Age of Grace in order to satisfy God’s will and to achieve a change in their life disposition. Can you say that any one of these sermons is not in line with the truth? No, you cannot! Every one of them is the truth because they were all God’s requirements for mankind; they were all principles and a scope given by God, showing how one should conduct oneself, and they represent God’s disposition. However, based on the level of their growth in life at that time, these were the only things that they were able to accept and comprehend. Because mankind’s sin had not yet been resolved, these were the only words that the Lord Jesus could issue, and He could only utilize the simple teachings contained within this kind of scope to tell the people of that time how they should act, what they should do, within what principles and scope they should do things, and how they should believe in God and meet His requirements. All of this was determined based on the stature of mankind at that time. It was not easy for people living under the law to accept these teachings, so what the Lord Jesus taught had to stay within this scope.
Next, let us take a look at the various contents of “The Parables of the Lord Jesus.”
The first is the parable of the sower. This is a very interesting parable; sowing seeds is a common event in people’s lives. The second is the parable of the tares. Anyone who has planted crops, and certainly all adults, will know what “tares” are. The third is the parable of the mustard seed. All of you know what mustard is, do you not? If you do not know, you can take a look in the Bible. The fourth parable is the parable of the leaven. Now, most people know that leaven is used for fermentation, and that it is something that people use in their daily lives. The further parables, including the sixth, the parable of the treasure; the seventh, the parable of the pearl; and the eighth, the parable of the net, were all drawn and sourced from people’s real lives. What kind of picture do these parables paint? It is a picture of God becoming a normal person and living alongside mankind, using the language of life, human language, to communicate with humans and to provide them with what they need. When God became flesh and lived among mankind for a long time, after He had experienced and witnessed people’s various lifestyles, these experiences became His teaching material through which He transformed His divine language into human language. Of course, these things that He saw and heard in life also enriched the Son of man’s human experience. When He wanted people to understand some truths, to understand some of God’s will, then He could use parables similar to the ones above to tell people about God’s will and His requirements of mankind. These parables were all related to people’s lives; there was not a single one that was out of touch with human lives. When the Lord Jesus lived with mankind, He saw farmers tending their fields, and He knew what tares were and what leavening was; He understood that humans love treasure, so He used the metaphors of both the treasure and the pearl. In life, He frequently saw fishermen casting their nets; the Lord Jesus saw this and other activities related to human life, and He also experienced that kind of life. Just like every other normal human being, He experienced human daily routines and their eating three meals a day. He personally experienced the life of an average person, and observed the lives of others. When He observed and personally experienced all of this, what He thought of was not how to have a good life or how He could live more freely and comfortably. Instead, from His experiences of authentic human life, the Lord Jesus saw the hardship in people’s lives. He saw the hardship, the wretchedness, and the sadness of people living under the domain of Satan and living a life of sin beneath Satan’s corruption. While He was personally experiencing human life, He also experienced how helpless people were who were living amongst corruption, and He saw and experienced the miserable conditions of humans who lived in sin, who lost all direction amidst the torture to which they were subjected by Satan and by evil. When the Lord Jesus saw these things, did He see them with His divinity or with His humanity? His humanity really existed and was very much alive; He could experience and see all of this. But of course, He also saw these things in His essence, which is His divinity. That is, Christ Himself, the Lord Jesus who was a man, saw this, and everything He saw made Him feel the importance and the necessity of the work He had taken on during this time that He lived in the flesh. Even though He Himself knew that the responsibility He needed to take on in the flesh was so immense, and He knew how cruel the pain would be which He would face, when He saw mankind helpless in sin, when He saw the wretchedness of their lives and their feeble struggles under the law, He felt more and more grieved, and became more and more anxious to save mankind from sin. No matter what kind of difficulties He would face or what kind of pain He would suffer, He became increasingly resolved to redeem mankind, who was living in sin. During this process, you could say that the Lord Jesus began to understand more and more clearly the work He needed to do and what He had been entrusted with. He also became increasingly eager to complete the work He was to take on—to assume all of mankind’s sins, to atone for mankind so that they no longer lived in sin, and at the same time, God would be able to forgive man’s sins because of the sin offering, allowing Him to continue to further His work of saving mankind. It could be said that in the Lord Jesus’ heart, He was willing to offer Himself up for mankind, to sacrifice Himself. He was also willing to act as a sin offering, to be nailed to the cross, and indeed He was eager to complete this work. When He saw the miserable conditions of human life, He wanted even more to fulfill His mission as quickly as possible, without the delay of a single minute or even a single second. Feeling such urgency, He spent no thought on how great His own pain would be, nor did He harbor any further apprehension about how much humiliation He would have to endure. He held just one conviction in His heart: As long as He offered Himself up, as long as He was nailed to the cross as a sin offering, then God’s will would be carried out and God would be able to commence new work. Mankind’s life and their state of existence in sin would be completely transformed. His conviction and what He was determined to do were related to saving man, and He had only one objective, which was to do God’s will so that God could successfully begin the next stage of His work. This was what was in the Lord Jesus’ mind at the time.
Living in the flesh, God incarnate possessed normal humanity; He had the emotions and the rationality of a normal person. He knew what happiness was, what pain was, and when He saw mankind living this kind of life, He deeply felt that merely giving people some teachings, providing them with something or teaching them something, would not be enough to lead them out of sin. Neither could just having them obey the commandments redeem them from sin—only when He took on humanity’s sin and became the likeness of sinful flesh could He win mankind’s freedom and God’s forgiveness for mankind in exchange. So after the Lord Jesus had experienced and witnessed people’s lives in sin, an intense desire manifested in His heart—to allow humans to free themselves from their lives of struggling in sin. This desire made Him feel more and more that He must go to the cross and take on humanity’s sins as soon and as quickly as possible. These were the thoughts of the Lord Jesus at that time, after He had lived with people and seen, heard, and felt the misery of their lives in sin. That the incarnate God could have this kind of will for mankind, that He could express and reveal this kind of disposition—is this something an average person could have? What would an average person see, living in this type of environment? What would they think? If an average person faced all of this, would they look at problems from an elevated perspective? Definitely not! Although the outward appearance of God incarnate is exactly the same as a human, and although He learns human knowledge and speaks human language, and sometimes even expresses His ideas through mankind’s own methods or ways of speaking, nevertheless, the way He sees humans and sees the essence of things is absolutely not the same as the way corrupt people see mankind and the essence of things. His perspective and the elevation at which He stands is something unattainable for a corrupt person. This is because God is truth, because the flesh that He wears also possesses the essence of God, and His thoughts and that which is expressed by His humanity are also the truth. For corrupt people, what He expresses in the flesh are provisions of the truth, and of life. These provisions are not just for one person, but for all of mankind. In any corrupt person’s heart, there are only those few people who are associated with them. They care and are concerned only for this handful of people. When disaster is on the horizon, they first think of their own children, spouse, or parents. At most, a more compassionate person would spare some thought for some relative or good friend, but do the thoughts of even such a compassionate person extend further than that? No, never! Because humans are, after all, humans, and they can only look at everything from the elevation and perspective of a human being. However, God incarnate is entirely different from a corrupt human. No matter how ordinary, how normal, how lowly God’s incarnate flesh is, or even with what contempt people look down on Him, His thoughts and His attitude toward mankind are things that no man could possess, that no man could imitate. He will always observe mankind from the perspective of divinity, from the elevation of His position as the Creator. He will always see mankind through the essence and the mindset of God. He absolutely cannot see mankind from the lowly elevation of an average person, or from the perspective of a corrupt person. When people look at mankind, they do so with human vision, and they use things such as human knowledge and human rules and theories as their measure. This is within the scope of what people can see with their eyes and the scope that is achievable by corrupt people. When God looks at mankind, He looks with divine vision, and He uses His essence and what He has and is as a measure. This scope includes things that people cannot see, and this is where God incarnate and corrupt humans are entirely different. This difference is determined by humans’ and God’s different essences—it is these different essences that determine their identities and positions as well as the perspective and elevation from which they see things. Do you see the expression and revelation of God Himself in the Lord Jesus? You could say that what the Lord Jesus did and said was related to His ministry and to God’s own management work, that it was all the expression and revelation of God’s essence. Although He did have a human manifestation, His divine essence and the revelation of His divinity cannot be denied. Was this human manifestation truly a manifestation of humanity? His human manifestation was, by its very essence, entirely different from the human manifestation of corrupt people. The Lord Jesus was God incarnate. If He had truly been one of the regular, corrupt people, could He have seen mankind’s life in sin from a divine perspective? Absolutely not! This is the difference between the Son of man and regular people. Corrupt people all live in sin, and when anyone sees sin, they do not have any particular feeling about it; they are all the same, just like a pig living in the mud that does not feel at all uncomfortable or dirty—on the contrary, it eats well and sleeps soundly. If someone cleans the pigsty, the pig will actually feel ill at ease, and it will not stay clean. Before long, it will once again be rolling around in the mud, completely comfortable, because it is a filthy creature. Humans see pigs as filthy, but if you clean a pig’s living quarters, it does not feel any better—this is why no one keeps a pig in their house. The way humans see pigs will always be different from how pigs themselves feel, because humans and pigs are not of the same kind. And because the incarnate Son of man is not of the same kind as corrupt humans, only God incarnate can stand at a divine perspective, at the elevation of God, from where He sees mankind and everything.
