Question 26: Religious pastors and elders hold to the words of Paul in the Bible: “All scripture is given by inspiration of God” (2Ti 3:16), believing that everything in the Bible is God’s words. But you say that the Bible is not entirely made up of the words of God, so what is this all about?
To begin with, we need to understand how the Bible took shape, and when it was produced. The original book of the Bible refers to the Old Testament. The Israelites, that is, the Jews, only called the Old Testament the Bible. And then, in the Age of Grace, the Lord Jesus did a stage of work of redemption. More than three hundred years after the Lord, church leaders of the time came together to convene a meeting. They believed that the last days were approaching and that the words the Lord Jesus had spoken, along with the epistles that the disciples had written, ought to be summed up together to form a book similar to the Old Testament, and then sent to churches in all places. In this way, the writings would be properly safeguarded, and the life of the churches could be put on the right track. Therefore, they sorted through and brought together all the writings of the Lord Jesus’ apostles and disciples and eventually, after undertaking research, they determined a selection of twenty-seven pieces of writing to be the official canon of the New Testament. They subsequently combined the twenty-seven works of the official canon of the New Testament and the Old Testament to become the entire contents of the Bible. This is the basis for the production of the whole book of the New and Old Testaments. There are some who believe that all of the Bible is inspired by God; in particular, Paul at that time said: “All scripture is given by inspiration of God.” There is a fact behind these words. At the time that they were said, there was no New Testament as the New Testament had not become a book and was still dozens of loose letters in the custody of each church. Against this kind of background, what after all were Paul’s words referring to? Of course, they were a reference to the Old Testament. Therefore, Paul’s statement in 2 Timothy that “All scripture is given by inspiration of God” is directed at the Old Testament, not at the New Testament. This is a fact. However, people of the last days take the “scripture” Paul spoke of to mean the whole scriptures of the Old and New Testaments. This goes against the facts at that time and runs counter to the background to what Paul said at the time. Therefore, it does not accord with the facts and is a biased and erroneous interpretation. Apart from this, if it is said that the Old Testament was given by inspiration of God, is this tenable? What does “given by inspiration of God” represent? What does “inspiration” mean? In the Old Testament Age of Law, Moses was a leader of the Israelites and a minister set by God, that is, a person who led the people of Israel out of Egypt, and transmitted God’s laws. The work of the Age of Law was done by God through Moses. Moses had the most authority to explain the Old Testament, whereas others did not have this qualification. Well, in the Five Books of Moses, did he say that what he wrote was given by inspiration of God? Firstly, Moses did not say this; secondly, of all those prophets whom God used in the age of the Old Testament, none of the greatest prophets, Isaiah, Daniel, and Ezekiel, said these words. The sentence “All scripture is given by inspiration of God” was only said later by Paul, and therefore it cannot completely be taken as evidence. If God had said that the Old Testament was all given by inspiration of God, He ought to have said so through the prophets, but this does not appear in the words of the prophets. Had Moses been able to take this view, he would have said so, but there are no such words in what Moses said. This is the sort of understanding that we should have with regard to the production of the Bible and its structure. This may be said to be the inside story of the Bible which allows us to know how exactly the Bible was formed, who wrote it, and who made a record of it. The Bible had several dozen authors, who shared a common understanding and common viewpoint. How many of them said that it is all given by inspiration of God? Paul said at the time that all scripture was given by inspiration of God, and it was directed at the Old Testament. What has been interpreted several hundred years later? It is said that all of the Old Testament and the New Testament is given by inspiration of God. Isn’t such an interpretation rather far-fetched and unconvincing?
