The Unchanging Christ
March 13th, 1960 @ 10:50 AM
THE UNCHANGING CHRIST
Dr. W.A. Criswell
3-13-60 10:50 a.m.
You who listen on the radio are sharing with us the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the pastor bringing the morning message entitled The Unchanging Christ, our immutable Lord; "Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, and today, and forever" [Hebrews 13:8]. In our preaching through the Bible, we have come to the thirteenth chapter of the Book of Hebrews. And the passage that is read is Hebrews 13:1-8:
Let brotherly love continue.
Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.
Remember them that are in bonds, as bound with them; and them which suffer adversity, as being yourselves also in the body.
Marriage is honorable in all . . .
Let your life be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for He hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.
So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man can do unto me.
Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the word of God: whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation.
Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and today, and for ever.
In the King James Version, out of which I preach, that last verse is disassociated, apparently, from its context. In the original Greek, as this author wrote it, they are together in one sentence and in one thought. It reads like this, "Remember them which had," the tenses are in the past, "remember them which had the rule over you, who spoke unto you the word of God: whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation" [Hebrews 13:7]. In 1611, that was an exact translation, [ana]strophē, "conversation." We have changed it now, "Considering the end of their behavior," of their manner of life, of their relationship; "Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, and today, and forever" [Hebrews 13:8].
For the thing that had happened was this: some of their leaders had died, apparently in martyrdom. And as he brings to their remembrance these pastors and leaders who had laid down their lives, who had passed away [Hebrews 13:3], he immediately calls to their remembrance Jesus our Christ, who never passes away [Hebrews 13:5]. While the work is done, and the sermon is finished, and the books lie closed on the study table, the last message is delivered, the last invitation given; the work of the minister is finished; the benediction is pronounced, and even the memory of the man of God can fade away, but – and the author brings to their remembrance in the sorrow they felt over the loss and the passing away of these earthly leaders and these earthly shepherds; but consider, remember, Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, and today, and forever" [Hebrews 13:8]. He also in that passage, in that context, calls to their consideration and to their remembrance the faith of those leaders and those shepherds and those pastors who have lived in days past, whose lives are just a memory [Hebrews 13:3].
Just like in this church, I would not think there is any member hardly present who could name another pastor of this church beside my immediate predecessor. Their lives are gone. Their work is finished. Their sermons have been preached. Their task is done. But Jesus, their Christ and ours, abides faithful and living forever. The same yesterday, and today, and till time shall flee away [Hebrews 13:8].
A great denial is made here, and a great affirmation. The denial is that time, and history, and provocation, and life, and death, and height, and depth, and the passing of this world, and the destiny of heaven all make no difference in the life, and power, and majesty, and dignity, and personality of Jesus our Christ. They alter Him not. Men change. We change. But He never changes. He is the eternal, immovable, unchanging Christ [Hebrews 13:8]. One day we are strong, and the next day, weak. One day we are resolved, and the next day unstable as water. We are one day like a rock, and the next day like a reed. But our Christ never changes: stainless, sinless and pure, resolved and firm and steadfast, everlastingly omnipotent, unchangeably omniscient. From Him no attribute ever passes away. To Him no parallax or tropic ever comes; there is in Him no shadow cast by turning, no variableness in life or time or fortune. He is forever the same.
Time changes us. The frost of the cold winter falls upon the leaf of our life, and we lose our hold, and the blast of the cold winter wind drives us away. Time changes us; we and our friends fade and die. There are tenses in the being of Christ. He was pre-incarnate [John 8:58]; He was incarnate [Matthew 1:20-25]; He grew to manhood; He died and was buried [Matthew 27:32-60]; He rose again [Matthew 28:5-7] and ascended to the right hand of God [Acts 1:9-10; Colossians 3:1; Hebrews 10:12]. But what is denied is that He ever changes. Whether pre-incarnate or whether incarnate, whether buried in the tomb or raised from the dead, whether ascending into glory or coming again [Acts 1:9-11], in the might and power of the hosts of heaven, He is ever the same, yesterday, and today,and forever [Hebrews 13:8].
Moods change us. We are one day up, and the next day down. We are one day this way and the next day that way. We are one day sweet as an orange and the next day sour as a lemon. We are one day committed and the next day in despair. But in Him is no change. He never fails, nor is He discouraged, committed forever.
