Next we’ll take a look at a parable told by the Lord Jesus in the Age of Grace.
3. The Parable of the Lost Sheep
(Matt 18:12-14) How think you? if a man have an hundred sheep, and one of them be gone astray, does he not leave the ninety and nine, and goes into the mountains, and seeks that which is gone astray? And if so be that he find it, truly I say to you, he rejoices more of that sheep, than of the ninety and nine which went not astray. Even so it is not the will of your Father which is in heaven, that one of these little ones should perish.
This is a metaphor—what kind of feeling do you get from this passage? The way this metaphor is expressed utilizes a figure of speech in human language; it’s something within the scope of human knowledge. If God had said something similar in the Age of Law, people would have felt that it wasn’t really consistent with who God was, but when the Son of man delivered this passage in the Age of Grace, it felt comforting, warm, and intimate to people. When God became flesh, when He appeared in the form of a man, He used a very appropriate metaphor to express His voice in humanity. This voice represented God’s own voice and the work He wanted to do in that age. It also represented an attitude that God had toward people in the Age of Grace. Looking from the perspective of God’s attitude toward people, He compared each person to a sheep. If a sheep is lost, He will do whatever it takes to find it. This represents a principle of God’s work among mankind this time in the flesh. God used this parable to describe His resolve and attitude in that work. This was the advantage of God becoming flesh: He could take advantage of mankind’s knowledge and use human language to speak to people, to express His will. He explained or “translated” to man His profound, divine language that people struggled to understand in human language, in a human way. This helped people understand His will and know what He wanted to do. He could also have conversations with people from the human perspective, using human language, and communicate with people in a way they understood. He could even speak and work using human language and knowledge so that people could feel God’s kindness and closeness, so that they could see His heart. What do you see in this? That there is no prohibitiveness in God’s words and actions? The way people see it, there’s no way that God could use human knowledge, language, or ways of speaking to talk about what God Himself wanted to say, the work He wanted to do, or to express His own will; this is erroneous thinking. God used this type of metaphor so that people could feel the realness and the sincerity of God, and see His attitude toward people during that time period. This parable awakened people from a dream who had been living under the law for a long time, and it also inspired generation after generation of people living in the Age of Grace. By reading the passage of this parable, people know God’s sincerity in saving mankind and understand mankind’s weight in His heart.
Let’s take another look at the last sentence in this passage: “Even so it is not the will of your Father which is in heaven, that one of these little ones should perish.” Was this the Lord Jesus’ own words, or the words of His Father in heaven? On the surface, it looks like it’s the Lord Jesus that’s speaking, but His will represents the will of God Himself, which is why He said: “Even so it is not the will of your Father which is in heaven, that one of these little ones should perish.” People at that time only acknowledged the Father in heaven as God, and this person that they saw in front of their eyes was merely sent by Him, and He could not represent the Father in heaven. That’s why the Lord Jesus had to say that as well, so that they could really feel God’s will for mankind, and feel the authenticity and the accuracy of what He said. Even though this was a simple thing to say, it was very caring and it revealed the Lord Jesus’ humility and hiddenness. No matter whether God became flesh or He worked in the spiritual realm, He knew the human heart best, and best understood what people needed, knew what people worried about, and what confused them, so He added this one line. This line highlighted a problem hidden in mankind: People were skeptical of what the Son of man said, which is to say, when the Lord Jesus was speaking He had to add: “Even so it is not the will of your Father which is in heaven, that one of these little ones should perish.” Only on this premise could His words bear fruit, to make people believe their accuracy and improve their credibility. This shows that when God became a regular Son of man, God and mankind had a very awkward relationship, and that the Son of man’s situation was very embarrassing. It also shows how insignificant the Lord Jesus’ status among humans was at that time. When He said this, it was actually to tell people: You can rest assured—this doesn’t represent what’s in My own heart, but it is the will of the God who is in your hearts. For mankind, wasn’t this an ironic thing? Even though God working in the flesh had many advantages that He did not have in His person, He had to withstand their doubts and rejection as well as their numbness and dullness. It could be said that the process of the work of the Son of man was the process of experiencing mankind’s rejection, and the process of experiencing mankind competing against Him. More than that, it was the process of working to continuously win mankind’s trust and conquer mankind through what He has and is, through His own essence. It was not so much that God incarnate was waging an on-the-ground war against Satan; it was more that God became an ordinary man and began a struggle with those who follow Him, and in this struggle the Son of man completed His work with His humility, with what He has and is, with His love and wisdom. He obtained the people He wanted, won the identity and status He deserved, and returned to His throne.
Next, let’s look at the following two passages of scripture.
4. Forgive Seventy Times Seven
(Matt 18:21-22) Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times? Jesus said to him, I say not to you, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven.
5. The Lord’s Love
(Matt 22:37-39) Jesus said to him, You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like to it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
Of these two passages, one speaks of forgiveness and the other speaks of love. These two topics really highlight the work the Lord Jesus wanted to carry out in the Age of Grace.