What of the suffering that God experiences when He becomes flesh and lives among mankind? What is this suffering? Does anyone truly understand? Some people say that God suffers greatly, that although He is God Himself, people do not understand His essence, but tend always to treat Him like a person, causing Him to feel aggrieved and wronged—they say that, for these reasons, God’s suffering truly is great. Other people say that God is innocent and without sin, but that He suffers in the same way as mankind, that He suffers persecution, slander, and indignities alongside mankind; they say He also endures the misunderstandings and the disobedience of His followers—thus, they say that God’s suffering truly cannot be measured. Now, it seems that you do not truly understand God. In fact, this suffering you speak of does not count as true suffering for God, because there is suffering greater than this. Then what is true suffering for God Himself? What is true suffering for God’s incarnate flesh? For God, mankind not understanding Him does not count as suffering, and neither does people having some misunderstanding of God and not seeing Him as God count as suffering. However, people often feel that God must have suffered great injustice, that during the time that God spends in the flesh, He cannot show His person to mankind and allow people to see His greatness, and that God is humbly hiding in an insignificant flesh, and that this must be a great torment for Him. People take to heart what they can understand and what they can see of God’s suffering, and project all sorts of sympathy on God and often will even offer a little praise for His suffering. In reality, there is a difference; there is a gap between what people understand of God’s suffering and what He truly feels. I am telling you the truth—for God, no matter whether it be God’s Spirit or God’s incarnate flesh, the suffering described above is not true suffering. Then what is it that God actually suffers? Let us talk about God’s suffering only from the perspective of God incarnate.
When God becomes flesh, turning into an average, normal person, living side-by-side with people among mankind, can He not see and feel people’s methods, laws, and philosophies for living? How do these methods and laws for living make Him feel? Does He feel loathing in His heart? Why would He feel loathing? What are mankind’s methods and laws for living? What principles are they rooted in? What are they based on? Mankind’s methods, laws, and so on as they relate to the way to live—all of this is created on the basis of Satan’s logic, knowledge, and philosophy. Humans living under these types of laws have no humanity, no truth—they all defy the truth and are hostile to God. If we take a look at God’s essence, we see that His essence is exactly the opposite of Satan’s logic, knowledge, and philosophy. His essence is full of righteousness, truth, and holiness, and other realities of all positive things. What does God, who possesses this essence and lives among such a mankind, feel? What does He feel in His heart? Is it not full of pain? His heart is in pain, a pain that no person can understand or experience. This is because everything that He faces, encounters, hears, sees, and experiences is all mankind’s corruption, evil, and their rebellion against and resistance to the truth. All that comes from humans is the source of His suffering. That is to say, because His essence is not the same as corrupt humans, the corruption of humans becomes the source of His greatest suffering. When God becomes flesh, is He able to find someone who shares a common language with Him? Such a person cannot be found among mankind. No one can be found who can communicate with or who can have this exchange with God—what kind of feeling would you say God has about this? The things that people discuss, love, pursue and long for all have to do with sin and evil tendencies. When God faces all of this, is it not like a knife to His heart? Faced with these things, could He have joy in His heart? Could He find consolation? Those who are living with Him are humans full of rebelliousness and evil—how could His heart not suffer? How great really is this suffering, and who cares about it? Who takes heed? And who is capable of appreciating it? People have no way of understanding God’s heart. His suffering is something that people are particularly unable to appreciate, and humanity’s coldness and numbness deepens God’s suffering even more.
There are some people who often sympathize with Christ’s plight because there is a verse in the Bible that reads: “The foxes have holes, and the birds have nests; but the Son of man has not where to lay His head.” When people hear this, they take it to heart and believe that this is the greatest suffering that God endures, and the greatest suffering that Christ endures. Now, looking at it from the perspective of the facts, is that the case? No; God does not believe these difficulties to be suffering. He has never cried out against injustice because of His difficulties of the flesh, and He has never made humans repay or reward Him with anything. However, when He witnesses everything about mankind and the corrupt lives and the evil of corrupt humans, when He witnesses that mankind is in Satan’s grasp and imprisoned by Satan and cannot escape, that people living in sin do not know what the truth is, He cannot tolerate all of these sins. His loathing of humans increases by the day, but He has to endure all of this. This is God’s great suffering. God cannot fully express even the voice of His heart or His emotions among His followers, and no one among His followers can truly understand His suffering. No one even tries to understand or to comfort His heart, which endures this suffering day after day, year after year, and time and time again. What do you see in all of this? God does not require anything of humans in return for what He has given, but because of God’s essence, He absolutely cannot tolerate mankind’s evil, corruption, and sin, and instead feels extreme loathing and hatred, which leads to God’s heart and His flesh enduring unending suffering. Have you seen this? Most likely, none of you could see this, because none of you can truly understand God. Over time, you should gradually experience it for yourselves.
Next, let us look at the following passages of scripture:
Jhn 6:8–13 One of His disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to Him, There is a lad here, which has five barley loaves, and two small fishes: but what are they among so many? And Jesus said, Make the men sit down. Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, in number about five thousand. And Jesus took the loaves; and when He had given thanks, He distributed to the disciples, and the disciples to them that were set down; and likewise of the fishes as much as they would. When they were filled, He said to His disciples, Gather up the fragments that remain, that nothing be lost. Therefore they gathered them together, and filled twelve baskets with the fragments of the five barley loaves, which remained over and above to them that had eaten.
Jhn 11:43–44 And when He thus had spoken, He cried with a loud voice, Lazarus, come forth. And he that was dead came forth, bound hand and foot with grave clothes: and his face was bound about with a napkin. Jesus said to them, Loose him, and let him go.
Among the miracles performed by the Lord Jesus, we have selected only these two because they are adequate to demonstrate what I want to speak about here. These two miracles are truly astonishing and highly representative of the miracles the Lord Jesus performed during the Age of Grace.
First, let us take a look at the first passage: Jesus Feeds the Five Thousand.
What is the idea of “five loaves and two fish”? Ordinarily, how many people could be sufficiently fed with five loaves of bread and two fish? If you base your measurement on the appetite of an average person, this would only be enough for two people. This is the idea of “five loaves and two fish” at its most basic. However, in this passage, how many people were fed by five loaves and two fish? The following is what is recorded in the Scripture: “Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, in number about five thousand.” Compared to five loaves and two fish, is five thousand a large number? What does it show that this number is so large? From a human perspective, dividing five loaves and two fish between five thousand people would be impossible, because the difference between people and food is too great. Even if every person only had one tiny bite, it still would not be enough for five thousand people. But here, the Lord Jesus performed a miracle—He not only ensured that five thousand people could eat their fill, but there was even food left over. The Scripture reads: “When they were filled, He said to His disciples, Gather up the fragments that remain, that nothing be lost. Therefore they gathered them together, and filled twelve baskets with the fragments of the five barley loaves, which remained over and above to them that had eaten.” This miracle enabled people to see the identity and status of the Lord Jesus, and to see that nothing is impossible for God—in this way, they saw the truth of God’s omnipotence. Five loaves and two fish were enough to feed five thousand, but if there had not been any food, would God have been able to feed five thousand people? Of course He could have! This was a miracle, so inevitably people felt it was incomprehensible, incredible and mysterious, but for God, doing such a thing was nothing. Since this was something ordinary for God, why should it be singled out now for interpretation? Because what lies behind this miracle is the Lord Jesus’ will, which has never before been perceived by mankind.
