Where Do You Stand on the Thirteen Epistles?
The New Testament of the Bible contains the thirteen epistles of Paul. Over the time that he did his work, Paul wrote these thirteen letters to the churches that believed in Jesus Christ. That is, Paul was raised up and wrote these letters after Jesus ascended to heaven. His letters are testimonies of the Lord Jesus’ resurrection and ascension to heaven after His death, and they also spread the way of repentance and bearing the cross. Of course, all these messages and testimonies were meant to teach the brothers and sisters in various locations around Judea at that time, because back then, Paul was the Lord Jesus’ servant, and he had been raised up to bear witness to the Lord Jesus. During each period of the Holy Spirit’s work, various people are raised up to perform His different work, that is, to do the work of the apostles in order to continue the work that God completes Himself. If the Holy Spirit did it directly, and no people were raised up, then it would be very difficult for the work to be carried out. As such, Paul became one who was struck down while on the road to Damascus, and who then was raised up to be a witness for the Lord Jesus. He was an apostle apart from Jesus’ twelve disciples. In addition to spreading the gospel, he also undertook the work of shepherding for the churches at various locations, which involved looking after the brothers and sisters of the churches—in other words, leading the brothers and sisters in the Lord. Paul’s testimony was to make known the fact of the Lord Jesus’ resurrection and ascension to heaven, as well as to teach people to repent, confess, and walk the way of the cross. He was one of Jesus Christ’s witnesses of that time.
Paul’s thirteen epistles were selected for use in the Bible. He wrote all thirteen of them to address the different states of people in various places. He was moved by the Holy Spirit to write them, and taught brothers and sisters everywhere from the position of an apostle (from the standpoint of a servant of the Lord Jesus). Thus, Paul’s letters did not originate from prophecies or directly from visions, but came from the work he undertook. These letters are not strange, nor are they as difficult to comprehend as prophecies. They are written simply as letters, and include neither prophecies nor mysteries; they only contain ordinary instructional words. Even though many of their words might be hard for people to grasp or difficult to understand, they arose only from Paul’s own interpretations and from the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit. Paul was just an apostle; he was a servant used by the Lord Jesus, not a prophet. While walking through various lands, he wrote letters to brothers and sisters of the churches, or, while he was ill, he wrote to churches that were particularly on his mind but to which he could not go. Accordingly, his letters were kept by people and later collected, organized, and arranged after the Four Gospels in the Bible by future generations. Of course, they selected and made a compilation of all of the best letters he had written. These epistles were beneficial to the lives of the churches’ brothers and sisters, and were of particular renown in his time. When Paul wrote them, his purpose was not to write a spiritual work that would enable his brothers and sisters to find a path of practice or a spiritual biography to express his own experiences; he did not intend to write a book to become an author. He was simply writing letters to his brothers and sisters of the Lord Jesus Christ’s church. Paul taught his brothers and sisters, from his position as a servant, to tell them of his burden, of the will of the Lord Jesus, and of what tasks He had entrusted to people for the future. This was the work Paul performed. His words were quite edifying for the experience of all future brothers and sisters. The truths he communicated in these many letters were what people in the Age of Grace ought to practice, which is why these letters were arranged into the New Testament by the later generations. No matter what Paul’s outcome ended up being, he was someone who was used in his time, and who supported his brothers and sisters in the churches. His outcome was determined by his essence, as well as his having initially been struck down. He was able to speak those words back then because he possessed the work of the Holy Spirit, and it was because of this work that Paul bore a burden for the churches. As such, he was able to supply his brothers and sisters. However, due to certain special circumstances, Paul was not personally able to go to the churches to work, so he wrote letters to them to admonish his brothers and sisters in the Lord. At first, Paul persecuted the disciples of the Lord Jesus, but after Jesus ascended to heaven—that is, after Paul “saw the light”—he stopped persecuting the Lord Jesus’ disciples, and no longer persecuted those saints who preached the gospel for the sake of the Lord’s way. After Paul saw Jesus appear to him as a bright light, he accepted the Lord’s commission, and thus became someone who was used by the Holy Spirit to spread the gospel.