Circumstances change us; in our poverty humble and lowly, in our affluence haughty and reserved and removed. The butler soon forgets Joseph left in the dungeon [Genesis 40:14, 23], but it’s no difference in Him. In the days of His flesh, clothed in humility, in sorrow and suffering unto death, or in glory in raiment of supernal glory and splendor, He is yet and ever the same. His heart is unchanged, the same yesterday, and today,and forever.
The great affirmation is that no change is ever attributable to Jesus our Christ. "Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, and today, and forever" [Hebrews 13:8]. There is no change in His person, Jesus, the Man Christ Jesus, Jesus, the same forever. The root meanings of Joshua, Jesus, are "Jehovah our salvation." In our preaching at the 8:15 o’clock service, time and yet again do we meet that strange mysterious person, the Angel Jehovah, as He is called in the words of the Old Testament, the Angel Jehovah [Genesis 16:7-13].
Jacob says he was redeemed and led through his life by that Angel Jehovah [Genesis 48:16]. When Moses was on the back side of the desert, out of the flaming bush the Angel Jehovah spake unto to the shepherd, saying, "My name is the great I Am. I Am that I Am" [Exodus 3:14-15]. The Angel Jehovah appeared unto Joshua saying, "As Captain of the Lord’s host am I come." [Joshua 5:14] The Angel of Jehovah spake unto the prophet Isaiah, to Malachi, and the Angel Jehovah, the same yesterday, and today, and forever, the Angel Jehovah was incarnate in that incomparably meaningful, glorious heavenly hour when the Word of God became flesh and tabernacled among men [John 1:14]. And one of the representatives of courts of heaven said, "And thou shalt call His name Angel Jehovah, Joshua, Jehovah our salvation, for He shall save His people from their sins" [Matthew 1:21].
As a Child in the arms of His mother He was born as the Savior of the world, Jesus in our language, Jesus; "Jesus, the same yesterday, and today, and forever." And at the thought of His birth, "Immanuel, God is with us" [Matthew 1:23], the virgin mother cried in ecstasy and glory, "My soul doth magnify the Lord. My soul doth praise the great God and our Savior" [Luke 1:46-47]. It may be that man shall be lifted up to God, if God condescends to come down to man. As a Child, Jesus was His name; the holy Child Jesus [Matthew 1:21].
As Jesus He grew to manhood, and as Jesus He ministered among the people, preaching the gospel to the poor, healing the sick, raising the dead, meek, lowly and loving, Jesus our Savior [Matthew 11:4-6]. As Jesus, He was nailed to the cross, and the sign of the superscription above His head was written, "THIS IS JESUS THE KING OF THE JEWS" [Matthew 27:37]. Made a curse for us, the wrath of God falling upon Him [Galatians 3:13], He died as Jesus our Savior [1 Corinthians 15:3]. And He was raised from the dead [Matthew 28:5-7], the same Jesus. The evangelists delight to call Him that. And Jesus Himself, and Jesus stood in the midst, and as the two walked along, behold Jesus walked along with them [Luke 24:13-15]. He had broken down the walls of the sepulcher [Acts 2:24]. Like another Samson [Judges 16:3], He had carried away the gates of death, but He is still Jesus, the same yesterday, and today, and forever [Hebrews 13:8]. It is in glory in His ascended dignity and majesty that He is known and worshiped, Jesus [Revelation 5:12-14].
When Paul met Him on the road to Damascus and in the brightness of that glory and the shining of that light he fell as one blinded, He cried, "Who art Thou, Lord?" And the Lord replied: "I am Jesus, whom thou persecutest" [Acts 9:1-5].
And the angels and the saints and the hosts in glory worship Him as Jesus [Revelation 5:12-14]. In the twenty-second, the last chapter of the Revelation, He says, "I Jesus have sent Mine angel to testify unto you these things in the churches" [Revelation 22:16]. An angel gave His name before He was conceived of the virgin, and the angel calls Him by that name in heaven and in glory [Matthew 1:20-21; Luke 1:26-31]. That’s the name, the spell of which binds the hearts of the cherubim in love, and that’s the name in which we rejoice, the church in earth, and the church in heaven.
