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Online Text Sermon - Our Unchangeable Saviour, Hebrews ch.13 v.8

PreacherRev. Maurice Roberts, Inverness
Sermon TitleOur Unchangeable Saviour
TextHebrews ch.13 v.8
Sermon ID45

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"Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and today, and for ever." (Hebrews 13, 8)

You will be aware of the fact that the final verses of most of the epistles of Paul and the other Apostles deal with matters of practice, the outworkings of the Gospel and also with rather personal matters. So that usually you have a number of greetings and a farewell and passing on of greetings from other Christians and other churches. You might be tempted to say therefore that in the final chapters of these epistles in the New Testament, you might expect subjects of rather lesser importance and lesser doctrinal significance. But that is certainly not the case with so many of the statements which are made here in the final chapter of the epistle to the Hebrews. Above all, it is not true that the verse that we have chosen for our text this evening is a matter of secondary importance.

Listen to these words again. "Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and today, and for ever." (Hebrews 13, 8). It is very obvious that there the Apostle is trumpeting one of the central truths of the New Testament church; one of the greatest affirmations imaginable, concerning the person of our great and blessed Saviour, Jesus Christ. Now, I must say that when I was a younger man, I many times tried to work out why these words appear here in this final chapter. And I spent, I suppose, many hours meditating and wondering what the connection is between these words and the rest of the chapter. Well, I'm going to suggest to you something like this to be the solution to that question. It seems to me that what the Apostle is doing here in this verse is this, he is giving us a sort of summary of everything he has said in this epistle up to this point. We talk sometimes about putting something in a nut shell. Well, here the apostle is putting the whole main thought of this epistle in a nut shell.

What is the argument of the epistle to the Hebrews? Let me just take a moment to remind you. These Hebrew Christians were of course Jewish persons who in their early years practiced Jewish worship. It would be their custom according to the Old Testament to go to the temple and to take part in the Passover and Pentecost and tabernacles, the worshipping of God by those Old Testament forms and sacrifices and offerings and the calendar dates and festivals of the Old Testament. Now what had happened to them is obviously was this, they had heard the Gospel during their own lifetime and they had become attached to the Gospel of Christ. They were converted Hebrews. But then they had to suffer for their faith. They had lost some of their homes. They had lost their property. They had been put out. We had a reference to that in the very chapter we read. The Apostle said Christ Himself was made to suffer outside the gate and outside the camp. And we must be as Christians prepared to go out to suffer with Him in the same kind of way. And this had been a stumbling block to these Hebrew Christians. And they were tempted to go back to their ancient Hebrew religion. And so the great argument used by the writer is this, Christ, he says, is greater than anything that has ever appeared before. He is greater than the angels. He is greater than Moses. He is above all the priests of the Old Testament period of history. Jesus Christ came to bring and offer to God a better sacrifice than the priests offered in Old Testament times. He has come to confirm a better and an eternal covenant by His own blood. He is the true eternal priest. All the Old Testament priests were but temporary. Christ, he says is the great everlasting Priest according to the will and Word of God. "...Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek" (Psalm 110, 4).

So, you see, his argument really is this, that Christ is better than anything that ever appeared in Old Testament times. He is higher and greater, nobler, more efficacious and more able to save than anything and anyone that has appeared hitherto. And so in my text, he is giving a summation or a brief statement, summarizing everything he said hitherto. And he puts it in these memorable words, "Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and today, and for ever." (Hebrews 13, 8).

Well, my friends, I want to spend a little time this evening opening up a little this text with you as it concerns the person of Christ and His glory. And the first thing that I draw your attention to, is something very obvious. That here in the person of Christ, we have someone Who is utterly different from everything and everyone we know here in this world. Is there anyone, is there anything, which is permanent, unchanging and eternally the same? Well, there is nothing that we know of here in this present life. If we go back to the beginning of the Bible, to the creation of God where He finished the universe and beautified it and saw that it was very good and place man in paradise,you think with a sigh what a change today? How different the universe is! Scorch from the sun, volcanoes, tidal waves, earthquakes, famines, wars. The paradise is gone. The world in which we live is a world of continuing change and it will certainly be changed when God brings fire upon the elements in the end. But concerning Jesus Christ, he tells us He is not subject to flux and flow. "Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and today, and for ever." (Hebrews 13, 8).

