The Unchanging Christ
March 22nd, 1981 @ 8:15 AM
THE UNCHANGING CHRIST
Dr. W. A. Criswell
Hebrews 13:7, 8
3-22-81 8:15 a.m.
And always no less, are we grateful for the multitudes of you who share the hour with us on the radio. This is the pastor of the First Baptist Church in Dallas bringing the message entitled The Unchanging Christ. It is in the series of sermons doctrinal on Christology, the doctrine of Christ. Next Sunday morning at this hour, the message will be entitled The Message and Ministry of the God Man; today, The Unchanging Christ.
In the thirteenth chapter of the Book of Hebrews, if you will turn to this passage, verses 7 and 8, the last chapter of the Book of Hebrews; Hebrews chapter 13, verse 7 and verse 8:
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.
Looking at that verse 7, the tenses of the Greek verbs reveal to us that these ministers, pastors, have died and the present congregation is admonished to remember their conduct, and their faith, and their lives, “Considering the end, the issue, the goal of their living” [Hebrews 13:7]. They are doubtless bowed in sorrow over the death, maybe by martyrdom, of these pastors who taught them and showed them the way of everlasting life, whose faith and behavior they are now encouraged to emulate.
Then the author says, the beloved pastors, held dear in the hearts of the congregation, pass away; they fade and fall like an autumnal leaf. The last sermon is on the study desk. The last benediction is prepared to be spoken. The assignment is finished, the work is done, but Jesus Christ abides forever. They pass away, but the Lord remains eternally. Thus the eighth verse: after speaking of the passing away of the beloved pastors; “Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and today, and for ever” [Hebrews 13:8]; the unchanging Christ.
He is ever the same. What He was, He is. And what He is, He ever shall be; He abides the same forever. In the yesterday, in the beginning, He is the great Creator. John 1:3 avows, “All things were made by Him; and without Him was not any thing made that was made.”
Colossians 1:16 avows, “All things were made by and for Him.” In the yesterday, He is the great Creator. In the today, He is no less that same mighty, omnipotent miracle-worker, the great Creator. Every harvest is the creation of His gracious hands [1 Corinthians 3:7], who sets the manna before us in the wilderness [Exodus 16:15, 35].
On a thousand hills He is turning water into the fruit of the vine. It is His omnipotent hands who makes flowers out of the muck and mire of the earth; the same today, and the same tomorrow. In the Revelation, “Behold,” He says, “I make all things new [Revelation 1:5]. And I saw a new heaven and a new earth” [Revelation 21:1]. “Jesus the same yesterday, and today, and for ever” [Hebrews 13:8]; the great Creator [Colossians 1:16].
The same yesterday in atoning grace; before the foundation of the world He is the Lamb slain [Revelation 13:8]. In the tenth chapter of this Book of Hebrews, “In heaven He volunteers a sacrifice for our sins” [Hebrews 10:4-14]. And all of the burnt offerings of the ages past in the days of Abel, the lamb that was brought [Genesis 4:1-4], and all of the sacrifices of the Old Covenant portrayed and were typical of Him [Colossians 2:16-17].
The same today. His atoning grace is prefigured and seen in every grain of wheat that dies that life might live [John 12:24], and in every heart where the sense of forgiveness and deliverance is felt, it is Jesus today [Ephesians 1:7]. And tomorrow, at the end of the age, the song of the saints in heaven, “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain [Revelation 5:12]: for Thou hast redeemed us to God by Thy blood” [Revelation 5:9]. The same yesterday in atoning grace, the same today, and the same forever [Hebrews 13:8].
The same in His shepherdly care; in the days of the yesteryears, watching over His people, “I have heard their cry, and I am sending you, Moses, to deliver My people out of bondage” [Exodus 3:7-10]. In Isaiah He is the Shepherd who feeds His flock, gathering the lambs in His arms, and gently, tenderly leading those who are with young [Isaiah 40:11].
Today, no less the same in loving, shepherdly care for all of His people; answering their prayers, standing by them in sorrow, ministering to their needs, even the dawning of the sun is the shining of His face in the gift of a new day. And the same Lord God forever, coming again for us; only being away that He might prepare for our coming [John 14:1-3]. Every sunset is an invitation of an open door into heaven. Jesus unchanging, the same yesterday as He is today, as He shall be forever [Hebrews 13:8].