Paul’s work back then was simply to support and supply his brothers and sisters. He was not like some people, who wished to carve out a career or produce works of literature, explore other ways out, or to find paths apart from the Bible along which to lead these people in the churches so that they could all attain new entry. Paul was a person who was used; in doing the things he did, he was merely fulfilling his duty. If he had not borne a burden for the churches, then he would have been considered to have neglected his duty. If something disruptive had happened, or there had been an incident of betrayal in the church that had led to an abnormal state of the people there, then he could be considered to have not performed his work properly. If a worker bears a burden toward the church, and also works to the best of their abilities, then this proves that this person is a worker who is qualified—qualified to be used. If a person feels no burden for the church, and achieves no results in their work, and most of the people they lead are weak or they even fall, then such a worker has not fulfilled their duty. Likewise, Paul was no exception, which was why he had to look after the churches and frequently write letters to his brothers and sisters. It was in this manner that he was able to supply the churches and look after his brothers and sisters; it was only in this way that the churches could receive provision and shepherding from him. The words of the letters he wrote were very profound, but they were written to his brothers and sisters under the condition of his having attained the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit, and he wove his personal experiences and the burden he felt into his writing. Paul was merely a person who was used by the Holy Spirit, and the contents of his letters were all interspersed with his personal experiences. The work he did simply represents the work of an apostle, not work directly performed by the Holy Spirit, and it also differs from the work of Christ. Paul was merely fulfilling his duty, which was why he supplied his brothers and sisters in the Lord with his burden as well as his personal experiences and insights. Paul was simply carrying out the work of God’s commission by providing his personal insights and understanding; this certainly was not an instance of work directly performed by God Himself. As such, Paul’s work was mixed with human experience and with human views and understandings of the church’s work. However, these human views and understandings cannot be said to be the work of evil spirits or the work of flesh and blood; they can only be said to be the knowledge and experiences of a person who had been enlightened by the Holy Spirit. By this I mean that Paul’s letters are not books from heaven. They are not holy, and were not at all uttered or expressed by the Holy Spirit; they are merely an expression of Paul’s burden for the church. My purpose in saying all of this is to make you understand the difference between the work of God and the work of man: God’s work represents God Himself, while man’s work represents man’s duty and experiences. One should not regard God’s normal work as the will of man and His supernatural work as the will of God; moreover, one should not regard man’s lofty preaching as God’s utterances or as books from heaven. All such views would be unethical. Many people, upon hearing Me dissect Paul’s thirteen epistles, believe that Paul’s letters must not be read, and that Paul was a terribly sinful man. There are even many people who think My words are unfeeling, that My assessment of Paul’s epistles is inaccurate, and that those letters cannot be regarded as expressions of man’s experiences and burdens. They believe they should instead be regarded as God’s words, that they are as important as John’s Book of Revelation, that they cannot be abridged or added to, and, moreover, that they cannot be casually explained. Are all of these human assertions not incorrect? Is that not completely due to the fact that people have no sense? Paul’s letters do benefit people a lot, and they already have a history of more than 2,000 years. However, to this day, there are still many people who cannot fathom what he said back then. People perceive Paul’s letters to be the greatest masterpieces in all of Christianity, and that no one can unravel them, and no one can fully understand them. In fact, these letters are just like the biography of a spiritual person, and cannot be compared to the words of Jesus or the great visions seen by John. By contrast, what John saw were great visions from heaven—prophecies of God’s own work—that were unachievable by man, whereas Paul’s letters are merely descriptions of what a man saw and experienced. They are what man is capable of, but are neither prophecies nor visions; they are simply letters that were sent to various places. For the people of the time, however, Paul was a worker, and his words therefore had value, because he was someone who had accepted what was entrusted to him. Hence, his letters were beneficial to all those who sought Christ. Even though those words had not been personally spoken by Jesus, they were, in the end, essential for their time. As such, the people who came after Paul arranged his letters in the Bible, thus enabling them to be passed down to this day. Do you understand My meaning? I am simply giving you an accurate explanation of these letters, and dissecting them without denying their benefit and value to people as references. If, after reading My words, you not only deny Paul’s letters, but determine them to be heresy or valueless, then it can only be said that your ability to comprehend is too poor, as are your insights and your judgment of things; it certainly cannot be said that My words are overly one-sided. Do you understand now? The important things for you to comprehend are the actual situation of Paul’s work at the time and the background against which his letters were written. If you have a correct view of these circumstances, then you will also have a correct view of Paul’s epistles. At the same time, once you have fathomed the essence of those letters, your assessment of the Bible will be correct, and you will then understand why Paul’s epistles have been so worshiped by later generations of people for so many years, as well as why there are even many people who treat him as God. Would that not be what you would think, too, if you did not understand?
