How should you believers regard the Bible? This is a question of principle. Why do we fellowship about this question? Because in order to spreadand broaden the work of the Age of Kingdom in future, it is not enough simply to share your knowledge of God’s work in the present day. What is even more important[a] is to be able to solve people’s antiquated religious notions and beliefs and convince them completely, and in order to do so, you must address the Bible. For centuries, conventional religious belief (belief of Christianity among the world’s three major religions) has emphasized reading the Bible. Departing from the Bibleamounts to not believing in the Lord; to do so is cult, heresy. Any other book that one reads must be one that explicates the Bible. That is to say, if you claim to believe in the Lord, you must read the Bible, must eat and drink it, and not venerate any other books that do not pertain to it; otherwise, you are betraying God. For as long as the Bible has existed, belief in the Lord has been synonymous with belief in the Bible. Rather than believing in the Lord, people believe in the Bible. Rather than starting to read the Bible, people have started to believe in the Bible. Instead of returning to the Lord, people have returned to the Bible. And so people have come to worship the Bible as if it were God, to see it as their own lifeblood; without it, they seem to have no life. People put the Bible on an equal footing with God—or even higher. They can live without the work of the Holy Spirit, without a sense of God’s presence; but if they were to losethe Bible, be deprived of its well-known passages and phrases, it would be tantamount to losing their life. So as soon as people believe in the Lord, they begin to read and memorize the Bible. The more of the Bible one has committed to memory, the more it proves that one loves the Lord and has great faith; those brothers and sisters who have read the Bible and can preach to others are seen as the best ones. For centuries people have judged the depth of others’ faith and their loyalty to the Lord by how well they understand the Bible. The majority of people do not in the least grasp why, or how, they should , so focused are they on collecting clues that will allow them to decipher Bible verses. They do not seek the direction of the Holy Spirit’s work; instead, they keep poring painstakingly over the Bible and researching the Bible. As yet, no one has found outside the Bible the new work of the Holy Spirit. No one can depart from the Bible; nobody dares. People have studied the Bible for years upon years, making many explanations, expending vast amounts of effort, arguing endlessly over their differences of opinion, and these many disagreements have given rise to the two-thousand-odd sects in existence today. Everyone plumbs the Bible for extraordinary interpretations or deeper mysteries, and everyone probes the Bible trying to uncover the backgrounds of Jehovah’s work in Israel or of Jesus’ work in Judea, or many other mysteries unknown to others. People’s attitude toward the Bible is one of obsession and “faith”; no one is completely clear on its true story and substance. And so the atmosphere of unspeakable mysticism surrounding the Bible has persisted until this day, and people’s obsession and “faith” grow ever more fervent. Now people look to the Bible for predictions of the work of the last days, wanting to discover what work God will perform in the last days and what signs of the last days will be. And so people’s veneration of the Bible grows ever more intense, and as the last days draw nearer, people give more credence to the biblical predictions, particularly those concerning the last days. Because they put so much blind faith and trust in the Bible, people have no heart to seek out the work of the Holy Spirit. People have the notion that only the Bible can bring forth the work of the Holy Spirit, that only in the Bible can one find the footprints of God, that only the Bible hides the mysteries of God’s work. They believe that only the Bible can lay bare everything of God and the entirety of His work, and that no other books, no other men, can do so. They think that the Bible can bring the work of heaven onto earth, can begin and end eras. Having settled upon these notions, people have no interest in seeking out the work of the Holy Spirit. And so, thoughthe Bible was of great help to people in the past, for God’s latest work it has become an obstacle. If it were not for the Bible, people could look elsewhere for God’s footprints. But today, the Bible has “control” over God’s footprints, and the broadening of God’s latest work has come to an extremely difficult pass and can proceed no further, thanks to its well-known chapters and verses and many of its prophecies. The Bible has become an idol in people’s hearts, an enigma in their minds. They simply cannot bring themselves to believe that God can work outside of the Bible, that it is possible to find God apart from it, much less that God, in His final work, would depart from the Bible and make a new start. People cannot contemplate these things; they find them unbelievable, unimaginable. The Bible is now a great stumbling block, keeping people from accepting God’s new work, and makes it hard for Him to spread it. So if you do not know the truth about the Bible, you will not be able to spread the gospel effectively and bear witness to God’s new work. Though you do not read the Bible any longer, you are still amicably disposed toward it; that is to say, though you are not holding a Bible in your hands right now, the Bible is still the source of many of your notions. You do not know the Bible’s origins and the true story of the first two stages of God’s work. Though you no longer eat and drink the Bible, you still need to learn about it, to gain an accurate knowledge of it, in order to understand what God’s six-thousand-year management plan is truly about. You must convince other people by these things, making them acknowledge that this stream is the true way and that the path you walk today is the one of the truth, the one led by the Holy Spirit, not one created by humanity.