First, let us try to understand what type of people these five thousand were. Were they followers of the Lord Jesus? From the Scripture, we know that they were not His followers. Did they know who the Lord Jesus was? Certainly not! At the very least, they did not know that the person standing in front of them was Christ, or maybe some people only knew what His name was and knew or had heard something about things He had done. Their curiosity about the Lord Jesus had merely been roused when they heard stories about Him, but you certainly could not say that they followed Him, much less understood Him. When the Lord Jesus saw these five thousand people, they were hungry and could only think of filling their stomachs, so it was in this context that the Lord Jesus satisfied their desire. When He satisfied their desire, what was in His heart? What was His attitude toward these people that only wanted to eat their fill? At this time, the Lord Jesus’ thoughts and His attitude were in relation to God’s disposition and essence. Facing these five thousand people with empty stomachs who only wanted to eat a full meal, facing these people full of curiosity and hope for Him, the Lord Jesus only thought of utilizing this miracle to bestow grace upon them. However, He did not raise His hopes that they would become His followers, for He knew that they just wanted to join the fun and to eat their fill, so He made the best of what He had there, and used five loaves of bread and two fish to feed five thousand people. He opened the eyes of these people who enjoyed seeing exciting things, who wanted to witness miracles, and they saw with their own eyes the things that God incarnate could accomplish. Although the Lord Jesus used something tangible to satisfy their curiosity, He already knew in His heart that these five thousand people just wanted to have a good meal, so He did not preach to them or say anything at all—He just let them see this miracle as it happened. He absolutely could not treat these people in the same way as He treated His disciples who truly followed Him, but in God’s heart, all creatures are under His rule, and He would allow all creatures in His sight to enjoy the grace of God when it was necessary. Even though these people did not know who He was and did not understand Him or have any particular impression of Him or gratitude toward Him even after they had eaten the loaves and fish, this was not something that God took issue with—He gave these people a wonderful opportunity to enjoy the grace of God. Some people say that God is principled in what He does, that He does not watch over or protect nonbelievers, and that, in particular, He does not allow them to enjoy His grace. Is that actually the case? In God’s eyes, as long as they are living creatures that He Himself created, He will manage and care for them, and in manifold ways He will treat them, plan for them, and rule them. These are the thoughts and attitude of God toward all things.
Although the five thousand people who ate the loaves of bread and the fish did not plan to follow the Lord Jesus, He made no exacting demands of them; once they had eaten their fill, do you know what the Lord Jesus did? Did He preach to them at all? Where did He go after doing this? The scriptures do not record that the Lord Jesus said anything to them, just that He left quietly when He had performed His miracle. So did He make any requirements of these people? Was there any hatred? No, here were none of these. He simply no longer wanted to pay any mind to these people who could not follow Him, and at this time His heart was in pain. Because He had seen the depravity of mankind and He had felt mankind’s rejection of Him, when He saw these people and He was with them, He was saddened by human obtuseness and ignorance, and His heart was in pain, all He wanted was to leave these people as quickly as possible. The Lord did not make any requirements of them in His heart, He did not want to pay them any mind, and even more, He did not want to expend His energy on them. He knew that they could not follow Him, but in spite of all this, His attitude toward them was still very clear. He just wanted to treat them kindly, to bestow grace upon them, and indeed this was God’s attitude toward every creature under His rule—to treat every creature kindly, to provide for them and nourish them. For the very reason that the Lord Jesus was God incarnate, He very naturally revealed God’s own essence and treated these people kindly. He treated them with a heart of benevolence and tolerance, and with such a heart He showed them kindness. No matter how these people saw the Lord Jesus, and no matter what kind of outcome there would be, He treated every creature based on His position as the Lord of all creation. Everything that He revealed was, without exception, God’s disposition, and what He has and is. The Lord Jesus quietly did this thing, and then quietly left—what aspect of God’s disposition is this? Could you say that this is God’s lovingkindness? Could you say that this is God’s selflessness? Is this something that a regular person is capable of? Definitely not! In essence, who were these five thousand people that the Lord Jesus fed with five loaves and two fish? Could you say that they were people who were compatible with Him? Could you say that they were all hostile to God? It can be said with certainty that they absolutely were not compatible with the Lord, and their essence was absolutely hostile to God. But how did God treat them? He used a method to defuse people’s hostility toward God—this method is called “kindness.” That is, although the Lord Jesus saw these people as sinners, in God’s eyes they were nevertheless His creation, so He still treated these sinners kindly. This is God’s tolerance, and this tolerance is determined by God’s own identity and essence. So, this is something of which no human created by God is capable—only God can do this.
When you are able to truly appreciate God’s thoughts and attitude toward mankind, when you can truly understand God’s emotions and concern for each being of creation, you will be able to understand the devotion and the love spent on every single one of the people created by the Creator. When this happens, you will use two words to describe God’s love. What are those two words? Some people say “selfless,” and some people say “philanthropic.” Of these two, “philanthropic” is the word least suited to describe God’s love. This is a word that people use to describe someone who is magnanimous or broad-minded. I loathe this word, because it refers to dispensing charity at random, indiscriminately, with no consideration for principle. It is an overly sentimental inclination, which is common to foolish and confused people. When this word is used to describe God’s love, there is inevitably a blasphemous connotation. I have here two words that more aptly describe God’s love. What are they? The first one is “immense.” Is this word not very evocative? The second is “vast.” There is real meaning behind these words which I use to describe God’s love. Taken literally, “immense” describes a thing’s volume or capacity, but regardless of how big that thing is, it is something that people can touch and see. This is because it exists—it is not an abstract object, but something that can give people ideas in a relatively accurate and practical way. Whether you look at it from a two- or a three-dimensional perspective, you do not need to imagine its existence, because it is a thing that actually exists in a real way. Even though using the word, “immense,” to describe God’s love can feel like an attempt at quantifying His love, it also gives the feeling that His love is unquantifiable. I say that God’s love can be quantified because His love is not empty, and nor is it a thing of legend. Rather, it is something shared by all things under God’s rule, something that is enjoyed by all creatures to varying degrees and from different perspectives. Although people cannot see or touch it, this love brings sustenance and life to all things as it is revealed, bit by bit, in their lives, and they count and bear witness to God’s love that they enjoy in each passing moment. I say that God’s love is unquantifiable because the mystery of God providing for and nourishing all things is something that is difficult for humans to fathom, as are God’s thoughts for all things, and particularly those for mankind. That is to say, no one knows the blood and tears the Creator has poured out for mankind. No one can comprehend, no one can understand the depth or weight of the love that the Creator has for mankind whom He created with His own hands. Describing God’s love as immense is to help people appreciate and understand its breadth and the truth of its existence. It is also so that people can more deeply comprehend the actual meaning of the word “Creator,” and so that people can gain a deeper understanding of the true meaning of the appellation, “creation.” What does the word “vast” usually describe? It is generally used to describe the ocean or the universe, for example: “the vast universe,” or “the vast ocean.” The expansiveness and quiet depth of the universe are beyond human understanding; it is something that captures man’s imagination, something for which they feel great admiration. Its mystery and profundity are within sight, but beyond reach. When you think of the ocean, you think of its breadth—it looks limitless, and you can feel its mysteriousness and its great capacity to hold things. This is why I have used the word “vast” to describe God’s love, to help people feel how precious it is, to feel the profound beauty of His love, and that the power of God’s love is infinite and wide-ranging. I used this word to help people feel the holiness of His love, and the dignity and unoffendableness of God that is revealed through His love. Now do you think “vast” is a suitable word for describing God’s love? Can God’s love measure up to these two words, “immense” and “vast”? Absolutely! In human language, these two words alone are somewhat apt, and are relatively close to describing God’s love. Do you not think so? If I had you describe God’s love, would you use these two words? Most likely you would not, because your understanding and appreciation of God’s love is limited to the scope of a two-dimensional perspective, and has not ascended to the height of three-dimensional space. So if I had you describe God’s love, you would feel that you lack the words or perhaps you would even be rendered speechless. The two words that I have talked about today may be difficult for you to understand, or maybe you simply do not agree. This only shows that your appreciation and understanding of God’s love is superficial and limited to a narrow scope. I have said before that God is selfless; you remember this word, “selfless.” Could it be that God’s love can only be described as selfless? Is this not too narrow a scope? You should ponder this issue more, so that you may gain something from it.
The above is what we saw of God’s disposition and His essence from the first miracle. Even though this is a story that people have been reading for several thousand years, it has a simple plot, and allows people to see a simple phenomenon, yet in this simple plot we can see something more valuable, which is God’s disposition and what He has and is. These things that He has and is represent God Himself and are an expression of God’s own thoughts. When God expresses His thoughts, it is an expression of the voice of His heart. He hopes that there will be people who can understand Him, know Him and comprehend His will, and who can hear the voice of His heart and will be able to actively cooperate to satisfy His will. These things that the Lord Jesus did were a voiceless expression of God.
Next, let us look at the following passage: The Resurrection of Lazarus Glorifies God.
