God’s Work, God’s Disposition, and God Himself III (Part Two)
We just talked about all the work that God did, the series of unprecedented works that He carried out. Every one of these things is relevant to God’s management plan, and to God’s will. They are also relevant to the disposition of God Himself and His essence. If we want to understand more of what God has and is, we cannot stop at the Old Testament or at the Age of Law—we need to continue onward, following along with the steps God took in His work. So, as God ended the Age of Law and began the Age of Grace, let our own footsteps follow behind, into the Age of Grace—an age full of grace and redemption. In this age, God again did something very important that had never before been done. The work in this new age for both God and mankind was a new starting point—a starting point that consisted of yet another new work done by God that had never been done before. This new work was unprecedented, something beyond the powers of imagination of humans and all creatures. It is something that is now well known to all people—for the first time, God became a human being, and for the first time He began new work in the form of a man, with the identity of a man. This new work signified that God had completed His work in the Age of Law, and that He would no longer do or say anything under the law. Neither would He say or do anything in the form of the law or according to the principles or rules of the law. That is, all His work based on the law was halted forever and would not be continued, because God wanted to begin new work and do new things. His plan once again had a new starting point, and so God had to lead mankind into the next age.
Whether this was joyful or ominous news to humans depended on the essence of each individual person. It could be said that to some people this was not joyful news, but ominous, because when God began His new work, those people who just followed the laws and rules, who just followed the doctrines but did not fear God, tended to use God’s old work to condemn His new work. For these people, this was ominous news; but for every person who was innocent and open, who was sincere to God and willing to receive His redemption, God’s first incarnation was very joyful news. For, ever since humans first were brought into existence, this was the first time God had appeared and lived among mankind in a form that was not the Spirit; this time, He was born of a human and lived among people as the Son of man, and worked in their midst. This “first” broke down people’s notions; it was beyond all imagination. Moreover, all of God’s followers gained a tangible benefit. God not only ended the old age, but He also ended His old working methods and working style. He no longer asked His messengers to convey His will, He was no longer hidden in the clouds, and no longer appeared or spoke to humans commandingly through thunder. Unlike anything before, through a method unimaginable to humans that was difficult for them to understand or accept—becoming flesh—He became the Son of man in order to begin the work of that age. This act of God caught mankind totally unprepared; it made them embarrassed, because God had once again started new work that He had never done before. Today, we will take a look at what new work God accomplished in the new age, and we will consider what there is for us to learn about from this new work in terms of God’s disposition and what He has and is.
The following are words recorded in the New Testament of the Bible:
1. Mat 12:1 At that time Jesus went on the sabbath day through the corn; and His disciples were an hungered, and began to pluck the ears of corn and to eat.
2. Mat 12:6–8 But I say to you, That in this place is one greater than the temple. But if you had known what this means, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice, you would not have condemned the guiltless. For the Son of man is Lord even of the sabbath day.
Let us first take a look at this passage: “At that time Jesus went on the sabbath day through the corn; and His disciples were an hungered, and began to pluck the ears of corn and to eat.”
Why have I selected this passage? What connection does it have to God’s disposition? In this text, the first thing we know is that it was the Sabbath day, but thewent out and led His disciples through the corn fields. What is even more “treacherous” is that they even “began to pluck the ears of corn and to eat.” In the Age of Law, Jehovah God’s law stipulated that people could not casually go out or take part in activities on the Sabbath—there were many things that could not be done on the Sabbath. This action on the part of the Lord Jesus was puzzling for those who had lived under the law for a long time, and it even provoked criticism. As for their confusion and how they talked about what Jesus did, we will put that aside for now and first discuss why the Lord Jesus chose to do this on the Sabbath, of all days, and what He wanted to communicate to people who were living under the law through this action. This is the connection between this passage and God’s disposition that I want to talk about.