When the Age of Grace arrived, people had already been reading the Bible for generations, though they only had the Old Testament, not the New. People had been reading the Bible for as long as the Old Testament was in existence. After the period of Jehovah’s guidance, Moses wrote Genesis, Exodus, Deuteronomy, and so on, recollecting Jehovah’s work and committing it to paper. The Bible is a history book, and it also contains the words of the prophets, which, of course, are not history. It has several different parts, and is not just prophecies, records of Jehovah’s work, or letters from Paul. You should be familiar with the parts of the Bible. The Old Testament includes Genesis, Exodus … then the books of prophecy, concluding with the Book of Malachi, all of which records the work of the Age of Law under the guidance of Jehovah. From Genesis to the Book of Malachi, the Old Testament is a comprehensive account of Jehovah’s work in the Age of Law. The experiences of the people whom Jehovah led are all recorded there. During the Old Testament Age of Law, Jehovah raised up many prophets to speak His prophecies, instructing the people of all tribes and all nations, foretelling the work that He planned to do. These were people upon whom Jehovah bestowed the Spirit of prophecy. They saw visions and heard voices from Him, thereby receiving revelations to write prophecies. Their work was to express the voice of Jehovah, to prophesy on Jehovah’s behalf. When Jehovah worked then, He only guided people as the Spirit, and He was not incarnated; people could not see His face at all. And so He raised up these prophets to do His work, allowed them to receive oracles and reveal to all the tribes and clans of Israel. Their job was to utter prophecies, and some of them recorded Jehovah’s words for others to read. Jehovah raised them up to foretell the work that He would do or had not yet done, so that the people would see His wondrousness and wisdom. These books of prophecy are quite different from the other books ofthe Bible; they are words spoken or written by people who received the Spirit of prophecy, those who saw visions or heard voices from Jehovah. All the other books are records of Jehovah’s work written after the fact. These books are no substitute for the words of the prophets raised up by Jehovah; for example, Genesis and Exodus cannot compare with the Book of Isaiah or the Book of Daniel. The prophecies are words spoken before the work was done, and the other books are records of Jehovah’s work written afterward, an act of which human beings are capable. The prophets, receiving revelation from Jehovah, made some prophecies, said many words, foretelling things about the Age of Grace and the destruction of the world in the last days, that is, prophesying the work that Jehovah planned to do; the other books are all records of Jehovah’s work in Israel. So what one reads about in the Bible is mostly the work that Jehovah did in Israel. The Old Testament mostly records how Jehovah guided the Israelites—by means of Moses, He led them out of Egypt free from Pharaoh’s bondage, and into the desert, then into the land of Canaan. Then it describes their lives in Canaan, as well as Jehovah’s work in various parts of Israel. The Old Testament is a record of Jehovah’s work in Israel, where He created Adam and Eve. Beginning with Noah, when Jehovah began formally guiding mankind on earth,the Bible records only the work that He did in Israel. Why is there no record of God’s work outside of Israel? Because Israel is the birthplace of mankind; there were no countries outside of Israel then, and Jehovah did no work there. So the Bible records only God’s work in Israel. The words of the prophets—Isaiah, Daniel, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and so on—foretold other work that would take place on earth, work that Jehovah God would do Himself. They entirely came from God, and they were the work of the Holy Spirit. Except for the books of the prophets, all the other parts of the Bible are records of man’s experiences of Jehovah’s work.
God created the world before He created mankind, but the Book of Genesis was written by Moses during the Age of Law, after humanity was already in existence. Imagine something happened to you today, and you recorded it afterward so that people in the future could read about it. For future generations, this would just be a record of events that happened in a past era, and could only be read as history. The Old Testament, which describes Jehovah’s work in Israel, and the New Testament, which describes Jesus’ work in the Age of Grace, are both records of God’s work in two different eras. The Old Testament records His work in the Age of Law, and so it is a history book. The New Testament is a product of God’s work in the Age of Grace, and when the new work has begun, both testaments are out of date. So the New Testament is also a history book. Of course, the New Testament is not as systematic as the Old and does not record as many things. The Bible contains many things that Jehovah said during the Old Testament, but only some words of Jesus are recorded in the Four Gospels. Naturally, Jesus did much work as well, but it is not recorded in as much detail. The reason that the New Testament records fewer things is that Jesus did less work. The amount of the work that Jesus did on earth during those three and a half years, and the work that the apostles did, is much smaller compared to what Jehovah did. So the New Testament contains fewer books than the Old.