What impressions do you have after reading this passage? The significance of this miracle that the Lord Jesus performed was much greater than the previous one, because no miracle is more astounding than bringing a dead man back from the grave. In that era, it was extremely significant that the Lord Jesus did something like this. Because God had become flesh, people could only see His physical appearance, His practical side, and His insignificant aspect. Even if some people saw and understood something of His character or some special abilities that He appeared to possess, no one knew where the Lord Jesus came from, who He truly was in His essence, and what other things He was actually capable of doing. All of this was unknown to mankind. So many people wanted to find proof to answer these questions about the Lord Jesus, and to know the truth. Could God do something to prove His own identity? For God, this was a breeze—it was a piece of cake. He could do something anywhere, anytime to prove His identity and essence, but God had His way of doing things—with a plan, and in steps. He did not do things indiscriminately, but rather looked for the right time and the right opportunity to do something which He would allow man to see, something that truly was imbued with meaning. In this way, He proved His authority and identity. So then, could the resurrection of Lazarus prove the Lord Jesus’ identity? Let us look at the following passage of scripture: “And when He thus had spoken, He cried with a loud voice, Lazarus, come forth. And he that was dead came forth….” When the Lord Jesus did this, He said just one thing: “Lazarus, come forth.” Lazarus then came out from his tomb—this was accomplished because of just a few words uttered by the Lord. During this time, the Lord Jesus did not set up an altar, and He did not carry out any other actions. He just said this one thing. Should this be called a miracle or a command? Or was it some sort of wizardry? On the surface, it seems it could be called a miracle, and if you look at it from a modern perspective, of course you could still call it a miracle. However, it certainly could not be considered magic of the kind that is supposed to call a soul back from the dead, and it absolutely was not wizardry, of any sort. It is correct to say that this miracle was the most normal, tiny demonstration of the Creator’s authority. This is the authority and power of God. God has the authority to have a person die, to have his spirit leave his body and return to Hades, or wherever else it should go. The timing of a person’s death, and the place they will go after death—these are determined by God. He can make these decisions anytime and anywhere, unconstrained by humans, events, objects, space, or geography. If He wants to do it, He can do it, because all things and living beings are under His rule, and all things proliferate, exist, and perish by His word and His authority. He can resurrect a dead man, and this too is something He can do anytime, anywhere. This is the authority that only the Creator possesses.
When the Lord Jesus did things like bringing Lazarus back from the dead, His goal was to give proof for humans and for Satan to see, and to let humans and Satan know that everything about mankind, mankind’s life and death are determined by God, and that even though He had become flesh, He remained in command of the physical world which can be seen as well as the spiritual world which humans cannot see. This was so that mankind and Satan would know that everything about mankind is not under the command of Satan. This was a revelation and demonstration of God’s authority, and it was also a way for God to send a message to all things, that mankind’s life and death are in God’s hands. The Lord Jesus’ resurrection of Lazarus was one of the ways in which the Creator teaches and instructs mankind. It was a concrete action in which He used His power and authority to instruct and provide for mankind. It was a way, without using words, for the Creator to allow mankind to see the truth that He is in command of all things. It was a way for Him to tell mankind through practical actions that there is no salvation other than through Him. This silent means which He used to instruct mankind is everlasting, indelible, bringing to human hearts a shock and enlightenment that can never fade. The resurrection of Lazarus glorified God—this has a deep impact on every single one of God’s followers. It firmly fixes in every person who deeply understands this event the understanding, the vision that only God can command mankind’s life and death. Although God has this type of authority, and although He sent a message about His sovereignty over mankind’s life and death through the resurrection of Lazarus, this was not His primary work. God never does something without meaning. Every single thing He does has great value and is a surpassing jewel in a storehouse of treasures. He absolutely would not make “having a person come out of their tomb” the primary or the sole goal or item of His work. God does not do anything that is without meaning. The resurrection of Lazarus as a singular event is adequate to demonstrate God’s authority and to prove the identity of the Lord Jesus. This is why the Lord Jesus did not repeat this type of miracle. God does things according to His own principles. In human language, it could be said that God occupies His mind only with serious matters. That is, when God does things, He does not stray from the purpose of His work. He knows what work He wants to carry out in this stage, what He wants to accomplish, and He will work strictly according to His plan. If a corrupt person had that kind of ability, he would just be thinking of ways to reveal his ability so that others would know how formidable he was, so they would bow down to him, so he could control them and devour them. This is the evil that comes from Satan—this is called corruption. God does not have such a disposition, and He does not have such an essence. His purpose in doing things is not to show Himself off, but to provide mankind with more revelation and guidance, and this is why people see very few examples in the Bible of this type of occurrence. This is not to say that the Lord Jesus’ powers were limited, or that He was incapable of such things. It is simply that God did not want to do it, because the Lord Jesus’ resurrection of Lazarus had very practical significance, and also because the primary work of God becoming flesh was not to perform miracles, was not to bring people back from the dead, but was the work of redemption for mankind. So, much of the work that the Lord Jesus completed was teaching people, providing for them, and helping them, and events such as resurrecting Lazarus were merely a small portion of the ministry that the Lord Jesus carried out. Even more, you could say that “showing off” is not a part of God’s essence, so the Lord Jesus was not intentionally exercising restraint by not displaying more miracles, nor was this due to environmental limitations, and it certainly was not due to a lack of power.
When the Lord Jesus brought Lazarus back from the dead, He used only these few words: “Lazarus, come forth.” He said nothing aside from this. So, what do these words demonstrate? They demonstrate that God can accomplish anything by speaking, including resurrecting a dead man. When God created all things, when He created the world, He did so with words—spoken commands, words with authority, and in this way all things were created, and thus, it was accomplished. These few words spoken by the Lord Jesus were just like the words spoken by God when He created the heavens and earth and all things; in the same way, they held the authority of God and the power of the Creator. All things were formed and stood fast because of words from God’s mouth, and in the same way, Lazarus walked out from his tomb because of the words from the Lord Jesus’ mouth. This was the authority of God, demonstrated and realized in His incarnate flesh. This type of authority and ability belonged to the Creator, and to the Son of man in whom the Creator was realized. This is the understanding taught to mankind by God bringing Lazarus back from the dead. Now, we will finish our discussion of this topic here. Next, let us read some more from the scriptures.
Mak 3:21–22 And when His friends heard of it, they went out to lay hold on Him: for they said, He is beside Himself. And the scribes which came down from Jerusalem said, He has Beelzebub, and by the prince of the devils casts He out devils.
Mat 12:31–32 Why I say to you, All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven to men: but the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit shall not be forgiven to men. And whoever speaks a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, neither in the world to come.
Mat 23:13–15 But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for you neither go in yourselves, neither suffer you them that are entering to go in. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you devour widows’ houses, and for a pretense make long prayer: therefore you shall receive the greater damnation. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, you make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves.
The content of the two passages above is different. Let us first take a look at the first passage: The Pharisees’ Judgment on Jesus.
In the Bible, the Pharisees’ appraisal of Jesus Himself and the things that He did was: “… they said, He is beside Himself. … He has Beelzebub, and by the prince of the devils casts He out devils” (Mak 3:21–22). The scribes’ and Pharisees’ judgment of the Lord Jesus was not them merely imitating other people’s words, and neither was it baseless conjecture—it was the conclusion that they drew about the Lord Jesus from what they saw and heard of His actions. Although their conclusion was ostensibly made in the name of justice and appeared to people as if it were well-founded, the arrogance with which they judged the Lord Jesus was difficult for even them to contain. The frenzied energy of their hatred for the Lord Jesus exposed their own wild ambitions and their evil satanic countenances, as well as their malevolent nature with which they resisted God. These things that they said in their judgment of the Lord Jesus were driven by their wild ambitions, jealousy, and the ugly and malevolent nature of their hostility toward God and the truth. They did not investigate the source of the Lord Jesus’ actions, nor did they investigate the essence of what He said or did. Rather, blindly, in a state of crazed agitation, and with deliberate malice, they attacked and discredited what He had done. They went so far as to willfully discredit His Spirit, that is, the Holy Spirit which is God’s Spirit. This is what they meant when they said, “He is beside Himself,” “Beelzebub,” and “the prince of the devils.” That is to say, they said that the Spirit of God was Beelzebub and the prince of the devils. They characterized as madness the work of God’s Spirit incarnate, which had clothed Himself in flesh. They not only blasphemed God’s Spirit as Beelzebub and the prince of the devils, but also condemned God’s work and condemned and blasphemed the Lord Jesus Christ. The essence of their resistance and blasphemy of God was entirely the same as the essence of the resistance and blasphemy of God given by Satan and the demons. They did not just represent corrupt humans, but more so they were the embodiment of Satan. They were a channel for Satan amongst mankind, and they were the accomplices and lackeys of Satan. The essence of their blasphemy and their denigration of the Lord Jesus Christ was their struggle with God for status, their contest with God, and their unending testing of God. The essence of their resistance to God and their attitude of hostility toward Him, as well as their words and their thoughts, directly blasphemed and angered God’s Spirit. Thus, God determined a reasonable judgment based on what they said and did, and God determined their deeds to be the sin of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. This sin is unforgivable in both this world and the world to come, as is borne out in the following passage of scripture: “The blasphemy against the Holy Spirit shall not be forgiven to men,” and, “whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, neither in the world to come.” Today, let us talk about the true meaning of these words from God: “it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, neither in the world to come.” That is, let us demystify how God fulfills the words: “it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, neither in the world to come.”