After the New Testament and the Old Testament were put together, when people read the words of Paul, they believed that what he said referred to both the Old Testament and the New Testament. If Paul were still alive and he heard such an explanation by his later generations, he would immediately start to declare: “What I said at that time was referring to the Old Testament, it did not include the New Testament.” On top of this, what would Paul, Peter and others who wrote the epistles of the New Testament declare, if they saw people in the denominations of the last days treating the epistles that they had written as though they were the word of God? Would they be able to accept this fact? What would they have to say? They would say: “Oh, this is problematic. All of you have made a big mistake—you’re committing heresy now. We’re all your brothers, and what we’ve said does not represent the word of God. How could you be so blind, how could you take our words to be the word of God?” They would be shocked, right? Paul and Peter did not write their epistles immediately after the ascension of the Lord Jesus. It was thirty years after the Lord Jesus’ ascension that their epistles began appearing one after the other. They didn’t formally begin writing their epistles until they had been preaching for twenty or thirty years. After these letters that they had written had been sent to the churches, how did the brothers and sisters in the churches view them? Could they have said “This is the voice of God, this is the word of God!”? Would they have said this? They would have said: “This is a letter from Brother Peter, look, what he writes in this letter is really good, it’s really edifying;” “This is a letter from Brother Paul;” “This is a letter from Barnabas;” “This is a letter from Matthew.” … At that time could some have regarded these epistles from the disciples as the word of God? One hundred percent no, because Peter, Matthew and the others had never said that they were God, nor had they ever said that they were God incarnate. They all acknowledged that they were believers in the Lord Jesus, that they were disciples of the Lord Jesus. Therefore, the brothers and sisters of the churches at that time also saw them as brothers, and took their letters and what they said as the words, the communication, and the testimony of brothers. This is entirely correct and also accords with the historical background. However, people today regard the words of these disciples to be the word of God, and mention them in the same breath as the word of God; does this not go against the historical facts of the time? People today with their eyes wide open dare to go against the facts of history and take the words of these persons to be the word of God without feeling they’re mistaken. If someone exposes this fact, they will cite the words of the Bible in their defense. Is there any basis for those words? What do they refer to? Do you understand them? There are words to this effect in the letters of the disciples: Peter mentioned that the words, the epistles, of Brother Paul contained the enlightenment and the work of the Holy Spirit. But Peter did not say that Paul’s words were God’s word. Peter did not say that Paul’s words were all given by inspiration of the Holy Spirit and that they must be treated as the word of God—saying that would be mistaken. Paul also did not venture to say that his words were revealed by God, that they were given by the inspiration of God. Neither Paul nor Peter dared to bear witness that what they themselves said was the word of God, so how can believers in the last days treat their words as the word of God? What mistake do they make? Would you say that the interpreters of the scriptures throughout the entire religious world have understood them correctly or not? Confronting such a huge, absurd mistake, they are unaware of it, have no understanding of it and cannot see it. These people themselves do not possess the truth and cannot see through things; however, other people worship them blindly. In people’s faith they blindly believe in man; they believe in whatever they are told. Religious people are superstitious about the Bible, worship it, and place it above God, thinking that the Bible represents God, and all should be according to the Bible. Isn’t holding such blind beliefs and adoration for the Bible a display of absurdity? In what ways do people hold blind beliefs about the Bible? They do not treat it in accordance with historical facts. They do not really pursue the truth and approach the Bible in accordance with the enlightenment and illumination of the Holy Spirit, but instead blindly worship famous people. Regardless of who said what, they regard it all as correct, they accept it all, and apply it indiscriminately. Was Paul free of error? Was what he said accurate? He was also a man, so how is it possible for a person to be free from impurities? Therefore, is it not a mistake that during the Age of Grace people compiled the letters of the disciples together with the word of God? God’s words in the Bible are the word of God, while what is said by man is the word of man. Which words in the Bible are the word of God? We should have discernment on this. Only what was spoken by Jehovah God Himself, what Jehovah God instructed Moses to say, what Jehovah God instructed the prophets to say, what the prophets were asked to convey, and also what the Lord Jesus Himself said are the genuine word of God. Have you seen something in the words of the prophets that is particularly symbolic? They say “Thus said Jehovah,” “This is what Jehovah says,” they do not say “Thus say I Daniel (I Isaiah).” This clarifies for people that the prophets were conveying the original words of God. Therefore, all of the original words of God that were conveyed by the prophets are the true word of God, all that was recorded as having been said by Jehovah God Himself is the true word of God, and all that was recorded by the disciples as having been said by the Lord Jesus Himself is the word of God. Only these portions of the Bible are the true word of God and apart from that, everything that the disciples said and the things that the servants of God recorded are human testimony. As soon as we speak of human testimony, a problem exists. Sometimes what they say is not complete or concrete—it is lacking something. This is why God is revealing some facts from that time in His work of the last days. For example, what Paul’s circumstances were, what Peter’s circumstances were, and so on. God supplements these in His work of the last days. Therefore, we can see from this that whatever man has said does not entirely conform with the factual background; this is an issue that God reveals in His work of the last days.
