Concerning Appellations and Identity (Part Two)
At the beginning, when Jesus had yet to officially perform His ministry, like the disciples that followed Him, sometimes He also attended meetings, and sang hymns, gave praise, and read the Old Testament in the temple. After He was baptized and came up, the Spirit officially descended upon Him and began to work, revealing His identity and the ministry that He was to undertake. Prior to this, no one knew His identity, and apart from Mary, not even John knew. Jesus was 29 when He was baptized. After His baptism was completed, the heavens were opened, and a voice said: “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” Once Jesus had been baptized, the Holy Spirit began to bear testimony to Him in this way. Before being baptized at the age of 29, He had lived the life of an ordinary person, eating when He was supposed to eat, sleeping and dressing normally, and nothing about Him was different from others. Of course this was only to the fleshly eyes of man. Sometimes He too was weak, and sometimes He too could not discern things, just as it is written in the Bible: “His intelligence grew together with His age.” These words merely show that He had an ordinary and normal humanity, and was not especially different from other ordinary people. He had also grown up as a normal person, and there was nothing special about Him. Yet He was under the care and protection of God. After being baptized, He began to be tempted, after which He began to perform His ministry and to work, and was possessed of power, and wisdom, and authority. This is not to say that the Holy Spirit did not work in Him, or was not inside Him before His baptism. Before His baptism the Holy Spirit also dwelt inside Him but had not officially begun to work, for there are limits to when God does His work and, moreover, normal people have a normal process of growing up. The Holy Spirit had always lived within Him. When Jesus was born, He was different from others, and a morning star appeared; prior to His birth, an angel appeared to Joseph in a dream and told him that Mary was to give birth to a male infant, and that the child was conceived by the Holy Spirit. It was not right after the baptism of Jesus, which was also when the Holy Spirit officially began His work, that the Holy Spirit descended upon Him. The saying that the Holy Spirit descended like a dove upon Him is in reference to the official start of His ministry. The Spirit of God had been within Him before, but He had not begun to work, for the time had not arrived, and the Spirit did not start work rashly. The Spirit bore testimony to Him through baptism. When He came up out of the water, the Spirit began to officially work in Him, which signified that God’s incarnate flesh had begun to fulfill His ministry, and had begun the work of redemption, that is, the Age of Grace had officially started. And so, there is a time to God’s work, no matter what work He does. After His baptism, there were no particular changes in Jesus; He was still in His original flesh. It’s just that He started His work and revealed His identity, and He was full of authority and power. In this regard He was different from before. His identity was different, which is to say that there was a significant change in His status; this was the testimony of the Holy Spirit, and was not the work done by man. At the beginning, people did not know, and they only came to know a little once the Holy Spirit bore testimony to Jesus in such a way. If Jesus had done great work before the Holy Spirit bore testimony to Him, but without the testimony of God Himself, then regardless of how great His work, people would never have known of His identity, for the human eye would have been incapable of seeing it. Without the step of the Holy Spirit’s testimony, no one could have recognized Him as God incarnate. If, after the Holy Spirit had borne testimony to Him, Jesus had continued to work in the same way, without any difference, then it would not have had that effect. And in this is mainly demonstrated the work of the Holy Spirit as well. After the Holy Spirit bore testimony, the Holy Spirit had to show Himself, so that you could clearly behold that He was God, that there was the Spirit of God within Him; God’s testimony was not wrong, and this could prove that His testimony was correct. If the work of before and after were the same, then His incarnate ministry, and the work of the Holy Spirit, would not have been accentuated, and thus man would have been incapable of recognizing the work of the Holy Spirit, for there was no clear difference. After bearing testimony, the Holy Spirit had to uphold this testimony, and so He had to manifest His wisdom and authority in Jesus, which was different from in times past. Of course, this was not the effect of the baptism; baptism is merely a ceremony, it is just that baptism was