God Himself, the Unique IV
God’s Holiness (I) (Part One)
We had some further fellowship about God’s authority during our last meeting. For now, we will not be discussing the topic of God’s righteousness. What we will be talking about today is an entirely new topic—God’s holiness. God’s holiness is yet another aspect of God’s unique essence, so it is crucial that we fellowship about this topic. I previously fellowshiped about two other aspects of God’s essence—God’s righteous disposition and God’s authority; are these aspects, and the aspect about which I will be fellowshiping today, all unique? (Yes.) God’s holiness is also unique, so the theme for our fellowship today will be what constitutes the basis and root of this uniqueness. Today we are going to fellowship about the unique essence of God—His holiness. Perhaps some of you have some misgivings, and are asking, “Why should we fellowship about God’s holiness?” Worry not, I will talk you through it slowly. Once you have heard what I have to say, you will know why it is so necessary for Me to fellowship about this topic.
First, let us define the word “holy.” Drawing on your perception and all the knowledge you have gained, what do you understand the definition of “holy” to be? (“Holy” means unstained, entirely without human corruption or flaws. Holiness radiates all things positive, whether in thought, speech or action.) Very good. (“Holy” is divine, untainted, unoffendable by man. It is unique, it is of God alone and it is His symbol.) This is your definition. In each person’s heart, this word “holy” has a scope, a definition and an interpretation. At the very least, when you see the word “holy,” your minds are not empty. You have a certain scope of definition for this word, and some people’s sayings come somewhat close to sayings that define the essence of God’s disposition. This is very good. Most people believe the word “holy” to be a positive one, and this is certainly true. But today, as we fellowship about the holiness of God, I will not merely be talking about definitions or explanations. Instead, I will present facts as proof to show you why I say God is holy, and why I use the word “holy” to describe the essence of God. By the time our fellowship is over, you will feel that the use of the word “holy” to define God’s essence and in reference to God is fully justified and most appropriate. At the very least, in the context of current human language, using this word to refer to God is particularly apt—it alone of all the words of human language is an entirely fitting way to refer to God. This word, when used to refer to God, is not an empty word, nor is it a term of groundless praise or empty flattery. The purpose of our fellowship is to allow every person to recognize the truth of this aspect of God’s essence. God does not fear man’s understanding, but He fears his misunderstanding. God wishes for every person to know His essence and what He has and is. So every time we mention an aspect of God’s essence, we can call on many facts to allow people to see that this aspect of God’s essence does indeed exist.
Now that we have a definition of the word “holy,” let us discuss some examples. In people’s notions, they imagine many things and people to be “holy.” For example, virgin boys and girls are defined as holy in mankind’s dictionaries. But are they actually holy? Are this so-called “holy” and the “holy” that we will fellowship about today one and the same? Those among men of sound morals, who have refined and cultured speech, who never hurt anyone, and who, by the words they speak, make others comfortable and agreeable—are they holy? Those who often do good, are charitable and provide great assistance to others, those who bring much enjoyment into people’s lives—are they holy? Those who harbor no self-serving thoughts, who place no harsh demands on anyone, who are tolerant of everyone—are they holy? Those who have never quarreled with or taken advantage of anyone—are they holy? And what of those who work for the good of others, who benefit others and bring edification to others in every way—are they holy? Those who give all their life savings away to others and live a simple life, who are strict with themselves but treat others liberally—are they holy? (No.) You all remember how your mothers cared for you and looked after you in every conceivable way—are they holy? The idols you hold dear, whether they be famous people, celebrities or great men—are they holy? (No.) Let us look now at those prophets in the Bible who were able to tell things about the future that were unknown to many people—were these people holy? The people who were able to recordand the facts of His work in the Bible—were they holy? Was Moses holy? Was Abraham holy? (No.) How about Job? Was he holy? (No.) Job was called a righteous man by God, so why is even he said to be not holy? Are people who fear God and shun evil really not holy? Are they or not? (No.) You are a little apprehensive, you are not sure of the answer, and you do not dare to say “No,” but neither do you dare to say “Yes,” so in the end you half-heartedly say “No.” Let Me ask another question. God’s messengers—the messengers God sends down to earth—are they holy? Are angels holy? (No.) Mankind uncorrupted by Satan—are they holy? (No.) You keep answering “No” to every question. On what basis? You are confused, are you not? So why are even angels said to be not holy? You feel apprehensive now, do you not? Can you work out on what basis the people, things or uncreated beings we mentioned previously are not holy? I am sure you are unable to. So isn’t your saying “No” then a little irresponsible? Are you not answering blindly? Some people are wondering: “Since You have phrased Your question in this way, the answer must certainly be ‘No.’” Do not give Me pat answers. Think carefully whether the answer is “Yes” or “No.” You will know why the answer is “No” once we have fellowshiped about the following topic. I will give you the answer shortly. First, let us read from the scriptures.
