8. What is the difference between understanding the truth and understanding doctrine?

Relevant Words of God:

Coming to a genuine understanding of the actual meaning of God’s words is no simple matter. Do not think this way: “I can interpret the literal meaning of God’s words, and everyone says my interpretation is good, and gives me a thumbs-up, so this means I understand God’s words.” That is not the same as understanding God’s words. If you have gained some light from within God’s utterances, and you have gotten a sense of the true meaning of His words; and if you can express the intention behind His words and what effect they will ultimately achieve, then once you have a clear understanding of all of these things, you can be considered to have some level of understanding of God’s words. Thus, understanding God’s words is not all that simple. Just because you can give a flowery explanation of the literal meaning of God’s words does not mean you understand them. No matter how much you can explain their literal meaning, your explanation is still based on human imagination and way of thinking. It is useless! How can you understand God’s words? The key is to seek the truth from within them; only in that way can you truly understand what He says. Whenever God speaks, He certainly does not speak in mere generalities. Each sentence He utters contains details that are certain to be revealed further in God’s words, and they may be expressed differently. Man cannot fathom the ways in which God expresses the truth. God’s utterances are very profound and cannot be fathomed with human way of thinking. People can discover the entire meaning of every aspect of the truth as long as they make an effort; if you do this, then as you experience them, what details remain will be filled in completely as the Holy Spirit enlightens you, thus giving you an understanding of these concrete states. One part is understanding God’s words and seeking their specific content through reading them. Another part is understanding the implications of God’s words through experiencing them and obtaining enlightenment from the Holy Spirit. It is primarily by these two means that a true understanding of God’s words is achieved. If you interpret His words literally, or through the lens of your own thinking or imagination, then your understanding of God’s words is not real no matter how eloquently you can interpret them. You might even take their meaning out of context and misinterpret them, and doing so is even more troublesome. Thus, the truth is primarily obtained by receiving enlightenment from the Holy Spirit through gaining knowledge of God’s words. Understanding the literal meaning of His words, or being able to explain them, does not count as having gained the truth. If you only needed to interpret the literal meaning of His words, then what would be the point of the Holy Spirit’s enlightenment? In that case, you would only need to have a certain level of education, and the uneducated would all be in quite a predicament. God’s work is not something that can be comprehended by the human brain. A true understanding of God’s words relies mainly on having enlightenment from the Holy Spirit; such is the process of gaining the truth.

Excerpted from “How to Know Man’s Nature” in Records of Christ’s Talks

The truth that man needs to possess is found in the word of God, and it is a truth that is the most beneficial and helpful to mankind. It is the tonic and sustenance that your body needs, something that helps man restore his normal humanity. It is a truth that man should be equipped with. The more you practice God’s word, the more quickly your life will blossom, and the clearer the truth will become. As you grow in stature, you will see things of the spiritual world more clearly, and the more strength you will have to triumph over Satan. Much of the truth that you do not understand will be made clear when you practice the word of God. Most people are satisfied to merely understand the text of God’s word and focus on equipping themselves with doctrines rather than on deepening their experience in practice, but is that not the way of the Pharisees? So how can the phrase, “The word of God is life” be real for them? A person’s life cannot grow simply by reading God’s word, but only when the word of God is put into practice. If it is your belief that to understand God’s word is all that is needed to have life and stature, then your understanding is warped. Truly understanding God’s word occurs when you practice the truth, and you must understand that “only by practicing the truth can it ever be understood.” Today, after reading the word of God, you can merely say that you know God’s word, but you cannot say that you understand it. Some say that the only way to practice the truth is to understand it first, but this is only partially correct, and is certainly not entirely accurate. Before you have knowledge of a truth, you have not experienced that truth. Feeling that you understand something you hear in a sermon is not truly understanding—this is just taking possession of the literal words of the truth, and it is not the same as understanding the true meaning therein. Just having a superficial knowledge of the truth does not mean that you actually understand it or have knowledge about it; the true meaning of the truth comes from having experienced it. Therefore, only when you experience the truth can you understand it, and only then can you grasp the hidden parts of it. Deepening your experience is the only way to grasp the connotations, and to understand the essence of the truth.