the way to show that it was time to perform His ministry. Such work was in order to make plain the great power of God, to make plain the testimony of the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit would take responsibility for this testimony until the very end. Before performing His ministry, Jesus also listened to sermons, preached and spread the gospel in various places. He did not do any great work because the time had not come for Him to perform His ministry, and also because God Himself humbly hid in the flesh, and did not do any work until the time came. He did not do work before the baptism for two reasons: One, because the Holy Spirit had not officially descended upon Him to work (which is to say, the Holy Spirit had not bestowed upon Jesus the power and authority to do such work), and even if He had known His own identity, Jesus would have been incapable of doing the work He intended to do later on, and would have had to wait until the day of His baptism. This was God’s time, and no one was capable of contravening it, even Jesus Himself; Jesus Himself could not interrupt His own work. Of course, this was the humbleness of God, and also the law of God’s work; if God’s Spirit did not work, none could do His work. Secondly, before He was baptized, He was just a very common and ordinary man, and no different from other normal and ordinary people; this is one aspect of how God incarnate was not supernatural. God incarnate did not contravene the arrangements of the Spirit of God; He worked in an orderly way and very normally. It was only after the baptism that His work had authority and power. Which is to say, even though He was God incarnate, He did not carry out any supernatural acts, and grew up in the same way as other normal people. If Jesus had already known His own identity, had done great work all over the land prior to His baptism, and had been different from normal people, showing Himself to be extraordinary, then not only would it have been impossible for John to do his work, but there would also have been no way for God to start the next step of His work. And so this would have proved that what God did had gone wrong, and to man, it would have appeared that the Spirit of God and the incarnate flesh of God did not come from the same source. So, the work of Jesus recorded in the Bible is work that was carried out after He was baptized, work which was done over the course of three years. The Bible does not record what He did before He was baptized because He did not do this work before He was baptized. He was merely an ordinary man, and represented an ordinary man; before Jesus began to perform His ministry, He was no different from ordinary people, and others could see no difference in Him. It was only after He reached 29 that Jesus knew He had come to complete a stage of God’s work; before, He Himself did not know, for the work done by God was not supernatural. When He attended a meeting in the synagogue at the age of twelve, Mary was looking for Him, and He just said one sentence, in the same manner as any other child: “Mother! Do you not know that I must place My Father’s will above all else?” Of course, since He was conceived by the Holy Spirit, could Jesus not be special in some way? But His specialness did not mean that He was supernatural, but merely that He loved God more than any other young child. Although He was human in appearance, His substance was still special and different from others. But, it was only after the baptism that He really sensed the Holy Spirit working in Him, sensed that He was God Himself. It was only when He reached the age of 33 that He truly realized that the Holy Spirit intended to carry out the work of crucifixion through Him. At the age of 32, He had come to know some inside truths, just as it is written in the Gospel of Matthew: “And Simon Peter answered and said, You are the Christ, the Son of the living God. … From that time forth began Jesus to show to his disciples, how that he must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day.” He did not know beforehand what work He was to do, but at a specific time. He did not fully know as soon as He was born; the Holy Spirit worked gradually in Him, and there was a process to the work. If, at the very beginning, He had known that He was God, and Christ, and the incarnate Son of man, that He was to accomplish the work of crucifixion, then why did He not work before? Why was it only after telling His disciples about His ministry that Jesus felt sorrow, and prayed earnestly for this? Why did John open the way for Him and baptize Him before He understood many things that He had not understood? What this proves is that it was the work of God incarnated in the flesh, and so for Him to understand, and achieve, there was a process, for He was God’s incarnate flesh, whose work was different from that done directly by the Spirit.