When the Lord Jesus came, He used His practical actions to tell the people that God had departed the Age of Law and had begun new work, and that this new work did not require the observation of the Sabbath. God’s coming out from the confines of the Sabbath day was just a foretaste of His new work; the real and great work was still to come. When the Lord Jesus began His work, He had already left behind the “shackles” of the Age of Law, and had broken through the regulations and principles of that age. In Him, there was no trace of anything related to the law; He had cast it off entirely and no longer observed it, and He no longer required mankind to observe it. So here you see the Lord Jesus went through the corn fields on the Sabbath, and that the Lord did not rest; He was outside working, and not resting. This action of His was a shock to people’s notions and it communicated to them that He no longer lived under the law, and that He had left the confines of the Sabbath and appeared before mankind and in their midst in a new image, with a new way of working. This action of His told people that He had brought with Him new work, work that began with emerging from being under the law, and departing from the Sabbath. When God carried out His new work, He no longer clung to the past, and He was no longer concerned about the regulations of the Age of Law. Neither was He affected by His work in the previous age, but instead worked on the Sabbath just as He did on every other day, and when His disciples were hungry on the Sabbath, they could pick ears of corn to eat. This was all very normal in God’s eyes. For God, it is permissible to have a new beginning for much of the new work He wants to do and the new words He wants to say. When He begins something new, He neither mentions His previous work nor continues to carry it out. Because God has His principles in His work, when He wants to begin new work, it is when He wants to bring mankind into a new stage of His work, and when His work will enter a higher phase. If people continue to act according to the old sayings or regulations or continue to hold fast to them, He will not remember or approve that. This is because He has already brought new work, and has entered a new phase of His work. When He initiates new work, He appears to mankind with a completely new image, from a completely new angle, and in a completely new way so that people can see different aspects of His disposition and what He has and is. This is one of His goals in His new work. God does not cling to old things or walk the well-trodden path; when He works and speaks, He is not as prohibitive as people imagine. In God, all is free and liberated, and there is no prohibition, no constraints—what He brings to mankind is freedom and liberation. He is a living God, a God who genuinely, truly exists. He is not a puppet or a clay figure, and He is totally different from the idols that people enshrine and worship. He is living and vibrant, and what His words and work bring to mankind is all life and light, all freedom and liberation, because He holds the truth, the life, and the way—He is not constrained by anything in any of His work. No matter what people say and no matter how they see or assess His new work, He will carry out His work without a qualm. He will not worry about anyone’s notions or finger-pointing as concerns His work and words, or even their strong opposition and resistance to His new work. No one among all of creation can use human reason, or human imagination, knowledge, or morality to measure or define what God does, to discredit, disrupt or sabotage His work. There is no prohibition in His work and what He does; it will not be constrained by any man, event, or thing, nor will it be disrupted by any hostile forces. As far as His new work is concerned, He is an ever-victorious King, and any hostile forces and all the heresies and fallacies of mankind are trampled under His footstool. No matter which new stage of His work He is carrying out, it will surely be developed and expanded in mankind’s midst, and it will surely be carried out unhindered throughout the entire universe until His great work has been completed. This is God’s almightiness and wisdom, His authority and power. Thus, the Lord Jesus could openly go out and work on the Sabbath because in His heart there were no rules, no knowledge or doctrine that originated from mankind. What He had was God’s new work and God’s way. His work was the way to free mankind, to release people, to allow them to exist in the light and to live. Meanwhile, those who worship idols or false gods live every day bound by Satan, restrained by all kinds of rules and taboos—today one thing is prohibited, tomorrow another—there is no freedom in their lives. They are like prisoners in shackles, living life with no joy to speak of. What does “prohibition” represent? It represents constraints, bonds, and evil. As soon as a person worships an idol, they are worshiping a false god, an evil spirit. Prohibition comes along when such activities are engaged in. You cannot eat this or that, today you cannot go out, tomorrow you cannot cook, the next day you cannot move to a new house, certain days must be selected for weddings and funerals and even for giving birth to a child. What is this called? This is called prohibition; it is the bondage of mankind, and it is the shackles of Satan and evil spirits controlling people and restraining their hearts and bodies. Do these prohibitions exist with God? When speaking of the holiness of God, you should first think of this: With God there are no prohibitions. God has principles in His words and work, but there are no prohibitions, because God Himself is the truth, the way, and the life.