One who is not God Himself cannot represent God Himself. Paul’s work can only be said to be a part of the human view and a part of the Holy Spirit’s enlightenment. Paul wrote these words from a human point of view, with enlightenment from the Holy Spirit. This is not a rare thing. It was therefore unavoidable that his words were interspersed with some human experiences, and he later used his own personal experiences to provide for and support his brothers and sisters at the time. The letters he wrote cannot be categorized as life study, nor can they be categorized as biographies or message. Moreover, these were neither truths practiced by the church nor church administrative decrees. As someone with a burden—a person assigned to work by the Holy Spirit—this is something they simply have to do. If the Holy Spirit raises people up and grants them a burden, but they do not take up the work of the church, and cannot manage its affairs well, or satisfactorily resolve all of its problems, then this proves that those people do not fulfill their duties properly. It was therefore not a very mysterious thing for an apostle to be able to write letters over the course of their work. This was part of their job; they were obligated to do it. Their purpose in writing letters was not to write a life study or a spiritual biography, and it most certainly was not to open up another way out for saints. Rather, they did it to fulfill their own function and be a loyal servant to God, so that they could give an account to God by completing the tasks with which He had entrusted them. They had to take responsibility for themselves and for their brothers and sisters in their work, and they had to do their job well and take the affairs of the church to heart: All of this was just part of their job.
If you have gained an understanding of Paul’s letters, you will also have a correct idea and assessment regarding both Peter’s and John’s epistles. You will never again look upon these letters as books from heaven that are holy and inviolable, much less will you regard Paul as God. After all, God’s work is different from man’s work and, moreover, how could His expressions be the same as theirs? God has His own particular disposition, while man has duties they ought to fulfill. God’s disposition is expressed in His work, while man’s duty is embodied in the experiences of man and expressed in the pursuits of man. It therefore becomes evident through the work that is done whether something is God’s expression or man’s expression. It does not need to be explained by God Himself, nor does it require man to strive to bear witness; moreover, it does not need God Himself to suppress any person. All of this comes as a natural revelation; it is neither forced nor something that man can interfere with. Man’s duty can be known through their experiences, and it does not require people to do any extra experiential work. All of man’s essence can be revealed as they perform their duty, whereas God can express His inherent disposition while performing His work. If it is man’s work then it cannot be covered up. If it is God’s work, then God’s disposition is even more impossible to be concealed by anyone, much less be controlled by man. No man can be said to be God, nor can their work and words be looked upon as holy or regarded as immutable. God can be said to be human because He clothed Himself in flesh, but His work cannot be considered to be man’s work or man’s duty. Moreover, God’s utterances and Paul’s letters cannot be equated, nor can God’s judgment and chastisement and man’s words of instruction be spoken of on equal terms. There are, therefore, principles that distinguish God’s work from man’s work. These are differentiated according to their essences, not by the scope of the work or its temporary efficiency. On this subject, most people make mistakes of principle. This is because man looks at the exterior, which they can achieve, while God looks at the essence, which cannot be observed with mankind’s physical eyes. If you regard God’s words and work as the duties of an average man, and view man’s large-scale work as the work of God clothed in the flesh rather than the duty man fulfills, then are you not mistaken in principle? Man’s letters and biographies can be easily written, but only upon the foundation of the work of the Holy Spirit. However, God’s utterances and work cannot be easily accomplished by man or achieved by human wisdom and thinking, nor can people explain them thoroughly after exploring them. If these matters of principle do not evoke any reaction in you, then your faith is evidently not very true or refined. It can only be said that your faith is full of vagueness, and is both confused and unprincipled. Without even understanding the most basic essential issues of God and man, is this sort of faith not one that completely lacks perceptiveness? How could Paul possibly be the only person used throughout all of history? How could he possibly be the only one who ever worked for the church? How could he be the only one to have written to churches to support them? Regardless of the scale or influence of the work of these people, or even the results of their work, are not the principles and substance of such work all similar? Are there not things about it that are completely different from the work of God? Even though there are clear differences between each stage of God’s work, and even though many of His work methods are not entirely the same, do they not all have just a single substance and source? Accordingly, if a person is still unclear about these things now, then they are too lacking in reason. If, after reading these words, a person still says Paul’s letters are holy and inviolable and are different from the biographies of any spiritual personage, then this person’s reason is far too abnormal, and such a person is undoubtedly a doctrinal expert who is completely devoid of sense. Even if you worship Paul, you cannot use your warm feelings toward him to twist the truth of the facts or to refute the existence of truth. Furthermore, what I have said in no way sets all of Paul’s work and letters afire or completely denies their value as references. No matter what, My intention in speaking these words is for you to gain a proper understanding and a reasonable assessment of all things and people: Only this is normal reason; only this is what righteous people who possess the truth ought to equip themselves with.