Every step of God’s work follows one and the same stream, and so in God’s six-thousand-year management plan, each step has been closely followed by the next, from the foundation of the world right up until today. If there were no one to pave the way, then there would be no one to come after; since there are those who come after, there are those who pave the way. In this way the work has been passed down, step-by-step. One step follows the other, and without someone to open the way, it would be impossible to begin the work, and God would have no means of taking His work forward. No step contradicts the other, and each follows the other in sequence to form a stream; this is all done by the same Spirit. But regardless of whether someone opens the way, or carries on the work of another, this does not determine their identity. Is this not right? John opened the way, and Jesus carried on his work, so does this prove that the identity of Jesus is lower than that of John? Jehovah carried out His work before Jesus, so can you say that Jehovah is greater than Jesus? Whether they paved the way or carried on the work of others is not important; what’s most important is the substance of their work, and the identity that it represents. Is this not right? Since God intended to work among man, He had to raise up those who could do the work of paving the way. When John just started preaching, he said, “Prepare you the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. Repent you: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” He spoke thus from the very beginning, and why was he able to say these words? In terms of the order in which these words were spoken, it was John who first spoke the gospel of the kingdom of heaven, and Jesus who spoke afterward. According to the conceptions of man, it was John who opened up the new path, and of course John was greater than Jesus. But John did not say he was Christ, and God did not bear testimony to him as the beloved Son of God, but merely used him to open up the way and prepare the way for the Lord. He paved the way for Jesus, but could not work on behalf of Jesus. All the work of man was also maintained by the Holy Spirit.
In the age of the Old Testament, it was Jehovah who led the way, and the work of Jehovah represented the entire age of the Old Testament, and all of the work done in Israel. Moses merely upheld this work on earth, and his labors count as the cooperation provided by man. At the time, it was Jehovah who spoke, and He called Moses, and raised him up among the people of Israel, and made Moses lead them into the wilderness to Canaan. This was not the work of Moses himself, but that which was personally directed by Jehovah, and so Moses cannot be called God. Moses also set down the law, but this law was personally decreed by Jehovah, who caused it to be spoken by Moses. Jesus also made commandments, and abolished the law of the Old Testament and set out the commandments for the new age. Why is Jesus God Himself? Because these are not the same thing. At the time, the work done by Moses did not represent the age, nor did it open a new way; he was directed ahead by Jehovah, and was merely one who was used by God. When Jesus came, John had carried out a step of work of paving the way, and had begun to spread the gospel of the kingdom of heaven (the Holy Spirit had started this). When Jesus appeared, He directly did the work of His own, but there was a great difference between His work and the work and utterances of Moses. Isaiah also spoke many prophecies, yet why was he not God Himself? Jesus did not speak so many prophecies, yet why was He God Himself? No one dares to say that the work of Jesus at that time all came from the Holy Spirit, nor do they dare to say it all came from the will of man, or it was totally the work of God Himself. Man has no way of analyzing such things. It can be said that Isaiah did such work, and spoke such prophecies, and they all came from the Holy Spirit; they did not come directly from Isaiah himself, but were revelations from Jehovah. Jesus did not do a great amount of work, and did not say many words, nor did He speak many prophecies. To man, His preaching did not seem particularly exalted, yet He was God Himself, and this is inexplicable by man. No one has ever believed in John, or Isaiah, or David, nor has anyone ever called them God, or David the God, or John the God; no one has ever spoken thus, and only Jesus has ever been called Christ. This classification is made according to God’s testimony, the work He undertook, and the ministry He performed. With regard to the great men of the Bible—Abraham, David, Joshua, Daniel, Isaiah, John and Jesus—through the work they did, you can tell who is God Himself, and which kinds of people are prophets, and which are apostles. Who was used by God, and who was God Himself, is differentiated and determined by the substance and the kind of work they did. If you are unable to tell the difference, then this proves that you do not know what it means to believe in God. Jesus is God because He spoke so many words, and did so much work, in particular His demonstration of many miracles. Likewise, John, too, did much work, and spoke many words, so did Moses; why were they not called God? Adam was created directly by God; why was he not called God, instead