What Is the Incarnation? What Is the Substance of the Incarnation?
Relevant Words of God:
The first incarnate God lived upon the earth for thirty-three and a half years, yet He performed His ministry for only three and a half of those years. Both during the time He worked, and before He began His work, He was possessed of normal humanity. He inhabited His normal humanity for thirty-three and a half years. Throughout the last three and a half years He revealed Himself to be the incarnate God. Before He began performing His ministry, He appeared with ordinary, normal humanity, showing no sign of His divinity, and it was only after He began formally performing His ministry that His divinity was made manifest. His life and work during those first twenty-nine years all demonstrated that He was a genuine human being, a son of man, a flesh; for His ministry only began in earnest after the age of twenty-nine. The meaning of incarnation is that God appears in the flesh, and He comes to work among man of His creation in the image of a flesh. So, for God to be incarnated, He must first be flesh, flesh with normal humanity; this, at the very least, must be true. In fact, the implication of God’s incarnation is that God lives and works in the flesh, God in His very essence becomes flesh, becomes a man. His incarnate life and work can be divided into two stages. First is the life He lives before performing His ministry. He lives in an ordinary human family, in utterly normal humanity, obeying the normal morals and laws of human life, with normal human needs (food, clothing, shelter, sleep), normal human weaknesses, and normal human emotions. In other words, during this first stage He lives in non-divine, completely normal humanity, engaging in all the normal human activities. The second stage is the life He lives after beginning to perform His ministry. He still dwells in the ordinary humanity with a normal human shell, showing no outward sign of the supernatural. Yet He lives purely for the sake of His ministry, and during this time His normal humanity exists entirely in service of the normal work of His divinity; for by then His normal humanity has matured to the point of being able to perform His ministry. So the second stage of His life is to perform His ministry in His normal humanity, is a life both of normal humanity and of complete divinity. The reason that, during the first stage of His life, He lives in completely ordinary humanity is that His humanity is not yet equal to the entirety of the divine work, is not yet mature; only after His humanity grows mature, becomes capable of shouldering His ministry, can He set about performing His ministry. Since He, as flesh, needs to grow and mature, the first stage of His life is that of normal humanity, while in the second stage, because His humanity is capable of undertaking His work and performing His ministry, the life the incarnate God lives during His ministry is one of both humanity and complete divinity. If from the moment of His birth the incarnate God began His ministry in earnest, performing supernatural signs and wonders, then He would have no corporeal essence. Therefore, His humanity exists for the sake of His corporeal essence; there can be no flesh without humanity, and a person without humanity is not a human being. In this way, the humanity of God’s flesh is an intrinsic property of God’s incarnate flesh.
from “The Essence of the Flesh Inhabited by God” in The Word Appears in the Flesh
Even after He begins to perform His ministry, His divinity still inhabits the human outer shell when He does His work; it is just that at the time, His humanity serves the sole purpose of allowing His divinity to perform the work in the normal flesh. So the agent of the work is the divinity inhabiting His humanity. It is His divinity, not His humanity, at work, yet it is a divinity hidden within His humanity; His work is in essence done by His complete divinity, not by His humanity. But the performer of the work is His flesh. One could say that He is a man and also is God, for God becomes a God living in the flesh, with a human shell and a human essence but also the essence of God. Because He is a man with the essence of God, He is above any of created humans, above any man who can perform God’s work. And so, among all those with a human shell like His, among all those who possess humanity, only He is the incarnate God Himself—all others are created humans. Though they all have humanity, created humans are nothing but human, while is different: In His flesh He not only has humanity but more importantly has divinity. His humanity can be seen in the outer appearance of His flesh and in His everyday life, but His divinity is difficult to perceive. Because His divinity is expressed only when He has humanity, and is not as supernatural as people imagine it to be, it is extremely difficult for people to see. Even today it is most difficult for people to fathom the true essence of the incarnate God. In fact, even after I have spoken about it at such length, I expect it is still a mystery to most of you. This issue is very simple: Since God becomes flesh, His essence is a combination of humanity and divinity. This combination is called God Himself, God Himself on earth.
