XIV. One Must Fellowship Clearly on the Differences Between God’s Church and Religious Groups
1. What is God’s church? What is a religious group?
Bible Verses for Reference:
“The church … is His body, the fullness of Him that fills all in all” (Eph 1:22–23).
“And Jesus went into the temple of God, and cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves, And said to them, It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but you have made it a den of thieves” (Mat 21:12–13).
“And he cried mightily with a strong voice, saying, Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, and is become the habitation of devils, and the hold of every foul spirit, and a cage of every unclean and hateful bird. For all nations have drunk of the wine of the wrath of her fornication, and the kings of the earth have committed fornication with her, and the merchants of the earth are waxed rich through the abundance of her delicacies” (Rev 18:2–3).
Relevant Words of God:
All those who are within the stream of the Holy Spirit are possessed of the presence and discipline of the Holy Spirit, and those who are not within the stream of the Holy Spirit are under the command of Satan, and without any of the work of the Holy Spirit. People who are in the stream of the Holy Spirit are those who accept the new work of God, the ones who cooperate in the new work of God. If those who are within this stream are incapable of cooperating, and unable to put into practice the truth required by God during this time, then they will be disciplined, and at worst will be forsaken by the Holy Spirit. Those who accept the new work of the Holy Spirit, will live within the stream of the Holy Spirit, receive the care and protection of the Holy Spirit. Those who are willing to put the truth into practice are enlightened by the Holy Spirit, and those who are unwilling to put the truth into practice are disciplined by the Holy Spirit, and may even be punished. Regardless of what kind of person they are, provided that they are within the stream of the Holy Spirit, God will take responsibility for all those who accept His new work for the sake of His name. Those who glorify His name and are willing to put His words into practice will receive His blessings; those who disobey Him and do not put His words into practice will receive His punishment. People who are in the stream of the Holy Spirit are those who accept the new work, and since they have accepted the new work, they should have the appropriate cooperation with God, and should not act as rebels who do not perform their duty. This is God’s only requirement of man. Not so for the people who do not accept the new work: They are outside the stream of the Holy Spirit, and the discipline and reproach of the Holy Spirit do not apply to them. All day, these people live within the flesh, they live within their minds, and all that they do is according to the doctrine produced by the analysis and research of their own brains. It is not the requirements of the Holy Spirit’s new work, much less is it cooperation with God. Those who do not accept the new work of God are bereft of the presence of God, and, moreover, devoid of the blessings and protection of God. Most of their words and actions hold to the past requirements of the Holy Spirit’s work; they are doctrine, not truth. Such doctrine and regulation are sufficient to prove that the only thing that brings them together is religion; they are not the chosen ones, or the objects of God’s work. The assembly of all those among them can only be called a grand congress of religion, and cannot be called a church. This is an unalterable fact. They do not have the Holy Spirit’s new work; what they do seems redolent of religion, what they live out seems replete with religion; they do not possess the presence and work of the Holy Spirit, much less are they eligible to receive the discipline or enlightenment of the Holy Spirit. These people are all lifeless corpses, and maggots that are devoid of spirituality. They have no knowledge of man’s rebelliousness and opposition, have no knowledge of all of man’s evildoing, much less do they know all of God’s work and God’s present will. They are all ignorant, base people, they are scum that are unfit to be called believers! Nothing that they do has a bearing on the management of God, much less can it impair God’s plans. Their words and actions are too disgusting, too pathetic, and simply unworthy of mention. Nothing done by those who are not within the stream of the Holy Spirit has anything to do with the new work of the Holy Spirit. Because of this, no matter what they do, they are without the discipline of the Holy Spirit, and, moreover, without the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit. For they are all people who have no love for the truth, and have been detested and rejected by the Holy Spirit. They are called evildoers because they walk in the flesh, and do whatever pleases them under the signboard of God. While God works, they are deliberately hostile to Him, and run in the opposite direction to Him. Man’s failure to cooperate with God is supremely rebellious in itself, so won’t those people who deliberately run counter to God particularly receive their just retribution?
