“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Heb. 13:8). This passage is in the last chapter of the book. It’s kind of in a whirlwind of conclusions ranging from marriage to the way to work with your leaders in the church, and all kinds of other things. So why is it there? It’s kind of random. Why did God want us to learn from this little blip in Hebrews 13?
Here’s what it is. It means that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, He is never going to change. His word is timeless. It crosses cultural, socio-economic, and religious barriers and is the same as it was when the early church was preaching all over the world. However, there are two interpretations of this that we need to take a look at. The first is that if Jesus doesn’t ever change than the church should never change. Just at a surface reading, that seems like a pretty valid conclusion, right? The second conclusion one can draw is that no matter where you are, who you are, what country your in—the church will always adapt to the culture where it is. Again, just skimming the passage, it seems valid? So which one is right?
Let me suggest to you that there is a healthy balance between the two. However, we often place a false dichotomy in their choosing to believe one or the other. As with everything biblical, we want to take everything with balance. Legalism is condemned by Jesus. Universalism is condemned by God. See the two extremes? So what does a health approach to this passage look like? What’s its true application?
First off, God never changes—there are qualms there, right? Pretty agreeable, wouldn’t you say? What God revealed in His word is His message to us—humans. It is the standard by which we live. It is the worldview that we hold. Scripture is the lens through which we view everything. God is infinite, without a beginning. He doesn’t have an ending. He’s not subject to linear time. God doesn’t change.
The second thing is this, the church is a movement of God. If something is a movement it isn’t fossilized or calcified. The epistles reveal that different churches in different cities dealt with the same issues in different ways. They also deal with different issues independently of one another because every location and culture is different. When we don’t allow the movement to move, we have stifled God’s working. So, the church is to adapt to the culture it ministers in. Go to a worship gathering in an Amazon village in Brazil—you’ll see what I mean. Go to worship in Jamaica, totally different. God to worship in America—very different. God to different congregations within the same city—sometimes a night and day difference from where you normally go. We have to ask, “Is that wrong?” I think the Scriptures tells us, “No.”
The balance comes when we hold the Word of God as just that, the Word of God; exhaled from the Creator of Creation, breathed into the Prophets and Apostles. Given to us, passed on, and still the same as it was when it was first penned under guidance of the Spirit. The balance is not complete, however, until we realize that we are called to go to all the nations and tell of God’s wondrous love shown in Jesus Christ. We have to realize that is going to look different from we may be used to. Remember the church is a living, breathing organism with Christ as its head. We’re all small parts of a larger body, and a foot is different from a hand.
I want to challenge you this week: do you have a healthy balance of relevancy in the church? Do you think it “has to be this way” and never budge from that point? Are you trying to preserve an ancient relic that is out of touch with reality? Or do you see the need to adapt to the needs of the people we are trying to save (1 Cor. 9:19-22). Paul did it, Peter did it, and Jesus did it. Why are we excluded? Truth is, we’re not. It is our job to be led by the Spirit, and being led means that we follow. We don’t lead God around on a leash to fit our comforts and our way of “church.” God’s the story teller—we’re just playing a very small supporting role. Jesus Christ never changes. Praise God for that. Just something to think about.