The Mystery of the Incarnation (1) (Part Two)
Prior to performing His ministry, Jesus too was only a normal man who acted in accordance with whatever the Holy Spirit did. Regardless of whether He was aware of His own identity at the time, He obeyed all that came from God. The Holy Spirit never revealed His identity before His ministry commenced. It was only after He began His ministry that He abolished those rules and those laws, and it was not until He officially began performing His ministry that His words became imbued with authority and power. Only after He commenced His ministry did His work to bring forth a new age begin. Prior to this, the Holy Spirit remained hidden within Him for 29 years, during which time He represented only a man and was without the identity of God. God’s work began with Him working and performing His ministry, He did His work according to His inward plan without regard for how much man knew of Him, and the work He did was the direct representation of God Himself. At that time, Jesus asked those around Him, “Who do you say I am?” They replied, “You are the greatest of prophets and our excellent physician.” And some replied, “You are our high priest,” and so on. All kinds of answers were given, some even saying that He was John, that He was Elijah. Jesus then turned to Simon Peter and asked, “Who do you say I am?” Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” From then on, the people became aware that He was God. When His identity was made known, it was Peter who first became aware of this and it was from his mouth that it was spoken. Then Jesus stated, “What you said was not revealed by flesh and blood, but by My Father.” Following His baptism, whether or not others knew of this, the work He did was on behalf of God. He came in order to carry out His work, not to reveal His identity. It was only after Peter spoke of it that His identity became openly known. Whether or not you were aware that He was God Himself, when the time came, He began His work. And whether or not you knew of that, He went on with His work as before. Even if you denied it, He would still perform His work and would carry it out when it was time to do so. He came in order to do His work and perform His ministry, not so that man might know His flesh, but for man to receive His work. If you have failed to recognize that the stage of the work on this day is the work of God Himself, it is because you lack vision. Still, you cannot deny this stage of the work; your failure to recognize it does not prove that the Holy Spirit is not working or that His work is wrong. There are those who even check the work of the present against that of Jesus in the Bible and use any inconsistencies to deny this stage of the work. Is this not the action of the blind? The things that are recorded in the Bible are limited; they cannot represent the work of God in its entirety. The Four Gospels have fewer than one hundred chapters altogether, in which are written a finite number of happenings, such as Jesus cursing the fig tree, Peter’s three denials of the Lord, Jesus appearing to the disciples following His crucifixion and resurrection, teaching about fasting, teaching about prayer, teaching about divorce, the birth and genealogy of Jesus, Jesus’ appointment of the disciples, and so forth. However, man values them as treasures, even comparing the work of today against them. They even believe that all the work Jesus did in His life amounted only to so much, as if God were only capable of doing this much and nothing further. Is this not absurd?