from “The Essence of the Flesh Inhabited by God” in The Word Appears in the Flesh
God comes to the earth not to perfect His normal humanity. He comes not to do the work of normal humanity, but only to do the work of divinity within normal humanity. What God considers normal humanity is not what man imagines. Man defines “normal humanity” as having a wife, or a husband, sons and daughters. To man,[a] these things mean one is a normal person. But God does not see it this way. He sees normal humanity as having the normal human thoughts and lives and being born of normal people. But His normalcy does not include having a wife, or a husband, and children the way man understands normalcy. That is, to man, the normal humanity that God speaks of is what man would consider the absence of humanity, almost lacking in feeling and seemingly devoid of fleshly needs, just like , who had only the exterior of a normal person and took on the appearance of a normal person, but in essence did not completely possess what a normal person possesses. From this we can see that the incarnate God’s substance does not encompass the entirety of normal humanity, but only a portion of the things that people should have, to sustain the rules of normal human living and normal human intellect. But these things have nothing to do with what man considers normal humanity. They are what God incarnate should have. Some people say, however, that God incarnate can be said to possess normal humanity only if He has a wife, sons and daughters, a family. Without these things, they say, He is not a normal person. I ask you then, does God have a wife? Is it possible for God to have a husband? Can God have children? Are these not fallacies? However, the incarnate God cannot spring from cracks between rocks or fall down from the sky. He can only be born to a normal human family. That is why He has parents and sisters. These are the things that the normal humanity of the incarnate God must have. This was the case with Jesus. Jesus had a father and mother, sisters and brothers. This was all normal. But if He had a wife and sons and daughters, then His would not have been the normal humanity that God wanted in the God incarnate. If so, He would not have been able to represent divinity in His work. It was because He did not have a wife or children but was born of normal people into a normal family that He was able to do the work of divinity. To clarify, what God considers a normal person is a person born into a normal family. Only such a person is qualified to do divine work. If, on the other hand, the person had a wife, children, or a husband, that person would not be able to do divine work because he would possess only the normal humanity that humans require but not the normal humanity that God requires. God’s thoughts and people’s understandings are often hugely different and leagues apart.
from “The Essential Difference Between the Incarnate God and People Used by God” in The Word Appears in the Flesh
The Christ with normal humanity is a flesh in which the Spirit is realized, possessing normal humanity, normal sense, and human thought. “Being realized” means God becoming man, the Spirit becoming flesh; to put it plainly, it is when God Himself inhabits a flesh with normal humanity, and through it expresses His divine work—this is what it means to be realized, or incarnated.
from “The Essence of the Flesh Inhabited by God” in The Word Appears in the Flesh
The flesh worn by the Spirit of God is God’s own flesh. The Spirit of God is supreme, He is almighty, holy, and righteous—and so likewise His flesh is also supreme, almighty, holy, and righteous. Such a flesh is only able to do that which is righteous and beneficial to mankind, that which is holy, glorious, and mighty, and is incapable of doing anything that violates the truth or morality and justice, much less anything that rebels against God’s Spirit. The Spirit of God is holy, and thus His flesh is incorruptible by Satan; His flesh is of a different substance to the flesh of man. For it is man, not God, who is corrupted by Satan, and the flesh of God could not possibly be corrupted by Satan.
