4. The differences between words of people used by God that conform to the truth and the words of God Himself
Relevant Words of God:
My words are the forever unchanging truth. I am the supply of life for man and the only guide for mankind. The worth and meaning of My words are not determined by whether they are recognized or accepted by mankind, but by the essence of the words themselves. Even if not a single person on this earth can receive My words, the value of My words and their help to mankind are inestimable to any man. Therefore, when faced with the many people who rebel against, refute, or are utterly contemptuous of My words, My stance is only this: Let time and facts be My witness and show that My words are the truth, the way, and the life. Let them show that all I have said is right, that it is that which man should be furnished with and, moreover, that which man should accept. I will let all who follow Me know this fact: Those who cannot fully accept My words, those who cannot practice My words, those who cannot find a purpose in My words, and those who cannot receive salvation because of My words, are those who have been condemned by My words and, moreover, have lost My salvation, and My rod shall never stray from them.
—The Word, Vol. 1. The Appearance and Work of God. You Ought to Consider Your Deeds
Whether the words spoken by God be plain or profound in outward appearance, they are all truths indispensable to man as he enters into life; they are the fount of living waters that enables man to survive in both spirit and flesh. They provide what man needs to stay alive; the principles and creed for conducting his daily life; the path he must take to salvation, as well as its goal and direction; every truth that he should possess as a created being before God; and every truth about how man obeys and worships God. They are the guarantee that ensures man’s survival, they are man’s daily bread, and they are also the sturdy support that enables man to be strong and stand up. They are rich in the truth reality with which created mankind lives out normal humanity, rich in the truth by which mankind breaks free from corruption and eludes Satan’s snares, rich in the tireless teaching, exhortation, encouragement, and solace that the Creator gives to created humanity. They are the beacon that guides and enlightens men to understand all that is positive, the guarantee which ensures that men will live out and come into possession of all that is righteous and good, the criterion by which all people, events, and objects are measured, and also the navigation marker that leads men toward salvation and the path of light.
—The Word, Vol. 2. On Knowing God. Preface
My speech represents My being, but what I say is beyond the reach of man. What I say is not that which man experiences, and it is not something that man can see; it is also not something that man can touch, but is what I am. Some people acknowledge only that what I fellowship is what I have experienced, but they do not recognize that it is the direct expression of the Spirit. Of course, what I say is what I have experienced. It is I who have done the management work for six thousand years. I have experienced everything from the beginning of the creation of mankind until now; how would I be unable to discuss that? When it comes to man’s nature, I have seen clearly; I observed it long ago. How would I be unable to talk clearly about it? Since I have seen the substance of man clearly, I am qualified to chastise man and judge him, because all of man came from Me but has been corrupted by Satan. Of course, I am also qualified to assess the work I have done. Although this work is not done by My flesh, it is the direct expression of the Spirit, and this is what I have and what I am. Therefore, I am qualified to express it and to do the work I ought to do. What people say is what they have experienced. It is what they have seen, what their minds can reach, and what their senses can detect. That is what they can fellowship. The words spoken by God’s incarnate flesh are the direct expression of the Spirit and they express the work that has been done by the Spirit, which the flesh has not experienced or seen, yet He still expresses His being, for the essence of the flesh is the Spirit, and He expresses the work of the Spirit. It is work already done by the Spirit, though it is beyond the reach of the flesh. After incarnation, through the expression of the flesh, He enables people to know God’s being and allows people to see God’s disposition and the work that He has done. The work of man gives people greater clarity about what they should enter into and what they should understand; it involves leading people toward understanding and experiencing the truth. Man’s work is to sustain people; God’s work is to open up new paths and new eras for mankind, and to reveal to people that which is not known by mortals, enabling them to know His disposition. God’s work is to lead all of mankind.