There are two things in this text that are most apparent: one, what is denied, and the other, what is affirmed—the unchanging Christ. What is denied? That the Lord ever changes; that time, or circumstance, or provocation, or mood ever alter Him. We change, men change, but He never changes.
One day we are weak, and the next day we’re strong. One day we are resolved, the next day we are unstable as water. One day we are filled with trepidation and overcome by temptation and are a moment holy, and the next day we are led astray. Our lives change, but He casts no shadow by turning; the same unchanging Christ forever.
Time changes us. We fade away with the multiplying years, but He abides eternal. Moods change us. We are one day this way and one day another way; one day like a rock, and the next day like a reed. But He is the same steadfast Lord in faithfulness, in devotion, in consecration. Circumstances change us. The butler, who is elevated in the household of Pharaoh, forgets the lad Joseph in prison [Genesis 40:23], a typical circumstance of practically all of human life. Being affluent or successful, how easy to forget the poor and the downtrodden. But our Lord never changes; however exalted He is, His heart is yet the same. What is denied? That He ever changes.
What is affirmed? That He is the same yesterday, and today, and forever; He is the same in His person [Hebrews 13:8]. In the Old Covenant His name is “Jehovah” [Isaiah 12:2]. In the New Covenant His name is “Jehovah our Salvation” the root meaning of Jesus [Matthew 1:21]. And whether in the yesteryear gone by, or whether in the today, or whether in the tomorrow He is always the same in His person.
Before He was born, the angel said, “His name is to be Jehovah our Salvation, Jesus” [Matthew 1:21]. And when He was born, He was born “Jehovah our Salvation, Jesus” [Matthew 1:25]. As He grew up as a child, He was “Thy Holy Child Jesus,” as the apostles prayed in the fourth chapter of the Book of Acts [Acts 4:27]. And in His ministry, He was “Jesus. Jesus, thou Son of David, have mercy upon me” [Mark 10:47]. And when He was crucified, He was crucified, “THIS IS JESUS OF NAZARETH, THE KING OF THE JEWS” [John 19:19]. And when He was raised from the dead, Jesus Himself stood in the midst [John 20:19]. And when He was glorified, He was still the same Jesus [Acts 1:11].
And the apostle Paul, then Saul of Tarsus, falling at His feet said, “Lord who art Thou?” And He replied, “I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom thou persecutest” [Acts 9:4-5; 22:7-8]. And in the great and final apocalyptic visions immortalized, He is the same Jesus. “I Jesus have sent Mine angel to testify unto you these things in the churches” [Revelation 22:16]. The tremendous and studied verse in Titus 2:13, “Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Christ Jesus.” And the benedictory conclusion of the Revelation, “Even so, come, Lord Jesus” [Revelation 22:20]. He is ever the same. His heart never changes. The person is always Jehovah our Salvation, yesterday, and today, and forever [Hebrews 13:8].
He is unchanging in His offices. He is the Anointed One; In Greek, Christous, Christ, in Hebrew, Messiah [Matthew 16:16]. Jew and Gentile, all humanity, are one in Him [Ephesians 2:14]. He is the Anointed One. He is anointed our great Prophet Teacher [John 3:2; Acts 3:20-22]. In [1 Kings 19:16], Elisha is anointed a prophet of God. In the tenth chapter of the Book of Acts, Simon Peter speaks of, “Jesus, whom God anointed to preach the gospel and to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord” [Acts 10:38]. He is our great Prophet [Acts 3:22], sent to teach us the way of God [John 1:18], and His teaching is forever authoritative, yesterday, and today, and forever [Hebrews 13:8].
He is anointed our great High Priest [Hebrews 2:17, 4:15]. All of the priests were anointed to their offices, but those priests of the Aaronic descendents perished [Hebrews 7:23]. Their ashes were mixed with the ashes of their flocks. Aaron died on Mount Hor [Numbers 20:22-29], and all of his successors died, but Jesus is an anointed Priest after the order of Melchizedek [Hebrews 5:8-10], and He abides forever, our great intermediary, our great Intercessor, our great Mediator; Jesus anointed Priest before God in our behalf forever [Hebrews 7:24-25].