Everything that we have talked about is related to God’s disposition and His attitude toward people, events, and things. Naturally, the two passages above are no exception. Did you notice anything in these two passages of scripture? Some people say they see God’s anger in them. Some people say they see the side of God’s disposition that does not tolerate mankind’s offense, and that if people do something that is blasphemous to God, then they will not receive His forgiveness. Despite the fact that people see and perceive God’s anger and intolerance of mankind’s offense in these two passages, they still do not truly understand His attitude. Implicit in these two passages are hidden references to God’s true attitude and His approach toward those who blaspheme and anger Him. His attitude and approach demonstrate the true meaning of the following passage: “Whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, neither in the world to come.” When people blaspheme God and when they anger Him, He issues a verdict, and this verdict is an outcome issued by Him. It is described in this way in the Bible: “Why I say to you, All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven to men: but the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit shall not be forgiven to men” (Mat 12:31), and “But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!” (Mat 23:13). However, is it recorded in the Bible what the outcome was for those scribes and Pharisees, as well as for those people who said the Lord Jesus was mad after He said these things? Is it recorded that they suffered any punishment? No—this can be said for certain. Saying “No” here is not to say that there was no such recording, but in fact only that there was no outcome that could be seen with human eyes. To say that “it was not recorded” elucidates the issue of God’s attitude and principles for handling certain things. God does not turn a blind eye or a deaf ear to people who blaspheme or resist Him, or even those who malign Him—people who intentionally attack, malign, and curse Him—but rather He has a clear attitude toward them. He despises these people, and He condemns them in His heart. He even openly declares what their outcome will be, so that people know that He has a clear attitude toward those who blaspheme Him, and so that they know how He will determine their outcome. However, after God said these things, people could rarely see the truth of how God would handle those people, and they could not understand the principles behind the outcome and verdict that God issued to them. That is to say, people cannot see the particular approach and methods God has for handling them. This has to do with God’s principles for doing things. God uses the occurrence of facts to deal with the evil behavior of some people. That is, He does not announce their sin and does not determine their outcome, but rather directly uses the occurrence of facts to dole out their punishment and just retribution. When these facts happen, it is people’s flesh that suffers punishment, meaning that the punishment is something that can be seen with human eyes. When dealing with some people’s evil behavior, God just curses them with words and His anger also comes upon them, but the punishment they receive may be something people cannot see. Nonetheless, this type of outcome may be even more serious than the outcomes that people can see, such as being punished or killed. This is because under the circumstances that God has determined not to save this type of person, to no longer show mercy or have tolerance for them and to provide them with no more opportunities, then the attitude that He takes toward them is one of putting them aside. What is the meaning here of “putting aside”? The basic meaning of this term is “to put something to one side, to no longer pay attention to it.” But here, when God “puts someone aside,” there are two different explanations of its meaning: The first explanation is that He has given that person’s life and everything about that person over to Satan to deal with, and God would no longer be responsible and would no longer manage that person. Whether that person be mad or stupid, or whether they be dead or alive, or if they have descended into hell for their punishment, none of this would have anything to do with God. That would mean that such a creature would have no relation to the Creator. The second explanation is that God has determined that He Himself wants to do something with this person, with His own hands. It is possible that He will utilize this person’s service, or that He will use them as a foil. It is possible that He will have a special way of dealing with this type of person, a special way of treating them, just like with Paul, for example. This is the principle and attitude in God’s heart by which He has determined to deal with this kind of person. So when people resist God and malign and blaspheme Him, if they aggravate His disposition, or if they push God past the limit of His tolerance, then the consequences do not bear thinking about. The most severe consequence is that God hands their lives and everything about them over to Satan once and for all. They will not be forgiven for all of eternity. This means that this person has become food in Satan’s mouth, a toy in its hand, and from then on God has nothing more to do with them. Can you imagine what misery it was when Satan tempted Job? Even under the condition that Satan was not permitted to harm Job’s life, Job still suffered greatly. And is it not even more difficult to imagine the ravages which would be inflicted by Satan upon someone who has been completely handed over to Satan, who is completely within Satan’s grasp, who has completely lost God’s care and mercy, who is no longer under the Creator’s rule, who has been stripped of the right to worship Him and the right to be a creature under God’s rule, and whose relationship with the Lord of creation has been completely severed? Satan’s persecution of Job was something that could be seen with human eyes, but if God hands over a person’s life to Satan, the consequences are beyond the human imagination. For example, some people may be reborn as a cow, or a donkey, while some may be occupied and possessed by unclean, evil spirits, and so on. Such are the outcomes of some of the people who are handed over to Satan by God. From the outside, it looks like those people who ridiculed, maligned, condemned, and blasphemed the Lord Jesus did not suffer any consequences. However, the truth is that God has an approach for dealing with everything. He may not use clear language to tell people the outcome of how He deals with every type of person. Sometimes He does not speak directly, but rather acts directly. That He does not speak about it does not mean that there is no outcome—in fact, in such a case it is possible that the outcome is even more serious. From the outside, it may seem as though there are some to whom God does not explicitly speak about His attitude, but in fact, God has not wanted to pay any mind to them for a long time. He does not want to see them anymore. Because of the things they have done and their behavior, because of their nature essence, God only wants them to disappear from His sight, wants to hand them over directly to Satan, to give their spirit, soul, and body to Satan and to allow Satan to do whatever it wants with them. It is clear to what extent God hates them, to what extent He is disgusted by them. If a person angers God to the point that God does not even want to see them again and is prepared to completely give up on them, to the point where He does not even want to deal with them Himself—if it gets to the point where He will hand them over to Satan for it to do as it will, to allow Satan to control, consume, and treat them in whatever way it pleases—then this person is utterly finished. Their right to be a human has been permanently revoked, and their right to be a creature of God’s creation has come to an end. Is this not the most severe kind of punishment?
All of the above is a complete explanation of the words: “it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, neither in the world to come,” and it also serves as a simple commentary on these passages from the scriptures. I believe you all have an understanding of it now.
Now let us read the following passages from the Scripture.
Jhn 20:26–29 And after eight days again His disciples were within, and Thomas with them: then came Jesus, the doors being shut, and stood in the middle, and said, Peace be to you. Then said He to Thomas, Reach here your finger, and behold My hands; and reach here your hand, and thrust it into My side: and be not faithless, but believing. And Thomas answered and said to Him, My LORD and my God. Jesus said to him, Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.
Jhn 21:16–17 He said to him again the second time, Simon, son of John, love you Me? He said to Him, Yes, Lord; You know that I love You. He said to him, Feed My sheep. He said to him the third time, Simon, son of John, love you Me? Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, Love you Me? And he said to Him, Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You. Jesus said to him, Feed My sheep.
What these passages recount are certain things that the Lord Jesus did and said to His disciples after His resurrection. First, let us take a look at any differences there might be in the Lord Jesus before and after the resurrection. Was He still the same Lord Jesus of days past? The scriptures contain the following line describing the Lord Jesus after the resurrection: “Then came Jesus, the doors being shut, and stood in the middle, and said, Peace be to you.” It is very clear that the Lord Jesus at that time no longer inhabited a fleshly body, but that He was now in a spiritual body. This was because He had transcended the limitations of the flesh; even though the door was closed, He could still come amongst the people and allow them to see Him. This is the greatest difference between the Lord Jesus after the resurrection and the Lord Jesus living in the flesh before the resurrection. Even though there was no difference between the appearance of the spiritual body of that moment and the appearance of the Lord Jesus as it was before, the Lord Jesus in that moment had become one that felt like a stranger to the people, because He had become a spiritual body after being resurrected from the dead, and compared to His previous flesh, this spiritual body was more puzzling and confusing to people. It also created more distance between the Lord Jesus and the people, and people felt in their hearts that the Lord Jesus in that moment had become more mysterious. These cognitions and feelings on the part of the people suddenly brought them back to an age of believing in a God that could not be seen or touched. So, the first thing that the Lord Jesus did after His resurrection was to allow everyone to see Him, to confirm that He exists, and to confirm the fact of His resurrection. In addition, this action restored His relationship with the people back to the way it was when He was working in the flesh, when He was the Christ whom they could see and touch. One outcome of this is that the people had no doubt whatever that the Lord Jesus had been resurrected from death after being nailed to the cross, and they also had no doubt in the Lord Jesus’ work to redeem mankind. Another outcome is that the fact of the Lord Jesus appearing to people after His resurrection and allowing people to see and touch Him firmly secured mankind in the Age of Grace, ensuring that, from this time on, people would not return to the previous Age of Law on the supposed basis that the Lord Jesus had “disappeared” or that He had “left without a word.” He thus ensured that they would continue to move forward, following the Lord Jesus’ teachings and the work He had done. Thus, a new phase in the work in the Age of Grace was formally opened, and from that moment on, the people who had been living under the law formally emerged from the law and entered into a new era, a new beginning. These are the multi-faceted meanings of the Lord Jesus’ appearance to mankind after the resurrection.
