Question 2: All of the apostles’ letters in the Bible were things that God had inspired, but I’m not clear on whether or not they really are His words. How would you explain this? And outside of the Bible, through the ages there have been many people who have been utilized by God as well as many spiritual people who have written books. In man’s eyes the things that they’ve said have all been in line with the truth and are edifying for mankind, so what really is the difference between these things they’ve said that are in line with the truth, and the words of God?
Answer: Are the apostles’ letters recorded in the Bible the word of God? Actually, the authors of the apostles’ letters have been written clearly in the Bible. They were mortals used by God, not God incarnate. Therefore, what they said were human words and absolutely not the words of God, let alone the voice of God. This is beyond any doubt. The same is true of history! When the letters written by the apostles were sent to the churches, it was very clear to God’s chosen people at that time that those apostles were men being used by God, and they were not the Christ. Only the Lord Jesus was the Christ. So no one regarded their correspondence as God’s words. The reason why people in the last days regard the apostles’ letters as God’s word is all because of what Paul said: “All scripture is given by inspiration of God.” People are misled by this statement. Coupled with their superstitious and worshipful mentality toward the Bible, people no longer examine the historical facts. If we are to differentiate between man’s speech that accords with the truth and the words expressed by God in the flesh, we must first be very clear that God has the substance of God and man has human substance. God’s word is a revelation of God’s life and it is an expression of God’s disposition, whereas the words of man reveal human substance. Only the direct expressions of the Holy Spirit are the truth and only those expressions are the word of God. This is because the substance of God’s life is unique and possessed by no man. However, people used by God and people who have the Holy Spirit’s work can speak words that accord with the truth and that can edify others. This comes from the enlightenment and illumination of the Holy Spirit and also from man’s experience with and understanding of the truth in God’s word. However, it is not a direct expression of the Holy Spirit and therefore it is not the word of God. Any word said by God, whether it is recorded in the Bible or not, is forever God’s word. Conversely, any word of man, even if it is recorded in the Bible, remains as man’s word. For neither God’s essence nor human essence will ever change. Therefore, the word of God is always the word of God, and the word of man is always the word of man. In the concept of man, any word that is consistent with truth and edifying to man originated from God. If it is recorded in the Bible, it was inspired by God. Thus it is God’s word. For the edifying words that are consistent with the truth but not recorded in the Bible, although people dare not say those are the word of God, they also think that those were revealed or inspired by the Holy Spirit, thus also originated from God. This point of view is utterly wrong. Based on this viewpoint of man, when God’s work in the last days is completed, many of those who have been saved and made perfect will be able to say many words that are edifying for people and consistent with the truth. Can you say that these words were revealed and inspired by the Holy Spirit? Are all of these the truth and the word of God? Apparently, this kind of view and imagination is absurd. When people understand the truth from experiencing God’s work, they will have undergone some changes. They will have some knowledge about God and live out some reality of the truth. These are the effects of God’s work. No matter how much people understand the truth, how much change they undergo, their human essence has not changed. They are still humans, albeit humans who have been transformed and perfected through God’s salvation, humans who have been reborn and renewed by God. Therefore, without a doubt, people’s words that are edifying to others and consistent with the truth are still the words of man. According to this principle, when we read the Bible again, we can distinguish which words were spoken by God or by man at a glance. As such, the apostles’ letters, whether recorded in the Bible or not, are human words of course. Undoubtedly, the writings of spiritual figures of all ages are also human words. It is completely correct to distinguish the word of God from the word of man like this.
Almighty God says, “In fact, the truth is the most real of life’s aphorisms, and the highest of such aphorisms among all mankind. Because it is the requirement that God makes of man, and is the work personally done by God, thus it is called life’s aphorism. It is not an aphorism summed up from something, nor is it a famous quote from a great figure; instead, it is the utterance to mankind from the Master of the heavens and earth and all things, and not some words summed up by man, but the inherent life of God. And so it is called the highest of all life’s aphorisms” (“Only Those Who Know God and His Work Can Satisfy God” in The Word Appears in the Flesh).
“You have to understand the actual scope of the truth and understand what is outside the scope of the truth. If people gain some insights and have some understanding based on their experiences from the words of truth, does this count as the truth? At best it can be said that they have some understanding of the truth. All the words of enlightenment of the Holy Spirit do not represent God’s word, do not represent truth, and they do not pertain to the truth. It can only be said that those people have some understanding of truth, and some enlightenment of the Holy Spirit. … Everyone can experience the truth, but the situations of their experience will be different, and what each person obtains from the same truth is different. But even after combining everyone’s understanding you still cannot completely explain this one truth; the truth is that deep! Why do I say that all of the things you have obtained and all of your understanding, cannot be a substitute for the truth? If you fellowship your understanding with others, they may ponder on it for two or three days and then they will finish experiencing it, but a person cannot fully experience truth even in a lifetime, even all people together cannot experience it thoroughly. Thus it can be seen that the truth is very profound! There is no way to use words to fully articulate the truth, the truth put into human language is man’s aphorism; humanity will never experience it fully, and humanity should live in reliance on it. A piece of truth can let all of humanity survive for thousands of years.