Excerpted from “Once You Understand the Truth, You Should Put It Into Practice” in The Word Appears in the Flesh

If you have read a lot of God’s word but only understand the meaning of the text and lack direct knowledge of God’s word through your practical experiences, then you will not know God’s word. As far as you are concerned, God’s word is not life, but just lifeless letters. And if you only live in observance of lifeless letters, then you cannot grasp the essence of God’s word, nor will you understand His will. Only when you experience His word in your actual experiences will the spiritual meaning of God’s word open itself to you, and it is only through experience that you can grasp the spiritual meaning of many truths and unlock the mysteries of God’s word. If you do not put it into practice, then no matter how clear His word, all that you have grasped are empty letters and doctrines, which have become religious regulations to you. Is this not what the Pharisees did? If you practice and experience God’s word, it becomes practical to you; if you do not seek to practice it, then God’s word to you is little more than the legend of the third heaven. In fact, the process of believing in God is the process of you experiencing His word as well as being gained by Him, or to put it more clearly, to believe in God is to have the knowledge and understanding of His word and to experience and live out His word; such is the reality behind your belief in God. If you believe in God and hope for eternal life without seeking to practice the word of God as something you have within you, then you are foolish. This would be like going to a feast and only looking at the food and learning the delicious things by heart without actually tasting any of it. Would such a person not be a fool?

Excerpted from “Once You Understand the Truth, You Should Put It Into Practice” in The Word Appears in the Flesh

After having had your own experience, you can then talk about the knowledge you should have of what you experienced. In addition, you can also distinguish between those whose knowledge is real and practical and those whose knowledge is based on doctrine and worthless. So, whether the knowledge you profess accords with the truth largely depends on whether you have practical experience of it. Where there is truth in your experience, your knowledge will be practical and valuable. Through your experience, you can also gain discernment and insight, deepen your knowledge, and increase your wisdom and common sense about how you should conduct yourself. The knowledge expressed by people who do not possess the truth is doctrine, no matter how lofty it may be. This type of person may well be very intelligent when it comes to matters of the flesh but cannot make distinctions when it comes to spiritual matters. This is because such people have no experience at all of spiritual affairs. These are people who are not enlightened in spiritual affairs and do not understand spiritual matters. Whatever sort of knowledge you express, as long as it is your being, then it is your personal experience, your real knowledge. What people who speak only of doctrine—those being people who possess neither the truth nor reality—discuss can also be called their being, because they have arrived at their doctrine only through deep contemplation and it is the result of their deep rumination. Yet it is only doctrine, nothing more than imagination!

Excerpted from “God’s Work and Man’s Work” in The Word Appears in the Flesh

If a person does not pursue the truth, he will never understand it. You can say the letters and doctrines ten thousand times, but they will still just be letters and doctrines. Some people just say, “Christ is the truth, the way, and the life.” Even if you repeat these words ten thousand times, it will still be useless; you have no understanding of its meaning. Why is it said that Christ is the truth, the way, and the life? Can you articulate the knowledge you have gained about this from experience? Have you entered the reality of the truth, the way, and the life? God has uttered His words so that you can experience them and gain knowledge; merely voicing letters and doctrines is useless. You can only know yourself once you have understood and entered God’s words. If you do not understand God’s words, then you cannot know yourself. You can only discern when you have the truth; without the truth, you cannot discern. You can only fully understand a matter when you have the truth; without the truth, you cannot understand a matter. You can only know yourself when you have the truth; without the truth, you cannot know yourself. Your disposition can only change when you have the truth; without the truth, your disposition cannot change. Only after you have the truth can you serve in accordance with God’s will; without the truth, you cannot serve in accordance with God’s will. Only after you have the truth can you worship God; without the truth, your worship will be nothing more than a performance of religious rites. All of these things hinge on gaining the truth from God’s words.

