13. What is the difference between understanding the truth and understanding doctrine?
Relevant Words of God:
Coming to a real understanding of the actual meaning of God’s word is no simple matter. Don’t just think, “I can interpret the literal meaning of all God’s words, and everyone says my interpretation is good and gives me a thumbs-up, so I understand God’s word.” That is not the same as understanding God’s word. If you have obtained some light from within God’s word and you have figured out the real meaning of God’s word, if you can say what the significance of God’s word is and what ultimate effect it brings, only when this is all clear is there some level of understanding of God’s word. So, understanding God’s word is not quite so simple. Just because you can give a beautiful explanation of the letter of God’s word does not mean you understand it. No matter how you interpret the letter of God’s word it is still the imagination and way of thinking of man and is useless.
from “How to Know Man’s Nature” in Records of Christ’s Talks
You think that mastering knowledge of the truth is particularly important, and so is learning by heart many passages of God’s words. But how people understand the word of God is not important at all. You think it is extremely important for people to be able to memorize many of God’s words, to be able to speak much doctrine and to discover many formulas within God’s words. Therefore, you always want to systematize these things so that everyone is singing from the same hymn sheet and saying the same things, so that everyone speaks the same doctrines, has the same knowledge and keeps the same rules—this is your objective. You do this as though to make people understand better, when on the contrary you have no idea that by doing this you are bringing people into the midst of rules that are outside of the truth of God’s words. To make people have a real understanding, you must join with reality, join with the work, and bring people before God. Only in this way can people master the truth. If your efforts are only directed toward applying formulas and rules to written words, then you will not be able to reach an understanding of the truth, will not be able to lead others into reality, and will much less be able to allow others to experience more change or understand more of themselves.
from “Without the Truth It Is Easy to Offend God” in Records of Christ’s Talks
If you’ve read a lot of God’s word but only understand the meaning of the text and you do not have first-hand knowledge of God’s word through your practical experiences, you won’t know God’s word. As far as you are concerned, God’s word is not life, but just lifeless letters. And if you only hold fast to lifeless letters, you cannot grasp the essence of God’s word, nor will you understand His will. Only when you experience His word in your actual experiences will the spiritual meaning of God’s word open itself up to you, and it is only in experience that you can grasp the spiritual meaning of many truths, and only through experience that you can unlock the mysteries of God’s word. If you do not put it into practice, then no matter how clear His word, the only thing you’ve grasped hold of is empty letters and doctrines, which have become religious regulations to you. Isn’t this what the Pharisees did? If you practice and experience God’s word, it becomes practical to you; if you do not seek to practice it, then God’s word to you is little more than the legend of the third heaven. …
… Truly understanding God’s word occurs when you practice the truth, and you must understand that “only by practicing the truth can it ever be understood.” Today, after reading the word of God, you can merely say that you know God’s word, but you can’t say that you understand it. Some say that the only way to practice the truth is to understand it first, but this is only half right and not entirely accurate. Before you have knowledge of a truth, you have not experienced that truth. Feeling that you understand what you hear is not the same thing as truly understanding. To equip yourself with the truth as it is seen in text isn’t the same as understanding the true meaning therein. Just because you have a skin-deep knowledge of the truth doesn’t mean you actually understand it or recognize it; the true meaning of the truth comes from having experienced it. Therefore, only when you experience the truth can you understand it, and only when you experience the truth can you grasp the hidden parts of it. To experience it in depth is the only way to grasp the connotations of the truth, to understand the essence of it.
from “Practice the Truth Once You Understand It” in The Word Appears in the Flesh
After you have had the experience, you can then talk about the knowledge you should have about the things you have experienced. In addition, you can also distinguish between those whose knowledge is real and practical and those whose knowledge is based on doctrine and is worthless. So, whether the knowledge that you are talking accords with the truth largely depends on whether you have practical experience. Where there is the truth in your experience, your knowledge will be practical and valuable. Through your experience, you can also gain discernment and insight, deepen your knowledge, and increase your wisdom and common sense in conducting yourself. The knowledge spoken by people who do not possess the truth is doctrine, no matter how high. This type of person may well be very intelligent when it comes to matters of the flesh but cannot make distinctions when it comes to spiritual matters. This is because such people have no experience at all in spiritual affairs. These are people who are not enlightened in spiritual affairs and do not understand the spirit. Regardless of which aspect of knowledge you talk about, as long as it is your being, then it is your personal experience, your real knowledge. What those who speak only doctrine, that is, those who do not possess the truth or reality, talk about can also be said to be their being, because their doctrine is only arrived at from deep contemplation and is the result of their mind pondering deeply, but it is only doctrine, it is nothing more than imagination!
