The Mystery of the Incarnation (1) (Part One)
In the Age of Grace, John paved the way for Jesus. John could not do the work of God Himself but merely fulfilled the duty of man. Though John was the forerunner of the Lord, he was unable to represent God; he was only a man used by the Holy Spirit. After Jesus was baptized, the Holy Spirit descended upon Him like a dove. He then began His work, that is, He began to perform the ministry of Christ. That is why He assumed the identity of God, for it was from God that He came. No matter what His faith was like before this—it may have been weak at times, or strong at times—that all belonged to the normal human life He led before performing His ministry. After He was baptized, the power and the glory of God were immediately with Him, and so He began to perform His ministry. He could work signs and wonders, perform miracles, and He had power and authority, for He was working directly on behalf of God Himself; He was doing the work of the Spirit in His stead and expressing the voice of the Spirit. Therefore, He was God Himself; this is indisputable. John was someone who was used by the Holy Spirit. He could not represent God, nor was it possible for him to represent God. If he had wished to do so, the Holy Spirit would not have allowed it, for he was unable to do the work that God Himself intended to accomplish. Perhaps there was much in him that was of man’s will, or something that was deviant; under no circumstances could he directly represent God. His mistakes and erroneousness represented only himself, but his work was representative of the Holy Spirit. Yet, you cannot say that all of him represented God. Could his deviation and erroneousness represent God as well? To be erroneous in representing man is normal, but if one is deviant in representing God, then would that not dishonor God? Would that not be blasphemy against the Holy Spirit? The Holy Spirit does not lightly allow man to stand in God’s place, even if he is exalted by others. If he is not God, he would be unable to stand fast in the end. The Holy Spirit does not allow man to represent God as man pleases! For instance, it was the Holy Spirit that bore witness to John and it was also the Holy Spirit that revealed him to be the one to pave the way for Jesus, but the work done upon him by the Holy Spirit was well measured. All that was asked of John was to be the way-paver for Jesus, to prepare the way for Him. That is to say, the Holy Spirit only upheld his work in paving the way and allowed him only to do such work—he was allowed to do no other work. John represented Elijah, and he represented a prophet who paved the way. The Holy Spirit upheld him in this; as long as his work was to pave the way, the Holy Spirit upheld him. However, if he had laid claim to being God Himself and said that he had come to finish the work of redemption, the Holy Spirit would have had to discipline him. No matter how great the work of John, and even though it was upheld by the Holy Spirit, his work was not without boundaries. Granted that the Holy Spirit did indeed uphold his work, the power given him at the time was limited to his paving the way. He could not, at all, do any other work, for he was only John who paved the way, and not Jesus. Therefore, the testimony of the Holy Spirit is key, but the work that the Holy Spirit permits man to do is even more crucial. Had not John received resounding witness at the time? Was his work not also great? But the work he did could not surpass that of Jesus, for he was no more than a man used by the Holy Spirit and could not directly represent God, and so the work he did was limited. After he finished the work of paving the way, the Holy Spirit no longer upheld his testimony, no new work followed him, and he departed as the work of God Himself began.
There are some who are possessed by evil spirits and cry out vociferously, “I am God!” Yet, in the end, they are revealed, for they are wrong in what they represent. They represent Satan, and the Holy Spirit pays them no heed. However highly you exalt yourself or however strongly you cry out, you are still a created being and one that belongs to Satan. I never cry out, “I am God, I am the beloved Son of God!” But the work I do is God’s work. Need I shout? There is no need for exaltation. God does His own work Himself and does not need man to accord Him a status or give Him an honorific title: His work represents His identity and status. Prior to His baptism, was not Jesus God Himself? Was He not the incarnate flesh of God? Surely it cannot be said that it was only after receiving witness that He became the only Son of God? Long before He began His work, was there not already a man by the name of Jesus? You are unable to bring forth new paths or to represent the Spirit. You cannot express the work of the Spirit or the words that He speaks. You are unable to do the work of God Himself, and that of the Spirit you are unable to do. The wisdom, wonder, and unfathomability of God, and the entirety of the disposition by which God chastises man—all of these are beyond your capacity to express. It would therefore be useless to try to claim to be God; you would have only the name and none of the substance. God Himself has come, but no one recognizes Him, yet He continues on in His work and does so in representation of the Spirit. Whether you call Him man or God, the Lord or Christ, or call Her sister, it does not matter. But the work He does is that of the Spirit and represents the work of God Himself. He does not care about the name by which man calls Him. Can that name determine His work? Regardless of what you call Him, as far as God is concerned, He is the incarnate flesh of the Spirit of God; He represents the Spirit and is approved by the Spirit. If you are unable to make way for a new age, or to bring the old to an end, or to usher in a new age, or to do new work, then you cannot be called God!
