1. What knowing God is, and whether an understanding of Biblical knowledge and theological theory qualifies as knowledge of God
Relevant Words of God:
What does it mean to know God? It means being able to comprehend His joy, anger, sorrow, and happiness; this is knowing God. You claim that you have seen Him, yet you do not understand His joy, anger, sorrow, and happiness and you do not understand His disposition. You also understand neither His righteousness nor His mercifulness, nor do you know what He likes or what He loathes. This is not knowledge of God. Therefore, some people can follow God but are not necessarily capable of truly believing in Him; herein lies the difference. If you know God, understand Him, and are able to comprehend some of His will, then you can truly believe in Him, truly submit to Him, truly love Him, and truly worship Him. If you do not understand these things, then you are just a follower who runs along and goes with the flow. That cannot be called true submission or true worship. How does true worship come about? Without exception, all who genuinely know God worship and revere Him whenever they see Him; they are all compelled to bow down and worship Him. At present, while God incarnate is at work, the more understanding people have of His disposition and of what He has and is, the more they will treasure these things and the more they will revere Him. Generally, the less understanding people have, the more careless they are, and so they treat God as human. If people really knew and saw God, they would tremble with fear. “He that comes after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear”—why did John say this? Though deep down he did not have a very profound understanding, he knew that God is awe-inspiring. How many people these days are capable of revering God? If they do not know His disposition, then how can they revere God? People neither know Christ’s essence nor understand God’s disposition, much less are they able to truly worship God. If they see only the ordinary and normal outward appearance of Christ, yet do not know His essence, then it is easy for them to treat Christ as just an ordinary man. They may adopt an irreverent attitude toward Him and can cheat Him, resist Him, disobey Him, and cast judgment on Him. They can be self-righteous and not take His words seriously; they can even give rise to notions, condemnations, and blasphemy against God. To resolve these issues, one must know Christ’s essence and divinity. This is the main aspect of knowing God; it is what everyone who believes in the practical God must enter and achieve.
Excerpted from “How to Know God Incarnate” in Records of Christ’s Talks
What should you know about the practical God? The Spirit, the Person, and the Word make up the practical God Himself, and this is the true meaning of the practical God Himself. If you only know the Person—if you know His habits and personality—but do not know the work of the Spirit, or what the Spirit does in the flesh, and if you only pay attention to the Spirit, and the Word, and only pray before the Spirit, but do not know the work of God’s Spirit in the practical God, then this yet proves that you do not know the practical God. Knowledge of the practical God includes knowing and experiencing His words, and grasping the rules and principles of the work of the Holy Spirit and how the Spirit of God works in the flesh. It also includes knowing that every action of God in the flesh is governed by the Spirit, and that the words He speaks are the direct expression of the Spirit. Thus, to know the practical God, it is paramount to know how God works in humanity and in divinity; this, in turn, concerns the expressions of the Spirit, with which all people engage.
Excerpted from “You Should Know That the Practical God Is God Himself” in The Word Appears in the Flesh
The process of coming to know the word of God is the process of coming to know God and the work of God. So, knowing visions not only refers to knowing the humanity of God incarnate, but also includes knowing the word and the work of God. From the word of God people come to understand God’s will, and from the work of God they come to know God’s disposition and what God is. Belief in God is the first step to knowing God. The process of advancing from this initial belief in God to the most profound belief in Him is the process of coming to know God, the process of experiencing the work of God. If you only believe in God for the sake of believing in God, and not for the sake of coming to know Him, then there is no reality to your faith, and your faith cannot become pure—of this there is no doubt. If, during the process by which man experiences God’s work, he gradually comes to know God, then his disposition will gradually change, and his belief will become increasingly true. In this way, when man achieves success in his belief in God, he will have completely gained God. The reason why God went to such great lengths to become flesh for the second time to do His work in person was so that man would be able to know Him and to see Him. Knowing God[a] is the final effect to be achieved at the conclusion of God’s work; it is the last requirement God makes of mankind. The reason why He does this is for the sake of His final testimony; He does this work in order that man may finally and completely turn to Him. Man can only come to love God by knowing God, and to love God he must know God. No matter how he seeks, or what he seeks to gain, he must be able to achieve knowledge of God. Only in this way can man satisfy God’s heart. Only by knowing God can man have true faith in God, and only by knowing God can he truly revere and obey God. Those who do not know God will never arrive at true obedience and reverence of God. Knowing God includes knowing His disposition, understanding His will, and knowing what He is. Yet whichever aspect one comes to know, each one requires man to pay a price and requires the will to obey, without which no one would be able to continue following to the end.