from “A Very Serious Problem: Betrayal (2)” in The Word Appears in the Flesh
(Selected Passage of God’s Word)
The Substance of Christ Is Obedience to the Will of the Heavenly Father
The incarnate God is called Christ, and Christ is the flesh donned by the Spirit of God. This flesh is unlike any man that is of the flesh. This difference is because Christ is not of flesh and blood but is the incarnation of the Spirit. He has both a normal humanity and a complete divinity. His divinity is not possessed by any man. His normal humanity sustains all His normal activities in the flesh, while His divinity carries out the work of God Himself. Be it His humanity or divinity, both submit to the will of the heavenly Father. The substance of Christ is the Spirit, that is, the divinity. Therefore, His substance is that of God Himself; this substance will not interrupt His own work, and He could not possibly do anything that destroys His own work, nor would He ever utter any words that go against His own will. Therefore, the incarnate God would absolutely never do any work that interrupts His own management. This is what all man should understand. The essence of the work of the is to save man and is for the sake of God’s own management. Similarly, the work of Christ is to save man and is for the sake of God’s will. Given that God becomes flesh, He realizes His substance within His flesh, such that His flesh is sufficient to undertake His work. Therefore, all the work of God’s Spirit is replaced by the work of Christ during the time of incarnation, and at the core of all work throughout the time of incarnation is the work of Christ. It cannot be commingled with work from any other age. And since God becomes flesh, He works in the identity of His flesh; since He comes in the flesh, He then finishes in the flesh the work that He ought to do. Be it the Spirit of God or be it Christ, both are God Himself, and He does the work that He ought to do and performs the ministry that He ought to perform.
The substance of God itself wields authority, but He is able to fully submit to the authority that comes from Him. Be it the work of the Spirit or the work of the flesh, neither conflicts with the other. The Spirit of God is the authority over all creation. The flesh with the substance of God is also possessed of authority, but God in the flesh can do all the work that obeys the will of the heavenly Father. This cannot be attained or conceived by any man. God Himself is authority, but His flesh can submit to His authority. This is the inner meaning of the words: “Christ obeys the will of God the Father.” God is a Spirit and can do the work of salvation, as can God become man. Anyway, God Himself does His own work; He neither interrupts nor interferes, much less carries out work that is mutually conflicting, for the substance of the work done by the Spirit and the flesh are alike. Be it the Spirit or the flesh, both work to fulfill one will and to manage the same work. Though the Spirit and the flesh have two disparate qualities, their substances are the same; both have the substance of God Himself, and the identity of God Himself. God Himself has no elements of disobedience; His substance is good. He is the expression of all beauty and goodness, as well as all love. Even in the flesh, God does not do any that disobeys God the Father. Even at the expense of sacrificing His life, He would be whole-heartedly willing and make no other choice. God has no elements of self-rightness and self-importance, or those of conceit and arrogance; He has no elements of crookedness. All that disobeys God comes from Satan; Satan is the source of all ugliness and wickedness. The reason that man has qualities alike those of Satan is because man has been corrupted and worked on by Satan. Christ has not been corrupted by Satan, hence He has only the characteristics of God and none of those of Satan. No matter how arduous the work or weak the flesh, God, while He lives in the flesh, will never do anything that interrupts the work of God Himself, much less forsake the will of God the Father in disobedience. He would rather suffer pains of the flesh than go against the will of God the Father; it is just as in prayer, “Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will.” Man will choose, but Christ would not. Though He has the identity of God Himself, He still seeks the will of God the Father, and fulfills what is entrusted to Him by God the Father, from the perspective of the flesh. This is something that is unattainable to man. That which comes from Satan cannot have the substance of God, only one that disobeys and resists God. It cannot fully obey God, much less willingly obey the will of God. All man apart from Christ can do that which resists God, and not one can directly undertake the work entrusted by God; not one is able to regard the management of God as their own duty to perform. Submitting to the will of God the Father is the substance of Christ; disobedience against God is the characteristic of Satan. These two qualities are incompatible, and any who has the qualities of Satan cannot be called Christ. The reason that man cannot do the work of God in His stead is because man does not have any of the substance of God. Man works for God for the sake of man’s personal interests and of his future prospects, but Christ works to carry out the will of God the Father.