Even a man who is used by the Holy Spirit cannot represent God Himself. This is not only to say that such a man cannot represent God, but also that the work he does cannot directly represent God. In other words, human experience cannot be placed directly within the management of God, and it cannot represent the management of God. The work that God Himself does is entirely the work He intends to do in His own management plan and it pertains to the great management. The work done by man consists of supplying their individual experience. It consists of finding out a new path of experience beyond that trodden by those who have gone before, and of guiding their brothers and sisters while under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. What these people supply is their individual experience or the spiritual writings of spiritual people. Although these people are used by the Holy Spirit, the work they do is unrelated to the great work of management in the six-thousand-year plan. They are merely those who have been raised up by the Holy Spirit in different periods to lead the people in the stream of the Holy Spirit, until the functions they can perform are at an end or until their lives come to an end. The work they do is only to prepare an appropriate path for God Himself or to continue a certain aspect of the management of God Himself on earth. In themselves, these people are unable to do the greater work of His management, nor can they open up new ways out, even less can any of them bring to a conclusion all of God’s work from the former age. Therefore, the work they do represents only a created being performing his function and cannot represent God Himself performing His ministry. This is because the work they do is unlike that done by God Himself. The work of ushering in a new age is not something that can be done by man in God’s place. It cannot be done by any other than God Himself. All the work done by man consists of performing his duty as a created being and is done when he is moved or enlightened by the Holy Spirit. The guidance that these people provide consists entirely of showing man the path of practice in daily life and how he should act in harmony with the will of God. The work of man neither involves the management of God nor represents the work of the Spirit. As an example, the work of Witness Lee and Watchman Nee was to lead the way. Be the way new or old, the work was premised upon the principle of remaining within the Bible. Whether it was to restore the local church or build the local church, their work had to do with establishing churches. The work they did carried on the work that Jesus and His apostles had left unfinished or had not further developed in the Age of Grace. What they did in their work was to restore what Jesus had in His early work asked of the generations coming after Him, such as keeping their heads covered, receiving baptism, breaking bread, or drinking wine. It could be said that their work was to keep to the Bible and to seek paths within the Bible. They made no new advances of any kind. Therefore, one can see in their work only the discovery of new ways within the Bible, as well as better and more realistic practices. But one cannot find in their work the present will of God, much less find the new work that God in the last days plans to do. This is because the path they walked was still an old one—there was no renewal and no advancement. They continued to hold onto the fact of the crucifixion of Jesus, to observe the practice of asking people to repent and confess their sins, to adhere to the sayings that he who endures to the end shall be saved and that man is the head of woman, and woman must obey her husband, and even more to the traditional notion that sisters cannot preach, but only obey. If such manner of leadership had continued to be observed, the Holy Spirit would never have been able to carry out new work, to set people free from doctrine, or to lead them into a realm of freedom and beauty. Therefore, this stage of work, which changes the age, must be done and spoken by God Himself; otherwise no man can do so in His stead. Thus far, all the work of the Holy Spirit outside of this stream has come to a standstill, and those who were used by the Holy Spirit have lost their bearings. Therefore, since the work of the people used by the Holy Spirit is unlike the work done by God Himself, their identities and the subjects on behalf of whom they act are likewise different. This is because the work the Holy Spirit intends to do is different, and on this account those who alike do work are accorded different identities and statuses. The people used by the Holy Spirit may also do some work that is new and may also eliminate some work done in the former age, but what they do cannot express the disposition and the will of God in the new age. They work only to do away with the work of the former age, and not in order to do new work for the purpose of directly representing the disposition of God Himself. Thus, no matter how many outdated practices they abolish or how many new practices they introduce, they still represent man and created beings. When God Himself carries out work, however, He does not openly declare the abolishment of the practices of the old age or directly declare the commencement of a new age. He is direct and straightforward in His work. He is forthright in performing the work He intends to do; that is, He directly expresses the work that He has brought about, directly does His work as originally intended, expressing His being and disposition. As man sees it, His disposition and so too His work differ from those in ages past. However, from the perspective of God Himself, this is merely a continuation and further development of His work. When God Himself works, He expresses His word and directly brings the new work. In contrast, when man works, it is through deliberation and study, or it is an extension of knowledge and systematization of practice founded on the work of others. That is to say, the essence of the work done by man is to follow an established order and to “walk old paths in new shoes.” This means that even the path walked by the people used by the Holy Spirit is built upon that launched by God Himself. So, when all is said and done, man is still man, and God is still God.