Excerpted from “Only Those Who Know God Can Bear Testimony to God” in The Word Appears in the Flesh
The three stages of work are at the heart of God’s entire management, and in them are expressed the disposition of God and what He is. Those who do not know of the three stages of God’s work are incapable of realizing how God expresses His disposition, nor do they know the wisdom of God’s work. They also remain ignorant of the many ways in which He saves mankind, and of His will for the whole of mankind. The three stages of work are the full expression of the work of saving mankind. Those who do not know the three stages of work will be ignorant of the various methods and principles of the Holy Spirit’s work, and those who only rigidly stick to doctrine that is left over from a certain stage of work are people who limit God to doctrine, and whose belief in God is vague and uncertain. Such people will never receive God’s salvation. Only the three stages of God’s work can fully express the entirety of God’s disposition and completely express God’s intention of saving the whole of mankind, and the entire process of mankind’s salvation. This is proof that He has defeated Satan and gained mankind; it is proof of God’s victory, and is the expression of God’s entire disposition. Those who understand only one stage of the three stages of God’s work know only part of God’s disposition. In the notions of man, it is easy for this single stage of work to become doctrine, and it becomes likely that man will establish fixed rules about God and use this single part of God’s disposition as a representation of God’s entire disposition. Furthermore, much of man’s imagination is mixed within, such that man rigidly constrains the disposition, being, and wisdom of God, as well as the principles of God’s work, within limited parameters, believing that if God was like this once, then He will remain the same for all time and never change. Only those who know and appreciate the three stages of work can fully and accurately know God. At the very least, they will not define God as the God of the Israelites, or the Jews, and will not see Him as a God who will be forever nailed to the cross for the sake of man. If one only comes to know God from one stage of His work, then their knowledge is far too small, and amounts to no more than a drop in the ocean. If not, why would many of the religious old guard nail God to the cross alive? Is it not because man confines God within certain parameters? Do many people not oppose God and obstruct the work of the Holy Spirit because they do not know the varied and diverse work of God, and, furthermore, because they possess but a smidgeon of knowledge and doctrine with which to measure the work of the Holy Spirit? Though the experiences of such people are superficial, they are arrogant and indulgent in nature and they regard the work of the Holy Spirit with contempt, ignore the disciplines of the Holy Spirit and, moreover, use their trivial old arguments to “confirm” the work of the Holy Spirit. They also put on an act, and are wholly convinced of their own learning and erudition, and convinced that they are able to travel across the world. Are such people not those who are despised and rejected by the Holy Spirit, and will they not be eliminated by the new age? Are not those who come before God and openly oppose Him ignorant and under-informed little people, who are merely trying to show how brilliant they are? With but a meager knowledge of the Bible, they try to straddle the world’s “academia”; with but a superficial doctrine to teach people, they try to reverse the work of the Holy Spirit and attempt to make it revolve around their own thought process. Short-sighted as they are, they try to behold in one glance 6,000 years of God’s work. These people do not have any sense worth mentioning! In fact, the greater people’s knowledge of God, the slower they are to judge His work. Furthermore, they only talk a little of their knowledge of God’s work today, but they are not rash in their judgments. The less people know of God, the more arrogant and overconfident they are and the more wantonly they proclaim God’s being—yet they only talk of theory, and offer no real evidence. Such people are of no value whatsoever. Those who see the work of the Holy Spirit as a game are frivolous! Those who are not cautious when they encounter the new work of the Holy Spirit, who run their mouths off, are quick to judge, who give free rein to their natural instinct to deny the rightness of the Holy Spirit’s work, and who also insult and blaspheme it—are such disrespectful people not ignorant of the Holy Spirit’s work? Are they not, furthermore, people of great arrogance, people who are inherently proud and ungovernable? Even if a day comes when such people accept the new work of the Holy Spirit, still God will not tolerate them. Not only do they look down upon those who work for God, but they also blaspheme against God Himself. Such foolhardy people will not be forgiven, either in this age or the age to come, and they shall forever perish in hell! Such disrespectful, indulgent people are pretending to believe in God, and the more people are like this, the more liable they are to offend God’s administrative decrees. Do not all those arrogant ones who are innately unbridled, and who have never obeyed anyone, all walk upon this path? Do they not oppose God day after day, God who is always new and never old?