from “God’s Work and Man’s Practice” in The Word Appears in the Flesh
What does God name those who believed in Jehovah? Judaism. They became a kind of religious group. And how does God define those who believe in Jesus? (Christianity.) In God’s eyes, Judaism and Christianity are religious groups. Why does God define them thus? Among all those who are members of these religious bodies defined by God, are there any who fear God and shun evil, do God’s will, and follow the way of God? (No.) So can you see whether, in God’s eyes, those who nominally follow God are all people He acknowledges as believers in God? In God’s eyes, do they all have a connection with God? Could they all be targets for God’s salvation? (No.) So will a day come when you are reduced to what God sees as a religious group? (It’s possible.) Being reduced to a religious group, that seems inconceivable. If people become part of a religious group in God’s eyes, will they be saved by Him? Are they of the house of God? (No, they aren’t.) So have a think and try to summarize: These people who are not of the house of God, who nominally believe in the true God but whom God believes to be part of a religious group—what path do they walk? Could it be said that these people walk the path of waving the flag of faith without ever following His way, of believing in God yet never worshiping Him, and instead forsaking Him? That is, they walk the path of believing in God but not following the way of God and forsaking God; their way is one in which they believe in God but worship Satan, they worship the devil, they try to carry out their own management, and try to establish their own kingdom. Is this the essence of it? Do people like this have any connection to God’s management plan for the salvation of man? (No.) No matter how many people believe in God, as soon as their beliefs are defined by God as being a religion or group, then God has determined that they cannot be saved. Why do I say this? In a gang or crowd of people who are without the work and guidance of God and who do not worship Him at all, who do they worship? Who do they follow? In form and name, they follow a person, but whom do they actually follow? In their hearts they acknowledge God, but in fact, they are subject to human manipulation, arrangements and control. They follow Satan, the devil; they follow the forces that are hostile to God, that are enemies of God. Could God save a pack of people such as this? (No.) Why? Are they capable of repentance? No. They wave the flag of faith, carrying out human enterprises, conducting their own management, and they run counter to God’s management plan for the salvation of mankind. Their final outcome is being detested and rejected by God; God could not possibly save these people, they could not possibly repent, they have already been captured by Satan—they are entirely in Satan’s hands. … And so for the people of this age, who have heard many truths, and have come to understand God’s will, if they are incapable of following the way of God and incapable of walking the path of salvation, what will be their final outcome? Their final outcome will be the same as those who believe in Christianity and Judaism; there will be no difference. This is God’s righteous disposition! Regardless of how many sermons you’ve heard, and how many truths you’ve understood, if ultimately you still follow people and follow Satan, and ultimately, you are still incapable of following the way of God and unable to fear God and shun evil, then people such as this will be detested and rejected by God. To all appearances, these people who are detested and rejected by God can talk much about letters and doctrines, have come to understand many truths, and yet they are incapable of worshiping God; they are incapable of fearing God and shunning evil, and are incapable of total obedience to God. In God’s eyes, God defines them as a religion, as just a group of humans, a gang of humans, and as a lodging place for Satan. They are collectively referred to as the gang of Satan, and they are utterly despised by God.
from “Only If You Live Before God at All Times Can You Walk the Path of Salvation” in Records of Christ’s Talks
First, let us speak of which faiths the “faith” in “people of faith” refers to: It means Judaism, Christianity, Catholicism, Islam, and Buddhism, these five major religions. …
Among the five religions we have spoken of, Christianity is somewhat special. And what’s special about Christianity? These are people who believe in the true God. How can those who believe in the true God be listed here? Since Christianity is a kind of faith, then it is, without doubt, only related to faith—it is a kind of ceremony, a kind of religion, and something separate from the faith of those who truly follow God. The reason why I have listed it among the five major religions is because Christianity has been reduced to the same level as Judaism, Buddhism, and Islam. Most Christians don’t believe there is a God, or that He rules over all things, much less do they believe in His existence. Instead, they merely employ the Scriptures to talk about theology, using theology to teach people to be kind, to endure suffering, and to do good things. That’s what kind of religion Christianity is: It only concentrates on theological theories, it bears absolutely no relation to God’s work of managing and saving man, it is a religion of those who follow God that is not acknowledged by God.
from “God Himself, the Unique X” in The Word Appears in the Flesh
“But I say to you, That in this place is one greater than the temple. But if you had known what this means, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice, you would not have condemned the guiltless. For the Son of man is Lord even of the sabbath day” (Mat 12:6–8). What does “temple” refer to here? To put it simply, “temple” refers to a magnificent, tall building, and in the Age of Law, the temple was a place for priests to worship God. When the Lord Jesus said “in this place is one greater than the temple,” who did “one” refer to? Clearly, “one” is the Lord Jesus in the flesh, because only He was greater than the temple. What did those words tell people? They told people to come out of the temple—God had already come out and was no longer working in it, so people should seek God’s footsteps outside of the temple and follow His steps in His new work. The background of the Lord Jesus saying this was that under the law, people had come to see the temple as something greater than God Himself. That is, people worshiped the temple rather than worshiping God, so the Lord Jesus warned them not to worship idols, but to worship God because He is supreme. Thus, He said: “I will have mercy, and not sacrifice.” It is evident that in the eyes of the Lord Jesus, most people under the law no longer worshiped Jehovah, but were merely going through the process of sacrificing, and the Lord Jesus determined that this process was idol worship. These idol-worshipers saw the temple as something greater, and higher than God. In their hearts there was only the temple, not God, and if they lost the temple, they lost their dwelling place. Without the temple they had nowhere to worship and could not carry out their sacrifices. Their so-called dwelling place is where they operated under the banner of worshiping Jehovah God, allowing them to stay in the temple and carry out their own affairs. Their so-called conducting sacrifices was just to carry out their own personal shameful dealings under the guise of conducting their service in the temple. This was the reason people at that time saw the temple as greater than God. Because they used the temple as a cover, and sacrifices as a guise for cheating people and cheating God, the Lord Jesus said this to warn people. If you apply these words to the present, they are still equally valid and equally pertinent. Although people today have experienced different work of God than people in the Age of Law experienced, the essence of their nature is the same.
from “God’s Work, God’s Disposition, and God Himself III” in The Word Appears in the Flesh