And He is an anointed king. In the forty-fifth chapter of the Book of Psalms, and in the passage you read just now, “Thou hast anointed Him with the oil of gladness above His fellows [Psalm 45:7; Hebrews 1:8-9]; to be King over all of the earth, over all the hosts in heaven, to be the head of the church [Ephesians 5:23], and to rule forever and ever.” In the eleventh chapter of the Revelation, “The kingdom of this world is become the kingdom of our Lord, and of His Christ” [Revelation 11:15]. He is the anointed King yesterday, and today, and King forever.
Not only is He immutable in His person, and not only immutable in His offices, He is also immutable, unchanging, in His presence. He is here with us today as He was with His people yesterday, and He will be with us forever. “I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee” [Hebrews 13:5].
He feeds us with the bread of life [John 6:51], as He fed the five thousand yesterday [Matthew 14:13-21]. He is with us in the boat on the stormy seas of life [Matthew 8:23-27]. He shows us the right side of the ship on which to cast our nets [John 21:6]. He walks with us to Emmaus, and He reveals to us the meaning of the Holy Scriptures [Luke 24:15, 27-32]. He is with us in presence forever [Matthew 28:20]. He rebukes us when we are selfishly ambitious. He comes to us in the violence of the storm when we are about to sink [Matthew 14:25-31]. He speaks to us above the voice of the angry waves. He invites us to come aside when we are weary and to rest in Him [Matthew 11:28]. He is the unchanging Christ [Hebrews 13:8].
There is no lake without His presence above the waters. There is no storm but that His form and figure can be seen. There is no meal, no dinner, no breakfast or supper but that His face is uplifted in blessing. There is no burden but that His shoulders are yielded and willing to bear it with us. And there is no grave but that His heart is touched in deepest sorrow. “Jesus the same yesterday, and today, and forever” [Hebrews 13:8], in presence always with us [John 14:23].
And He is immutable in His kingdom. God hath promised to Him a people. And in the elective purpose of the Almighty, that kingdom shall grow and expand until it covers heaven and all of earth. When our Lord ascended [Acts 1:8-10], there He saw the little band at His feet. Then rising higher, the vision expands and Jerusalem lies before Him. Rising higher, the vision expands and all Judea is before Him. Rising yet higher, the vision expands and Samaria and the Holy Land lie before Him. Rising higher, the vision expands and the whole earth lies before Him; thus the expanding kingdom of our Lord [Acts 1:8].
The Presence walks by the side of the shores of the little Sea of Galilee, and He calls a Peter, and a James, and a John, and the few disciples who forsake all and follow Him [Matthew 19:27]. That same unseen Presence walks the shores of the greater sea, the Mediterranean, and He calls men and women to follow Him, and they forsake all and bow before Him as Lord and God [John 20:28].
Time passes and history widens, and that same unseen Presence walks the shores of a greater sea, the vast Atlantic. And on both sides, men and women forsake all and follow Him. And the vision widens and history expands, and that same unseen Presence walks the shores of the continents of the earth and men and women in every tribe, and language, and color, and nation, and family forsake all and follow Him. He is the One whose name is
Wonderful, Counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace. And of the increase of His government there shall be no end, upon the throne of His father David … to establish it in wisdom and in justice and in peace forever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform it.
[Isaiah 9: 6,7]
Our great King of yesterday, and today, and forever.
All hail the power of Jesus’ name!
Let angels prostrate fall;
Bring forth the royal diadem,
And crown Him Lord of all.
Ye chosen seed of Israel’s race,
Ye ransomed from the fall,
Hail Him who saves you by His grace,
And crown Him Lord of all
[“All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name”; Edward Perronet]
And that glorious message of salvation in Christ is like the Lord Himself: the same yesterday, and today, and forever. In the Old Covenant, saved by looking to the promise of His atonement, His coming; in our day and age of grace, looking back to that lone hill of Calvary [Luke 23:32-34], where expiation for our sin was made [1 Peter 2:24]. And with those of uncounted thousands, out of every family and nation in the earth, praising Him by whose blood we were washed and made clean and white in the presence of the Lamb [Revelation 5:9].
The great message of salvation never changes; always, it is in Him, the unchanging Christ. The message of salvation that we preach today is the same message that Saul of Tarsus knew when he was converted on the road to Damascus [Acts 9:1-18]. The message of salvation in the first century is the same message of salvation in the second century. The message of salvation in the third century is the same message of salvation in the second century. And through all of the centuries, and to this present moment, and through all of the centuries, if He delays His coming to the end of the age, the message is the same.