Or I could take in another illustration. Take the great civilizations of mankind as the Bible itself presents them to us. The Bible tells us about these mighty nations and civilizations of old. One of the earliest we know anything about is Egypt. And we are all familiar with these pictures and photographs of the pyramids and the Sphinx and the great colossus statutes of the Pharaohs of old. Where are they now? Well, they are crumbling and moulding away in the desert. The same is true of Babylon with its hanging gardens and its great and impressive structures. I remember once talking to a missionary who would travel by train through what was Babylon and he said as he looked out of the train window, here is a station and here is the board and written on the board was the name, Babylon. It was a tiny station, he said, hardly worthy of the name. That's all that is left of it. Once a massive civilization; once a world empire, it is changed. And what about Greece and Rome? Don't we always say that Greece was one of the greatest of all civilizations? Where is it now? The glory that was great. And as for the Roman Empire you know what Edward Gibbon wrote about it in his famous volume, 'The decline and downfall of the Roman Empire'? "It is gone". And so has the British Empire that used to cover the whole area of the world in such a way that they said the sun always shone on some part of the British empire. But it's not so today.

My friend, we are living in a changing world; a world where civilization and nations are changing from day to day. Ah, yes, but, says our writer, there is one who does not change. "Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and today, and for ever" (Hebrews 13, 8). Could I go on to remind you, my friend, that even the church doesn't stay the same. There have been great churches in the past. We are all familiar with the New Testament epistles. The epistle to the Colossians, the Ephesians, the Philippians, the Thessalonians and I could go on. Where are those great Churches today? Where are the churches mentioned in the book of Revelation? Laodicea, Smyrna and so forth. They have gone. Their names have gone with them. They are not in the world today to any extent. If they exist at all, they are probably tiny congregations. Just a few in a corner. What about the church of Rome in Paul's day? Totally different in our generation. What about the mighty church in Constantinople in the days when John Chrysostom with his silver tongue eloquent and enthralled thousands? Gone! What about the church in France of the Huguenots. They say that there was one stage in, one in every three of the population were the Huguenots, true Bible-believing Christians and evangelical, reformed Christians. Where are they today? Gone! What about the many great churches in our own land? Gone!

My friends, we are living in a changing world. And the church herself is changing. Ah, but says the writer, I'll tell you one thing that is not changing - Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, and today, and for ever. Allow me to make one further point to illustrate what is being said. Dear friends, I need hardly to tell you that you and I and all are changing from day to day. How could we be changed? You visit an older family and if you are talking to them, what do you see on the side board here? a photograph, a wedding photograph. As you go closer, you ask yourself, who are this happy couple? You ask the question, who are these? Oh, says the lady, that is my late beloved husband, now passed away. With a start you realize the handsome couple, owned the home where now you visit, he is gone. She has almost gone. The child soon becomes a boy and then a man and then his decline. The young girl quickly reaches her beauty of maidenhood then grey hairs come upon her. O, my beloved friends, let us not deceive ourselves. We are living in a world of change - 'change and decay in all around I see. O, Thou that changes not, abide with me'. And who is it that changes not? Who but only the person mentioned in my text, Jesus Christ, of Whom it is said, He is "the same yesterday, and today, and forever" (text).

My call as a minister is to invite you to consider the ways now, secondly, in which Jesus Christ is the same. Let me bring before you, some of the richness of truth which lies in this text. In what respects is Christ the same? First of all, in His being a Person of the Holy Trinity. You remember how Jesus Christ offended His hearers in the course of His ministry by reminding them again and again that He was and is the Son of God. He called Himself the Son of man which is a title implying Godhood. He said to them, "I and my Father are one" (John 10, 30) and they took up stones to stone Him. Our Lord proved that He was the Son of God by doing His miracles. He healed the sick at a word; stilled the storm at a word; at a word cast out devils; at a word raised the dead; raised Himself from the dead because He had power to lay down in His life and take it again. Jesus Christ is God, the eternal Son of God. Let no one tell you that Jesus became the Son of God when He was born in the manger. No, no, our Lord was the Son of God from eternity past. He was the Son of God within the ontological trinity. If you find another hard phrase, I explain it. The ontological trinity is the term we give to God as He is in Himself. When we refer to the trinity, we sometimes refer to Him as the economic trinity. That is to say, God as He has entered into relations with us in order to save us from our sin. But God as He is in Himself without respect to creation, mankind, salvation, angels or anything else, to that Trinity we refer as ontological trinity. God as He is in Himself. And concerning Christ, it has to be said He is the everlasting Son of the everlasting Father. Equal to the Father in power and excellence and majesty and glory; equal to the Creator the world, and you and me.