—The Word, Vol. 1. The Appearance and Work of God. God’s Work and Man’s Work
That which is directly expressed by God is truth. Anything that arises from the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit merely conforms to the truth, for the Holy Spirit enlightens people based on their stature and cannot express the truth directly to man. This is something you must understand. And when, based upon the words of the truth, people gain insights, and knowledge from experiencing, do such insights and knowledge count as the truth? At most, this is a little knowledge of the truth. Words enlightened by the Holy Spirit do not represent the words of God, they do not represent the truth, they do not belong to the truth; they are merely a little knowledge of the truth, a little of the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit. If people gain some knowledge of the truth and then supply it to others, then this, too, is the supply of personal knowledge and experiences. They are not supplying people with the truth. It can be said that this is fellowshiping the truth—this is a suitable way of putting it. Because this is not a simple matter and most people are unable to penetrate it completely, you must understand it clearly; it is not just a matter of accurate wording, or that you just need to understand some interpretation, and nothing more. You may have gained certain things from the truth, things that ought to be possessed by man, but this does not mean you have gained the truth. And you may have gained yet other things from the truth, but this does not mean you now possess the life of the truth, much less can it be said that you are of the truth—that is absolutely not the case. You have simply acquired something nutritious from the truth to nourish your life, so that there is something in you, something you should possess, that believes in God and satisfies God. God uses the truth to provide for people, allowing them, through the truth, to satisfy Him and be after His heart. Ultimately, even when people have entirely satisfied the will of God, they still cannot be said to be of the truth, much less can it be said that there is the life of the truth within them. … Everyone experiences the truth, but each does so under different circumstances, and everyone gains something different. Yet even if their knowledge were combined, they would still be incapable of fully articulating a single truth. That is how profound the truth is! Why is it said that the things you have gained and your knowledge cannot stand for the truth? You fellowship your knowledge with others, and it only takes two or three days of contemplation before they have fully experienced it. But people can spend a whole lifetime and still not fully experience the truth; even if what each person experienced were combined, the truth would still not be fully experienced. It can therefore be seen that the truth is extraordinarily profound. The truth cannot be fully articulated with words. In the language of man, the truth is the true essence of mankind. Man will never be able to fully experience the truth. Man should live by the truth. One truth can sustain the whole of mankind’s existence for several thousand years.
—“Do You Know What the Truth Really Is?” in Records of Talks of Christ of the Last Days
The truth is the life of God Himself; it represents His disposition, His essence, and everything in Him. If you say that having a bit of experience means possessing the truth, then can you represent God’s disposition? You may have some experience or light regarding a certain aspect or side of a truth, but you cannot supply others with it forever, so this light you have gained is not truth; it is merely a certain point that people can reach. It is simply the proper experience and the proper understanding a person should possess: some actual experience and knowledge of the truth. This light, enlightenment, and experiential understanding can never substitute for the truth; even if all people had completely experienced this truth, and pooled together all of their experiential understanding, it still would not be able to take the place of that one truth. As has been said in the past, “I sum this up with a maxim for the human world: Among men, there is no one who loves Me.” This is a statement of truth; it is the true essence of life. This is the most profound of things; this is an expression of God Himself. You can keep on experiencing it, and if you experience it for three years you will have a superficial understanding of it; if you experience it for seven or eight years you will gain even more understanding of it—but any understanding you gain will never be able to substitute for that one statement of truth. Another person, after experiencing it for a couple of years, might gain a little understanding, and then a slightly more profound understanding after experiencing it for ten years, and then some further understanding after experiencing it for a lifetime—but if you both combine what understanding you have gained, even then—no matter how much understanding, how much experience, how many insights, how much light, or how many examples you both possess—all of that still cannot substitute for that one statement of truth. In other words, the life of man will always be the life of man, and no matter how much your understanding might accord with the truth, God’s intentions, and His requirements, it will never be able to be a substitute for the truth. To say that people have gained the truth means that they possess some reality, that they have gained some understanding of the truth, that they have attained some real entry to God’s words, that they have had some real experience with them, and that they are on the right track in their faith in God. Just one statement from God is enough for a person to experience for an entire lifetime; even if people were to experience it for several lifetimes or even several millennia, they still would not be able to completely and thoroughly experience a single truth. …
… If you have a bit of experience with God’s words, and are living according to your understanding of the truth, then God’s words become your life. However, you still cannot say that the truth is your life or that what you are expressing is the truth; if such is your opinion, then you are wrong. If you have some experience with an aspect of the truth, can this in itself represent the truth? It absolutely cannot. Can you thoroughly explain the truth? Can you discover God’s disposition, and His essence, from the truth? You cannot. Everyone has experience with only one aspect and scope of the truth; by experiencing it within your limited scope, you cannot touch upon all of the truth’s myriad aspects. Can people live out the original meaning of the truth? How much does your little bit of experience amount to? A single grain of sand on a beach; a lone drop of water in the ocean. Therefore, no matter how precious that knowledge and those feelings you have gained from your experiences might be, they still cannot be counted as the truth. The source of truth and the meaning of truth cover a very broad area. Nothing can contradict it. Some people say, “Will my knowledge of experience never be contradicted?” Of course not. The true understanding that comes from your experience of the words of God is in accord with the truth—how could it be contradicted? The truth can be your life in any environment. It can give you a path, and it can allow you to survive. However, the things people have and the light they have obtained are only suitable for themselves or some others within a certain scope, but would not be suitable within a different scope. No matter how profound a person’s experience, it is still so limited, and their experience will never reach the scope of the truth. A person’s light and a person’s understanding can never be compared to the truth.