When God became flesh, He brought along with that a stage of His work—He brought along the specific work of this age and the disposition He wanted to express. In that period, everything that the Son of man did revolved around the work that God wanted to carry out in this age. He would do no more and no less. Every single thing He said and every type of work that He carried out was all related to this age. Regardless of whether He expressed it in a human way with human language or through divine language—no matter which way, or from which perspective—His goal was to help people understand what He wanted to do, what His will was, and what His requirements of people were. He might use various means from different perspectives to help people understand and know His will, understand His work of saving mankind. So in the Age of Grace we see the Lord Jesus frequently using human language to express what He wanted to communicate with mankind. Even more, we see Him from the perspective of an ordinary guide speaking with people, supplying their needs, helping them with what they had requested. This way of working was not seen in the Age of Law that came before the Age of Grace. He became more intimate and more compassionate with mankind, as well as more able to achieve practical results in both form and manner. The expression to forgive people “seventy times seven” really clarifies this point. The purpose achieved by the number in this expression is to allow people to understand the Lord Jesus’ intention at the time that He said this. His intention was that people should forgive others—not once or twice, and not even seven times, but seventy times seven. What kind of idea is this “seventy times seven”? It is to get people to make forgiveness their own responsibility, something they must learn, and a way they must keep. Even though this was just an expression, it served as a crucial point. It helped people deeply appreciate what He meant and find the proper ways of practice and the principles and standards in practice. This expression helped people understand clearly and gave them an accurate concept that they should learn forgiveness—to forgive without conditions and without limitations, but with an attitude of tolerance and understanding for others. When the Lord Jesus said this, what was in His heart? Was He really thinking of seventy times seven? He wasn’t. Is there a number of times God will forgive man? There are many people who are very interested in the “number of times” mentioned, who really want to understand the origin and the meaning of this number. They want to understand why this number came out of the Lord Jesus’ mouth; they believe that there is a deeper implication to this number. In fact, this was just God’s expression in humanity. Any implication or meaning must be taken along with the Lord Jesus’ requirements for mankind. When God had not become flesh, people did not understand much of what He said because it came out of complete divinity. The perspective and context of what He said was invisible and unreachable to mankind; it was expressed from a spiritual realm that people could not see. For people who lived in the flesh, they could not pass through the spiritual realm. But after God became flesh, He spoke to mankind from the perspective of humanity, and this dialogue came out of and surpassed the scope of the spiritual realm. He could express His divine disposition, will, and attitude, through things humans could imagine and things they saw and encountered in their lives, and using methods that humans could accept, in a language they could understand, and knowledge they could grasp, to allow mankind to understand and to know God, to comprehend His meaning and His required standards within the scope of their capacity, to the degree that they were able. This was the method and principle of God’s work in humanity. Even though God’s ways and His principles of working in the flesh were mostly achieved by or through humanity, it truly did achieve results that could not be achieved by working directly in divinity. God’s work in humanity was more concrete, authentic, and targeted, the methods were much more flexible, and in form it surpassed the Age of Law.
Below, let’s talk about loving the Lord and loving your neighbor as yourself. Is this something that’s directly expressed in divinity? Clearly not! These were all things that the Son of man said in humanity; only people would say something like “Love your neighbor as yourself. Loving others is the same as cherishing your own life,” and only people would speak in this manner. God has never spoken that way. At the very least, God does not have this type of language in His divinity because He doesn’t need this kind of tenet, “Love your neighbor as yourself” to regulate His love for mankind, because God’s love for mankind is a natural revealing of what He has and is. When have you ever heard that God said anything like “I love mankind as I love Myself”? Because love is in God’s essence, and in what He has and is. God’s love for mankind and the way He treats people and His attitude are a natural expression and revealing of His disposition. He does not need to deliberately do this a certain way, or deliberately follow a certain method or a moral code to achieve loving His neighbor as Himself—He already possesses this type of essence. What do you see in this? When God worked in humanity, many of His methods, words, and truths were all expressed in a human way. But at the same time God’s disposition, what He has and is, and His will were expressed for people to know and understand them. What they knew and understood was exactly His essence and what He has and is, which represent the inherent identity and status of God Himself. That is to say, the Son of man in the flesh expressed the inherent disposition and essence of God Himself to the greatest extent possible and as accurately as possible. Not only was the Son of man’s humanity not a hindrance or a barrier to man’s communication and interaction with God in heaven, but it was actually the only channel and the only bridge for mankind to connect to the Lord of creation. At this point, don’t you feel that there are many similarities between the nature and methods of the work done by the Lord Jesus in the Age of Grace and the current stage of work? This current stage of work also uses a lot of human language to express God’s disposition, and it uses a lot of language and methods from mankind’s daily life and human knowledge to express God’s own will. Once God becomes flesh, no matter if He is speaking from a human perspective or a divine perspective, much of His language and methods of expression are all through the medium of human language and methods. That is, when God becomes flesh, it is the best opportunity for you to see God’s omnipotence and His wisdom, and to know every real aspect of God. When God became flesh, while He was growing up, He came to understand, learn, and grasp some of mankind’s knowledge, common sense, language, and methods of expression in humanity. God incarnate possessed these things that came from the humans that He had created. They became tools of God in the flesh for expressing His disposition and His divinity, and allowed Him to make His work more pertinent, more authentic, and more accurate when He was working amidst mankind, from a human perspective and using human language. It made it more accessible and more easily understood for people, thus achieving the results that God wanted. Isn’t it more practical for God to work in the flesh this way? Isn’t it God’s wisdom? When God became flesh, when God’s flesh was able to take on the work that He wanted to carry out, it is when He would express His disposition and His work on the ground, and this was also the time that He could officially begin His ministry as the Son of man. This meant that there was no longer a gulf between God and man, that God would soon cease His work of communicating through messengers, and that God Himself could personally express all the words and work in the flesh that He wanted to. It also meant that the people God saves were closer to Him, and that His management work had entered new territory, and that all of mankind was about to be faced with a new era.
