Divine Certainties The Unchanging Person of Jesus Christ
The passing of time brings changes. Some are good and others are not. Things happen and events take place outside of our control which can and do affect our lives in various ways. We need look no further than Covid to know this. Leaders change, policies change, opinions change, attitudes change and we change. Each year we celebrate a birthday. Great when you’re growing up, but not so great when you’re growing old! One of the biggest changes in anyone’s life is the passing of a loved one and of course, death is a change we will all face someday and for that day we need to be ready. Whatever our perspective on life we are all forced to acknowledge that every experience is temporary and we, like the flowers of spring and summer, are but transient beings.
In the midst of a constantly changing world where can we turn to find stability, peace and assurance for our hearts and minds both in the present and for the future? Henry Francis Lyte in his famous hymn, Abide with Me, gives us the answer in theses poignant words:
Swift to its close ebbs out life's little day; Earth's joys grow dim; its glories pass away; Change and decay in all around I see; O Thou who changest not, abide with me.
It’s a source of tremendous assurance and comfort knowing that there is someone greater than ourselves, indeed greater than the sum total of the universe for He created it, and He does not change. It is in God only that we ultimately discover the qualities of constancy and certainty.
In the New Testament book, known as The Epistle to the Hebrews, we are reminded of the following three divine certainties, things that do not change and will not change: The Unchanging Person of Jesus Christ, the Finished Work of the Cross & the Everlasting Kingdom of God. In this message we consider the first of these.
The Unchanging Person of Jesus Christ
Hebrews 13 v 8 says in one simple line: ‘Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and today, and forever’ (KJV). This statement is informed by all the author has said to this point in his letter concerning Jesus Christ as to His person, life and work. It means He is unchanging. Whether we think of the past, the present or the future He is always the same and therefore absolutely dependable. The word to note is ‘same’. There is stability in sameness. I used to remind my daughters when they were growing up to be thankful when each day was the same as the ones before. The unexpected is usually the unwelcome.
But how is Jesus Christ unchanging? What is the basis for such a profound statement? The answer to this lies in the fact that He is
a. The Unchangeable Son
Being unchangeable or immutable is an attribute of God which guarantees He is unchanging, therefore always the same. God not only will not change, but cannot change nor be changed as to His nature and person. He says of Himself “I am the LORD, I do not change” (Mal 3:6). When He appeared to His servant Moses at the burning bush, Moses asked Him about His name. God replied with this explanation, “I AM WHO I AM” (Exo 3:14). God confirmed to Moses by identifying Himself in this way that He is, but this is not merely confirming existence, it is the LORD confirming that He exists as the LORD therefore He exists eternally and independently of everything else being in Himself self-existent and self-sufficient. More, He is all-powerful for as much as He exists independent of Creation, He is sovereign over it while all that is created is dependant and could not exist without Him! It is because of who He is that He can make His presence and power known in time. He did so at the Exodus when He judged Egypt and delivered Israel from bondage through the leadership of Moses and He did so when He sent His Son into time to bring salvation to the world. It was no play on words that Jesus identified Himself as “I Am” (John 8:58). All the attributes of God are equally shared by the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Who God is guarantees His immutability. He is never diminished in anyway or by anything. He does not age. He is ever faithful to Himself and to His word (Exo 34:5-7). This is why the Bible says God ‘cannot lie’ (Titus 1:2) and this is why this epistle to the Hebrews opens with this declaration of the glory of the Son of God:
‘God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds; who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become so much better than the angels, as He has by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they’ (Heb 1:1-4).
Having affirmed the greatness of the Son of God the writer then states how as Son of God He is unchangeable:
“You, Lord, in the beginning laid the foundation of the earth, And the heavens are the work of Your hands. They will perish, but You remain; Andthey will all grow old like a garment; Like a cloak You will fold them up, And they will be changed. But You are thesame, And Your years will not fail” (Heb 1:10-12)
With the identity of Jesus Christ established in the first chapter of his letter, the author goes on to explain the reason why He stooped in grace from heaven to earth. We learn that after living as man and finally offering Himself to God on the Cross as a sacrifice for sin, He would in His exaltation enter by the appointment of His Father the office of
b. An Unchangeable Priest
The wonder of the gospel is that the Son of God came into time and into this world as man. Now this certainly involved for Him change in that He became what He never was before. By becoming human He exchanged His throne for a manger, the glories of heaven for the poverty of earth, the worship of angels for the scorn of men, the place of joy for the place of sorrow and His position of exaltation for the humiliation of a Cross. Yet, in all of this the Son of God was still the Son of God. The fullness of deity (the nature of God) was ever in Him. He was as much God when lying as an infant in the manger as He was when the prophet Isaiah saw Him on the throne of glory (Isa 6:1-3). What He did do by making ‘Himself of no reputation’ was take ‘the form of a bondservant’ and reveal Himself ‘in the likeness of men’ (Phil 2:7).
The question is why? The writer to the Hebrews gives us the answer:
‘Therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted’.
As sinners we need an almighty Saviour. As sinners saved by grace we also need a sympathetic Priest. The Lord Jesus is both! He came to bring salvation to us and in so doing to bring us to God. He moved toward us as Saviour and He brings us near to God as Priest. The Son of God came to this world to be first of all
→A Sacrificial Saviour We are told in this epistle the reason for His stoop from glory and the purpose of His death on the Cross: ‘We see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, for the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, that He, by the grace of God, might taste death for everyone’ (Heb 2:9).
