3. Whether religious pastors and elders are really put in place by God, and whether obeying pastors and elders is obeying and following God
Relevant Words of God:
In selecting a person to serve Him, God always has His own principles. Serving God is by no means, as people imagine, that it is simply a matter of enthusiasm. Today, you see that all who serve before God do so because they have the guidance of God and the work of the Holy Spirit, and because they are people who pursue the truth. These are the minimum conditions for all those who serve God.
Serving God is no simple task. Those whose corrupt disposition remains unchanged can never serve God. If your disposition has not been judged and chastised by God’s words, then your disposition still represents Satan, which proves that you serve God out of your own good intentions, that your service is based on your satanic nature. You serve God with your natural character, and according to your personal preferences. What’s more, you always think that the things you are willing to do are what are delightful to God, and that the things you do not wish to do are what are hateful to God; you work entirely according to your own preferences. Can this be called serving God? Ultimately, there will not be the slightest change in your life disposition; instead, your service will make you even more stubborn, thus deeply ingraining your corrupt disposition, and as such, there will be formed within you rules about service to God that are primarily based on your own character, and experiences derived from your service according to your own disposition. These are the experiences and lessons of man. It is man’s philosophy of living in the world. People like this can be classed as Pharisees and religious officials. If they never wake up and repent, then they will surely turn into the false Christs and the antichrists who deceive people in the last days. The false Christs and the antichrists that were spoken of will arise from among such people. If those who serve God follow their own character and act according to their own will, they run the risk of being cast out at any time. Those who apply their many years of experience acquired to serving God in order to win the hearts of others, to lecture them and control them, and to stand on high—and who never repent, never confess their sins, never renounce the benefits of position—these people shall fall before God. They are of the same kind as Paul, presuming upon their seniority and flaunting their qualifications. God will not bring people like this to perfection. Such service interferes with the work of God. People always cling to the old. They cling to the notions of the past, to everything from times gone by. This is a great obstacle to their service. If you cannot throw them off, these things will throttle your whole life. God will not commend you, not in the slightest, not even if you break your legs running or your back with labor, not even if you are martyred in your service of God. Quite the contrary: He will say that you are an evildoer.
—The Word, Vol. 1. The Appearance and Work of God. Religious Service Must Be Purged
Work in the mind of man is too easy for man to achieve. Pastors and leaders in the religious world, for example, rely on their gifts and positions to do their work. People who follow them for a long time will be infected by their gifts and influenced by some of their being. They focus on people’s gifts, abilities and knowledge, and they pay attention to supernatural things and many profound, unrealistic doctrines (of course, these profound doctrines are unattainable). They do not focus on changes in people’s dispositions, but rather on training people to preach and work, improving people’s knowledge and their abundant religious doctrines. They do not focus on how much people’s disposition is changed nor on how much people understand of the truth. They do not concern themselves with people’s essence, and much less do they try to know people’s normal and abnormal states. They do not counter people’s notions, nor do they reveal their notions, much less do they prune people for their deficiencies or corruptions. Most who follow them serve with their gifts, and all they release is religious notions and theological theories, which are out of touch with reality and completely unable to confer life onto people. In fact, the essence of their work is nurturing talent, nurturing a person with nothing into a talented seminary graduate who later goes on to work and lead.
—The Word, Vol. 1. The Appearance and Work of God. God’s Work and Man’s Work
Those somebodies who stand at the rostrum have all studied theology, are seminary-trained, possessed of theological knowledge and theory—they are basically the mainstay of Christianity. Christianity trains such people to preach at the rostrum, to go around evangelizing and working. They think the value of Christianity lies in such capable people as these students of theology, these pastors and theologians who preach sermons; they are their capital. If the pastor of a church graduated from a seminary, is good at expounding the Scripture, has read some spiritual books, and has a little knowledge and a way with words, then the church thrives, and has a much better reputation than other churches. What do these people in Christianity advocate? Knowledge. And where does this knowledge come from? It has been handed down from ancient times. In ancient times there was Scripture, which was passed from generation to generation, each generation reading and learning it, right up until the present day. Man divided the Bible up into different sections and created various editions for people to pore over and learn. But what they learn is not how to understand the truth and know God, or how to understand God’s will and attain the fear of God and shunning of evil; instead, they pore over the knowledge contained within them. At most, they look into the mysteries contained within, they look to see which prophecies of the Book of Revelation were fulfilled in a certain period, when the great disasters will arrive, when the millennium will arrive—these are the things they study. And is what they study connected to the truth? No. Why do they study things that have no connection to the truth? The more they study them, the more they think they understand, and the more they equip themselves with letters and doctrine. Their capital grows, too. The higher their qualifications, the more capable they think they are, the more accomplished they believe their faith in God is, and the more likely they think they are to be saved and enter the heavenly kingdom.