And it is Jesus we are looking for. It is Jesus we are expecting. And the angel said to the Galileans as they looked steadfastly up into heaven, "This same Jesus shall so come as ye have seen Him go" [Acts 1:9-11]. And the great pronouncement of the apostle Paul, "Looking for that blessed hope, and the great appearing of the great God and our Savior, Jesus" [Titus 2:13]. Our answering prayer is the answering prayer of the sainted John, when Jesus said, "Behold I come quickly," and he replied, "Even so, come, Lord Jesus" [Revelation 22:20]. The same yesterday, and today,and forever, no change, immutable, no change in His person, pre-incarnate [John 8:58], in the flesh dwelling among men [John 1:14], in glory worshiped by the angels [Revelation 5:12-40], and some day coming again [Acts 1:11], our same Lord Jesus. It is Jesus we are looking from the skies [Revelation 1:7]. It is Jesus we expect to see in glory [Revelation 22:20]. It is Jesus before whom we shall bow in reverence and love and adoration [Philippians 2:10], world without end, the same yesterday, and today,and forever [Hebrews 13:8].
He is the same; He is immutable and unchangeable in His offices, Jesus the Christ, the same yesterday, and today,and forever. Christ is His Gentile name, Christ is His Greek name, Jesus the Christ, in Him, Jew, Greek, all one [Galatians 3:28]. And the word means the chosen one, the anointed one, the consecrated one; Jesus the Christ, God’s chosen, immutable, and unchanging, the same yesterday, and today,and forever, in His offices, the Christ, the anointed One, unchanging [Hebrews 13:8].
He is the great Prophet [Deuteronomy 18:15]. Elijah the prophet was anointed for his sacred office. In the sermon to Cornelius, the inspired apostle Peter said how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth to preach the glad tidings to the poor, to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, to heal the sick, to be God forever, anointed our great Prophet and Teacher [Luke 4:19; Acts 10:38]. To us there is no other creed, no other doctrine, no other system, no other teaching authoritative and binding forever, but the doctrine and the teaching and the authority of the Son of God, our Prophet yesterday, our great Teacher today, and our commanding, forever and ever doctrinarian and authority, the great Prophet unchanging.
And He is our eternal and abiding High Priest [Hebrews 4:14]. The office of the priesthood committed unto Him. All of the priests were anointed. They were ordained. Christ anointed as a priest, not in the failing, dying household of Aaron, but after the order of Melchizedek, abides a priest forever [Hebrews 5:6, 10]. Aaron died on Mount Horeb [Numbers 20:27-28]. All of his successors died. The ashes of the shepherd were mingled with those of the flock. But there is no tomb that holds our High Priest, no grave that binds down our great Intercessor and Mediator! He abides forever and forever! Christ, the anointed of God [Luke 4:19], yesterday, today, forever unchanged and immutable. And He has been anointed our great and living King.
"Thou anointest my head with oil" [Psalm 23:5], said David the king. He was anointed with the oil of gladness above that of his fellows [Psalm 45:7]; the chosen of God, the king in Zion before his sheep. All heaven does obeisance, and the sun and the moon and the stars obey their Lord forever and forever [Jeremiah 31:35].
Nor were these offices of king and priest and prophet chosen unto Himself. He is no pretender; God ordained Him and anointed Him our Lord and our King. God chose Him to be our Priest and Mediator and Intercessor. "For no man taketh this office unto himself," said the author of the Hebrews, "but He whom God hath chosen" [Hebrews 5:4]. And as a prophet He spake not of Himself, but those things that were taught Him of the Father [John 12:-50].
He is set forth before us, our Christ, our anointed Prophet, our anointed Priest, our anointed and coming King to reign forever and ever and ever, and world without end; the same yesterday, and today, and forever [Hebrews 13:8]. He is unchangeable and immutable in His presence. Oh, blessed and precious and incomparable thought, for He hath said, "I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee" [Hebrews 13:5]. The same in who He is, Jesus; the same in His great offices, Prophet, Priest, King; and the same in His abiding presence, what He was, He is; what He is, He shall always be.
These Gospels are but a leaf out of the eternal diary and story of His life. For a while, thus is He portrayed on the pages of the sacred Book; but what He was then, He is today, He is now, and shall be forever and forever, immutable and unchanging in His abiding presence.
He rides with us in our little boat on the storm-tossed sea [Luke 8:22-25]. He walks with us in the afternoon on the road to Emmaus [Luke 24:13-15]. He breaks bread with us in the eventide [John 21:12-13], and He stands in our midst open unto us the meaning of the Holy Scriptures [Luke 24:27]. He condescends to watch us in our toil, and He suggests we place the net on the right side of the boat [John 21:6]. He calls us aside from the weariness of our tasks to rest with Him [Matthew 11:28]. We accompany Him to the top of the Mount of Transfiguration [Mark 9:2-7]. And He goes with us into the shadows and the depths of the agony of Gethsemane [Luke 22:39-44]. When we become vain and contumacious and seek high things for ourselves, He rebukes us still [Mark 10:38]. When our feet are soiled, He washes our feet [John 13:4-5]. When we are weary and despondent, He calls out of a heart that sympathizes and understands [Matthew 11:28].