1. Jehovah God’s Command to Man
Gen 2:15–17 And Jehovah God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it. And Jehovah God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat: But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, you shall not eat of it: for in the day that you eat thereof you shall surely die.
2. The Serpent’s Seduction of the Woman
Gen 3:1–5 Now the serpent was more subtle than any beast of the field which Jehovah God had made. And he said to the woman, Yes, has God said, You shall not eat of every tree of the garden? And the woman said to the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden: But of the fruit of the tree which is in the middle of the garden, God has said, You shall not eat of it, neither shall you touch it, lest you die. And the serpent said to the woman, You shall not surely die: For God does know that in the day you eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and you shall be as God, knowing good and evil.
These two passages are excerpts from the book of Genesis in the Bible. Are you all familiar with these two passages? They relate events that happened at the beginning, when mankind was first created; these events were real. First let us look at what kind of command Jehovah God gave to Adam and Eve; the content of this command is very important for our topic today. “And Jehovah God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat: But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, you shall not eat of it: for in the day that you eat thereof you shall surely die.” What is the import of God’s command to man in this passage? Firstly, God tells man what he can eat, namely, the fruits of many kinds of trees. There is no danger and no poison; all can be eaten and eaten freely as man wishes, free from worry and doubt. This is one part of God’s command. The other part is a warning. In this warning, God tells man he must not eat the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. What will happen if he eats from this tree? God told man: If you eat from it you will surely die. Are these words not straightforward? If God told you this but you did not understand why, would you treat His words as a rule or an order to be obeyed? Such words should be obeyed, should they not? But whether or not man is able to obey, God’s words are unequivocal. God told man very clearly what he may eat and what he may not eat, and what will happen if he eats what he may not eat. In these brief words that God spoke, can you see anything of God’s disposition? Are these words of God true? Is there any deception? Is there any falsity? Is there any intimidation? (No.) God honestly, truthfully and sincerely told man what he may eat and what he may not eat. God spoke clearly and plainly. Is there any hidden meaning in these words? Are these words not straightforward? Is there any need for conjecture? There is no need for guesswork. Their meaning is obvious at a glance. Upon reading them, one feels entirely clear about their meaning. That is, what God wants to say and what He wants to express comes from His heart. The things God expresses are clean, straightforward and clear. There are no covert motives, nor any hidden meanings. He speaks to man directly, telling him what he may eat and what he may not eat. That is to say, through these words of God, man can see that God’s heart is transparent and true. There is no trace of falsehood here; it is not a case of telling you that you may not eat what is edible, or telling you “Do it and see what happens” with things that you cannot eat. This is not what God means. Whatever God thinks in His heart, that is what He says. If I say God is holy because He shows and reveals Himself within these words in this way, you may feel that I have made a mountain out of a molehill or that I have stretched a point a little too far. If so, do not worry; we are not yet finished.