Excerpted from “Knowing the Three Stages of God’s Work Is the Path to Knowing God” in The Word Appears in the Flesh
However much understanding of God there is in people’s hearts, that is also the extent of the position He holds in their hearts. However great the degree of knowledge of God is in their hearts, that is how great God is in their hearts. If the God that you know is empty and vague, then the God you believe in is also empty and vague. The God that you know is limited to the scope of your own personal life, and has nothing to do with the true God Himself. Thus, knowing God’s practical actions, knowing the reality of God and His omnipotence, knowing the true identity of God Himself, knowing what He has and is, knowing the actions that He has manifested among all the things of His creation—these things are very important to every single person who pursues knowledge of God. They have a direct bearing on whether people can enter truth reality. If you limit your understanding of God to just words, if you limit it to your own little experiences, to what you figure to be God’s grace, or your little testimonies to God, then I say that the God you believe in is absolutely not the true God Himself. Not only that, but it can also be said that the God you believe in is an imaginary God, not the true God. This is because the true God is the One that rules over everything, that walks among everything, that manages everything. He is the One that holds the fate of all of mankind and of everything in His hands. The work and actions of the God that I am talking about are not just limited to a small portion of people. That is, they are not limited to just the people who currently follow Him. His deeds are manifested among all things, in the survival of all things, and in the laws of change of all things.
Excerpted from “God Himself, the Unique IX” in The Word Appears in the Flesh
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. Do such assertions exist in the religious community? Such assertions are made very loudly, and also very forcefully: “It’s wrong that God has incarnated, it’s impossible! Any incarnation is a sham!” Some ask, “Have these people been misled?” Absolutely not. They just do not have true faith in God. They do not believe in the existence of God, they do not believe in the incarnation of God, they do not believe in God’s work of creating the world, much less do they believe in God’s work of being crucified and redeeming all mankind. To them, the theology they study is a series of historical events, it is a kind of doctrine or theory.
Excerpted from “For Leaders and Workers, Choosing a Path Is of Utmost Importance (7)” in Records of Christ’s Talks
What was the chief manifestation of the hypocrisy of the Pharisees? They only pored over Scripture and did not seek the truth. When they read God’s words, they did not pray or seek; instead, they studied the words of God, they studied what God said and did, and so turned His words into a kind of theory, into a doctrine that they taught to others. This is what poring over God’s words is. So why did they do that? What was it they pored over? In their eyes, these were not the words of God, they were not the expressions of God, much less were they the truth, but rather a form of scholarship. Such scholarship, in their eyes, should be passed on, it should be spread, and only this would have been spreading the way of God and the gospel. This is what they called “preaching,” and the sermon they preached was theology.
… The Pharisees treated the theology and theory they had mastered as a kind of knowledge, as a tool for condemning people and measuring whether they were right or wrong. They even used it on the Lord Jesus—that was how the Lord Jesus was condemned. Their appraisal of people, and the way they treated them, was never based on their essence, or on whether what they said was right or wrong, much less on the source or provenance of their words. They just condemned and measured people based on unyielding words and doctrines that they had mastered. And so, even though these Pharisees knew that what the Lord Jesus did was not a sin, and did not contravene the law, they still condemned Him, because what the Lord Jesus said appeared to be at odds with the knowledge and scholarship they had mastered and the theological theory they expounded. And the Pharisees just would not loosen their grip on these words and phrases, they clung onto this knowledge and would not let it go. What was the only possible outcome in the end? They would not acknowledge that the Lord Jesus was the Messiah who would come, or that there was truth in what the Lord Jesus said, much less that what the Lord Jesus did was in keeping with the truth. They found some unsubstantiated charges to condemn the Lord Jesus with—but in fact, in their hearts, did they know whether these sins they condemned Him with were valid? They did. So why did they still condemn Him thus? (They did not want to believe that the high and mighty God in their minds could have been the Lord Jesus, this image of an ordinary Son of man.) They did not want to accept this fact. And what was the nature of their refusal to accept this? Was there not something of trying to reason with God in this? What they meant was, “Could God do that? If God were incarnated, He must surely be born of distinguished lineage. What’s more, He must accept the tutelage of scribes and Pharisees, learn this knowledge, and read much Scripture. Only after He possesses this knowledge can He take on the title of ‘incarnation’.” They believed that, firstly, You are not thus qualified, so You are not God; secondly, without this knowledge You cannot do the work of God, much less can You be God; thirdly, You cannot work outside the temple—You are not in the temple now, You are always among the sinners, so the work You do is beyond the scope of God’s work. Where did the basis of their condemnation come from? From Scripture, from the mind of man, and from the theological education they had received. Because they were swollen with notions, imaginings, and knowledge, they believed this knowledge to be right, to be the truth, to be the basis, and at no time could God contravene these things. Did they seek the truth? They did not. What they sought were their own notions and imaginings, and their own experiences, and they tried to use these to define God and determine whether He was right or wrong. What was the ultimate outcome of this? They condemned the work of God and nailed Him to the cross.