Truth is the life of God Himself, representing His own disposition, representing His own substance, representing everything within Him. If you say that to have some experiences means that you have the truth, then can you represent the disposition of God? You cannot. A person may have some experience or light regarding a certain aspect or side of a truth, but they cannot supply others with it forever, so their light is not truth; it’s just a certain point that is attainable for a person. It’s just the experience a person should have, the proper experience, and the proper understanding, which is the real aspect of their experience of truth. This light, enlightenment and understanding based on experience can never be a substitute for truth; even if all people have completely experienced this truth, and they combine all those words together, that is still not equal to that one truth. … What do I mean by this? I mean that the life of man will always be the life of man, and no matter how much your understanding is in accordance with the truth, in accordance with the intentions of God, in accordance with the requirements of God, it will never be able to be a substitute for the truth. To say that people have truth means that they have some reality, that they have some understanding of God’s truth, that they have some real entry into God’s words, that they have some real experience with God’s words, and that they are on the right track in their faith in God. Only one statement of God is enough for a person to experience for a lifetime; even if people were to have the experience of several lifetimes or of several millennia, they still wouldn’t be able to wholly and thoroughly experience a truth” (“Do You Know What Truth Really Is?” in Records of Christ’s Talks).
As far as getting to the bottom of the differences between man’s words that accord with the truth and God’s word, the words of Almighty God provide a very clear explanation in this regard: Truth comes from God, it is expressed through Christ, and it is also the direct expression of the Holy Spirit, and everything God says is the truth. Truth is the very life of God Himself, it is an expression of God’s righteous disposition, it is a revelation of all that God has and is, it is the reality of positive things, and it represents the substance of God’s own life. However, people used by God and people who have the Holy Spirit’s work can speak words that accord with the truth. This comes from the enlightenment and illumination of the Holy Spirit and also from man’s experience with and understanding of the truth in God’s word. These words that accord with the truth represent man’s experience and understanding, it is the reality of the truth that man has entered, and it is a result of God’s work. It does not matter how deep or shallow man’s understanding of truth is, or how well they know God, everything man says reveals the substance of their human lives. But because the words that man says that accord with the truth are so far from the profound standard of the substance of truth, it is so, so far from the substance of truth, therefore what man says cannot be called the truth; there are inherent and substantial differences between words that accord with the truth and the actual truth. God’s word is truth, it is the substance of God’s life, so God’s word is everlasting and unchanging. It is just as the Lord Jesus said: “Heaven and earth shall pass away: but my words shall not pass away” (Luk 21:33). Almighty God also says, “My words are the forever unchanging truth” (“You Ought to Consider Your Deeds” in The Word Appears in the Flesh). It is very much like the Ten Commandments promulgated by God in the Age of Law: Although thousands of years have passed, they are nonetheless still adhered to by mankind today. This is because God’s word is truth, it is the reality of positive things, it is able to withstand the test of time, and it shall stand through all eternity. However, because man’s words are not the truth, they will not last forever. We can see from the progression of human history, whether it be in the area of scientific research or scientific law, or even sociological theories, in a matter of time they are overturned or abandoned and they even become outdated in the blink of an eye. Even if the words that man says accord with the truth they can only be helpful to us, supply us, and support us on a temporary basis; they cannot be our life. Why is it said that man’s words cannot be man’s life? Because while man’s word may accord with the truth, it is merely man’s experience with and understanding of God’s word and it is very far from the substance of truth and in no way can it represent truth, nor can it have the effect of being man’s life that truth does; it can only temporarily help us, provide edification and support, so that’s why man’s word that accords with the truth is not the truth, and it cannot be man’s life. So how is it that only God’s words can be man’s life? It is because God’s word is truth and is the reality of positive things, we humans can never fully experience it, and each truth is inexhaustible in regard to us humans. Even if we were to experience eternity we still could not dare say that we possessed truth or had fully gained the truth; this is a fact. Furthermore, the truth can cleanse mankind, save mankind, and perfect mankind; by relying on the truth to live, we can live out the likeness of a real man, live out the image of truth, and thereby can come to know God, submit to God, worship God, be compatible with God, which was God’s intention when He first created mankind. It is just like the Bible says, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness” (Gen 1:26). God’s intent in making mankind wasn’t just to provide mankind with a physical body, but primarily was to bestow mankind with new life and this new life is God’s word, which is truth. When truth becomes our life, when it becomes the reality of our life, when we will have lived in the image of truth, and lived out the likeness of a real man, then we will have fulfilled God’s intention in creating mankind. Therefore it is said that only God’s word and only the truth can be man’s everlasting life. Even though people used by God may have some experience with and understanding of God’s word, and they may be able to say some things that accord with the truth, this is an effect of the Holy Spirit’s work. It is God’s salvation and God’s perfecting of man. The words of people used by God that accord with the truth or their true understanding of God does not represent that they possess the substance of truth, nor does it represent possessing the life of God. Instead, it merely shows that they have gained truth and truth has become the reality of their lives. This is because man is not the truth and would not dare say that they truly possess the truth. Therefore, regardless of how much man’s words accord with the truth, or how much they can edify us, they cannot be said to be the truth and furthermore it is not the word of God. These are some of our thoughts on the differences between words that accord with the truth and God’s word.
Excerpted from the movie screenplay of Waiting