Let us now talk about “The Serpent’s Seduction of the Woman.” Who is the serpent? Satan. It plays the role of the foil in God’s six-thousand-year management plan, and it is a role that we have to mention when we fellowship about the holiness of God. Why do I say this? If you do not know the evil and corruption of Satan, if you do not know of Satan’s nature, then you have no way to acknowledge holiness, and nor can you know what holiness really is. In confusion, people believe that what Satan does is right, because they live within this kind of corrupt disposition. With no foil, with no point of comparison, you cannot know what holiness is. That is why Satan must be mentioned here. Such mention is no empty talk. Through Satan’s words and deeds, we will see how Satan acts, how Satan corrupts mankind, and what is the nature and countenance of Satan. So what did the woman say to the serpent? The woman recounted to the serpent what Jehovah God had said to her. When she said these words, was she certain that what God had said to her was true? She could not be sure, could she? As someone who was newly created, she had no ability to discern good from evil, and nor did she have any cognition about anything around her. Judging by the words she spoke to the serpent, she was not sure in her heart that God’s words were right; such was her attitude. So when the serpent saw that the woman had an attitude of uncertainty toward God’s words, it said: “You shall not surely die: For God does know that in the day you eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and you shall be as God, knowing good and evil.” Is there anything problematic within these words? When you read this sentence, do you gain a sense of the serpent’s intentions? What are those intentions? It wanted to tempt this woman, to stop her from heeding God’s words. But it did not say these things directly. Thus, we can say that it is very cunning. It expresses its meaning in a sly and evasive way in order to reach its intended objective, which it keeps concealed within its mind, hidden from man—such is the serpent’s cunning. This has always been Satan’s way of speaking and acting. It says “not surely,” without confirming one way or the other. But upon hearing this, this ignorant woman’s heart was moved. The serpent was pleased, because its words had had the desired effect—such was the serpent’s cunning intention. Furthermore, by promising an outcome that seems desirable to humans, it seduced her, saying, “In the day you eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened.” So she ponders: “To have my eyes opened is a good thing!” And then it said something even more enticing, words never before known to man, words that wield a great power of temptation over those who hear them: “You shall be as God, knowing good and evil.” Are these words not powerfully seductive to man? It is like someone saying to you: “Your face is shaped wonderfully, except that the bridge of your nose is a little short. If you have that corrected, then you will be a world-class beauty!” Would these words move the heart of someone who had never previously harbored any desire to have cosmetic surgery? Are these words not seductive? Is this seduction not tempting to you? And is this not a temptation? (Yes.) Does God say things like this? Was there any hint of this in the words of God that we just now perused? Does God say what He thinks in His heart? Can man see God’s heart through His words? (Yes.) But when the serpent spoke those words to the woman, were you able to see its heart? No. And because of man’s ignorance, man was easily seduced by the serpent’s words and easily duped. So were you able to see Satan’s intentions? Were you able to see the purpose behind what Satan said? Were you able to see Satan’s plots and ruses? (No.) What kind of disposition is represented by Satan’s way of speaking? What kind of essence have you seen in Satan through these words? Is it not insidious? Perhaps on the surface it smiles at you, or perhaps it reveals no expression whatsoever. But in its heart it is calculating how to obtain its objective, and it is this objective that you are unable to see. All the promises it makes to you, all the advantages it describes, are the guise of its seduction. You see these things as good, so you feel that what it says is more useful, more substantial than what God says. When this happens, does man not then become a submissive prisoner? Is this strategy that Satan has used not diabolical? You allow yourself to sink into degeneracy. Without Satan having to move a finger, but merely by speaking these two sentences, you become happy to follow along with Satan, to comply with Satan. Thus, Satan’s objective has been attained. Is this intention not sinister? Is this not Satan’s most primal countenance? From Satan’s words, man can see its sinister motives, see its hideous countenance and see its essence. Is that not so? In comparing these sentences, without analysis you may perhaps feel as though Jehovah God’s words are dull, commonplace and banal, that they do not justify waxing lyrical here in praise of God’s honesty. However, when we take Satan’s words and Satan’s hideous countenance as a foil, do these words of God not carry significant weight for the people of today? (Yes.) Through this comparison, man can sense God’s pure flawlessness. Every word Satan says, as well as Satan’s motives, intentions and the way it speaks—they are all adulterated. What is the main feature of Satan’s way of speaking? Satan uses equivocation to seduce you, without letting you see through its duplicity, nor does it allow you to discern its objective; Satan lets you take the bait, but you also have to praise and sing its merits. Is this ploy not Satan’s habitual method of choice? (Yes.) Let us now look at what other words and expressions of Satan allow man to see its hideous countenance. Let us read some more from the scriptures.