The humanity of Christ is governed by His divinity. Though He is in the flesh, His humanity is not entirely like that of a man of the flesh. He has His own unique character, and this too is governed by His divinity. His divinity has no weakness; the weakness of Christ refers to that of His humanity. To a certain degree, this weakness constrains His divinity, but such limits are within a certain scope and time, and are not boundless. When it comes time to carry out the work of His divinity, it is done regardless of His humanity. The humanity of Christ is entirely directed by His divinity. Aside from the normal life of His humanity, all other actions of His humanity are influenced, affected and directed by His divinity. Though Christ has a humanity, it does not disrupt the work of His divinity. This is precisely because the humanity of Christ is directed by His divinity; though His humanity is not mature in His conduct before others, it does not affect the normal work of His divinity. When I say that His humanity has not been corrupted, I mean that the humanity of Christ can be directly directed by His divinity, and that He is possessed of a higher sense than that of the ordinary man. His humanity is most suited to being directed by the divinity in His work; His humanity is ablest to express the work of the divinity, as well as ablest to submit to such work. As God works in the flesh, He never loses sight of the duty that a man in the flesh ought to fulfill; He is able to in heaven with a true heart. He has the substance of God, and His identity is that of God Himself. It is only that He has come to earth and become a created being, with the exterior shell of a created being, and now possessed of a humanity that He did not have before; He is able to worship God in heaven. This is the being of God Himself and is inimitable to man. His identity is God Himself. It is from the perspective of the flesh that He worships God; therefore, the words “Christ worships God in heaven” are not in error. What He asks of man is precisely His own being; He has already achieved all that He asks of man prior to asking such of them. He would never make demands of others while He Himself gets free from them, for this all constitutes His being. Regardless of how He carries out His work, He would not act in a manner that disobeys God. No matter what He asks of man, no demand exceeds that which is attainable by man. All that He does is carrying out the will of God and is for the sake of His management. The divinity of Christ is above all men, therefore He is the highest authority of all created beings. This authority is His divinity, that is, the disposition and being of God Himself, which determines His identity. Therefore, no matter how normal His humanity, it is undeniable that He has the identity of God Himself; no matter from which standpoint He speaks and howsoever He obeys the will of God, it cannot be said that He is not God Himself. Foolish and ignorant men often regard the normal humanity of Christ as a flaw. No matter how He expresses and reveals the being of His divinity, man is unable to acknowledge that He is Christ. And the more that Christ demonstrates His obedience and humility, the more lightly foolish men regard Christ. There are even those who adopt toward Him an attitude of exclusion and contempt, yet place those “great men” of lofty images upon the table to be worshiped. Man’s resistance to and disobedience of God come from the fact that the substance of the incarnate God submits to the will of God, as well as from the normal humanity of Christ; herein lies the source of man’s resistance to and disobedience of God. If Christ had neither the guise of His humanity nor sought the will of God the Father from the perspective of a created being, but was instead possessed of a super humanity, then there likely would be no disobedience in any man. The reason man is always willing to believe in an invisible God in heaven is because God in heaven has no humanity and He does not have a single quality of a created being. So man always regards Him with the greatest esteem, but holds an attitude of contempt toward Christ.