Now let us look at the following passage from the scriptures: “But I say to you, That in this place is one greater than the temple. But if you had known what this means, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice, you would not have condemned the guiltless. For the Son of man is Lord even of the sabbath day” (Mat 12:6–8). What does the word “temple” refer to here? To put it simply, it refers to a magnificent, tall building, and in the Age of Law, the temple was a place for priests to. When the Lord Jesus said “in this place is one greater than the temple,” who did “one” refer to? Clearly, the “one” is the Lord Jesus in the flesh, because only He was greater than the temple. What did those words tell people? They told people to come out of the temple—God had already left the temple and was no longer working in it, so people should seek God’s footsteps outside of the temple and follow His steps in His new work. When the Lord Jesus said this, there was a premise behind His words, which was that under the law, people had come to see the temple as something greater than God Himself. That is, people worshiped the temple rather than worshiping God, so the Lord Jesus warned them not to worship idols, but to instead worship God, for He is supreme. Thus, He said: “I will have mercy, and not sacrifice.” It is evident that in the eyes of the Lord Jesus, most people living under the law no longer worshiped Jehovah, but were merely going through the motions of sacrificing, and the Lord Jesus determined that this constituted idol worship. These idol-worshipers saw the temple as something greater and higher than God. In their hearts there was only the temple, not God, and if they were to lose the temple, then they would lose their dwelling place. Without the temple they had nowhere to worship and could not carry out their sacrifices. Their so-called “dwelling place” is where they used the false pretense of worshiping Jehovah God in order to stay in the temple and carry out their own affairs. Their so-called “sacrificing” was just them carrying out their own personal shameful dealings under the guise of conducting their service in the temple. This was the reason people at that time saw the temple as greater than God. The Lord Jesus spoke these words as a warning to people, because they were using the temple as a front, and sacrifices as a cover for cheating people and cheating God. If you apply these words to the present, they are still equally valid and equally pertinent. Although people today have experienced different work of God than the people in the Age of Law experienced, their nature and essence are the same. In the context of the work today, people will still do the same type of things as are represented by the words, “the temple is greater than God.” For example, people see fulfilling their duty as their job; they see bearing witness to God and battling the great red dragon as political movements in defense of human rights, for democracy and freedom; they turn their duty to utilize their skills into careers, but they treat fearing God and shunning evil as nothing but a piece of religious doctrine to observe; and so on. Are not these behaviors essentially the same as “the temple is greater than God”? The difference is that, two thousand years ago, people were carrying out their personal business in the physical temple, but today, people carry out their personal business in intangible temples. Those people that value rules see rules as greater than God, those people that love status see status as greater than God, those that love their career see careers as greater than God, and so on—all their expressions lead Me to say: “People praise God as the greatest through their words, but in their eyes everything is greater than God.” This is because as soon as people find an opportunity along their path of following God to display their own talents, or to carry out their own business or their own career, they distance themselves from God and throw themselves into their beloved career. As for what God has entrusted to them, and His will, those things have long since been discarded. What is the difference between the state of these people and those who conducted their own business in the temple two thousand years ago?
Next, let us take a look at the last sentence in this passage: “For the Son of man is Lord even of the sabbath day.” Is there a practical side to this sentence? Can you see the practical side? Every single thing that God says comes from His heart, so why did He say this? How do you understand it? You may understand the meaning of this sentence now, but at the time when it was spoken not many people did because mankind had just come out of the Age of Law. For them, departing from the Sabbath was a very difficult thing to do, not to mention understanding what a true Sabbath is.
The sentence “the Son of man is Lord even of the sabbath day” tells people that everything about God is not of a material nature, and although God can provide for all of your material needs, once all of your material needs have been met, can the satisfaction from these things replace your pursuit of truth? That is clearly not possible! God’s disposition and what He has and is, which we have fellowshiped about, are both the truth. Its value cannot be measured against any material objects, no matter how valuable, nor can its value be quantified in terms of money, because it is not a material object, and it supplies the needs of each and every person’s heart. For every person, the value of these intangible truths should be greater than the value of any material things that you might value, should they not? This statement is something you need to linger over. The key point of what I have said is that what God has and is and everything about God are the most important things for every single person and cannot be replaced by any material object. I will give you an example: When you are hungry, you need food. This food can be more or less good or more or less unsatisfactory, but as long as you have your fill, that unpleasant feeling of being hungry will no longer be there—it will be gone. You can sit in peace, and your body will be at rest. People’s hunger can be resolved with food, but when you are following God and feel that you have no understanding of Him, how can you resolve the emptiness in your heart? Can it be resolved with food? Or when you are following God and do not understand His will, what can you use to make up for that hunger in your heart? In the process of your experience of salvation through God, while pursuing a change in your disposition, if you do not understand His will or do not know what the truth is, if you do not understand God’s disposition, then will you not feel very uneasy? Will you not feel a strong hunger and thirst in your heart? Will these feelings not prevent you from feeling at rest in your heart? So how can you make up for that hunger in your heart—is there a way to resolve it? Some people go shopping, some seek out their friends to confide in, some people indulge in a long sleep, others read more of, or they work harder and expend more effort to fulfill their duties. Can these things resolve your actual difficulties? All of you fully understand these kinds of practices. When you feel powerless, when you feel a strong desire to gain enlightenment from God to allow you to know the reality of the truth and His will, what do you need most? What you need is not a full meal, and it is not a few kind words, let alone the transient comfort and satisfaction of the flesh—what you need is for God to directly and clearly tell you what you should do and how you should do it, to clearly tell you what the truth is. After you have understood this, even if you gain only a tiny bit of understanding, will you not feel more satisfied in your heart than if you had eaten a good meal? When your heart is satisfied, does not your heart and your entire being gain true rest? Through this analogy and analysis, do you understand now why I wanted to share with you this sentence, “the Son of man is Lord even of the sabbath day”? Its meaning is that what comes from God, what He has and is, and everything about Him, are greater than any other thing, including the thing or the person you once believed you treasured most. That is to say, if a person cannot gain words from the mouth of God or they do not understand His will, they cannot gain rest. In your future experiences, you will understand why I wanted you to see this passage today—this is very important. Everything that God does is truth and life. The truth is something that people cannot lack in their lives, and it is something they can never do without; you could also say that it is the greatest thing. Although you cannot look at it or touch it, its importance to you cannot be ignored; it is the only thing that can bring rest to your heart.