‘Now, once at the end of the ages, He has appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself. And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment, so Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many. To those who eagerly wait for Him He will appear a second time, apart from sin, for salvation. (Heb 9:26-28).
In light of what the Lord Jesus has done for us, we are challenged by the writer with this question:
‘How shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation’? (Heb 2:3).
To treat the Son of God as unimportant and to ignore the salvation God offers us in Him will have consequences. No one will escape being ‘weighed in the scales’ of God’s eternal justice. Without God’s salvation there is no hope of heaven, and there will be no escape from judgment. We need a Saviour who not only saves us from our sins and the eternal judgement we deserve because of them, but who also fits us for heaven. Jesus Christ is that Saviour. His saving power comes to us by grace. We can’t earn salvation, it is offered only as the free gift of God. We receive it by faith in Jesus Christ. Scripture says:
‘For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast’ (Eph 2:8-9 KJV).
But having been saved by grace we also need a
→A Sympathetic Priest A high priest in Israel was a mediator between God and His people. Offering animal sacrifices was central to his ministry for himself and the people. Also, he was to be a man of compassion and sympathy. To be ‘a merciful and faithful high priest’ in the presence of God for everyone who believes in Him, it was necessary that the Lord Jesus ‘make propitiation’ for their sins and it was also necessary that He experience life in this world as man.
He is the perfect man meaning that He was and ever is without sin, but it is also true that as man He was ‘made perfect’ (Heb 2:10; 5:9). This means that to be the High Priest of His people He had to go through the experience of life and in so doing He was made complete and therefore entirely fitted by His experience to be a sympathetic High Priest. He who is ever morally perfect became experientially perfect. He knew the suffering of life’s trials when in this world for as already quoted: ‘He Himself has suffered, being tempted’. The word tempted here does not mean that Jesus was in any sense tempted to wrong, rather it means that He knew what it was to be tried and tested in the experiences of His life which caused Him to suffer, but in which He never sinned. He was ‘a man of sorrows’ (Isa 53:3). He knew what it was to be weary (John 4:6; Mark 4:38). He knew the pain of bereavement (John 11:33-36). He knew the hurt of hatred (John 15:25; Rom 15:3). He knew what it was to have brothers who didn’t believe in Him (John 7:5). He knew hostility from the people among whom He grew up (Luke 4:28-30). But above all, He knew the constant and relentless attack of satanic opposition attempting to deflect Him from the will of God (Matt 4:1-11) and He knew the cost of obedience to that will as we read at Hebrews 5 vs 7-9:
‘Who, in the days of His flesh, when He had offered up prayers and supplications, with vehement cries and tears to Him who was able to save Him from death, and was heard because of His godly fear, though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered. And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him’.
It is because of who Jesus is, what He experienced in His humanity, the work He finished on the Cross and His present ministry as great High Priest in heaven that every believer is assured of divine mercy and grace in the trials of life. We read:
‘Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need’ (Heb 4:12-16).
Perhaps you think becoming a Christian seems too difficult, too narrow, too demanding? What you need to understand is that in knowing Christ there is tremendous comfort and encouragement. There is not only the assurance that my sins are forgiven because He paid for them with His own precious blood, but there is also the grace He supplies to help in every time of spiritual and emotional need. There is someone to turn to when pain, hurt and disappointment are my experience. There is a throne of grace to which we can come when we need the compassion and kindness of God’s mercy and the strength He supplies in the midst of life’s trials. And it is the case that every believer in the Lord Jesus has the assurance that their ‘great High Priest’ will finally arrive them safe in glory no matter what bed of sickness they leave behind or what the circumstances are for them as life on earth ends. To quote from a hymn:
Days of darkness still come o’er me, Sorrow’s path I often tread, But His presence still is with me; By His guiding hand I’m led.
He will keep me till the river Rolls its waters at my feet; Then He’ll bear me safely over, Where the loved ones I shall meet. (Francis Harold Rowley 1854-1952)
But one other vital point. Jesus is an unchangeable priest because God has appointed Him to be so by the word of His oath given centuries before His Son ever came to this world. God the LORD guaranteed through prophetic utterance that Christ would be ‘a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek’ (Psa 110:4). Melchizedek was a king of ancient Salem and a priest of God Most High. We never read of his death or successors and that is why Christ is declared a Priest after his order (Gen 14:18-20; Heb 7:1-3). As God is immutable so is His word! The author of Hebrews explains Christ’s priesthood in contrast to priests after the order of Aaron, Israel’s original high priest:
‘And inasmuch as He was not made priest without an oath (for they have become priests without an oath, but He with an oath by Him who said to Him:
“The LORD has sworn And will not relent, ‘You are a priest forever According to the order of Melchizedek’ ”),
by so much more Jesus has become a surety of a better covenant. Also there were many priests, because they were prevented by death from continuing. But He, because He continues forever, has an unchangeable priesthood. Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them’ (Heb 7:20-25).
So, to return to the text for this message, ‘Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and today, and forever’. This is the assurance of the gospel. We can really depend upon Him. He is as faithful as He is immutable and this is why He truly is an unchanging Person and an unchanging Priest.