Everyone who has read the Bible knows that many things happened when the Lord Jesus was born. The greatest among those was being hunted by the Devil, even to the point of all the children two years old and under in that area being slaughtered. It is evident that God assumed great risk by becoming flesh among humans; the great price that He paid for completing His management of saving mankind is also evident. The great hopes that God held for His work among mankind in the flesh are also evident. When God’s flesh was able to take on the work among mankind, how was He feeling? People should be able to understand that a bit, right? At the very least, God was happy because He could start developing His new work among mankind. When the Lord Jesus was baptized and officially began His work to fulfill His ministry, God’s heart was overwhelmed with joy because after so many years of waiting and preparation, He could finally wear the flesh of an average man and begin His new work in the form of a man of flesh and blood that people could see and touch. He could finally speak face-to-face and heart-to-heart with people through the identity of a man. God could finally be face to face with mankind in human language, in a human way; He could provide for mankind, enlighten them, and help them using human language; He could eat at the same table and live in the same space with them. He could also see human beings, see things, and see everything the way humans did and even through their own eyes. For God, this was already His first victory of His work in the flesh. It could also be said that it was an accomplishment of a great work—this of course was what God was happiest about. Starting then was the first time that God felt a sort of comfort in His work among mankind. All of these events were so practical and so natural, and the comfort that God felt was so authentic. For mankind, each time a new stage of God’s work is accomplished, and each time God feels gratified, is when mankind can come closer to God, and when people can draw nearer to salvation. To God, this is also the launch of His new work, when His management plan progresses one step further, and, moreover, when His will approaches complete accomplishment. For mankind, the arrival of such an opportunity is fortunate, and very good; for all those who await God’s salvation, it is momentous news. When God carries out a new stage of work, then He has a new beginning, and when this new work and new beginning are launched and introduced among mankind, it is when the outcome of this stage of work has already been determined, and it has been accomplished, and God has already seen its final effects and fruit. This is also when these effects make God feel satisfied, and His heart, of course, is happy. Because, in God’s eyes, He has already seen and determined the people He is looking for, and has already acquired this group, a group that is able to make His work successful and bring Him satisfaction, God feels reassured, He puts aside His worries, and He feels happy. In other words, when the flesh of God is able to embark upon new work among man, and He begins to do the work He must do without obstruction, and when He feels that all has been accomplished, He has already seen the end. And because of this end He is satisfied, and of a happy heart. How is God’s happiness expressed? Can you imagine that? Would God cry? Can God cry? Can God clap His hands? Can God dance? Can God sing? What would that song be? Of course God could sing a beautiful, moving song, a song that could express the joy and happiness in His heart. He could sing it for mankind, sing it for Himself, and sing it for all things. God’s happiness can be expressed in any way—all of this is normal because God has joys and sorrows, and His various feelings can be expressed in various ways. This is His right and it is the most normal thing. You should not think anything else of it, and you should not project your own inhibitions onto God, telling Him He shouldn’t do this or that, He shouldn’t act this way or that, to limit His happiness or any feeling He has. In people’s hearts God can’t be happy, He can’t shed tears, He can’t weep—He can’t express any emotion. Through what we have communicated these two times, I believe you will no longer see God this way, but will allow God to have some freedom and release. This is a very good thing. In the future if you are able to truly feel God’s sadness when you hear about Him being sad, and you are able to truly feel His happiness when you hear about Him being happy—at the least, you are able to clearly know and understand what makes God happy and what makes Him sad—when you are able to feel sad because God is sad, and feel happy because God is happy, He will have fully gained your heart and there will no longer be any barrier with Him. You will no longer try to constrain God with human imagination, conceptions, and knowledge. At that time, God will be alive and vivid in your heart. He will be the God of your life and the Master of everything of you. Do you have this kind of aspiration? Do you have confidence you can achieve this?