Excerpted from “For Leaders and Workers, Choosing a Path Is of Utmost Importance (7)” in Records of Christ’s Talks
Man has been corrupted and lives in Satan’s trap. All people live in the flesh, live in selfish desires, and there is not a single one among them who is compatible with Me. There are those who say that they are compatible with Me, but such people all worship vague idols. Although they acknowledge My name as holy, they tread a path that runs contrary to Me, and their words are full of arrogance and self-confidence. This is because, at root, they are all against Me and incompatible with Me. Every day, they seek traces of Me in the Bible and find “suitable” passages at random which they read endlessly and recite as scriptures. They do not know how to be compatible with Me nor what it means to be against Me. They merely read scriptures blindly. Within the Bible, they constrain a vague God that they have never seen, and are incapable of seeing, and take it out to look at at their leisure. They believe in My existence only within the scope of the Bible, and they equate Me with the Bible; without the Bible there is no Me, and without Me there is no Bible. They pay no heed to My existence or actions, but instead devote extreme and special attention to each and every word of Scripture. Many more even believe that I should not do anything I wish to do unless it is foretold by Scripture. They attach too much importance to Scripture. It can be said that they see words and expressions as too important, to the extent that they use verses from the Bible to measure every word I say and to condemn Me. What they seek is not the way of compatibility with Me or the way of compatibility with the truth, but the way of compatibility with the words of the Bible, and they believe that anything that does not conform to the Bible is, without exception, not My work. Are such people not the dutiful descendants of the Pharisees? The Jewish Pharisees used the law of Moses to condemn Jesus. They did not seek compatibility with the Jesus of that time, but diligently followed the law to the letter, to the extent that—after having charged Him with not following the law of the Old Testament and not being the Messiah—they ultimately nailed the innocent Jesus to the cross. What was their substance? Was it not that they didn’t seek the way of compatibility with the truth? They obsessed over each and every word of Scripture while paying heed neither to My will nor to the steps and methods of My work. They were not people who sought the truth, but people who rigidly clung to words; they were not people who believed in God, but people who believed in the Bible. Essentially, they were watchdogs of the Bible. In order to safeguard the interests of the Bible, to uphold the dignity of the Bible, and to protect the reputation of the Bible, they went so far as to nail the merciful Jesus to the cross. This they did merely for the sake of defending the Bible, and for the sake of maintaining the status of each and every word of the Bible in people’s hearts. So they preferred to forsake their future and the sin offering to condemn Jesus, who did not conform to the doctrine of Scripture, to death. Were they not all lackeys to each and every word of Scripture?
And what of people today? Christ has come to release the truth, yet they would rather expel Him from this world so that they may gain entry into heaven and receive grace. They would rather completely deny the coming of the truth in order to safeguard the interests of the Bible, and they would rather nail the Christ returned to flesh to the cross again in order to ensure the everlasting existence of the Bible. How can man receive My salvation when his heart is so malicious and his nature so antagonistic toward Me? I live among man, yet man does not know of My existence. When I shine My light upon man, he still remains ignorant of My existence. When I unleash My wrath upon man, he denies My existence with even greater vigor. Man searches for compatibility with words and compatibility with the Bible, yet not a single person comes before Me to seek the way of compatibility with the truth. Man looks up to Me in heaven and devotes particular concern to My existence in heaven, yet no one cares about Me in the flesh, for I who live among man am simply too insignificant. Those who only seek compatibility with the words of the Bible and who only seek compatibility with a vague God are a wretched sight to Me. That is because what they worship are dead words, and a God that is capable of giving them untold treasures; what they worship is a God that would lay Himself at the mercy of man—a God who does not exist. What, then, can such people gain from Me? Man is simply too lowly for words. Those who are against Me, who make limitless demands of Me, who have no love of the truth, who are rebellious toward Me—how could they be compatible with Me?
… Those who only care about the words of the Bible and are concerned neither with the truth nor with seeking My footsteps—they are against Me, for they limit Me according to the Bible, constrain Me within the Bible, and so are blasphemous in the extreme toward Me. How could such people come before Me? They pay no heed to My deeds, or My will, or the truth, but instead obsess over words—words that kill. How could such people be compatible with Me?
Excerpted from “You Should Seek the Way of Compatibility With Christ” in The Word Appears in the Flesh
a. The original text reads “The work of knowing God.”