—The Word, Vol. 4. Exposing Antichrists. They Are Evil, Insidious, and Deceitful (Part Three)
All those in Christianity who study theology, Scripture, and even the history of God’s work—are they true believers? Are they any different from the believers and followers of God that God speaks of? In the eyes of God, do they believe in God? (No.) They study theology, they study God. Is there a difference between them who study God and those who study other things? There is no difference. They are just the same as people who study history, who study philosophy, who study law, who study biology, who study astronomy—they just do not like science, or biology, or any other subjects; they just like theology. These people study God by searching for clues and giveaways in the work of God—and what comes out of their research? Are they able to determine whether God exists? They never will. Are they able to determine the will of God? (No.) Why? Because they live amid words and phrases, they live amid knowledge, they live amid philosophy, they live amid the minds and thoughts of humans. They will never be able to see God, they will never gain the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit. What does God define them as? As nonbelievers, as unbelievers. These nonbelievers and unbelievers mingle with the so-called Christian community, acting like people who believe in God, acting like Christians—but do they, in fact, truly worship God? Do they truly obey Him? No. Why? One thing is certain: It is because, in their hearts, they do not believe that God created the world, that He rules all things, that He can become flesh, much less do they believe that God exists. What does this unbelief indicate? Doubt, denial, and even an attitude of hoping the prophecies spoken by God—particularly those about the disasters—do not come true and are not fulfilled. This is the attitude with which they treat belief in God, and it is also the essence and real face of their so-called faith. These people study God because they have an especial interest in the scholarship and knowledge of theology, and are interested in the historical facts of God’s work. They are nothing more than a bunch of intellectuals studying theology. These “intellectuals” do not believe in the existence of God, so what do they do when God comes to work and His words are fulfilled? What is their first reaction when they hear that God has become flesh and is performing new work? “Impossible!” They condemn whoever preaches the new work of God, and even want to kill them. What is this a manifestation of? Is this not the manifestation of them being bona fide antichrists? They are hostile toward the work of God and the fulfillment of His words, to say nothing of His incarnate flesh: “If You were not incarnated and Your words have not been fulfilled then You are God. If Your words have been fulfilled and You were incarnated, then You are not.” What is the subtext to this? It is that they do not permit the incarnation of God so long as they exist. Is this not a bona fide antichrist? This is a genuine antichrist.
—The Word, Vol. 4. Exposing Antichrists. They Are Evil, Insidious, and Deceitful (Part Three)
Look at the leaders of each denomination—they are all arrogant and self-righteous, and their interpretations of the Bible lack context and are guided by their own imaginings. They all rely on gifts and erudition to do their work. If they could not preach at all, would people follow them? They do, after all, possess some knowledge and can preach on some doctrine, or they know how to win others over and make use of some artifice. They use these to bring people before themselves and deceive them. Nominally, those people believe in God, but in reality, they follow their leaders. When they encounter someone preaching the true way, some of them say, “We have to consult our leader about our faith.” A human is the medium of their faith in God; is that not a problem? What have those leaders become, then? Have they not become Pharisees, false shepherds, antichrists, and stumbling blocks to people’s acceptance of the true way? …
Previously, believers in God might have followed a person, or they might not have satisfied God’s will; in this final stage, they will have to come before God. If your foundation is your experience of this stage of work, yet you continue to follow a person, then you are unforgivable, and will end up as Paul did.
—“Only to Pursue the Truth Is Truly to Believe in God” in Records of Talks of Christ of the Last Days
People who believe in God should obey God and worship Him. Do not exalt or look up to any person; do not put God first, the people you look up to second, and yourself third. No person should hold a place in your heart, and you should not consider people—particularly those you venerate—to be on a par with God or to be His equal. This is intolerable to God.
—The Word, Vol. 1. The Appearance and Work of God. The Ten Administrative Decrees That Must Be Obeyed by God’s Chosen People in the Age of Kingdom
Some people do not rejoice in the truth, much less judgment. Instead, they rejoice in power and riches; such people are called power seekers. They search only for those denominations in the world with influence, and they search only for pastors and teachers that come from seminaries. Though they have accepted the way of truth, they are only half-believing; they are incapable of giving all of their hearts and minds, their mouths speak of expending themselves for God, but their eyes are focused on the great pastors and teachers, and they do not spare Christ a second glance. Their hearts are fixated upon fame, fortune, and glory. They think it out of the question that such a meager person could be capable of conquering so many, that one so unremarkable could perfect man. They think it out of the question that these nobodies among the dust and dunghills are the people chosen by God. They believe that if such people were the objects of God’s salvation, then heaven and earth would be turned upside down, and all people would laugh themselves silly. They believe that if God chose such nobodies to be perfected, then those great men would become God Himself. Their perspectives are tainted with unbelief; more than not believing, they are simply preposterous beasts. For they value only status, prestige, and power, and they esteem only large groups and denominations. They have not the slightest regard for those led by Christ; they are simply traitors who have turned their backs on Christ, on truth, and on life.
What you admire is not the humility of Christ, but those false shepherds of prominent standing. You do not adore the loveliness or wisdom of Christ, but those libertines who wallow in the filth of the world. You laugh at the pain of Christ who has no place to lay His head, but you admire those corpses that hunt for offerings and live in debauchery. You are not willing to suffer alongside Christ, but you gladly throw yourself into the arms of those reckless antichrists, though they only supply you with flesh, words, and control. Even now, your heart still turns toward them, toward their reputation, toward their status, toward their influence. And yet you continue to hold an attitude whereby you find the work of Christ hard to swallow and you are unwilling to accept it. This is why I say that you lack the faith to acknowledge Christ. The reason you have followed Him to this day is only because you had no other option. A series of lofty images are forever towering in your heart; you cannot forget their every word and deed, nor their influential words and hands. They are, in your heart, forever supreme and forever heroes. But this is not so for the Christ of today. He is forever insignificant in your heart, and forever undeserving of reverence. For He is far too ordinary, has far too little influence, and is far from lofty.
In any case, I say that all those who do not value the truth are nonbelievers and traitors to the truth. Such men shall never receive the approval of Christ. Have you now identified how much unbelief is within you, and how much betrayal of Christ you have? I exhort you thus: Since you have chosen the way of truth, then you should devote yourself wholeheartedly; do not be ambivalent or half-hearted. You should understand that God does not belong to the world nor any one person, but to all those who truly believe in Him, all those who worship Him, and all those who are devoted and faithful to Him.
—The Word, Vol. 1. The Appearance and Work of God. Are You a True Believer in God?