from “God’s Work and Man’s Work” in The Word Appears in the Flesh
You cannot obtain the truth by simply frequently speaking of doctrines; of what use is your only communicating these literal things? You must work out the meaning of God’s word, figure out its basis and intended effect. There is truth in God’s word, meaning in His word, light in His word. There are many things within His word; it is not a simple matter of reciting its letter. I’ll give a simple example. God says, “You must be honest people. Do not be deceitful ones.” What does this line actually mean? Some say, “Is it not just telling you to be an honest person and not a deceitful one?” If somebody asks, “What else does it mean?” that person will continue, “It’s just be an honest person and don’t be a deceitful one.” If you ask again, “What else does it mean?” he will only say, “It’s just those two things.” “How exactly does one be an honest person? What is an honest person? What are the main manifestations of an honest person?” He will say, “An honest person is someone who speaks honestly and purely and does not lie.” “What is a deceitful person?” “A deceitful person is someone who equivocates. Someone who does not equivocate and who speaks the undiluted truth is an honest person.” No matter how much you ask, you will only get this much out of him; man’s thinking is too simple. What does God’s word say about an honest person? The first thing about an honest person is that he is not suspicious of others. What does God mean by this? Why does God say this? Ponder that and think through it; people can’t get it straight. Second, an honest person can accept truth. God’s word says that an honest person mainly meets these two conditions. You get to understand the intrinsic meaning of an honest person in God’s word, what exactly it is talking about, what the precise definition of an honest person is, and accurately work out the definition; moreover, find out from God’s word what other behaviors an honest person exhibits; what kind of person is a deceitful person; what kind of person is honest; how an honest person behaves; and look again at the honest person from the perspective of these behaviors. Then you will understand what honest people and deceitful people are like and how deceitful people treat God’s word, God, and other people. In this way you will come to a true understanding of God’s word and understand how great the difference is between His word and man’s understanding of an honest person and a deceitful one. When viewed from within God’s word, there is a lot more to being an honest person and not being a deceitful one. When you truly understand the meaning of God’s word, then you know what an honest person is, and what a deceitful person is; and when you put it into practice you will know for sure how to behave as an honest person, and you will have the path to becoming an honest person, which surely can meet God’s standard. Do you have this level of mastery? If you really understand these words and put them into practice, then you can obtain God’s approval. If you do not understand that saying, then you cannot be an honest person, and you will absolutely not obtain God’s approval.
from “How to Know Man’s Nature” in Records of Christ’s Talks
The Man’s Fellowship:
Anything that is not from your experience, no matter whether you learned it from books or from other people’s experience, becomes a doctrine for you. When you experience it, and you reach a result from your experience, then you will get a true understanding. When you communicate this, it is reality; only then does it become real reality. Look at how unbelievers research some theory: They only research from what is written, they research doctrines and weigh them up and then arrive at their conclusions. After reading a passage of God’s words, some people start their research from the perspective of theory, especially if they are theologians, pastors, scholars. They do not seek the truth from experience, they do not seek a true understanding of God. They all investigate various theories and ultimately arrive at some conclusions. Do you think that the conclusions which they reach are real or doctrinal? They are all doctrine. This is because they reached these conclusions based on the specialized textual research and not based on their own experience. They investigated, deliberated, and weighed things up based on whatever they read. Conclusions reached from literal research, from researching the things recorded in the Bible, have created one kind of theory, called theological theory. There is no understanding from experience in this, and there is no enlightenment of the Holy Spirit. The deep understanding from the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit surpasses the outer layer of words; it cannot be expressed by any superficial language. The Holy Spirit will enlighten you only when you seek the truth after you have entered the experience. The things that the Holy Spirit enlightens and illuminates for you are the things that are the most real and the things which are the most true for you, these are the things that you cannot get from the Bible no matter how hard you study it. So today God lets us experience the word of God. If, in our experience of the word of God, the Holy Spirit enlightens us, we can get a real understanding of God’s words. This real understanding cannot be brought out no matter how you study the literal meaning of the words of God; this is something that cannot be reached by human thought. The truth cannot be imagined, no matter how hard you try. So, the truth received from the guidance and illumination of the Holy Spirit cannot be understood from researching books; it is the real understanding of God.
from “Questions & Answers” in Sermons and Fellowship on Entry Into Life (I)
What really is the difference between words of doctrine and the truth? The truth is the real substance of God’s word; it represents God’s will. Words of doctrine belong to the category of superficial things, and represent human conceptions and imagination. They are not consistent with truth. Substantive things of the truth are exceptionally practical; they are principled and especially convincing. When a person knows a substantive thing, his heart becomes enlightened and attains release, and no longer suffers entanglement of regulations. On the other hand, words of doctrine are empty and unrealistic. They are nothing but regulations and conventions, and especially make people susceptible to control and not obtain release. Furthermore, no matter how many words of doctrine someone knows, that will not bring about a change in his life disposition. It fundamentally does not have much benefit for people. Words of doctrine therefore cannot compare with the truth. The truth can become a person’s life. If a person accepts it, it will bring about a change of disposition. Though a person may know many words of doctrine, they can bring a person only arrogance, make a person swollen with pride, lacking sense. Only when a person has truth as his life does his practice become real. No amount of words of doctrine will bring a person any reality. When he encounters some incident, he still does not know how to practice. All people who are perfected by God are people who have truth. All people who have not been perfected by God are people of the words of doctrine. People who have truth are fit for use by God. Their work bears fruit, and they truly can bring people into the presence of God. The people who emphasize words of doctrine do not derive true results from their work. They cannot provide authentic experience and understanding, and even less can they use the truth to solve problems. They therefore are unable to bring others into the presence of God. A person who has truth does not shy away from people seeking for more details, and he is able to solve all of the practical problems that people have in their belief in God. People who emphasize words of doctrine fear people seeking for more details, because they have nothing within themselves with which to solve actual problems. They don’t dare to call for questions, and of course are even less able to solve practical difficulties. People who have truth dare to face reality; people who emphasize words of doctrine do not dare to face reality, rather they evade it. Such are the principles that can help differentiate between truth and words of doctrine.
from The Fellowship From the Above