Excerpted from The Fellowship From the Above
Because in the epistles Paul once stated that all scripture is given by inspiration of God, afterward, religious circles began to delimit everything written in the Bible as being the inspiration of God, and being God’s words. What Paul said had no basis, because God had never borne witness to the Bible in this way, nor had the Lord Jesus ever said that the Bible was given by God’s inspiration and was entirely the word of God. Paul’s testimony of the Bible was merely based on his individual knowledge of it; he was not at all speaking on God’s behalf. Only the Holy Spirit and God incarnate know the inside story of what the Bible is about, and created mankind has not been able to understand it thoroughly. This is fact. The Lord Jesus merely said that the Bible is God’s testimony; He did not say it was all inspired by God and was the word of God. Nor did the Holy Spirit ever bear such testimony of the Bible to anyone. Thus, what Paul said had no foundation. He was not speaking on God’s behalf, let alone on the behalf of the Holy Spirit. The Bible’s contents are all records of actual events and testimonies of experiences related to the work of God, written down by people who served Him. None of the chapters was written by God Himself; their authors were simply conveying God’s word or describing their own experiences and understanding, enlightened and illuminated by the Holy Spirit, in order to bear witness to God’s name and work. This is fact. Although the apostles’ written accounts and epistles were enlightened by the Holy Spirit, they do not represent the word of God, because the Holy Spirit illuminates, enlightens, and guides each person according to his or her individual condition so that he or she can reach an understanding of the truth and attain knowledge of God. This is the result of the Holy Spirit’s work. Thus, this enlightenment and illumination brought by the Holy Spirit’s work is not the equivalent of God’s word; the utterances of God represent God’s life disposition and all carry the essence of truth of His life disposition. No sentence spoken by God can ever be completely experienced by humans, because His utterances contain too much essence of truth for us to live out within the limited experience of a single lifetime. Because of this, no matter how much people understand the truth or know God, they will never be able to express His word. It can therefore be seen that the Holy Spirit’s enlightenment and illumination merely provides humans with some light and guidance by which to comprehend the truth; regardless of how profound their testimonies of experiences might be, these should not even be mentioned in the same breath with God’s utterances. Because the essence of humans and the essence of God are as different as night and day, humans will never be able to express the word of God; only Christ endowed with the essence of God’s divinity can do it. Prophets can merely relay God’s word; even people who are used by the Holy Spirit cannot express the word of God, but can only speak of their own experiences and what they themselves have witnessed. Humans can only express according to their own essence; their living out, in turn, determines their testimonies. God possesses the essence of divinity, so He naturally expresses the word of God; we humans have our essence of humanity, so what we express is naturally based on our experiences and what we have witnessed. This being the case, besides the parts conveyed by humans which are God’s words, the rest are undoubtedly accounts of human experiences and understanding. Even if these might be in line with the truth, they absolutely cannot be compared to the word of God, for the essence of humanity is a far cry from the essence of God. Therefore, while reading the Bible, we should make a clear distinction between the parts of God’s word and those spoken by humans. Only in this way can we treat the Bible responsibly and in a manner that conforms to God’s will. Furthermore, when the religious community claims that everything written in the Bible is God’s word, this does not accord with the historical facts of the time. For example, in the Age of Grace, the Holy Spirit never bore witness to say that the letters and testimony written by the apostles were by the inspiration of God. Moreover, the apostles themselves never said that what they wrote came from God’s inspiration, much less would they have dared to claim that it was God’s actual word. The epistles sent to the churches at the time were all seen to be letters written by the apostolic brothers; no one at all said that