Just what kind of book is the Bible, exactly? The Old Testament concerns God’s work in the Age of Law; it documents the work that Jehovah did in that age as well as Jehovah’s creation of the world. All of it is an account of Jehovah’s work, ending with the Book of Malachi. The two components of God’s work recorded in the Old Testament—the creation of the world and the promulgation of the law—were both done by Jehovah. The Age of Law is the work that represents God’s name, Jehovah, all of the work that was done primarily in the name of Jehovah. So the Old Testament records Jehovah’s work, and the New Testament records the work of Jesus, the work done primarily in Jesus’ name. What Jesus’ name signifies, and what work He did, are for the most part all recorded in the New Testament. In the days of the Old Testament, Jehovah built the temple and altars in Israel and guided the lives of the Israelites on earth, proving that the Israelites were His chosen people, the first group of people He selected on earth who were after His own heart, the first whom He led personally. In other words, the twelve tribes of Israel were His first chosen people, so Jehovah continued to work on them until the end of His work during the Age of Law. The second stage of God’s work—the work of the New Testament Age of Grace—He did in the tribe of Judah, one of the twelve tribes of Israel, thereby narrowing the scope of His work, because Jesus was God incarnate. He worked solely in the land of Judea, and for just three and a half years, which is why the records of the New Testament are so few compared to the Old. Jesus’ work in the Age of Grace is mostly recorded in the Four Gospels. The path walked by the people of that age was that of the most superficial transformation of life disposition; this is mostly documented in the epistles. From the epistles one can see how the Holy Spirit worked in those days. (Of course, regardless of whether Paul was chastised or punished, he worked at the Holy Spirit’s behest, was used by the Holy Spirit. Peter was used by the Holy Spirit as well, though he did not do as much work as Paul. Through Paul’s letters one can learn about how the Holy Spirit worked; the path he led was the right one, the correct one, the path walked by the Holy Spirit.)
To understand God’s work in the Age of Law and how the Israelites followed Jehovah’s way, you must read the Old Testament. To understand His work in the Age of Grace, you must read the New Testament. How will you understand the work of the last days, then? You have to accept God’s guidance and enter into His work today, because this is the new work, which no one could record beforehand in the Bible. Today God has been incarnated and elected some people in China. In these people God is performing His work, continuing His work on earth, continuing the work of the Age of Grace. The work of today is a path that no one has ever walked before, a way that no one has ever seen. It is work that has never been done before; it is God’s latest work on earth. So, the work that has not yet been done is not history, as the present is present, and it is not yet past. Few know that God is now undertaking a greater, newer work on earth outside of Israel, exceeding the scope of Israel and the predictions of the prophets. It is a singular new work, untold of in prophecy, a new work taking place outside of Israel, which man cannot fathom and never could have thought of. How could such work be recorded explicitly in the Bible? Who could have recorded every single detail of today’s work in advance? Who could have documented this greater, wiser, convention-defying work in that moldy old book? The work of today is not history. Hence, if you want to walk the new path today, you have to leave the Bible behind, step beyond the limits of the books of prophecy and history. Only in this way can you follow the new path successfully, enter into the new realm, the new work. You need to understand why you can no longer read the Bible, why there is another work outside the Bible, and why God has begun another, greater work outside the Bible, rather than seeking a newer, more detailed practice within its pages—you must understand all of these things. You need to understand how the old and the new work differ. Though you don’t read the Bible, you have to be able to analyze it. Otherwise you will still worship the Bible, and thus you can hardly enter into the new work and achieve change. Now that there is a higher way, why study the obsolete and lower way? Now that there is new word, new work, why live in the old history record? The new word can supply you; it shows that this is new work. The old records cannot sate you, cannot satisfy your present desires; it proves that they are history, not today’s work. The highest way is the newest work. And when there is new work, the old way, no matter how high, becomes history to be recalled by men. No matter how valuable it is as a reference, it is still an old way. The old way is history, even if recorded in the holy book. The new way is reality, even if it is not mentioned on a single page of the holy book. This way can save you and transform you, for it is the work of the Holy Spirit.