—“Do You Know What the Truth Really Is?” in Records of Talks of Christ of the Last Days
Apart from the books of prophecy, most of the Old Testament is a historical record. Some of the epistles of the New Testament come from people’s experiences, and some come from the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit; the Pauline epistles, for example, arose from the work of a man, they were all the result of the Holy Spirit’s enlightenment, and they were written for the churches, and were words of exhortation and encouragement for the brothers and sisters of the churches. They were not words spoken by the Holy Spirit—Paul could not speak on behalf of the Holy Spirit, and neither was he a prophet, much less did he see the visions that John beheld. His epistles were written for the churches of Ephesus, Philadelphia, Galatia, and other churches. And thus, the Pauline epistles of the New Testament are epistles that Paul wrote for the churches, and not inspirations from the Holy Spirit, nor are they the direct utterances of the Holy Spirit. They are merely words of exhortation, comfort, and encouragement that he wrote for the churches during the course of his work. So, too, are they a record of much of Paul’s work at the time. They were written for all who are brothers and sisters in the Lord, so that the brothers and sisters of the churches at that time would follow his advice and abide by the way of repentance of the Lord Jesus. By no means did Paul say that, be they the churches of that time or of the future, all must eat and drink the things he wrote, nor did he say that his words all came from God. According to the circumstances of the church at that time, he simply communed with the brothers and sisters, and exhorted them, and inspired belief in them, and he simply preached or reminded people and exhorted them. His words were based upon his own burden, and he supported the people through these words. He did the work of an apostle of the churches of that time, he was a worker who was used by the Lord Jesus, and thus he must take on the responsibility for the churches, and must undertake the work of the churches, he had to learn about the states of the brothers and sisters—and because of this, he wrote epistles for all of the brothers and sisters in the Lord. All he said that was edifying and positive to people was right, but it did not represent the utterances of the Holy Spirit, and it could not represent God. It is an egregious understanding, and a tremendous blasphemy, for people to treat the records of a man’s experiences and a man’s epistles as the words spoken by the Holy Spirit to the churches! That is particularly true when it comes to the epistles that Paul wrote for the churches, for his epistles were written for the brothers and sisters based on the circumstances and situation of each church at the time, and were in order to exhort the brothers and sisters in the Lord, so that they could receive the grace of the Lord Jesus. His epistles were in order to rouse the brothers and sisters of that time. It can be said that this was his own burden, and was also the burden given to him by the Holy Spirit; after all, he was an apostle who led the churches of the time, who wrote epistles for the churches and exhorted them—that was his responsibility. His identity was merely that of a working apostle, and he was merely an apostle who was sent by God; he was not a prophet, nor a foreteller. To him, his own work and the lives of the brothers and sisters were of the utmost importance. Thus, he could not speak on behalf of the Holy Spirit. His words were not the words of the Holy Spirit, much less could they be said to be the words of God, for Paul was nothing more than a creature of God, and was certainly not the incarnation of God. His identity was not the same as that of Jesus. The words of Jesus were the words of the Holy Spirit, they were the words of God, for His identity was that of Christ—the Son of God. How could Paul be His equal? If people see the epistles or words like Paul’s as the utterances of the Holy Spirit, and worship them as God, then it can only be said that they are too indiscriminating. To speak more harshly, is this not simply blasphemy? How could a man talk on behalf of God? And how could people bow down before the records of his epistles and of the words he spoke as if they were a holy book, or a heavenly book? Could the words of God be casually uttered by a man? How could a man talk on behalf of God? And so, what say you—could the epistles that he wrote for the churches not be tainted with his own ideas? How could they not be tainted with human ideas? He wrote epistles for the churches based on his personal experiences and his own knowledge. For instance, Paul wrote an epistle to the Galatian churches which contained a certain opinion, and Peter wrote another, which had another view. Which of them came from the Holy Spirit? No one can say for sure. Thus, it can only be said that they both bore a burden for the churches, yet their letters represent their stature, they represent their provision and support for the brothers and sisters, and their burden toward the churches, and they only represent human work—they were not entirely of the Holy Spirit. If you say that his epistles are the words of the Holy Spirit, then you are absurd, and you are committing blasphemy! The Pauline epistles and the other epistles of the New Testament are equivalent to the memoirs of the more recent spiritual figures: They are on a par with the books of Watchman Nee or the experiences of Lawrence, and so on. It is simply that the books of recent spiritual figures are not compiled into the New Testament, yet the essence of these people was the same: They were people who were used by the Holy Spirit during a certain period, and they could not directly represent God.