Though Christ on earth is able to work on behalf of God Himself, He does not come with the intention of showing all men His image in the flesh. He does not come for all men to see Him; He comes to allow man to be led by His hand, thereby entering into the new age. The function of Christ’s flesh is for the work of God Himself, that is, for the work of God in the flesh, and not to enable man to fully understand the substance of His flesh. No matter how He works, it does not exceed that which is attainable to the flesh. No matter how He works, He does so in the flesh with a normal humanity, and does not fully reveal to man the true countenance of God. Additionally, His work in the flesh is never as supernatural or inestimable as man conceives. Even though Christ represents God Himself in the flesh and carries out in person the work that God Himself ought to do, He does not deny the existence of God in heaven, nor does He feverishly proclaim His own deeds. Rather, He humbly remains hidden within His flesh. Apart from Christ, those who falsely claim to be Christ do not have His qualities. When juxtaposed against the arrogant and self-exalting disposition of those false Christs, it becomes apparent what manner of flesh is truly Christ. The more false they are, the more such false Christs show off themselves, and the more capable they are of working signs and wonders to deceive man. False Christs do not have the qualities of God; Christ is not tainted by any element belonging to false Christs. God becomes flesh only to complete the work of the flesh, not simply to allow all men to see Him. Rather, He lets His work affirm His identity, and allows what He reveals to attest to His substance. His substance is not baseless; His identity was not seized by His hand; it is determined by His work and His substance. Though He has the substance of God Himself and is capable of doing the work of God Himself, He is still, after all, flesh unlike the Spirit. He is not God with the qualities of the Spirit; He is God with the shell of flesh. Therefore, no matter how normal and how weak He is, and howsoever He seeks the will of God the Father, His divinity is undeniable. In the incarnate God exists not only a normal humanity and its weaknesses; there exists even more the wonderfulness and unfathomableness of His divinity, as well as all His deeds in the flesh. Therefore, both humanity and divinity actually and practically exist within Christ. This is not in the least empty or supernatural. He comes to earth with the primary objective of carrying out work; it is imperative to be possessed of a normal humanity to carry out work on earth; otherwise, however great the power of His divinity, its original function cannot be put to good use. Though His humanity is of great importance, it is not His substance. His substance is the divinity; therefore, the moment He begins to perform His ministry on earth is the moment He begins to express the being of His divinity. His humanity is solely to sustain the normal life of His flesh so that His divinity can carry out work as normal in the flesh; it is the divinity that directs His work entirely. When He completes His work, He will have fulfilled His ministry. What man ought to know is the entirety of His work, and it is through His work that He enables man to know Him. Over the course of His work, He quite fully expresses the being of His divinity, which is not a disposition tainted by humanity, or a being tainted by thought and human behavior. When the time comes when all His ministry has come to an end, He will have already perfectly and fully expressed the disposition that He ought to express. His work is not instructed by any man; the expression of His disposition is also quite free, is not controlled by the mind or processed by thought, but is revealed naturally. This cannot be achieved by any man. Even if the surroundings are harsh or the conditions do not permit, He is able to express His disposition at the appropriate time. One who is Christ expresses the being of Christ, while those who are not do not have the disposition of Christ. Therefore, even if all resist Him or have notions of Him, none can deny on the basis of man’s notions that the disposition expressed by Christ is that of God. All those who pursue Christ with a true heart or seek God with intent will admit that He is Christ based on the expression of His divinity. They would never deny Christ on the basis of any aspect of Him that does not conform to man’s notions. Though man is very foolish, all know exactly what is the will of man and what originates from God. It is merely that many people intentionally resist Christ due to their own intents. If not for this, not a single man would have reason to deny the existence of Christ, for the divinity expressed by Christ does indeed exist, and His work can be witnessed by the naked eye of all.