Is your understanding of truth integrated with your own states? In real life, you first have to think of which truths relate to the people, events, and things you have encountered; it is among these truths that you can find God’s will and connect what you have encountered with His will. If you do not know which aspects of the truth relate to the things you have encountered but instead go directly to seek God’s will, this is a blind approach which cannot achieve results. If you want to seek the truth and understand God’s will, first you need to look at what kind of things have happened to you, which aspects of the truth they are related to, and look for the specific truth in the word of God that relates to what you have experienced. Then you look for the path of practice that is right for you in that truth; in this way you can gain an indirect understanding of God’s will. Searching for and practicing the truth is not mechanically applying a doctrine or following a formula. The truth is not formulaic, neither is it a law. It is not dead—it is life itself, it is a living thing, and it is the rule that a created being must follow in life and the rule a human must have in life. This is something that you must, as much as possible, understand through experience. No matter what stage you have arrived at in your experience, you are inseparable from God’s word or the truth, and what you understand of God’s disposition and what you know of what God has and is are all expressed in God’s words; they are inextricably linked with the truth. God’s disposition and what He has and is are, in themselves, the truth; the truth is an authentic manifestation of God’s disposition and what He has and is. It makes what He has and is concrete, and it makes a clear statement of what He has and is; it tells you more straightforwardly what God likes, what He does not like, what He wants you to do and what He does not permit you to do, which people He despises and which people He delights in. Behind the truths that God expresses, people can see His pleasure, anger, sorrow, and happiness, as well as His essence—this is the revealing of His disposition. Aside from knowing what God has and is, and understanding His disposition from His word, what is most important is the need to reach this understanding through practical experience. If a person removes themselves from real life in order to know God, they will not be able to achieve that. Even if there are people who can gain some understanding from the word of God, their understanding is limited to theories and words, and there arises a disparity with what God Himself is really like.
What we are communicating about now is all within the scope of the stories recorded in the Bible. Through these stories, and through analyzing these things that happened, people can understand His disposition and what He has and is that He has expressed, allowing them to know every aspect of God more broadly, more deeply, more comprehensively, and more thoroughly. So, is the only way to know every aspect of God through these stories? No, it is not the only way! For what God says and the work He does in the Age of Kingdom can better help people know His disposition, and know it more fully. However, I think it is a bit easier to know God’s disposition and to understand what He has and is through some examples or stories recorded in the Bible that people are familiar with. If I take the words of judgment and chastisement and the truths that God expresses today, word for word, to enable you to know Him in this way, you will feel it is too dull and too tedious, and some people will even feel that God’s words seem to be formulaic. But if I take these Bible stories as examples to help people know God’s disposition, they will not find it boring. You could say that in the course of explaining these examples, the details of what was in God’s heart at the time—His mood or sentiment, or His thoughts and ideas—have been told to people in human language, and the goal of all this is to allow them to appreciate, to feel that what God has and is is not formulaic. It is not a legend, or something that people cannot see or touch. It is something that truly exists, that people can feel and appreciate. This is the ultimate goal. You could say that people living in this age are blessed. They can draw on Bible stories to gain a broader understanding of God’s previous work; they can see His disposition through the work that He has done; they can understand God’s will for mankind through these dispositions that He has expressed, and understand the concrete manifestations of His holiness and His care for humans, and in this way they can reach a more detailed and deeper knowledge of God’s disposition. I believe that all of you can now feel this!