—The Word, Vol. 1. The Appearance and Work of God. Concerning the Bible (3)
Man’s ways of practice and his knowledge of the truth are all applicable to a particular scope. You cannot say that the path man treads is completely the will of the Holy Spirit, because man can only be enlightened by the Holy Spirit, and cannot be completely filled with the Holy Spirit. The things man can experience are all within the scope of normal humanity and cannot exceed the range of thoughts in the normal human mind. All those who can live out truth reality experience within this range. When they experience the truth, it is always an experience of normal human life enlightened by the Holy Spirit; it is not a way of experiencing that deviates from normal human life. They experience the truth enlightened by the Holy Spirit on the foundation of living their human lives. Moreover, this truth varies from person to person, and its depth is related to the state of the person. One can only say that the path they walk is the normal human life of someone pursuing the truth, and it may be called the path walked by a normal person enlightened by the Holy Spirit. One cannot say that the path they walk is the path the Holy Spirit takes. In normal human experience, because people who pursue are not the same, the work of the Holy Spirit is also not the same. In addition, because the environments people experience and the ranges of their experience are not the same, and because of the admixture of their mind and thoughts, their experience is mixed to different degrees. Each person understands a truth according to their different, individual conditions. Their understanding of the real meaning of the truth is not complete and is only one or several aspects of it. The scope of the truth man experiences differs from person to person in line with each person’s conditions. In this way, the knowledge of the same truth, as expressed by different people, is not the same. This is to say, man’s experience always has limitations and cannot completely represent the will of the Holy Spirit, nor can the work of man be perceived as the work of God, even if what is expressed by man corresponds very closely to God’s will, and even if the experience of man is very close to the perfecting work that the Holy Spirit performs. Man can only be God’s servant, doing the work that God entrusts to him. Man can only express knowledge enlightened by the Holy Spirit and truths obtained from his personal experiences. Man is unqualified and does not meet the conditions to be the outlet of the Holy Spirit. He is not entitled to say that his work is the work of God.
—The Word, Vol. 1. The Appearance and Work of God. God’s Work and Man’s Work
Man’s fellowship differs from the word of God. What people fellowship conveys their individual insights and experience, expressing their insights and experience on the basis of God’s work. Their responsibility is to find out, after God works or speaks, what of it they ought to practice or enter into, and then to deliver it to followers. Therefore, man’s work represents his entry and practice. Of course, such work is mixed with human lessons and experience or some human thoughts. However the Holy Spirit works, whether on man or in God incarnate, the workers always express what they are. Though it is the Holy Spirit who works, the work is founded on what man inherently is, because the Holy Spirit does not work without foundation. In other words, the work does not come from nothing, but is always done in accord with actual circumstances and real conditions. Only in this way can man’s disposition be transformed and his old notions and old thoughts be changed. What man expresses is what he sees, experiences, and can imagine, and it is attainable by man’s thinking, even if it is doctrine or notions. Man’s work cannot exceed the scope of man’s experience, nor what man sees, nor what man can imagine or conceive, regardless of the size of that work. All God expresses is what He Himself is, and this is unattainable by man—that is, beyond the reach of man’s thinking. He expresses His work of leading all mankind, and this is unrelated to the details of human experience, but is concerned instead with His own management. What man expresses is his experience, while what God expresses is His being, which is His inherent disposition, beyond the reach of man. Man’s experience is his insight and knowledge acquired on the basis of God’s expression of His being. Such insight and knowledge are called man’s being, and the basis of their expression is man’s inherent disposition and caliber—this is why they are also called man’s being. Man is able to fellowship what he experiences and sees. No one can fellowship that which they have not experienced, have not seen, or their thinking cannot reach, those being things they do not have inside of them. If what man expresses is not from his experience, it is then his imagination or doctrine. Simply put, there is no reality in his words. Were you never to come into contact with the things of society, you would not be able to fellowship clearly the complex relationships of society. If you had no family, were others to talk about family issues, you would not understand most of what they said. So, what man fellowships and the work he does represent his inner being.
—The Word, Vol. 1. The Appearance and Work of God. God’s Work and Man’s Work
The word of God cannot be made out to be the word of man, and still less can one make the word of man to be the word of God. A man used by God is not the incarnate God, and the incarnate God is not a man used by God. In this, there is an essential difference. Perhaps, after reading these words, you do not acknowledge them to be the words of God, but only as the enlightenment that man has gained. In that case, you are blinded by ignorance. How can the words of God be the same as the enlightenment that man has gained? The words of God incarnate open up a new age, guide all of mankind, reveal mysteries, and show man the direction he is to take in the new age. The enlightenment obtained by man is but simple instructions for practice or knowledge. It cannot guide all of mankind into a new age or reveal the mysteries of God Himself. When all is said and done, God is God, and man is man. God has the essence of God, and man has the essence of man. If man views the words spoken by God as simple enlightenment by the Holy Spirit, and takes the words of the apostles and prophets as words personally spoken by God, that would be man’s mistake. No matter what, you should never mix up right and wrong, or make high out to be low, or mistake the profound for the shallow; no matter what, you should never deliberately refute what you know to be the truth. Everyone who believes there is a God should inquire into problems from the correct standpoint, and accept God’s new work and His new words from the perspective of His created being; otherwise, they will be eliminated by God.
—Preface to The Word Appears in the Flesh