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; it is 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’” (The Word, Vol. 1. The Appearance and Work of God. Only Those Who Know God and His Work Can Satisfy God).
“That which is directly expressed by God is truth. Anything that arises from the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit merely conforms to the truth, for the Holy Spirit enlightens people based on their stature and cannot express the truth directly to man. This is something you must understand. And when, based upon the words of the truth, people gain insights, and knowledge from experiencing, do such insights and knowledge count as the truth? At most, this is a little knowledge of the truth. Words enlightened by the Holy Spirit do not represent the words of God, they do not represent the truth, they do not belong to the truth; they are merely a little knowledge of the truth, a little of the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit. … Everyone experiences the truth, but each does so under different circumstances, and everyone gains something different. Yet even if their knowledge were combined, they would still be incapable of fully articulating a single truth. That is how profound the truth is! Why is it said that the things you have gained and your knowledge cannot stand for the truth? You fellowship your knowledge with others, and it only takes two or three days of contemplation before they have fully experienced it. But people can spend a whole lifetime and still not fully experience the truth; even if what each person experienced were combined, the truth would still not be fully experienced. It can therefore be seen that the truth is extraordinarily profound. The truth cannot be fully articulated with words. In the language of man, the truth is the true essence of mankind. Man will never be able to fully experience the truth. Man should live by the truth. One truth can sustain the whole of mankind’s existence for several thousand years.
The truth is the life of God Himself; it represents His disposition, His essence, and everything in Him. If you say that having a bit of experience means possessing the truth, then can you represent God’s disposition? You may have some experience or light regarding a certain aspect or side of a truth, but you cannot supply others with it forever, so this light you have gained is not truth; it is merely a certain point that people can reach. It is simply the proper experience and the proper understanding a person should possess: some actual experience and knowledge of the truth. This light, enlightenment, and experiential understanding can never substitute for the truth; even if all people had completely experienced this truth, and pooled together all of their experiential understanding, it still would not be able to take the place of 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 might accord with the truth, God’s intentions, and His requirements, it will never be able to be a substitute for the truth. To say that people have gained the truth means that they possess some reality, that they have gained some understanding of the truth, that they have attained some real entry to God’s words, that they have had some real experience with them, and that they are on the right track in their faith in God. Just one statement from God is enough for a person to experience for an entire lifetime; even if people were to experience it for several lifetimes or even several millennia, they still would not be able to completely and thoroughly experience a single truth” (The Word, Vol. 3. The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days. Do You Know What the Truth Really Is?).
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” (The Word, Vol. 1. The Appearance and Work of God. You Ought to Consider Your Deeds). 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.
—The movie script of Waiting