Within the scope of the work that the Lord Jesus completed in the Age of Grace, you can see another aspect of what God has and is. This aspect was expressed through His flesh, and people were able to see and appreciate it because of His humanity. In the Son of man, people saw how God in the flesh lived out His humanity, and they saw God’s divinity expressed through the flesh. These two types of expression allowed people to see a very real God, and they allowed people to form a different concept of God. However, during the period of time between the creation of the world and the end of the Age of Law, that is, before the Age of Grace, the only aspects of God that were seen, heard, and experienced by the people were God’s divinity, the things that God did and said in a non-material realm, and the things that He expressed from His real person that could not be seen or touched. Often, these things made people feel that God was so towering in His greatness that they could not get close to Him. The impression God usually gave people was that He flickered in and out of their ability to perceive Him, and people even felt that every single one of His thoughts and ideas was so mysterious and so elusive that there was no way to reach them, much less even attempt to understand and appreciate them. For people, everything about God was very distant, so distant that people could not see it, could not touch it. He seemed to be high up in the sky, and seemed not to exist at all. So for people, understanding God’s heart and mind or any of His thinking was unachievable, and even beyond their reach. Even though God performed some concrete work in the Age of Law, and He also issued some specific words and expressed some specific dispositions to allow people to appreciate and to perceive some real knowledge about Him, yet in the end, these expressions of what God has and is came from a non-material realm, and what people understood, what they knew was still about the divine aspect of what He has and is. Mankind could not gain a concrete concept from this expression of what He has and is, and their impression of God was still stuck within the scope of “a spiritual body that is hard to get close to, that flickers in and out of perception.” Because God did not use a specific object or an image belonging to the material realm to appear before people, they remained unable to define Him using human language. In people’s hearts and minds, they always wanted to use their own language to establish a standard for God, to make Him tangible and to humanize Him, such as how tall He is, how big He is, what He looks like, what exactly He likes and what His personality is. Actually, in His heart God knew that people were thinking this way. He was very clear on people’s needs, and of course He also knew what He should do, so He carried out His work in a different way in the Age of Grace. This new way was both divine and humanized. In the period of time that the Lord Jesus was working, people could see that God had many human expressions. For example, He could dance, He could attend weddings, He could commune with people, speak with them, and discuss things with them. In addition to that, the Lord Jesus also completed a lot of work that represented His divinity, and of course all of this work was an expression and a revelation of God’s disposition. During this time, when God’s divinity was realized in ordinary flesh in a way that people could see and touch, they no longer felt that He was flickering in and out of perception or that they could not get close to Him. On the contrary, they could try to grasp the will of God or understand His divinity through every movement, through the words, and through the work of the Son of man. The incarnate Son of man expressed God’s divinity through His humanity and conveyed the will of God to mankind. And through His expression of God’s will and disposition, He also revealed to people the God that cannot be seen or touched who dwells in the spiritual realm. What people saw was God Himself in tangible form, made of flesh and blood. So the incarnate Son of man made things such as the identity of God Himself, God’s status, image, disposition, and what He has and is, concrete and humanized. Even though the external appearance of the Son of man had some limitations regarding the image of God, His essence and what He has and is were entirely able to represent the identity and status of God Himself—there were merely some differences in the form of expression. We cannot deny that the Son of man represented the identity and status of God Himself, both in the form of His humanity and in His divinity. During this time, however, God worked through the flesh, spoke from the perspective of the flesh, and stood before mankind with the identity and status of the Son of man, and this gave people the opportunity to encounter and experience the true words and work of God among mankind. It also allowed people insight into His divinity and His greatness in the midst of humility, as well as to gain a preliminary understanding and definition of the authenticity and reality of God. Even though the work completed by the Lord Jesus, His ways of working, and the perspective from which He spoke differed from God’s real person in the spiritual realm, everything about Him truly represented God Himself, whom mankind had never seen before—this cannot be denied! That is to say, no matter in what form God appears, no matter from which perspective He speaks, or in what image He faces mankind, God represents nothing but Himself. He can represent neither any one human, nor any of corrupted mankind. God is God Himself, and this cannot be denied.
Next, we will take a look at a parable told by the Lord Jesus in the Age of Grace.
3. The Parable of the Lost Sheep
Mat 18:12–14 How think you? if a man have an hundred sheep, and one of them be gone astray, does he not leave the ninety and nine, and goes into the mountains, and seeks that which is gone astray? And if so be that he find it, truly I say to you, he rejoices more of that sheep, than of the ninety and nine which went not astray. Even so it is not the will of your Father which is in heaven, that one of these little ones should perish.