Since the Lord Jesus was now inhabiting a spiritual body, how could people touch Him and see Him? This question touches upon the significance of the Lord Jesus’ appearance to mankind. Did you notice anything in the passages of scripture that we just read? Generally, spiritual bodies cannot be seen or touched, and after the resurrection the work that the Lord Jesus had taken on had already been completed. So in theory, He had absolutely no need to return amongst the people in His original image to meet with them, but the appearance of the Lord Jesus’ spiritual body to people like Thomas made the significance of His appearance more concrete, so that it penetrated more deeply into the people’s hearts. When He came to Thomas, He let Thomas the doubter touch His hand, and told him: “Reach here your hand, and thrust it into My side: and be not faithless, but believing.” These words and actions were not things that the Lord Jesus wanted to say and do only after He had been resurrected; in fact, they were things that He wanted to do before He had been nailed to the cross. It is evident that, before He had been nailed to the cross, the Lord Jesus already had an understanding of people such as Thomas. So what can we see from this? He was still the same Lord Jesus after His resurrection. His essence had not changed. Thomas’ doubts had not started only then but had been with him the entire time he had been following the Lord Jesus. However, here was the Lord Jesus who had been resurrected from the dead and returned from the spiritual world with His original image, with His original disposition, and with His understanding of mankind from His time in the flesh, so He went to Thomas first and let Thomas touch His rib, to not only let Thomas see His spiritual body after resurrection, but to let Thomas touch and feel the existence of His spiritual body, and completely let go of his doubts. Before the Lord Jesus was nailed to the cross, Thomas always doubted that He was Christ, and was incapable of belief. His faith in God was established only on the basis of what he could see with his own eyes, what he could touch with his own hands. The Lord Jesus had a good understanding of the faith of this type of person. They only believed in God in heaven, and did not believe at all in the One sent by God, or the Christ in the flesh, and nor would they accept Him. In order for Thomas to acknowledge and believe in the existence of the Lord Jesus and that He truly was God incarnate, He allowed Thomas to reach out his hand and touch His rib. Was Thomas’ doubting any different before and after the Lord Jesus’ resurrection? He was always doubting, and except by the Lord Jesus’ spiritual body personally appearing to him and allowing him to touch the nail marks on His body, there was no way that anyone could resolve his doubts and make him let go of them. So, from the time the Lord Jesus allowed Thomas to touch His rib and let him really feel the existence of the nail marks, Thomas’ doubt disappeared, and he truly knew that the Lord Jesus had been resurrected, and he acknowledged and believed that the Lord Jesus was the true Christ and God incarnate. Although at this time Thomas no longer doubted, he had lost forever the chance to meet with Christ. He had lost forever the chance to be together with Him, to follow Him, to know Him. He had lost the chance for Christ to perfect him. The Lord Jesus’ appearance and His words provided a conclusion and a verdict on the faith of those who were full of doubts. He used His actual words and actions to tell the doubters, to tell those who only believed in God in heaven but did not believe in Christ: God did not commend their belief, nor did He commend them for following Him while doubting Him. The day when they fully believed in God and Christ could only be the day that God completed His great work. Of course, that day was also the day that a verdict was made upon their doubt. Their attitude toward Christ determined their fate, and their stubborn doubt meant that their faith bore them no fruit, and their hardness meant that their hopes were in vain. Because their belief in God in heaven was fed on illusions, and their doubt toward Christ was actually their true attitude toward God, even though they touched the nail marks on the Lord Jesus’ body, their faith was still useless and their outcome could only be described as drawing water with a bamboo basket—all in vain. What the Lord Jesus said to Thomas was also very clearly His way of telling every person: The resurrected Lord Jesus is the Lord Jesus, who spent thirty-three and a half years working among mankind. Although He had been nailed to the cross and experienced the valley of the shadow of death, and though He had experienced resurrection, He had undergone no change in any aspect. Although He now had nail marks on His body, and although He had been resurrected and walked out from the grave, His disposition, His understanding of mankind, and His intentions toward mankind had not changed in the slightest. Also, He was telling people that He had come down from the cross, triumphed over sin, overcome hardships, and triumphed over death. The nail marks were just the evidence of His victory over Satan, evidence of being a sin offering to successfully redeem all of mankind. He was telling people that He had already taken on mankind’s sins and that He had completed His work of redemption. When He returned to see His disciples, He told them this message by means of His appearance: “I am still alive, I still exist; today I am truly standing in front of you so that you can see and touch Me. I will always be with you.” The Lord Jesus also wanted to use the case of Thomas as a warning for future people: Although you can neither see nor touch the Lord Jesus in your faith in Him, you are blessed because of your true faith, and you can see the Lord Jesus because of your true faith, and this kind of person is blessed.
These words recorded in the Bible that the Lord Jesus spoke when He appeared to Thomas are of great help to all people in the Age of Grace. His appearance to Thomas and the words He spoke to him have had a profound impact on the generations that came after; they hold everlasting significance. Thomas represents a type of person who believes in God yet doubts God. They are of a suspicious nature, have sinister hearts, are treacherous, and do not believe in the things that God can accomplish. They do not believe in God’s omnipotence and His sovereignty, and neither do they believe in God incarnate. However, the Lord Jesus’ resurrection flew in the face of these traits that they have, and it also provided them with an opportunity to discover their own doubt, to recognize their own doubt, and to acknowledge their own treachery, thus coming to truly believe in the existence and resurrection of the Lord Jesus. What happened with Thomas was a warning and a caution for later generations so that more people could warn themselves not to be doubters like Thomas, and that if they did fill themselves with doubt, then they would sink into the darkness. If you follow God, but just like Thomas, always want to touch the Lord’s rib and feel His nail marks to confirm, to verify, to speculate on whether or not God exists, then God will forsake you. So, the Lord Jesus requires people to not be like Thomas, only believing what they can see with their own eyes, but to be pure, honest people, to not harbor doubts toward God, but to simply believe in and follow Him. People like this are blessed. This is a very small requirement the Lord Jesus makes of people, and it is a warning for His followers.
The above is the Lord Jesus’ attitude toward those who are full of doubts. So what did the Lord Jesus say to and do for those who are able to honestly believe in and follow Him? This is what we are going to look at next, through a dialogue between the Lord Jesus and Peter.
In this conversation, the Lord Jesus repeatedly asked Peter one thing: “Simon, son of John, love you Me?” This is a higher standard which the Lord Jesus required from people like Peter after His resurrection, people who truly believe in Christ and strive to love the Lord. This question was a sort of investigation and interrogation, but even more, it was a requirement and an expectation of people like Peter. The Lord Jesus used this method of questioning so that people would reflect on themselves and look into themselves and ask: What are the Lord Jesus’ requirements for people? Do I love the Lord? Am I a person who loves God? How should I love God? Even though the Lord Jesus only asked this question of Peter, the truth is that in His heart, by asking Peter these questions, He wanted to use this opportunity to ask this same type of question of more people who seek to love God. It is only that Peter was blessed to act as the representative of this type of person, to receive this questioning from the Lord Jesus’ own mouth.