Never any lake, but the presence of the Lord [Mark 6:47-51]; never any storm, but His voice above the boisterous wind [Mark 4:37-39]; never any meal, but His blessed face lifted in thanksgiving and in grace [Matthew 26:26-28]; never any sorrow, but that He is touched [Hebrews 4:15]; never any grave, but that He stands and bursts into tears [John 11:35]; the same yesterday, and today, and forever [Hebrews 13:8].
With us, the abiding presence of Jesus [Matthew 28:20]; He does not change. If He said in the days of His flesh, "Come, come, come unto Me all ye that are weary and heavy laden" [Matthew 11:26]. He says it still, "Come," and that boldly [Hebrews 4:16]. If He comforted Mary, His mother, He will comfort us today. If He washed the feet of the disciples [John 13:4-5], He washes our feet today. What He was to Peter and James and John [Matthew 16:13-16], He is to us today and forever.
Now that He has ascended into glory, seated at the right hand of the throne of God [Hebrews 12:2], dressed in garments of light and resplendency, He is still the same. His heart has never changed. He weeps over the world and over our city, and His hands are outstretched still. The invitation is yet extended, and the heart and love of God still flows out toward us [John 3:16]. "He hath ascended upon high. He hath taken captivity captive and given gifts unto to men" [Ephesians 4:8]. If He did that in apostolic days, He does it today. If He poured out the Spirit of the Holy Ghost upon them [Acts 1:5, 2:4], He giveth the Spirit today without measure [John John 3:34]. Just as much as my heart will receive, just as much as this church will open its arms to embrace, God is with us, and the Holy Spirit moves in power in our midst, the blessed Spirit of Jesus, the presence of the Son of God.
Our forefathers, who have gone to their rests, said that He comforted them, and succored them and delivered them. Shall He not comfort and succor and deliver us? They found in Him strength and ableness and victory and triumph! Shall we not find in Him a like victory and a like triumph in our race, in our battle, in our life, and in our death? Jesus, the Christ, the same yesterday, and today,and forever, as He was to our fathers, to our mothers, so is He with us today, the same Lord Jesus [Hebrews 13:8].
In the days of His flesh He walked up and down the shores of a tiny sea called the Lake of Galilee. And to Him He invited Andrew and Simon, and James and John, and they forsake all and followed Him [Mark 1:16-20]. And as they came to know Him, as they pressed close to His heart, as they listened to the grace that fell from His lips, they bowed in reverence and adoration and worship and cried, saying, "My Lord and my God" [John 20:28].
Time passed, history widened, and up and down the shores of a greater sea there walked an unseen Presence around the Mediterranean, Jesus our Lord. And He called to men to forsake all and follow Him, and there formed another band and another twelve, and they bowed in reverence and devotion and adoration at His blessed feet and said, "My Lord and my God."
Time passed, history widened, and civilization found its life around a greater sea, the Atlantic. And up and down the shores of the continent there walked again that unseen Presence calling men to forsake all to follow Him. And another band formed, and another twelve, and like that previous twelve, they bowed at His feet to worship, and cried, saying, "My Lord and my God."
And time has passed, and history has widened, and humanity is building its civilization around every great sea of the earth, and still and yet, there walks that unseen Presence calling men to forsake all and follow Him. And again, under our very eyes, there is another twelve forming, another holy band collocating, and it is the same as it was nineteen hundred years ago, this holy band, in reverence, in adoration, and in worship, crying and saying, "My Lord and my God"; the same yesterday, and today, and forever, our Lord and our God, Jesus our Savior [Hebrews 13:8].
Before the service closes and I must end, may I be granted of you one other thing? That gospel doesn’t change, salvation doesn’t change, the message that He preached, the mission that He came to achieve, the great end and destiny for which He was born and did die in the earth never changes. Salvation is the same to us today as it was to Paul on the road to Damascus [Acts 9:1-18]. Its meaning, its content, its purpose, its address, its results are the same now as they were then. It is the same gospel; it is the same Christ; it is the same message [Psalm 119:89; Isaiah 40:6-8; 1 Peter 1:25]; it is the same result, and it never changes yesterday, today, and forever.
In the days of the gone by, and in the days of the now, Christ has power to create new hearts and new lives. "If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new" [2 Corinthians 5:17].