This passage is a parable—what kind of feeling does it give to people? The way of expression—the parable—used here is a figure of speech in human language, and as such it belongs within the scope of human knowledge. If God had said something similar in the Age of Law, people would have felt that such words were not truly consistent with who God was, but when the Son of man delivered these words in the Age of Grace, it felt comforting, warm, and intimate to people. When God became flesh, when He appeared in the form of a man, He used a very appropriate parable that came from His own humanity, in order to express the voice of His heart. This voice represented God’s own voice and the work He wanted to do in that age. It also represented an attitude that God had toward people in the Age of Grace. Looking from the perspective of God’s attitude toward people, He compared each person to a sheep. If a sheep was lost, He would do whatever it took to find it. This represented a principle of God’s work at that time among mankind, when He was in the flesh. God used this parable to describe His resolve and attitude in that work. This was the advantage of God becoming flesh: He could take advantage of mankind’s knowledge and use human language to speak to people, and to express His will. He explained or “translated” to man His profound, divine language that people struggled to understand in human language, in a human way. This helped people understand His will and know what He wanted to do. He could also have conversations with people from the human perspective, using human language, and communicate with people in a way they understood. He could even speak and work using human language and knowledge so that people could feel God’s kindness and closeness, so that they could see His heart. What do you see in this? Is there any prohibition in God’s words and actions? The way people see it, there is no way that God could use human knowledge, language, or ways of speaking to talk about what God Himself wanted to say, the work He wanted to do, or to express His own will. But this is erroneous thinking. God used this type of parable so that people could feel the realness and the sincerity of God, and see His attitude toward people during that time period. This parable awakened people who had been living under the law for a long time from a dream, and it also inspired generation after generation of people who lived in the Age of Grace. By reading the passage of this parable, people know God’s sincerity in saving mankind and understand the weight and importance accorded to mankind in God’s heart.
Let us take a look at the last sentence in this passage: “Even so it is not the will of your Father which is in heaven, that one of these little ones should perish.” Was this the Lord Jesus’ own words, or the words of the Father in heaven? On the surface, it looks like it is the Lord Jesus who is speaking, but His will represents the will of God Himself, which is why He said: “Even so it is not the will of your Father which is in heaven, that one of these little ones should perish.” People at that time only acknowledged the Father in heaven as God, and believed that this person whom they saw in front of their eyes was merely sent by Him, and could not represent the Father in heaven. That is why the Lord Jesus had to add this sentence to the end of this parable, so that people could really feel God’s will for mankind and feel the authenticity and the accuracy of what He said. Even though this sentence was a simple thing to say, it was spoken with care and love and revealed the Lord Jesus’ humility and hiddenness. No matter whether God became flesh or whether He worked in the spiritual realm, He knew the human heart best, and best understood what people needed, knew what people worried about, and what confused them, and that is why He added this sentence. This sentence highlighted a problem hidden in mankind: People were skeptical of what the Son of man said, which is to say, when the Lord Jesus was speaking He had to add: “Even so it is not the will of your Father which is in heaven, that one of these little ones should perish,” and only on this premise could His words bear fruit, to make people believe their accuracy and improve their credibility. This shows that when God became a regular Son of man, God and mankind had a very uneasy relationship, and that the Son of man’s situation was very embarrassing. It also shows how insignificant the Lord Jesus’ status among humans was at that time. When He said this, it was actually to tell people: You can rest assured—these words do not represent what is in My own heart, but they are the will of the God who is in your hearts. For mankind, was this not an ironic thing? Even though God working in the flesh had many advantages that He did not have in His person, He had to withstand their doubts and rejection as well as their numbness and dullness. It could be said that the process of the work of the Son of man was the process of experiencing mankind’s rejection and experiencing their competing against Him. More than that, it was the process of working to continuously win mankind’s trust and to conquer mankind through what He has and is, through His own essence. It was not so much that God incarnate was waging an on-the-ground war against Satan; it was more that God became an ordinary man and began a struggle with those who follow Him, and in this struggle the Son of man completed His work with His humility, with what He has and is, and with His love and wisdom. He obtained the people He wanted, won the identity and status He deserved, and “returned” to His throne.
Next, let us look at the following two passages of scripture.
4. Forgive Seventy Times Seven
Mat 18:21–22 Then came Peter to Him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times? Jesus said to him, I say not to you, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven.
5. The Lord’s Love
Mat 22:37–39 Jesus said to him, You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like to it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
Of these two passages, one speaks of forgiveness and the other speaks of love. These two topics really highlight the work the Lord Jesus wanted to carry out in the Age of Grace.