Compared to the following words, which the Lord Jesus said to Thomas after His resurrection: “Reach here your hand, and thrust it into My side: and be not faithless, but believing,” His thrice repeated questioning of Peter: “Simon, son of John, love you Me?” allows people to better feel the sternness of the Lord Jesus’ attitude, and the urgency He felt during His questioning. As for Thomas the doubter, with his deceitful nature, the Lord Jesus allowed him to reach out his hand and touch the nail marks in His body, which led him to believe that the Lord Jesus was the Son of man resurrected, and to acknowledge the Lord Jesus’ identity as Christ. And although the Lord Jesus did not sternly rebuke Thomas and nor did He verbally express any clear judgment of him, He nonetheless used practical actions to let Thomas know that He understood him, while also displaying His attitude and determination toward that type of person. The Lord Jesus’ requirements and expectations of that type of person cannot be seen from what He said, because people like Thomas simply do not have a single shred of true faith. The Lord Jesus’ requirements for them only go so far, but the attitude He revealed toward people like Peter is entirely different. He did not require that Peter reach out his hand and touch His nail marks, nor did He say to Peter: “Be not faithless, but believing.” Instead, He repeatedly asked Peter the same question. The question was thought-provoking and meaningful, a question that cannot help but cause every follower of Christ to feel remorse and fear, but also to feel the Lord Jesus’ anxious, sorrowful mood. And when they are in great pain and suffering, they are more able to understand the Lord Jesus Christ’s concern and His care; they realize His earnest teaching and strict requirements of pure, honest people. The Lord Jesus’ question allows people to feel that the Lord’s expectations of people revealed in these simple words are not merely to believe in and follow Him, but to achieve having love, loving your Lord and your God. This kind of love is caring and obeying. It is humans living for God, dying for God, dedicating everything to God, and expending and giving everything for God. This kind of love is also giving God comfort, allowing Him to enjoy testimony and to be at rest. It is mankind’s repayment to God, man’s responsibility, obligation and duty, and it is a way that people must follow for their entire lives. These three questions were a requirement and an exhortation that the Lord Jesus made of Peter and all people who would be made perfect. It was these three questions that led and motivated Peter to follow his path in life to the end, and it was these questions at the Lord Jesus’ parting that led Peter to start on his path of being made perfect, that led him, because of his love for the Lord, to care for the Lord’s heart, to obey the Lord, to offer comfort to the Lord, and to offer up his whole life and his whole being because of this love.
During the Age of Grace, God’s work was primarily for two types of people. The first was the type of person who believed in and followed Him, who could keep His commandments, who could bear the cross and hold to the way of the Age of Grace. This type of person would gain God’s blessing and enjoy God’s grace. The second type of person was like Peter, someone who could be made perfect. So, after the Lord Jesus was resurrected, He first did these two most meaningful things. One was done with Thomas, the other with Peter. What do these two things represent? Do they represent God’s true intentions of saving mankind? Do they represent God’s sincerity toward mankind? The work He did with Thomas was to warn people not to be doubters, but to simply believe. The work He did with Peter was to strengthen the faith of people like Peter, and to make clear His requirements of this type of person, to show what goals they should be pursuing.
After the Lord Jesus was resurrected, He appeared to the people He thought necessary, spoke with them, and made requirements of them, leaving behind His intentions for and expectations of people. That is to say, as God incarnate, His concern for mankind and requirements of people never changed; these remained the same when He was in the flesh and when He was in His spiritual body after being nailed to the cross and being resurrected. He was concerned about these disciples before He was up on the cross, and in His heart He was clear about the state of every single person and He understood every person’s deficiencies and, of course, His understanding of every person after He had died, been resurrected, and become a spiritual body was the same as it had been when He was in the flesh. He knew that people were not entirely certain of His identity as Christ, but during His time in the flesh He did not make strict demands of people. However, after He had been resurrected, He appeared to them, and He made them absolutely certain that the Lord Jesus had come from God and that He was God incarnate, and He used the fact of His appearance and His resurrection as the greatest vision and motivation for mankind’s lifelong pursuit. His resurrection from death not only strengthened all those who followed Him, but it also thoroughly implemented His work of the Age of Grace among mankind, and thus the gospel of the Lord Jesus’ salvation in the Age of Grace gradually spread to every corner of humanity. Would you say that the Lord Jesus’ appearance after His resurrection had any significance? If you were Thomas or Peter at that time, and you encountered this one thing in your life that was so meaningful, what kind of impact would it have had on you? Would you have seen this as the best and the greatest vision of your life of believing in God? Would you have seen this as a force driving you as you followed God, strived to satisfy Him, and sought to love God in your whole life? Would you have expended a lifetime of effort to spread this greatest of visions? Would you have accepted spreading the Lord Jesus’ salvation as a commission from God? Even though you have not experienced this, the two examples of Thomas and Peter are already enough for modern people to gain a clear understanding of God and His will. It could be said that after God had become flesh, after He personally experienced the life among mankind and personally experienced the human life, and after He saw the depravity of mankind and the situation of human life at that time, God in the flesh felt more deeply how helpless, lamentable, and pitiful mankind is. God gained more empathy for the human condition because of His humanity which He possessed while living in the flesh, because of His fleshly instincts. This led Him to feel greater concern for His followers. These are probably things that you cannot understand, but I can describe this worry and care felt by God in the flesh for every one of His followers using just two words: “intense concern.” Even though this term comes from human language, and even though it is very human, it nonetheless truly expresses and describes God’s feelings for His followers. As for God’s intense concern for humans, over the course of your experiences you will gradually feel this and get a taste of it. However, this can only be achieved by gradually understanding God’s disposition on the basis of pursuing a change in your own disposition. When the Lord Jesus made this appearance, it caused His intense concern for His followers in humanity to materialize and be passed over to His spiritual body, or you could say, to His divinity. His appearance allowed people to once more experience and feel God’s concern and care while also powerfully proving that God is the One who launches an age, who unfurls an age, and who also ends an age. Through His appearance, He strengthened the faith of all people and proved to the world the fact that He is God Himself. This gave His followers eternal confirmation, and through His appearance He also launched a phase of His work in the new age.
Luk 24:30–32 And it came to pass, as He sat at meat with them, He took bread, and blessed it, and broke, and gave to them. And their eyes were opened, and they knew Him; and He vanished out of their sight. And they said one to another, Did not our heart burn within us, while He talked with us by the way, and while He opened to us the scriptures?
Luk 24:36–43 And as they thus spoke, Jesus Himself stood in the middle of them, and said to them, Peace be to you. But they were terrified and affrighted, and supposed that they had seen a spirit. And He said to them, Why are you troubled? and why do thoughts arise in your hearts? Behold My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself: handle Me, and see; for a spirit has not flesh and bones, as you see Me have. And when He had thus spoken, He showed them His hands and His feet. And while they yet believed not for joy, and wondered, He said to them, Have you here any meat? And they gave Him a piece of a broiled fish, and of an honeycomb. And He took it, and did eat before them.
Next, we will take a look at the passages of scripture above. The first passage is a recounting of the Lord Jesus eating bread and explaining the scriptures after His resurrection, and the second passage is a recounting of the Lord Jesus eating a broiled fish. How do these two passages help you to know God’s disposition? Can you imagine the kind of picture you get from these descriptions of the Lord Jesus eating bread and then a broiled fish? Can you imagine, if the Lord Jesus were standing in front of you eating bread, how you might feel? Or if He were eating at the same table with you, eating fish and bread with people, what kind of feeling you would have in that moment? If you would feel very close to the Lord, that He is very intimate with you, then this feeling is right. This is exactly the result that the Lord Jesus wanted to bring about by eating bread and fish in front of the gathered people after His resurrection. If the Lord Jesus had only spoken with people after His resurrection, if they could not feel His flesh and bones, but instead felt Him to be an unreachable Spirit, how would they have felt? Would they not have been disappointed? Feeling disappointed, would the people not have felt abandoned? Would they not have felt a distance between themselves and the Lord Jesus Christ? What kind of negative impact would this distance have created on people’s relationship with God? People would certainly have felt afraid, that they dared not come close to Him, and thus they would have had an attitude of keeping Him at a respectful distance. From then on, they would have severed their intimate relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ and returned to a relationship between mankind and God up in heaven as it was before the Age of Grace. The spiritual body that people could not touch or feel would have brought about the eradication of their intimacy with God, and it would also have caused that intimate relationship, established during the Lord Jesus Christ’s time in the flesh, with no distance between Him and humans, to cease to exist. The only things that were stirred in people by the spiritual body were feelings of fear, avoidance, and a wordless gaze. They would not have dared to get close or to engage in dialogue with Him, let alone follow, trust, or look up to Him. God did not wish to see this type of feeling that humans had for Him. He did not want to see people avoiding Him or removing themselves from Him; He only wanted people to understand Him, come close to Him, and to be His family. If your own family, your children, saw you but did not recognize you, and did not dare to come close to you but always avoided you, if you could not gain their understanding for everything you had done for them, how would that make you feel? Would it not be painful? Would you not be heartbroken? That is precisely what God feels when people avoid Him. So, after His resurrection, the Lord Jesus still appeared to people in His form of flesh and blood, and still ate and drank with them. God sees people as family, and God also wants mankind to see Him as the One dearest to them; only in this way can God truly gain people, and only in this way can people truly love and worship God. Now can you understand My intention in extracting these two passages of scripture in which the Lord Jesus eats bread and explains the scriptures after His resurrection, and in which the disciples give Him a broiled fish to eat?