The time that Jesus had on earth was thirty-three and a half years, that is, He lived on earth for thirty-three and a half years. Only three and a half years of this time was spent in performing His ministry; the rest of the time He just lived a normal human life. In the beginning, He attended services in the synagogue and there He listened to the priests’ exposition of the Scriptures and to the preaching of others. He gained much knowledge of the Bible: He was not born with such knowledge, and only gained it through reading and listening. It is clearly recorded in the Bible that He asked questions of the teachers in the synagogue at the age of twelve: What were the prophecies of the ancient prophets? What of the laws of Moses? The Old Testament? And what of man serving God in priestly robes in the temple? … He asked many questions, for He had neither knowledge nor understanding. Though He was conceived by the Holy Spirit, He was born as an entirely normal man; notwithstanding certain special characteristics that He had, He was still a normal man. His wisdom grew continuously in proportion with His stature and His age, and He passed through the phases of a normal man’s life. In people’s imagination, Jesus experienced no childhood and no adolescence; He began to live the life of a thirty-year-old man as soon as He was born, and He was crucified upon the completion of His work. He probably did not pass through the phases in the life of a normal man; He neither ate nor associated with other people, and it was not easy for people to catch a glimpse of Him. He was probably an aberration, who would frighten those who saw Him, because He was God. People believe that God who comes in the flesh definitely does not live as a normal person does; they believe that He is clean without having to brush His teeth or wash His face, because He is a holy person. Are not these purely the notions of man? The Bible makes no record of the life of Jesus as a man, only of His work, but this does not prove that He did not have normal humanity or that He did not live a normal human life prior to the age of thirty. He officially commenced His work at the age of 29, but you cannot write off His entire life as a man prior to that age. The Bible merely omitted that period from its records; as it was His life as a normal man and not the period of His divine work, there was no need for it to be written down. For prior to the baptism of Jesus, the Holy Spirit did not work directly, but merely maintained Him in His life as a normal man until the day Jesus was due to perform His ministry. Though He was God incarnate, He underwent the process of maturing as a normal man does. This process of maturation was omitted from the Bible. It was omitted because it could provide no great assistance to man’s growth in life. The period before His baptism was a hidden period, one in which He worked no signs and wonders. Only after the baptism of Jesus did He begin all the work of mankind’s redemption, work that is abundant and full of grace, truth, and of love and mercy. The beginning of this work was precisely also the commencement of the Age of Grace; for this reason, it was written down and passed down to the present. It was to open up a way out and bring all to fruition for those in the Age of Grace to tread the path of the Age of Grace and the path of the cross. Although it comes out of records written down by man, everything is fact, except that here and there small errors are to be found. Even so, these records cannot be said to be untruthful. The matters recorded are entirely factual, only in writing them down did people make errors. There are some who will say that, if Jesus was one with normal and ordinary humanity, how could it be that He was capable of working signs and wonders? The forty days of temptation that Jesus underwent was a miraculous sign, one that a normal man would have been incapable of achieving. His forty days of temptation was in the nature of the Holy Spirit’s working; how then can one say that there was not a bit of the supernatural in Him? His ability to work signs and wonders does not prove that He was a transcendent man and no normal man; it is merely that the Holy Spirit worked in a normal man such as Him, thus making it possible for Him to perform miracles and do even greater work. Prior to Jesus performing His ministry, or as the Bible says, prior to the Holy Spirit descending upon Him, Jesus was but a normal man and in no way supernatural. When the Holy Spirit descended upon Him, that is, when He commenced the performance of His ministry, He became imbued with the supernatural. In this way, man comes to believe that God’s incarnate flesh does not have normal humanity; moreover, he mistakenly thinks that God incarnate has only divinity, not humanity. Certainly, when God comes to earth to do His work, all man sees is supernatural events. What they behold with their eyes and what they hear with their ears are all supernatural, for His work and His words are incomprehensible and unattainable to them. If something of heaven is brought to earth, how can it be anything but supernatural? When the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven are brought to earth, mysteries that are incomprehensible and unfathomable to man, that are too wondrous and wise—are they not all supernatural? However, you should know, no matter how supernatural it is, everything is carried out within His normal humanity. God’s incarnate flesh is imbued with humanity; if He were not, then He would not be God’s incarnate