John was born by promise, much as Isaac was born to Abraham. He paved the way for Jesus and did much work, but he was not God. Rather, he was one of the prophets, because he only paved the way for Jesus. His work was also great, and it was only after he had paved the way that Jesus officially began His work. In essence, he simply labored for Jesus, and the work he did was in service to the work of Jesus. After he had finished paving the way, Jesus began His work, work that was newer, more concrete, and more detailed. John did only the initial portion of the work; the greater part of the new work was done by Jesus. John did new work as well, but he was not the one who ushered in a new age. John was born by promise, and his name was given by the angel. At the time, some wanted to name him after his father Zechariah, but his mother spoke out, saying, “This child cannot be called by that name. He should be called John.” This was all at the behest of the Holy Spirit. Jesus was also named at the behest of the Holy Spirit, He was born of the Holy Spirit, and He was promised by the Holy Spirit. Jesus was God, Christ, and the Son of man. But, the work of John also being great, why was he not called God? Exactly what was the difference between the work done by Jesus and that done by John? Was the only reason that John was the one who paved the way for Jesus? Or because this had been predestined by God? Though John also said, “Repent you: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand,” and he too preached the gospel of the kingdom of heaven, his work was not further developed and merely constituted a beginning. In contrast, Jesus ushered in a new age as well as bringing the old to an end, but He also fulfilled the law of the Old Testament. The work He did was greater than that of John, and what is more He came to redeem all mankind—He accomplished that stage of work. As for John, he simply prepared the way. Though his work was great, his words many, and those disciples who followed him numerous, his work did no more than bring to man a new beginning. Never did man receive from him life, the way, or deeper truths, nor did man gain through him an understanding of the will of God. John was a great prophet who opened up new ground for Jesus’ work and prepared the chosen; he was the forerunner of the Age of Grace. Such matters cannot be discerned simply by observing their normal human appearances. This is all the more apt as John also did work that was quite considerable and, moreover, he was promised by the Holy Spirit, and his work was upheld by the Holy Spirit. This being so, it is only through the work that they do that one can distinguish between their respective identities, for there is no way to tell a man’s substance from his outward appearance, nor is there any way for man to ascertain what is the testimony of the Holy Spirit. The work done by John and that done by Jesus were dissimilar and were of different natures. It is from this that one may determine whether or not John was God. The work of Jesus was to initiate, to continue, to conclude, and to bring to fruition. He carried out each of these steps, whereas the work of John was no more than making a beginning. In the beginning, Jesus spread the gospel and preached the way of repentance, and then went on to baptize man, heal the sick, and cast out demons. In the end, He redeemed mankind from sin and completed His work for the entire age. He also went about in every place, preaching to man and spreading the gospel of the kingdom of heaven. In this regard He and John were alike, the difference being that Jesus ushered in a new age and brought the Age of Grace to man. From His mouth came the word on what man should practice and the way that man should follow in the Age of Grace, and in the end, He finished the work of redemption. John could never have carried out this work. And so it was Jesus who did the work of God Himself, and it is He who is God Himself, and who directly represents God. The notions of man say that all those who are born by promise, born of the Spirit, upheld by the Holy Spirit, and who open up new ways out are God. According to this reasoning, John too would be God, and Moses, Abraham, and David …, they too would all be God. Is this not a consummate joke?