they were God’s word inspired by God. This was the truth back then. Is it no longer the truth today? Now, in the last days, people who insist that the epistles are the word of God are going against the historical facts! In the Age of Law, God’s servants and prophets did not say that their words were God’s inspirations, nor that they were the word of God. As for the books they wrote, the Israelites of the time would certainly have seen them as having been written by God’s servants or prophets. Aside from the words of God they conveyed in their writings, the rest could be categorized as records of God’s work. If the Israelites never testified that the books written by these servants and prophets were all God’s inspirations and utterances, then how can humans living two thousand years later go against the historical facts of that time? How can they blatantly insist that the words of the Bible written by man are actually the word of God? This is not in accordance with the historical facts! The blind faith and idolization with which people in the last days view the Bible comes entirely from human conceptions and imagination; they have absolutely no basis in God’s word, and they are entirely ways in which the religious community deceives people and defies God. This is how the forces of the antichrist mislead people and bewilder them into blindly believing in and idolizing the Bible. This has already caused a multitude of denominations to form, plunging church life and people’s life entry into chaos and causing many negative effects. On this point, people should all reflect upon themselves and understand, and seek the truth in order to solve this problem so as to avoid straying from the right path.
Excerpted from The Fellowship From the Above
The pastors and elders in the religious world concluded that everything in the Bible is the word of God because Paul said that “All scripture is given by inspiration of God” (2Ti 3:16), and that so long as we cling to the Bible, we can be raptured into the kingdom of heaven. Most believers in the Lord also believe this, particularly in the last days. But does this viewpoint conform to the truth and to the facts? Was it the Lord Jesus who said, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God”? Did the Holy Spirit say this? No. These were Paul’s words. Based on these words from Paul, many people consider every word in the Bible to be inspired by God, and the word of God. Isn’t this a huge mistake? There are also some people who believe that even though they are human words, so long as they are recorded in the Bible then they are also the word of God. Isn’t this a presumptuous, absurd point of view? We should all be clear on the fact that the Bible is just God’s testimony and a record of God’s work. The Bible is a product of God’s work to save the human race. Every stage of God’s work is permeated with the fight between God and the evil forces of Satan, so, what’s recorded in the Bible is not merely the word of God, but also words from all sorts of people and even from Satan. This fact is clear as day. If we were to say that everything in the Bible is the word of God, would this statement hold up? Wouldn’t that be distorting the facts, confusing right and wrong? Why is it that we’re capable of developing this kind of erroneous understanding? Why can’t we just speak in accordance with the facts? Anyone who has read the Bible knows that in the Bible there are dialogues between God and Moses, between God and Job, between God and His chosen people, and even between God and Satan, so how could the words spoken by those talking to God become the word of God Himself? Wouldn’t that be absurd? So, saying that all scripture is given by inspiration of God and is the word of God is a statement that simply cannot hold up! Some absurd men insist on saying that the words spoken by humans and Satan in the Bible are God’s words. This is completely contrary to the facts, it outright besmirches and blasphemes God and is a serious offense to His disposition! The word of God is the word of God, the word of man is the word of man, and the word of Satan is the word of Satan. What is there to be confused about? God’s words are forever the truth, and man’s words are forever not the truth—at most they are able to conform to the truth, and that’s doing quite well. Satan’s words, however, are forever misconceptions and lies. Even if they are spoken ten thousand times they will always be misconceptions, lies, nonsense! Intelligent people should be able to recognize this fact. Only those who are ignorant and stubborn insist on their absurd points of view.