of only being called a creature? If someone says to you, “Today, God has done so much work, and spoken so many words; He is God Himself. Then, since Moses spoke so many words, he too must be God Himself!” you should ask them in return, “At that time, why did God bear testimony to Jesus, and not John, as God Himself? Did John not come before Jesus? Which was greater, the work of John or Jesus? To man, John appears greater than Jesus, but why did the Holy Spirit bear testimony to Jesus, and not John?” The same thing is happening today! At the beginning, when Moses led the people of Israel, Jehovah spoke to him from amongst the clouds. Moses did not speak directly, but instead was guided directly by Jehovah. This was the work of the Israel of the Old Testament. Within Moses there was not the Spirit, or God’s being. He could not do that work, and so there is a great difference between that done by him and Jesus. And that is because the work they did is different! Whether someone is used by God, or is a prophet, an apostle, or God Himself, can be discerned by the nature of his work, and this will put an end to your doubts. In the Bible it is written that only the Lamb can open the seven seals. Throughout the ages, there have been many expositors of the scriptures among those great figures, and so can you say that they are all the Lamb? Can you say that their explanations all come from God? They are merely expositors; they do not have the identity of the Lamb. How could they be worthy to open the seven seals? It is true that “Only the Lamb can open the seven seals,” but He does not only come to open the seven seals; there is no necessity to this work, it is done incidentally. He is perfectly clear about His own work; is it necessary for Him to spend much time interpreting the scriptures? Must “the age of the Lamb interpreting the scriptures” be added in six thousand years of work? He comes to do new work, but He also provides some revelations about the work of times past, making people understand the truth of six thousand years of work. There is no need to explain too many passages from the Bible; it is the work of today that is key, that is important. You should know that God does not come to especially break the seven seals, but to do the work of salvation.
You only know that Jesus shall descend during the last days, but how exactly will He descend? A sinner such as you, who has just been redeemed, and has not been changed, or been perfected by God, can you be after God’s heart? For you, you who are still of your old self, it is true that you were saved by Jesus, and that you are not counted as a sinner because of the salvation of God, but this does not prove that you are not sinful, and are not impure. How can you be saintly if you have not been changed? Within, you are beset by impurity, selfish and mean, yet you still wish to descend with Jesus—you should be so lucky! You have missed a step in your belief in God: You have merely been redeemed, but have not been changed. For you to be after God’s heart, God must personally do the work of changing and cleansing you; if you are only redeemed, you will be incapable of attaining sanctity. In this way you will be unqualified to share in the good blessings of God, for you have missed out a step in God’s work of managing man, which is the key step of changing and perfecting. And so you, a sinner who has just been redeemed, are incapable of directly inheriting God’s inheritance.
Without the start of this new stage of work, who knows how far you evangelists, preachers, expositors and so-called great spiritual men would go! Without the start of this new stage of work, what you talk of is obsolete! It is either ascending to the throne, or preparing the stature of becoming a king; either denying the self or subduing one’s body; either being patient or learning lessons from all things; either humility or love. Is this not singing the same old tune? It’s just a case of calling the same thing by a different name! Either covering one’s head and breaking bread, or laying hands and praying, and healing the sick and casting out demons. Could there be any new work? Could there be any prospect of development? If you continue to lead in this way, you will blindly follow doctrine, or abide by convention. You believe your work to be so lofty, but do you not know that it was all passed and taught by those “old men” of ancient times? Is all that you say and do not the last words of those old men? Is it not the charge of these old men before they passed away? Do you think that your actions surpass those of the apostles and prophets of past generations, and even surpass all things? The beginning of this stage of work has brought an end to your adoration of Witness Lee’s work of seeking to become a king and ascend to the throne, and arrested your arrogance and bluster, so that you are unable to meddle in this stage of work. Without this stage of work, you would sink ever deeper into irredeemability. There is too much that is old among you! Fortunately, the work of today has brought you back; otherwise, who knows what direction you would take! Since God is a God who is always new and never old, why do you not seek new things? Why do you always stick to the old things? And so, knowing the work of the Holy Spirit today is of the utmost importance!