It can be said that earnest thought had been put into the series of things that the Lord Jesus said and did after His resurrection. These things were full of the kindness and affection that God held toward humanity, and full also of the cherishment and meticulous care He had for the intimate relationship He had established with mankind during His time in the flesh. Even more, they were full of the nostalgia and the longing He felt for His life of eating and living together with His followers during His time in the flesh. So, God did not want people to feel a distance between God and man, and nor did He want mankind to distance themselves from God. Even more, He did not want mankind to feel that the Lord Jesus after His resurrection was no longer the Lord who had been so intimate with people, that He was no longer together with mankind because He had returned to the spiritual world, returned to the Father whom people could never see or reach. He did not want people to feel that any difference in status had arisen between Him and mankind. When God sees people who want to follow Him but who keep Him at a respectful distance, His heart is in pain because that means that their hearts are very far from Him and that it will be very difficult for Him to gain their hearts. So if He had appeared to people in a spiritual body that they could not see or touch, this would have once again distanced man from God, and it would have led mankind to mistakenly see Christ after His resurrection as having become lofty, of a different kind than humans, and someone who could no longer share a table and eat with man because humans are sinful, filthy, and can never draw close to God. In order to dispel these misunderstandings of mankind, the Lord Jesus did a number of things that He used to do in the flesh, as recorded in the Bible: “He took bread, and blessed it, and broke, and gave to them.” He also explained the scriptures to them, as He used to do in the past. All of these things that the Lord Jesus did made every person who saw Him feel that the Lord had not changed, that He was still the same Lord Jesus. Even though He had been nailed to the cross and had experienced death, He had been resurrected, and had not left mankind. He had returned to be among humans, and nothing about Him had changed. The Son of man standing in front of people was still the same Lord Jesus. His demeanor and His way of conversing with people felt so familiar. He was still so full of lovingkindness, grace, and tolerance—He was still the same Lord Jesus who loved others as He loved Himself, who could forgive mankind seventy times seven. As He always had before, He ate with people, discussed the scriptures with them, and even more importantly, just as before, He was made of flesh and blood and could be touched and seen. The Son of man as He was allowed people to feel intimacy, to feel at ease, and to feel the joy of regaining something that had been lost. With great ease, they bravely and confidently began to rely on and look up to this Son of man who could forgive mankind of their sins. They also began to pray in the name of the Lord Jesus without hesitation, to pray to obtain His grace, His blessing, and to obtain peace and joy from Him, to gain care and protection from Him, and they began to heal the sick and cast out demons in the name of the Lord Jesus.
During the time that the Lord Jesus worked in the flesh, most of His followers could not fully verify His identity and the things that He said. When He was approaching the cross, the attitude of His followers was one of observing. Then, from the time when He was nailed to the cross until He was put into the grave, people’s attitude toward Him was disappointment. During this time, people had already begun to move in their hearts from doubting the things the Lord Jesus had said during His time in the flesh to denying them altogether. Then, when He walked out from the grave and appeared to people one by one, the majority of those who saw Him with their own eyes or heard the news of His resurrection gradually shifted their attitude from denial to skepticism. Only when the Lord Jesus had Thomas put his hand into His side, and when He broke bread and ate it in front of the crowd after His resurrection and then proceeded to eat a broiled fish in front of them, did they truly accept the fact that the Lord Jesus was Christ in the flesh. You could say that it was as if this spiritual body of flesh and blood standing before those people was awakening every one of them from a dream: The Son of man standing in front of them was the One who had existed since time immemorial. He had a form, and flesh and bones, and He had already lived and eaten alongside mankind for a long time…. At this time, the people felt that His existence was so real, and so wonderful. At the same time, they were also so joyful and happy and filled with emotion. His reappearance allowed people to truly see His humility, to feel His closeness and attachment to mankind, and to feel how much He thought about them. This brief reunion made the people who saw the Lord Jesus feel as if a lifetime had passed. Their lost, confused, afraid, anxious, yearning and numb hearts found comfort. They were no longer doubtful or disappointed, because they felt that now there was hope and something to rely on. The Son of man then standing before them would be their rear guard for all time; He would be their strong tower, their refuge for all eternity.
Although the Lord Jesus was resurrected, His heart and His work had not left mankind. By appearing to people, He told them that no matter what form He existed in, He would accompany people, walk with them, and be with them at all times and in all places. He told them that at all times and in all places He would provide for mankind and shepherd them, allow them to see and touch Him, and ensure they never again felt helpless. The Lord Jesus also wanted people to know that they do not live alone in this world. Mankind has God’s care; God is with them. They can always lean on God, and He is family to every one of His followers. With God to lean on, mankind will no longer be lonely or helpless, and those who accept Him as their sin offering will no longer be bound in sin. In human eyes, these portions of His work that the Lord Jesus carried out after His resurrection were very small things, but the way I see it, every single thing He did was so meaningful, so valuable, so important and heavily laden with significance.
Although the Lord Jesus’ time of working in the flesh was full of hardships and suffering, He completely and perfectly accomplished His work of that time in the flesh to redeem mankind through His appearance in His spiritual body of flesh and blood. He began His ministry by becoming flesh, and He concluded His ministry by appearing to mankind in His fleshly form. He heralded the Age of Grace, beginning the new age through His identity as Christ. Through His identity as Christ, He carried out work in the Age of Grace and He strengthened and led all of His followers in the Age of Grace. It can be said of God’s work that He truly finishes what He starts. There are steps and a plan, and the work is full of His wisdom, His omnipotence, His marvelous deeds, and His love and mercy. Of course, the main thread running through all of God’s work is His care for mankind; it is permeated with His feelings of concern that He can never put aside. In these verses of the Bible, in every single thing that the Lord Jesus did after His resurrection, God’s unchanging hopes and concern for mankind were revealed, as were His meticulous care and cherishing of mankind. None of this has ever changed, all the way to the present day—can you see it? When you see this, do your hearts not unconsciously draw closer to God? If you lived in that age and the Lord Jesus appeared to you after His resurrection in a tangible form for you to see, and if He sat in front of you, ate bread and fish and explained the scriptures to you and spoke with you, then how would you feel? Would you feel happy? Or would you feel guilty? The previous misunderstandings and avoidance of God, the conflicts with and doubts of God—would they not all just disappear? Would the relationship between God and man not become more normal and proper?
By interpreting these limited chapters of the Bible, do you find any flaws in God’s disposition? Do you find any adulteration of God’s love? Do you see any deceit or evil in God’s omnipotence or wisdom? Certainly not! Now can you say with certainty that God is holy? Can you say with certainty that each of God’s emotions is a revelation of His essence and disposition? I hope that after you have read these words, the understanding you gain from them will help you and bring you benefits in your pursuit of a change in disposition and a fear of God, and that they will bear fruit in you, fruit that grows by the day, so that in the process of this pursuit you will be brought closer and closer to God, closer and closer to the standard that God requires. You will no longer be bored of the pursuit of the truth and will no longer feel that the pursuit of the truth and of a change in disposition is a troublesome or a superfluous thing. Rather, motivated by the expression of God’s true disposition and the holy essence of God, you will long for the light, long for justice, aspire to pursue the truth, to pursue the satisfaction of God’s will, and you will become a person gained by God, become a real person.
Today we have talked about certain things that God did in the Age of Grace when He was made incarnate for the first time. From these things, we have seen the disposition that He expressed and revealed in the flesh, as well as every aspect of what He has and is. All these aspects of what He has and is seem very humanized, but the reality is that the essence of all that He revealed and expressed is inseparable from His own disposition. Every method and every aspect of God incarnate expressing His disposition in humanity is inextricably linked with His own essence. So, it is very important that God came to mankind using the way of incarnation. Also important is the work that He did in the flesh, but even more important to every person living in the flesh, to every person living in corruption, are the disposition that He revealed and the will that He expressed. Is this something that you are able to understand? After understanding God’s disposition and what He has and is, have you made any conclusions as to how you should treat God? Finally, in response to this question, I would like to give you three pieces of counsel: First, do not test God. No matter how much you understand about God, no matter how much you know about His disposition, absolutely do not test Him. Second, do not contend for status with God. No matter what type of status God gives you or what kind of work He entrusts you with, no matter what kind of duty He raises you up to perform, and no matter how much you have expended yourself and sacrificed for God, absolutely do not compete for status with Him. Third, do not compete with God. No matter whether you understand or if you can submit to what God does with you, what He arranges for you, and the things He brings to you, absolutely do not compete with God. If you can abide by these three pieces of counsel, then you will be quite safe, and you will not be prone to angering God. This is where we will end today’s fellowship.
November 23, 2013
a. The “band-tightening spell” is a spell used by the monk Tang Sanzang in the Chinese novel Journey to the West. He uses this spell to control Sun Wukong by tightening a metal band around the latter’s head, giving him acute headaches, and thus bringing him under control. It has become a metaphor to describe something that binds a person.