3. Dialogue Between Satan and Jehovah God
Job 1:6–11 Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before Jehovah, and Satan came also among them. And Jehovah said to Satan, From where come you? Then Satan answered Jehovah, and said, From going to and fro in the earth, and from walking up and down in it. And Jehovah said to Satan, Have you considered My servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that fears God, and eschews evil? Then Satan answered Jehovah, and said, Does Job fear God for nothing? Have not You made an hedge about him, and about his house, and about all that he has on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his substance is increased in the land. But put forth Your hand now, and touch all that he has, and he will curse You to Your face.
Job 2:1–5 Again there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before Jehovah, and Satan came also among them to present himself before Jehovah. And Jehovah said to Satan, From where come you? And Satan answered Jehovah, and said, From going to and fro in the earth, and from walking up and down in it. And Jehovah said to Satan, Have you considered My servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that fears God, and eschews evil? and still he holds fast his integrity, although you moved Me against him, to destroy him without cause. And Satan answered Jehovah, and said, Skin for skin, yes, all that a man has will he give for his life. But put forth Your hand now, and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will curse You to Your face.
These two passages consist entirely of a dialogue between God and Satan; they record what God said and what Satan said. God did not speak much, and He spoke very simply. Can we see the holiness of God within His simple words? Some will say this is not easily done. So can we see the hideousness of Satan in its replies? Let us first look at what kind of question Jehovah God asked of Satan. “From where come you?” Isn’t this a straightforward question? Is there any hidden meaning? No; it is just a straightforward question. If I were to ask you: “Where do you come from?” how then would you answer? Is it a difficult question to answer? Would you say: “From going to and fro, and from walking up and down”? (No.) You would not answer like this. So, how then do you feel when you see Satan answering in this way? (We feel that Satan is being absurd, but also deceitful.) Can you tell what I am feeling? Every time I see these words of Satan, I feel disgusted, because Satan talks, and yet its words contain no substance. Did Satan answer God’s question? No, the words Satan spoke were not an answer, they did not yield anything. They were not an answer to God’s question. “From going to and fro in the earth, and from walking up and down in it.” What is your understanding of these words? Just where does Satan come from? Have you received an answer to this question? (No.) This is the “genius” of Satan’s cunning schemes—not letting anyone discover what it is actually saying. Having heard these words you still cannot discern what it has said, even though it has finished answering. Yet Satan believes it has answered perfectly. How then do you feel? Disgusted? (Yes.) Now you begin to feel disgust in response to these words. Satan’s words have a certain characteristic: What Satan says leaves you scratching your head, unable to perceive the source of its words. Sometimes Satan has motives and speaks deliberately, and sometimes governed by its nature, such words emerge spontaneously, and come straight out of Satan’s mouth. Satan does not spend a long time weighing such words; rather, they are expressed without thinking. When God asked where it came from, Satan answered with a few ambiguous words. You feel very puzzled, never knowing exactly where Satan is from. Are there any among you who speak like this? What kind of way is this to speak? (It is ambiguous and does not give a certain answer.) What kind of words should we use to describe this way of speaking? It is diversionary and misleading, is it not? Suppose someone does not want to let others know what they did yesterday. You ask them: “I saw you yesterday. Where were you going?” They do not tell you directly where they went. Rather, they say: “What a day it was yesterday. It was so tiring!” Did they answer your question? They did, but they did not give the answer you wanted. This is the “genius” within the artifice of man’s speech. You can never discover what they mean, nor perceive the source or intention of their words. You do not know what they are trying to avoid because in their heart they have their own story—this is insidious. Are there any among you who also often speak in this way? (Yes.) What then is your purpose? Is it sometimes to protect your own interests, sometimes to maintain your own pride, position, and image, to protect the secrets of your private life? Whatever the purpose, it is inseparable from your interests, linked to your interests. Is this not the nature of man? All who have such a nature are closely related to Satan, if not its family. We can put it like this, can we not? Generally speaking, this manifestation is detestable and abhorrent. You also now feel disgusted, do you not? (Yes.)