You all need to understand the Bible—it is very necessary that you do so. Today, you don’t need to read the Bible any longer, for there is nothing new in it; it’s all outdated. The Bible is a history book. If during the Age of Grace you were to eat and drink the Old Testament, practicing the requirements of the Old Testament age, then Jesus would forsake you, condemn you. If you had tried to impose the Old Testament on Jesus’ work, you would have been called a Pharisee. And so today, if you eat and drink and practice the Old and New Testaments, then the God of today will condemn you; you cannot keep pace with the work of the Holy Spirit today. If you eat the Old and New Testaments, then you are one outside the stream of the Holy Spirit. In Jesus’ day, He led the Jews and all those who followed Him according to the work of the Holy Spirit in Him. He did not look to the Bible for evidence, but spoke as His work dictated. He did not concern Himself with what the Bible said, did not lead His followers down a path found in the Bible. From the very beginning, He preached the way of repentance, and the word “repentance” was not mentioned at all in all the prophecies in the Old Testament. Not only did He not followthe Bible, He brought forth a new path and did a new work. He did not make reference to the Bible when He preached, and the miracles He worked—healing the sick, casting out demons—had never been performed by men during the Age of Law. No one in the Age of Law did the work He did, taught those lessons, had that authority. He simply did His new work, though many people condemned Him, even crucified Him, by using the Bible. His work went beyond the Old Testament; if that had not been the case, why would they have nailed Him to the cross? Was it not because His teachings, His power to cure the sick and cast out demons, had never been recorded in the Old Testament? The work of Jesus was to bring forth a new path; He did not deliberately set out to “wage war” against the Bible or abolish the Old Testament, but simply performed His ministry, bringing the new work to those who thirsted for Him and sought Him out. He was not trying to explain the Old Testament or defend its work. Carrying on the Age of Law was not His goal, for He did not care in the least whether His work was grounded in the Bible, but simply did the job that He needed to do. So He did not attempt to explain the Old Testament prophecies, did not base His work on words spoken in the Old Testament Age of Law. He did not concern Himself with what the Old Testament said, whether it accorded with His own work, did not care how other people saw His work or condemned His work. He simply kept on doing the job He needed to do, though many people condemned Him, invoking the words of the Old Testament prophets. In people’s eyes His work was not based on a shred of evidence, and in many ways it ran counter to what was recorded in the Bible. Were they not grossly in the wrong? Must God’s work obey any rules? Does He need to follow the words of prophets? Which is greater, the Bible or God? Why must God’s work be in line with the Bible? Is it really not within His right to stand above the Bible? Can He not depart from it and do other work? Why did Jesus and His disciples not observe the Sabbath? If He were to observe the Sabbath, to practice the commandments of the Old Testament, then why, after His coming, did He not observe the Sabbath, but washed others’ feet and covered His head, broke bread and drank wine? Were these commandments mentioned in the Old Testament? If Jesus were to adhere to the Old Testament, why did He break these rules? You must know which came first, God, or the Bible? As He is the Lord of the Sabbath, can’t He also be the Lord of the Bible?
Jesus’ task in the age of the New Testament was to begin a new work. He did not follow the work of the Old Testament, did not impose the words of Jehovah onto His work. He had His own job to do, some newer work, work that was above the law. And so He said, “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill.” In keeping with the task He needed to accomplish, He broke many rules. He led the disciples through a wheatfield where they plucked and ate ears of grain. He did not observe the Sabbath, and He said, “The Son of man is the Lord of the Sabbath.” According to the customs of the Israelites, anyone who did not observe the Sabbath should be stoned to death, but Jesus did not go into the temple or observe the Sabbath. The work that Jesus did, Jehovah did not do in the days of the Old Testament. And so Jesus’ work overstepped Old Testament law, surpassed it, did not adhere to it. In the Age of Grace Jesus did not abide by Old Testament law, and broke those rules. Now some people insist on adhering rigidly to the Bible, particularly to Old Testament law; are they not denying Jesus’ work? Some say that the Bible is a holy book, which they are obligated to read; and some say that God’s work must never be abolished, and since the Old Testament is God’s covenant with the Israelites, it cannot be abolished, and the Sabbath must be observed forever. Are not such people grossly ridiculous? Why, then, did Jesus break the Sabbath? Did He sin? Can anyone truly understand this? Human powers of reception are not great enough to know God’s work regardless of how much one reads the Bible. Not only can he not gain a pure understanding of God, but instead his notions become more and more severe, to the point that he begins to resist God. If God had not been incarnated today, all humanity would be ruined by their own notions, and die amid God’s chastisement.
a. The original text reads “To expand the work, what is even more important.”
from The Word Appears in the Flesh
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