flesh. Jesus performed a great many miracles in His time. What the Israelites of the time saw was full of supernatural things; they beheld angels and messengers, and they heard the voice of Jehovah. Were these not all supernatural? Certainly, there are today some evil spirits that deceive man with supernatural things; that is nothing but imitation on their part, to deceive man through work that is not presently done by the Holy Spirit. Many people perform miracles and heal the sick and drive out demons; these are nothing but the work of the evil spirits, for the Holy Spirit no longer does such work in the present day, and all those who have imitated the work of the Holy Spirit from that time onward are evil spirits indeed. All the work carried out in Israel at that time was work of a supernatural nature, though the Holy Spirit does not now work in such a manner, and any such work now is the imitation and disguise of Satan and its disturbance. But you cannot say that whatsoever is supernatural comes from evil spirits—this would depend on the age of God’s work. Consider the work done by the incarnate God in the present day: What aspect of it is not supernatural? His words are incomprehensible and unattainable to you, and the work He does can be done by no man. What He understands man has no way of understanding, and as for His knowledge, man knows not whence it comes. There are some who say, “I too am normal in the same way as You are, but how is it that I do not know what You know? I am older and richer in experience, yet how can You know of that which I do not?” All of this, as far as man is concerned, is something that man has no way of attaining. Then there are those who say, “No one knows of the work that was carried out in Israel, and even expositors of the Bible can offer no explanation; how come You know?” Are these not all matters of the supernatural? He has no experience of wonders, yet He knows all; He speaks and expresses the truth with the greatest of ease. Is this not supernatural? His work transcends that which flesh can attain to. It is unattainable to the thought of any man with a body of flesh and utterly inconceivable to the reasoning of the mind of man. Though He has never read the Bible, He understands the work of God in Israel. And though He stands on earth as He speaks, He speaks of the mysteries of the third heaven. When man reads these words, this feeling will overcome him: “Is this not the language of the third heaven?” Are these not all matters that exceed what a normal man is capable of achieving? At that time, when Jesus underwent forty days of fasting, was that not supernatural? If you say that forty days of fasting is in all cases supernatural, an act of evil spirits, then have you not condemned Jesus? Prior to performing His ministry, Jesus was like a normal man. He too went to school; how else could He have learned to read and write? When God became flesh, the Spirit lay hidden within the flesh. Nevertheless, being a normal man, it was necessary for Him to undergo a process of growth and maturation, and not until His cognitive ability had matured, and He was able to discern things, could He be considered a normal man. It was only after His humanity had matured that He could perform His ministry. How could He perform His ministry while His normal humanity was yet immature and His reasoning unsound? Surely He could not be expected to perform His ministry at the age of six or seven! Why did God not manifest Himself openly when He first became flesh? It was because the humanity of His flesh was as yet immature; the cognitive processes of His flesh, as well as the normal humanity of this flesh, were not fully in His possession. For this reason, it was of absolute necessity for Him to be possessed of the normal humanity and the common sense of a normal man—to the point where He was sufficiently equipped to undertake His work in the flesh—before He could begin His work. If He were not equal to the task, it would have been necessary for Him to continue to grow and mature. Had Jesus begun His work at the age of seven or eight, would not man have regarded Him as a prodigy? Would not all people have thought Him a child? Who would have found Him convincing? A child of seven or eight no taller than the podium He stood behind—would He have been fit to preach? Before His normal humanity matured, He was not up to the task. As far as His humanity which was as yet immature was concerned, a goodly portion of the work was simply unattainable. The work of God’s Spirit in the flesh is also governed by its own principles. Only when He is equipped with the normal humanity can He undertake the work and assume the charge of the Father. Only then may He begin His work. In His childhood, Jesus simply could not comprehend anything about much of what had occurred in ancient times, and only through asking the teachers in the synagogue did He come to understand. If He had begun His work as soon as He learned to speak, how would it have been possible for Him not to make mistakes? How could God possibly make missteps? Therefore, it was only after He was able to work that He began His work; He did not carry out any work until He was fully capable of undertaking it. At the age of 29, Jesus was already quite mature and His humanity sufficient to undertake the work He was to do. It was only then that the Spirit of God officially began to work in Him. At that time, John had prepared for seven years in order to open up the way for Him, and upon concluding his work, he was thrown into prison. The burden