When God became flesh, He brought along with Him a stage of His work, which was the specific work tasks and the disposition He wanted to express in this age. In that period, everything that the Son of man did revolved around the work that God wanted to carry out in this age. He would do no more and no less. Every single thing He said and every type of work that He carried out was all related to this age. Regardless of whether He expressed it in a human way with human language or through divine language, and no matter in which way or from which perspective He did so, His goal was to help people understand what He wanted to do, what His will was, and what His requirements of people were. He might use various means and different perspectives to help people understand and know His will, and to understand His work of saving mankind. So in the Age of Grace we see the Lord Jesus using human language most of the time to express what He wanted to communicate with mankind. Even more, we see Him from the perspective of an ordinary guide speaking with people, providing for their needs, and helping them with what they had requested. This way of working was not seen in the Age of Law that came before the Age of Grace. He became more intimate and more compassionate with mankind, as well as more able to achieve practical results in both form and manner. The metaphor about forgiving people seventy times seven really clarifies this point. The purpose achieved by the number in this metaphor is to allow people to understand the Lord Jesus’ intention at the time that He said this. His intention was that people should forgive others—not once or twice, and not even seven times, but seventy times seven. What kind of idea is contained within the idea of “seventy times seven”? It is to cause people to make forgiveness their own responsibility, something they must learn, and a “way” by which they must abide. Even though this was just a metaphor, it served to highlight the crucial point. It helped people to deeply appreciate what He meant and to find the proper ways of practice and the principles and standards of practice. This metaphor helped people to understand clearly and gave them a correct concept—that they should learn forgiveness and forgive any number of times without conditions, but with an attitude of tolerance and understanding for others. When the Lord Jesus said this, what was in His heart? Was He really thinking of the number “seventy times seven?” No, He was not. Is there a number of times God will forgive man? There are many people who are very interested in the “number of times” mentioned here, who really want to understand the origin and the meaning of this number. They want to understand why this number came out of the Lord Jesus’ mouth; they believe that there is a deeper implication to this number. But actually, this was just a figure of human speech which God used. Any implication or meaning must be taken along with the Lord Jesus’ requirements for mankind. When God had not yet become flesh, people did not understand much of what He said, because His words came out of complete divinity. The perspective and context of what He said was invisible and unreachable to mankind; it was expressed from a spiritual realm that people could not see. For people who lived in the flesh, they could not pass through the spiritual realm. But after God became flesh, He spoke to mankind from the perspective of humanity, and He came out of and surpassed the scope of the spiritual realm. He could express His divine disposition, will, and attitude through things humans could imagine, things they saw and encountered in their lives, and using methods that humans could accept, in a language they could understand, and with knowledge they could grasp, to allow mankind to understand and to know God, to comprehend His intention and His required standards within the scope of their capacity and to the degree that they were able. This was the method and principle of God’s work in humanity. Even though God’s ways and His principles of working in the flesh were mostly achieved by means of or through humanity, it truly did achieve results that could not be achieved by working directly in divinity. God’s work in humanity was more concrete, authentic, and targeted, the methods were much more flexible, and in form it surpassed the work carried out during the Age of Law.
Next, let us talk about loving the Lord and loving your neighbor as yourself. Is this something that is directly expressed in divinity? No, clearly not! These were all things that the Son of man spoke about in humanity; only human beings would say something like “Love your neighbor as yourself. Love others as you cherish your own life.” This manner of speaking is exclusively human. God has never spoken in this way. At the very least, God does not have this type of language in His divinity because He has no need of this kind of tenet, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” in order to regulate His love for mankind, because God’s love for mankind is a natural revelation of what He has and is. When have you ever heard God say anything like: “I love mankind as I love Myself”? You have not, because love is in God’s essence and in what He has and is. God’s love for mankind, and His attitude, and the way He treats people are a natural expression and revelation of His disposition. He does not need to deliberately do this in a certain way, or to deliberately follow a certain method or a moral code to achieve loving His neighbor as Himself—He already possesses this type of essence. What do you see in this? When God worked in humanity, many of His methods, words, and truths were expressed in a human way. But at the same time, God’s disposition, what He has and is, and His will were expressed for people to know and understand. What they came to know and understand was exactly His essence and what He has and is, which represent the inherent identity and status of God Himself. That is to say, the Son of man in the flesh expressed the inherent disposition and essence of God Himself to the greatest extent possible and as accurately as possible. Not only was the Son of man’s humanity not a hindrance or a barrier to man’s communication and interaction with God in heaven, but it was actually the only channel and the only bridge for mankind to connect to the Lord of creation. Now, at this point, do you not feel that there are many similarities between the nature and methods of the work done by the Lord Jesus in the Age of Grace and the current stage of work? This current stage of work also uses a lot of human language to express God’s disposition, and a lot of language and methods from mankind’s daily life and human knowledge to express the will of God Himself. Once God becomes flesh, no matter if He is speaking from a human perspective or a divine perspective, lots of His language and methods of expression come through the medium of human language and methods. That is, when God becomes flesh, this is the best opportunity for you to see God’s omnipotence and His wisdom, and to know every real aspect of God. When God became flesh, while He was growing up, He came to understand, learn, and grasp some of mankind’s knowledge, common sense, language, and methods of expression in humanity. God incarnate possessed these things that came from the humans which He had created. They became tools of God in the flesh for expressing His disposition and His divinity, and allowed Him to make His work more pertinent, more authentic, and more accurate when He was working amidst mankind, from a human perspective and using human language. This made His work more accessible and more easily understood for people, thus achieving the results that God wanted. Is it not more practical for God to work in the flesh in this way? Is this not God’s wisdom? When God became flesh, when God’s flesh was able to take on the work that He wanted to carry out, that is when He would practically express His disposition and His work, and that was also the time when He could officially begin His ministry as the Son of man. This meant that there was no longer a “generation gap” between God and man, that God would soon cease His work of communicating through messengers, and that God Himself could personally express all the words and work in the flesh that He wanted to. It also meant that the people God saves were closer to Him, that His management work had entered new territory, and that all of mankind was about to be faced with a new era.