Excerpted from “How to Know Man’s Nature” in Records of Christ’s Talks

You have deviated in your summing up the truth; after you do all this summing up, it has yielded only rules. Your “summing up the truth” is not done so that people gain life or attain changes in their dispositions from the truth. Instead, it causes people to master some knowledge and doctrines from within the truth. They appear to have understood the purpose behind God’s work, when actually they have only mastered some words and doctrines. They do not understand the intended meaning of the truth; it is no different from studying theology or reading the Bible. You compile these books or those materials, and so people become in possession of this aspect of doctrine and that aspect of knowledge. They are first rate speakers of doctrines—but what happens when they are done speaking? They are incapable of experiencing, they have no understanding of God’s work, nor do they have any understanding of themselves. Ultimately, all they will have gained are formulas and rules, and they can talk about those few things but nothing else. If God did something new, would you be able to match up all the doctrines that you know with that? Those things of yours are just rules and you are just having people study theology, not allowing them to experience the word of God or the truth. Therefore, those books that you compile can bring others only into theology and knowledge, into new formulas, and into rules and conventions. They cannot bring people before God or allow them to understand the truth or God’s will. You are thinking that by raising those questions one after another, which you then answer and for which you write down outlines and summaries, brothers and sisters will find it easy to understand, and you think that apart from being easy to remember, these issues are clear at a glance, and that this is a great way of doing things. But what people are understanding is not the real intended meaning of the truth and does not match up with reality—it is just words and doctrines. So it would be better if you did not do these things at all. Doing this is leading people to understand and master knowledge. You bring others into the doctrines, into religion, and have them follow and believe in God within religious doctrines. Isn’t that being just like Paul? You think that mastering knowledge of the truth is particularly important, and so is learning by heart many passages of God’s words. But how people understand the word of God is not important at all. You think it is extremely important for people to be able to memorize many of God’s words, to be able to speak much doctrine and to discover many formulas within God’s words. Therefore, you always want to systematize these things so that everyone is singing from the same hymn sheet, saying the same things, and talking about the same doctrines, so they have the same knowledge and keep the same rules—this is your objective. Your doing this appears to be for the sake of people gaining understanding, when on the contrary you have no idea that this is bringing people into the midst of rules that are outside of God’s word the truth. To allow people to have a real understanding of the truth, you must link it up with reality and with the work, and solve practical problems according to God’s word the truth. Only in this way can people understand the truth and enter into reality, and only achieving such a result is really bringing people before God. If all you talk about are spiritual theories, doctrines, and rules, if you only put effort into the literal words, all you can achieve is getting people to say the same things and follow rules, but you will not be able to guide people to understand the truth. You will be particularly unable to have people better understand themselves, and achieve repentance and transformation. If being able to talk about spiritual theories could substitute for people’s entering the truth reality, then you would not be needed to lead the churches.

Excerpted from “Without the Truth, One Is Liable to Offend God” in Records of Christ’s Talks

People who do not understand or love the truth often take the truth as an interpretation, as theory—and what becomes of them? When they encounter an issue, after having believed in God for years, they cannot see it for what it really is, nor are they able to submit, or seek the truth; when people fellowship with them, they answer with their “famous words of wisdom”: “Save it—I understand everything. I was preaching before you could even walk!” These are their famous words. If they understand everything, why can they not handle it when they encounter an issue? If you understand it, why are you unable to put it into practice? Why does the issue trip you up, why do you get stuck on it? Do you understand or not? If you understand, why can you not obey? If you understand, why can you not accept it? What is the first thing people should do after understanding the truth? They should obey, and nothing else. Some people say, “I understand everything. No one should fellowship with me—I don’t need anyone’s help.” They can forgo the help of others, but it is a pity that, when they are weak, the doctrine they understand is totally useless, and they even stop performing their duty. Some do not even want to believe in God anymore. They spent all those years preaching theological theory, but they give up their faith and retreat at the drop of a hat. Is there stature in this? (No.) And no stature means no life. If you had life, why would you be unable to handle it when you encountered that minor issue? Are you not good at talking? So have a go at convincing yourself; if you cannot even convince yourself, so just what do you understand? Is it the truth? The truth can solve people’s real problems and can also solve people’s corrupt dispositions. Why can the “truths” you understand not even solve your own difficulties? So just what is it you understand? It is doctrine.

Excerpted from “For Leaders and Workers, Choosing a Path Is of Utmost Importance (7)” in Records of Christ’s Talks

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