The gospel message is addressed to the same people; to lost sinners. If a man is self-righteous, if he has no need for Him, Christ has no word. But if a man is lost, if he is dying, if he has need, there is an answer to every problem. There is a solution to every perplexity. He lives today as He did then, the mighty Son of God. "All power is given unto Me in heaven and in earth" [Matthew 28:18]. In that Great Commission there are four "alls" [Matthew 28:18-20]. It is the same message to all kind, to all men, to all ages! [Psalm 119:89] It never changes, the ableness in the power of Christ to make men new.
We don’t have a gospel for the first century, and another one still yet again for the second, and another for the third, and another for the fourth, and still another for twentieth century. When we get up to glory, there will not be twenty different sets of people saved by twenty different gospels and twenty different ways. But when we get to heaven it will be one great assembly of the church of the firstborn, singing the one great song "Unto to Him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in His own blood, To Him be glory and honor forever and forever" [Revelation 1:5-6]. The same message, the same Christ, the same Savior, received in the same way: "By grace are you saved through faith, not of yourselves: it is a gift of God" [Ephesians 2:8]. Oh, blessed be His name! If the foundation shifted, our gospel would change every generation. Like the psalmist cried, "If the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do?" [Psalm 11:3]. If our faith were built on the sand, we have all been most pitiable and most miserable. But our faith is built upon an unchanging promise [Hebrews 7:19, 8:6], and an unchanging Book and an unchanging Bible [Psalm 119:89; Isaiah 40:6-8], and an unchanging message, and an unchanging gospel, and an unchanging Christ [Hebrews 13:8], and an unchanging God! [Malachi 3:6] The same yesterday, and today,and forever!
On this, can a man build his life; on this, can a man hope in his soul. Upon this, can a man face the age and the death and the eternity with a Christ who loves us still; the same keeping, able Jehovah Jesus, yesterday and today, and till we see His blessed face [Revelation 22:4].
In this moment that we sing our song of appeal and invitation, somebody you in that balcony, coming down these stairwells at the front or at the back, "Today, pastor, I put my hand in the nail-pierced hand of Jesus. Before the worlds were made, on the cross, and coming again, my Lord, the same; I come taking Him as my Savior." In this press and throng of people on this lower floor today, "Today, now, giving my heart and trust and life to Jesus, I do come."
A family you, putting your life in the church, a child, a youth, a couple; as God would open the door and bid the way, would you make it now? In the heart of this city, lifting up a standard for Jesus, and in eternity singing with us the songs of Zion, of glory, of triumph, of forgiveness and mercy and salvation, would you come?
"Pastor, I give you my hand, I give my heart to Jesus." Or, "Here we are, putting our lives in the fellowship of the church." Would you make it now? "On the first note of the first stanza, "I will come. Here I am, not a moment longer to delay. I do it now." While we stand and while we sing.
THE UNCHANGING CHRIST
Dr. W. A. Criswell
I. The context
A. Verbs in the past tense – the church had witnessed the end of the ministries of beloved pastors
B. They are reminded of the eternal unchanging Christ
II. What is denied
A. That time, mood, circumstance, death can alter Christ
B. We change – He does not(James 1:17, Genesis 40:23)
III. What is affirmed – His immutability
A. In His person
1. Angel of Jehovah in Old Testament(Joshua 5:14)
2. His name announced by the angel(John 1:14, Matthew 1:21)
3. Called Jesus in childhood and manhood (Luke 1:46-47, Matthew 27:37)
4. In glory(Acts 9:5, Revelation 22:16)
5. As Jesus coming again (Acts 1:11, Titus 2:13, Revelation 22:20)
B. His immutability in His offices(Matthew 16:16)
1. Prophet(1 Kings 19:16, Acts 10:38, Luke 4:18-19)
2. Priest (Psalm 110:4)
3. King(Philippians 2:9-11, Psalm 45:7, Hebrews 1:8-9, Ephesians 5:23, Acts 10:43, Hebrews 13:8)
4. God ordained Him to these offices(Psalm 23:5, Hebrews 5:4)
C. His immutability in His presence(Hebrews 13:5, Matthew 11:26, 14:13-21, Luke 24:15, 27-32)
D. His immutability in His kingdom(John 19:30, Acts 1:8-9, Revelation 11:15)
E. The gospel of salvation the same now as in ages past(2 Corinthians 5:17, Matthew 28:18, Ephesians 2:8, 5:27, Psalm 11:3, Isaiah 9:6-7)