In Christ we have forgiveness of sins [Ephesians 1:7]. In His atoning love we have deliverance [Romans 8:35-39]. In His love and mercy we are adopted into the family of God [Romans 8:15]. “And to those who look for Him shall He appear apart from sin unto eternal salvation” [Hebrews 9:28].
How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord,
Is laid for your faith in His excellent Word!
What more can He say than to you He hath said,
To you who for refuge to Jesus have fled?
That soul that on Jesus hath leaned for repose,
I’ll never, no never, devote to its foes;
That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake,
I’ll never, no never, no never forsake
[Richard Keene, How Firm a Foundation]
The unchanging Christ brings to us an unchanging salvation with the hope and the promise of an unchanging and everlasting life—the same yesterday, and today, and forever [Hebrews 13:8].
What a comfort to know that though I may change, He will not. What a comfort to know that though my life fades away, He abides forever. What a solace and what a comfort to know that though my feet may tremble, the Rock on which I stand is never moved. And what a blessedness to realize that the salvation He has offered to me is like Christ Himself, unchanging, abiding forever and forever. And this is the hope our dear Lord has given to us. Looking to Him our Savior now, our Savior in the hour of our death, and our Savior at the judgment day when we stand before God [2 Corinthians 5:10], and our Savior in heaven forever and ever; yesterday, and today, and forever the same, the unchanging Christ [Hebrews 13:8]. Now may we stand together?
Our wonderful Lord, whose name is Wonderful [Isaiah 9:6], what an infinite comfort to know that Thou art ever the same in peace, in war, in affluence, in poverty, in youth, in old age, in life, in death, in this world, in the world to come, in our weakness as in our strength, in our moments of devotion as in our moments of erring and departure Thou art ever the same, the great, holy, blessed Savior whose shepherdly care sought us [Luke 19:10], saved us [John 10:11], keeps us, promises us everlasting life [John 10:27-30]. And our Lord, may our lives flow in abounding, illimitable, overflowing praise and gratitude to Thee. How good Thou art. How mighty in grace and mercy Thou art; not only omnipotent in creating worlds [John 1:1-3], but no less miraculous in saving souls [1 John 3:1-2]. And our Lord, may we find strength, and help, and assurance, and comfort in Thy presence. When we are sad You make us glad. When we sink You lift us up. When we are discouraged You never faint or fail. Thy mercies are like Thy presence, enduring forever. And our Lord, we pray that in this moment, when we sing our song of appeal, God will add to His redeemed family souls for whom Christ died [1 Corinthians 8:11], to whom the Holy Spirit makes appeal in faith and who are ready to answer with their lives. And thank Thee for the harvest.
And while our people stand in the presence of our great God and Savior the Lord Jesus, while our hearts are lifted up in prayer a family you, a couple you, or just one somebody you, “The Spirit of God has spoken to my heart this day, and I am answering with my life.” In the balcony round, down one of those stairways, in the lower floor, down one of these aisles, “Here I am pastor, I have decided for God, and I am coming now.” Make that decision in your heart, and in a moment when we sing, take that first step. God will go with you. Angels will accompany you. Our people, this dear church, will rejoice to receive you. And God’s angels in heaven will be glad [Luke 15:10].
And our Lord, thank Thee for these who come today, in Thy precious name, amen. Now while we wait, and while we sing, and while we pray just for you—a family, a couple, or one somebody you into that aisle, down one of those stairways, here to the front, “Here I am pastor, I’m coming to the Lord and to this dear church.” While we pray and while we sing.
THE UNCHANGING CHRIST
Dr. W. A. Criswell
3-22-81I. 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 ChristII. Ever the same
A. In creation (John 1:3, Colossians 1:16, Revelation 21:1, 5)
B. In atoning grace (Revelation 5:9-10, 12, 13:8, Hebrews 10:4-14)
C. In shepherdly care(Isaiah 40:11, Hebrews 13:5, 8)III. What is denied
A. That time, mood, circumstance, death can alter Christ
B. We change – He does not(James 1:17, Genesis 40:23)IV. What is affirmed
A. His immutability in His person(Matthew 1:21, Acts 1:11, 4:27, 9:4-5, 22:7-8, Mark 10:47, John 1:19, Hebrews 13:8, 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)
C. His immutability in His presence(Matthew 14:13-21, Luke 24:15, 27-32)
D. His immutability in His kingdom(John 19:30, Acts 1:8-9, Revelation 11:15)