then fell entirely to Jesus. If He had undertaken this work at the age of 21 or 22, at a time when His humanity was still lacking, when He had only just entered young adulthood, and there were many things He still did not understand, then He would have been incapable of taking control. At that time, John had already carried out his work for some time before Jesus began His work, by which time He was already in middle age. At that age, His normal humanity was sufficient to undertake the work that He should do. Now, the incarnate God also has normal humanity and, though far from mature in comparison to the older among you, this humanity is already sufficient as it is to undertake His work. The circumstances surrounding today’s work are not completely the same as those in the time of Jesus. Why did Jesus choose the twelve apostles? It was all in support of His work and in concert with it. On the one hand, it was to lay the foundation for His work at the time, while on the other it was to lay the foundation for His work in the days to follow. In accordance with the work at that time, it was Jesus’ will to choose the twelve apostles, as it was the will of God Himself. He believed that He should choose the twelve apostles and then lead them to preach in every place. But today there is no need for this among you! When God incarnate works in the flesh, there are many principles, and there are many matters that man simply does not understand; man constantly uses his own notions to take His measure, or to make excessive demands of God. Yet to this day, many people are totally unaware that their knowledge is comprised solely of their own notions. Whatever the age or the place in which God is incarnated, the principles for His work in the flesh remain unchanged. He cannot become flesh and yet transcend the flesh in His work; even less can He become flesh and yet not work within the normal humanity of the flesh. Otherwise, the significance of God’s incarnation would dissolve into nothing, and the Word become flesh would become entirely meaningless. Moreover, only the Father in heaven (the Spirit) knows of God’s incarnation, and none other, not even the flesh Himself or the messengers of heaven. This being so, God’s work in the flesh is all the more normal and all the better able to demonstrate that the Word has indeed become flesh, and the flesh means an ordinary and normal man.
Some may wonder, “Why must the age be ushered in by God Himself? Cannot a created being stand in His stead?” You are all aware that God becomes flesh for the express purpose of ushering in a new age, and, of course, when He ushers in a new age, He will have concluded the former age at the same time. God is the Beginning and the End; it is He Himself who sets His work in motion and so it must be He Himself who concludes the former age. That is the proof of His defeat of Satan and of His conquest of the world. Each time He Himself works among man, it is the start of a new battle. Without the beginning of new work, there would naturally be no conclusion of the old. And when there is no conclusion of the old, this is proof that the battle with Satan is yet to come to an end. Only if God Himself comes, and carries out new work among man, can man break completely free of the domain of Satan and gain a new life and a new beginning. Otherwise, man shall forever live in the old age and forever live under the old influence of Satan. With every age led by God, a part of man is set free, and thus man advances along with the work of God toward the new age. The victory of God means a victory for all those who follow Him. If the race of created human beings were charged with concluding the age, then be it from the viewpoint of man or of Satan, this would be no more than an act of opposing or betraying God, not one of obedience to God, and the work of man would become a tool for Satan. Only if man obeys and follows God in an age ushered in by God Himself can Satan be fully convinced, for that is the duty of a created being. Therefore, I say that you need only follow and obey, and no more is required of you. This is what is meant by each keeping to his duty and each performing his respective function. God does His own work and has no need for man to do it in His stead, nor does He participate in the work of created beings. Man performs his own duty and does not participate in the work of God. Only this is obedience, and proof of Satan’s defeat. After God Himself has finished ushering in the new age, He no longer comes down to work in the midst of mankind Himself. It is only then that man officially steps into the new age to perform his duty and carry out his mission as a created being. These are the principles by which God works, which no one may transgress. Only working in this way is sensible and reasonable. The work of God is to be done by God Himself. It is He who sets His work in motion, and it is He who concludes His work. It is He who plans the work, and it is He who manages it, and even more, it is He who brings the work to fruition. As stated in the Bible, “I am the Beginning and the End; I am the Sower and the Reaper.” All that pertains to the work of His management is done by God Himself. He is the Ruler of the six-thousand-year management plan; no one can do His work in His stead and no one can bring His work to a close, for it is He who holds everything in His hand. Having created the world, He will lead the entire world to live in His light, and He will also conclude the entire age, thereby bringing His entire plan to fruition!