Everyone who has read the Bible knows that many events happened when the Lord Jesus was born. The greatest among those events was Him being hunted by the king of devils, which was an event so extreme that all of the city’s children who were aged two years old and under were slaughtered. It is evident that God assumed great risk by becoming flesh among humans; the great price that He paid for completing His management of saving mankind is also evident. The great hopes that God held for His work among mankind in the flesh are also evident. When God’s flesh was able to take on work among mankind, how did He feel? People should be able to understand that to some degree, should they not? At the very least, God was happy because He could start carrying out His new work among mankind. When the Lord Jesus was baptized and officially began His work to fulfill His ministry, God’s heart was overwhelmed with joy because after so many years of waiting and preparation, He could finally wear the flesh of a normal man and begin His new work in the form of a man of flesh and blood, who people could see and touch. He could finally speak face-to-face and heart-to-heart with people through the identity of a man. God could finally come face to face with mankind through the medium of human ways and human language; He could provide for mankind, enlighten them, and help them using human language; He could eat at the same table and live in the same space with them. He could also see human beings, see things, and see everything the way humans saw them and even through their own eyes. For God, this was already His first victory of His work in the flesh. It could also be said that it was an accomplishment of a great work—this of course was what God was happiest about. Starting from then, God felt, for the first time, a sort of comfort in His work among mankind. All of the events that came to pass were so practical and so natural, and the comfort that God felt was so true. For mankind, each time a new stage of God’s work is accomplished, and each time God feels gratified, that is when mankind can come closer to God and to salvation. To God, this is also the launch of His new work, forging onward in His management plan, and, moreover, these are the times when His intentions approach complete fulfillment. For mankind, the arrival of such an opportunity is fortunate, and very good; for all those who await God’s salvation, it is momentous and joyous news. When God carries out a new stage of work, then He has a new beginning, and when this new work and new beginning are launched and introduced among mankind, it is when the outcome of this stage of work has already been determined and accomplished and the final effect and fruit already seen by God. This is also when these effects make God feel satisfied, and, of course, it is when His heart is happy. God feels reassured because, in His eyes, He has already seen and determined the people He is looking for, and has already gained this group of people, a group that is able to make His work successful and bring Him satisfaction. Thus, He puts aside His worries, and He feels happy. In other words, when the flesh of God is able to embark upon new work among man, and He begins to, without obstruction, do the work that He must do, and when He feels that all has been accomplished, then for Him, the end is already in sight. Because of this He is satisfied, and His heart is happy. How is God’s happiness expressed? Can you imagine what the answer might be? May God cry? Can God cry? Can God clap His hands? Can God dance? Can God sing? If so, what would He sing? Of course, God could sing a beautiful, moving song, a song that could express the joy and happiness in His heart. He could sing it for mankind, for Himself, and for all things. God’s happiness can be expressed in any way—all of this is normal because God has joys and sorrows, and His various feelings can be expressed in various ways. This is His right, and nothing could be more normal and proper. People should not think anything else of it. You should not try to use the “band-tightening spell”[a] on God, telling Him He should not do this or that, He should not act this way or that, and in this way limit His happiness or any feeling He might have. In people’s hearts God cannot be happy, cannot shed tears, cannot weep—He cannot express any emotion. Through what we have communicated during these two fellowships, I believe you will no longer see God in this way, but will allow God to have some freedom and release. This is a very good thing. In the future if you are able to truly feel God’s sadness when you hear about Him being sad, and you are able to truly feel His happiness when you hear about Him being happy, then at least you will be able to clearly know and understand what makes God happy and what makes Him sad. When you are able to feel sad because God is sad, and feel happy because God is happy, He will have fully gained your heart and there will no longer be any barrier between yourself and Him. You will no longer try to constrain God with human imaginings, notions, and knowledge. At that time, God will be alive and vivid in your heart. He will be the God of your life and the Master of everything about you. Do you have this kind of aspiration? Are you confident that you can achieve this?
a. The “band-tightening spell” is a spell used by the monk Tang Sanzang in the Chinese novel Journey to the West. He uses this spell to control Sun Wukong by tightening a metal band around the latter’s head, giving him acute headaches, and thus bringing him under control. It has become a metaphor to describe something that binds a person.