The work and expression of Christ determines His substance. He is able to complete with a true heart that which has been entrusted to Him. He is able to worship God in heaven with a true heart, and with a true heart seek the will of God the Father. This is all determined by His substance. And so too is His natural revelation determined by His substance; the reason His natural revelation is so called is because His expression is not an imitation, or the result of education by man, or the result of many years of cultivation by man. He did not learn it or adorn Himself with it; rather, it is inherent within Him. Man may deny His work, His expression, His humanity, and the entire life of His normal humanity, but none can deny that He worships God in heaven with a true heart; none can deny that He has come to fulfill the will of the heavenly Father, and none can deny the sincerity with which He seeks God the Father. Though His image is not pleasing to the senses, His discourse not possessed of an extraordinary air, and His work not as earth-shattering or heaven-shaking as man imagines, He is indeed Christ, who fulfills the will of the heavenly Father with a true heart, completely submits to the heavenly Father, and is obedient to the death. This is because His substance is the substance of Christ. This truth is hard for man to believe but does indeed exist. When the ministry of Christ has been completely fulfilled, man will be able to see from His work that His disposition and His being represent the disposition and being of God in heaven. At that time, the summation of all His work can affirm that He is indeed the flesh which the Word becomes, and not alike that of a flesh and blood man. Every step of Christ’s work on earth has its representative significance, but man who experiences the actual work of each step is unable to grasp the significance of His work. This is especially so for the several steps of work carried out by the second incarnate God. Most of those who have only heard or seen Christ’s words yet who have never seen Him have no notions of His work; those who have seen Christ and heard His words, as well as experienced His work, find it difficult to accept His work. Is this not because the appearance and the normal humanity of Christ are not to the taste of man? Those who accept His work after Christ has gone away will not have such difficulties, for they merely accept His work and do not come into contact with Christ’s normal humanity. Man is unable to drop his notions of God and instead scrutinizes Him intensely; this is due to the fact that man focuses only on His appearance and is unable to recognize His substance based on His work and His words. If man shuts his eyes to the appearance of Christ or avoids discussing the humanity of Christ, and speaks only of His divinity, whose work and words are unattainable by any man, then the notions of man will decrease by half, even to the extent that all man’s difficulties are resolved. During the work of the incarnate God, man cannot tolerate Him and is full of numerous notions about Him, and instances of resistance and disobedience are common. Man cannot tolerate the existence of God, show “lenience” to the humility and hiddenness of Christ, or “forgive” the substance of Christ that obeys the heavenly Father. Therefore, He cannot stay with man for eternity after He finishes His work, for man is unwilling to allow Him to live alongside them. If man cannot “show lenience” to Him during His period of work, then how could they possibly tolerate Him living alongside them after He has fulfilled His ministry, watching them gradually experience His words? Would not many then fall because of Him? Man allows Him only to work on earth; this is the greatest extent of man’s lenience. If not for His work, man would long ago have cast Him out of the earth, so how much less would they show lenience once His work is completed? Then would man not put Him to death and torture Him to death? If He were not called Christ, then He could not possibly work among mankind; if He did not work with the identity of God Himself, and instead worked only as an ordinary man, then man would not tolerate a single sentence to be uttered by Him, much less tolerate the slightest bit of His work. So He can only carry this identity with Him in His work. In this way, His work is more powerful than if He had not done so, for men are all willing to obey standing and great identity. If He did not carry the identity of God Himself as He worked or appear as God Himself, then He would not have the opportunity to do work at all. Despite the fact that He has the substance of God and the being of Christ, man would not ease up and allow Him to carry out work with ease among mankind. He carries the identity of God Himself in His work; though such work is dozens of times more powerful than that done without such identity, man is still not fully obedient to Him, for man submits only to His standing and not His substance. If so, when perhaps one day Christ steps down from His post, could man allow Him to remain alive for even one day? God is willing to live on earth with man so that He may see the effects that the work by His hand will bring about in the years to follow. However, man is unable to tolerate His stay for even one day, so He could only give up. It is already the greatest extent of man’s lenience and grace to allow God to do among man the work that He ought to do and to fulfill His ministry. Though those who have been personally conquered by Him show Him such grace, they still only permit Him to stay on until His work has finished and not one moment afterward. If this is so, what of those He has not conquered? Is not the reason that man treats the incarnate God in this way because He is Christ with the shell of an ordinary human? If He had only the divinity and not a normal humanity, then would not the difficulties of man be resolved with the greatest of ease? Man begrudgingly acknowledges His divinity and shows no interest in His shell of an ordinary man, despite the fact that His substance is exactly that of Christ which submits to the will of the heavenly Father. As such, He could only cancel His work of being among man to share with them both joys and sorrows, for man could no longer tolerate His existence.
from The Word Appears in the Flesh
a. The original text omits “To man.”