Looking again at the first passage, Satan responds again to Jehovah’s question, saying: “Does Job fear God for nothing?” Satan is opening an attack on Jehovah’s assessment of Job, and this attack is colored by hostility. “Have not You made an hedge about him, and about his house, and about all that he has on every side?” This is Satan’s understanding and assessment of Jehovah’s work on Job. Satan assesses it like this, saying: “You have blessed the work of his hands, and his substance is increased in the land. But put forth Your hand now, and touch all that he has, and he will curse You to Your face.” Satan always speaks ambiguously, but here it speaks in certain terms. However, these words, though they are spoken in certain terms, are an attack, a blasphemy and an act of defiance to Jehovah God, to God Himself. How do you feel when you hear these words? Do you feel aversion? Are you able to see through to Satan’s intentions? First of all, Satan repudiates Jehovah’s assessment of Job—a man who fears God and shuns evil. Then Satan repudiates everything Job says and does, that is, it repudiates his fear of Jehovah. Is this not accusatory? Satan is accusing, repudiating and doubting all Jehovah does and says. It does not believe, saying, “If You say things are like this, then how is it that I have not seen it? You have given him so many blessings, so how can he not fear You?” Is this not a repudiation of all that God does? Accusation, repudiation, blasphemy—are Satan’s words not an assault? Are they not a true expression of what Satan thinks in its heart? These words are certainly not the same as the words we read just now: “From going to and fro in the earth, and from walking up and down in it.” They are completely different. Through these words, Satan completely lays bare the contents of its heart—its attitude toward God and its loathing of Job’s fear of God. When this happens, its malice and evil nature are completely exposed. It loathes those who fear God, loathes those who shun evil, and even more so loathes Jehovah for bestowing blessings on man. It wants to use this opportunity to destroy Job, whom God raised with His own hand, to ruin him, saying: “You say Job fears You and shuns evil. I see it differently.” It uses various ways to provoke and tempt Jehovah, and uses various ploys so that Jehovah God hands Job over to Satan to be wantonly manipulated, harmed and mishandled. It wants to take advantage of this opportunity to destroy this man who is righteous and perfect in God’s eyes. Is it just a momentary impulse that causes Satan to have this kind of heart? No, it is not. It has been long in the making. God does His work, God cares for a person, looks upon this person, and all the while Satan dogs His every step. Whomever God favors, Satan also watches, trailing along behind. If God wants this person, Satan would do everything in its power to obstruct God, using various evil ploys to tempt, disrupt and wreck the work God does, all in order to achieve its hidden objective. What is this objective? It does not want God to gain anyone; all those that God wants it wants for itself, it wants to occupy them, control them, to take charge of them so they worship it, so they join it in committing evil acts. Is this not Satan’s sinister motive? You often say that Satan is so evil, so bad, but have you seen it? You can only see how bad man is. You have not seen in reality how bad Satan actually is. But have you seen Satan’s evil in this issue concerning Job? (Yes.) This issue has made Satan’s hideous countenance and essence very clear. In warring with God, and trailing along behind Him, Satan’s objective is to demolish all the work God wants to do, to occupy and control those whom God wants to gain, to completely extinguish those whom God wants to gain. If they are not extinguished, then they come to Satan’s possession, to be used by it—this is its objective. And what does God do? God says only a simple sentence in this passage; there is no record of anything more that God does, but we see there are many more records of what Satan does and says. In the following passage of scripture, Jehovah asks Satan, “From where come you?” What is Satan’s answer? (It is still “From going to and fro in the earth, and from walking up and down in it.”) It is still that same sentence. This has become Satan’s motto, Satan’s calling card. How is this so? Is Satan not hateful? Surely it is enough to utter this disgusting sentence just once. Why does Satan keep repeating it? This proves one thing: Satan’s nature is unchanging. Satan cannot use pretense to conceal its ugly face. God asks it a question and this is how it responds. Since this is so, imagine then how it must treat humans! Satan is not afraid of God, does not fear God, and does not obey God. So it dares to be wantonly presumptuous before God, to use these same words to brush off God’s question, to repeatedly use this same answer to God’s question, to attempt to use this answer to confound God—this is the ugly face of Satan. It does not believe in the almightiness of God, does not believe in the authority of God, and is certainly not willing to submit to the dominion of God. It is constantly in opposition to God, constantly attacking all that God does, attempting to wreck all that God does—this is its evil objective.