About this question, let’s read two passages from the word of Almighty God so we can understand things better. Almighty God says, “Today, people believe the Bible is God, and that God is the Bible. So, too, do they believe that all the words of the Bible were the only words God spoke, and that they were all said by God. Those who believe in God even think that although all of the sixty-six books of the Old and New Testament were written by people, they were all given by inspiration of God, and a record of the utterances of the Holy Spirit. This is the erroneous interpretation of people, and it does not completely accord with the facts. In fact, apart from the books of prophecy, most of the Old Testament is historical record. Some of the epistles of the New Testament come from people’s experiences, and some come from the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit; the Pauline epistles, for example, arose from the work of a man, they were all the result of the Holy Spirit’s enlightenment, and they were written for the churches, were words of exhortation and encouragement for the brothers and sisters of the churches. They were not words spoken by the Holy Spirit—Paul could not speak on behalf of the Holy Spirit, and neither was he a prophet, much less did he see visions that John beheld. His epistles were written for the churches of Ephesus, Philadelphia, Galatia, and other churches. And thus, the Pauline epistles of the New Testament are epistles that Paul wrote for the churches, and not inspirations from the Holy Spirit, nor are they the direct utterances of the Holy Spirit. … If people see the epistles or words like Paul’s as the utterances of the Holy Spirit, and worship them as God, then it can only be said that they are too indiscriminating. To speak more harshly, isn’t this nothing but blasphemy? How could a man talk on behalf of God? And how could people bow down before the records of his epistles and of the words he spoke as if they were a holy book, or a heavenly book? Could the words of God be casually uttered by a man? How could a man talk on behalf of God?” (“Concerning the Bible (3)” in The Word Appears in the Flesh).
“Not everything in the Bible is a record of the words personally spoken by God. The Bible simply documents the previous two stages of God’s work, of which one part is a record of the foretellings of the prophets, and one part is the experiences and knowledge written by people used by God throughout the ages. Human experiences are tainted with human opinions and knowledge, which is unavoidable. In many of the books of the Bible are human conceptions, human biases, and human absurd interpretations. Of course, most of the words are the result of the enlightenment and illumination of the Holy Spirit, and they are correct interpretations—yet it still cannot be said that they are entirely accurate expressions of the truth. Their views on certain things are nothing more than the knowledge of personal experience, or the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit” (“Concerning the Bible (3)” in The Word Appears in the Flesh).
Having read the words of Almighty God, we can all see the Bible is not entirely given by inspiration of God, is not entirely the word of God. As for what parts of the Bible are God’s word and which are the words of men, those with a discerning eye can tell right away. For the name of author is clearly stated for each scripture of the Bible, and it is also clearly stated which parts of the Bible contain the words of God. So how is it that without batting an eye, some people continue to take the words of man and of Satan as those of God? Is this a fair way of speaking? If believers in the Lord insist on claiming that the words of men as contained in the Bible are actually the word of God, how do you think God will feel? Is this fair to God? Is this not a defamation, belittlement, and blasphemy of God? What is the weight of man’s word in the eyes of God? Why don’t we take a moment to think? How can the word of man compare with that of God? The essence of man and that of God are vastly different, so of course the words of man and those of God are even further apart. If, through the enlightenment and illumination of the Holy Spirit, man’s word can accord with truth, this is already a great achievement. If man’s word is not guided by the work of the Holy Spirit, is it not fallacies and lies? If believers in God can’t see this, then I’m afraid they are just too foolish and ignorant! Nowadays, the whole religious world takes the words of men within the Bible as those of God. This shows that no one in the religious world truly knows God. Most of the leaders of the religious world are hypocritical Pharisees. Those who truly know God would never believe that the Bible is all given by inspiration of God and is all God’s word. They certainly would not blindly worship the Bible and even treat the Bible as God. It is widely held in the religious world that the Bible was all given by inspiration of God and is the word of God, and that the Bible can represent God. This is the most absurdly false notion in all of the religious world. Now we can see this clearly.
Excerpted from Classic Questions and Answers on the Gospel of the Kingdom