As recorded in the Book of Job, these two passages of speech uttered by Satan and the things Satan did are representative of its resistance to God in His six-thousand-year management plan—here, Satan’s true colors are revealed. Have you seen Satan’s words and deeds in real life? When you do see them, you may not think them to be things spoken by Satan, but instead think them to be things spoken by man. What is represented, when such things are spoken by man? Satan is represented. Even if you recognize it, you still cannot perceive that it is really being spoken by Satan. But here and now you have unequivocally seen what Satan itself has said. You now have an unequivocal, crystal-clear understanding of the hideous countenance and the evil of Satan. So are these two passages spoken by Satan of value in helping people today to gain knowledge about Satan’s nature? Are these two passages worth carefully retaining in order for mankind today to be able to recognize Satan’s hideous face, to recognize Satan’s original, true face? Although this may not seem like an appropriate thing to say, these words, expressed thus, can nonetheless be considered accurate. Indeed, this is the only way that I can express this idea, and if you can understand it, then that is enough. Again and again, Satan attacks the things Jehovah does, throwing out accusations about Job’s fear of Jehovah God. Satan attempts to provoke Jehovah by various methods, trying to get Jehovah to condone its temptation of Job. Its words therefore have a highly provocative nature. So tell Me, once Satan has spoken these words, can God clearly see what Satan wants to do? (Yes.) In God’s heart, this man Job that God looks upon—this servant of God, that God takes to be a righteous man, a perfect man—can he withstand this kind of temptation? (Yes.) Why is God so certain about that? Is God always examining the heart of man? (Yes.) So is Satan able to examine the heart of man? Satan cannot. Even if Satan could see your heart, its evil nature would never let it believe that holiness is holiness, or that sordidness is sordidness. The evil Satan can never treasure anything that is holy, righteous or bright. Satan cannot help tirelessly acting in accordance with its nature, its evil, and through its habitual methods. Even at the cost of itself being punished or destroyed by God, it does not hesitate to stubbornly oppose God—this is evil, this is the nature of Satan. So in this passage, Satan says: “Skin for skin, yes, all that a man has will he give for his life. But put forth Your hand now, and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will curse You to Your face.” Satan thinks that man’s fear of God is due to man having obtained so many advantages from God. Man obtains advantages from God, so he says God is good. But it is not because God is good, it is only because man obtains so many advantages that he can fear God in this way. Once God deprives him of these advantages, he then abandons God. In Satan’s evil nature, it does not believe that man’s heart can truly fear God. Because of its evil nature, it does not know what holiness is, much less what fearful reverence is. It does not know what it is to obey God or what it is to fear God. Because it does not know these things, it thinks that man cannot fear God either. Tell Me, is Satan not evil? Excepting our church, none of the various religions and denominations, or religious and social groups, believe in the existence of God, much less do they believe that God has become flesh and is doing the work of judgment, so they think that what you believe in is not God. A promiscuous man looks around him and sees everyone else as promiscuous, just as he is. A mendacious man looks around and sees only dishonesty and lies. An evil man sees everyone else as evil and wants to fight everyone he sees. Those with a measure of honesty see everyone else as honest, so they are always duped, always cheated, and there is nothing they can do about it. I give these few examples to fortify you in your conviction: Satan’s evil nature is not a fleeting compulsion or determined by circumstances, nor is it a temporary manifestation arising from any reason or contextual factors. Absolutely not! Satan just cannot help but be this way! It can do nothing good. Even when it says something pleasant to hear, it is just to seduce you. The more pleasant, the more tactful, the more gentle its words are, the more malicious the sinister intentions behind these words. What kind of face, what kind of nature does Satan show in these two passages? (Insidious, malicious and evil.) Satan’s primary characteristic is evil; above all else, Satan is evil and malicious.