Now, my friends, when the writer says that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, and today, and for ever, he means His relationship to the Father is the same. He has the same authority with the Father, the same status with the Father, the same dignity as the Father, the same honour as the Father; unchanged, unchanging. The Great eternal Son of God Who came into this world and stooped to conquer mankind. Who took on nature in order that He might bring us to become the sons of God. The Son of God became the Son of Man that the sons of men might be made the sons of God. And he is the same as ever He was.

Now, I go on to mention, Christ is the same as ever He was as the Mediator between the Father and His people. When Adam sinned against God and broke the covenant of works, who was it that spoke to our first parents and revealed to them another covenant, and spoke of the coming of another Saviour who would bruise the serpent's head? Who was it but our Lord Himself. The blessed Jesus Himself as soon as the covenant of works were broken, immediately Christ became the Mediator of His people. He stood in the breach to reconcile His people to God and all through the Old Testament our Lord is Mediating mercy, grace and kindness to the world. So it was abundantly after He rose from the dead and ascended to Heaven. When our Lord sat down at the right hand of the Father, it was the same One who had lived with the Father from all eternity. The same One who through the Old Testament was the Prophet, Priest and King of His children. The same One who now rules and reigns as Prophet, Priest and King of the church until the second coming in the end of the world, when He will judge the living and the dead. He is the Mediator of the Old Testament and of the New. One Mediator, one Lord, one Saviour now at the right of God the Father almighty, enthroned in majesty and splendour. He is the same, yesterday, today, and forever; unchanging as the Mediator between God and men.

I would like, if I could, to help those of you who are seeking the Lord at this time. And in so striving to help you, I would say this, Jesus Christ is the same, my friend, in His pity and in His compassion for men and women who are wanting Him. He has not changed. His promises stand as sure today as ever they did. Did He in His lifetime say, come unto me and I will give you rest? His Word is as good at the end of 1999 as it was the very hour He spoke those Words in the beginning in His earthly ministry. Did our Lord Jesus Christ ever say, him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out? Those Words are as good and as solid today as the day when He first uttered them. Jesus Christ, my dear friends, is a seeker friendly Saviour. He will not frown upon you if you want Him. If you desire Him, you will find Him as kind to you as He was kind to the persons who were referred to Him in the Gospels. How many times do you see men and women in the Gospels coming to Christ? Women who dared to touch but the hem of His garment and receive His comfort, "Go in peace, thy faith has saved thee" (Luke 7, 50). Men who came trembling wanting His help and went away always satisfied. Never in the Gospel did anyone truly come to Christ with a sincere heart and go away empty. And the same will be true for you. For every seeker after mercy and every seeker after comfort and grace, the Lord Jesus Christ will be kind to the timid and kind to the meek and to the lowly who want Him. And we know that to be the case because He is the same, yesterday, and today, and for ever.

Let me give you one further help under this general theme and say to you, He is the same in His love for His own dear people. It is said in this very epistle to the Hebrews, He ever lives to make intercession for His people. It is said about Him that He by one sacrifice has perfected forever them that come unto God by Him. He is able to save to the uttermost them that come unto God by Him. He does not need to offer often times the same sacrifice. He has finished the work. He has brought in reformation. Christ by His death has finished all that needs to be done to give peace to His people. And that is why in that very chapter I was reading you, the apostle says this, "Now the God of peace,who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus,"... "through the blood of the everlasting covenant, Make you perfect" (Hebrews 13, 20-21) and so on. It is because God's love rests on Christ as the great High Priest over the house of God. He is able therefore to give every believer sufficient grace. He is able to give you grace to live by and He will give you grace to die by. Have no fear for your last hour, Christian. When your last hour comes, you will find that Christ will not forsake you. He never forsook any of those that needed Him. He will help you to persevere to the end.

How do we know? Well, look at His treatment to Stephen when Stephen was being stoned to death, bearing witness to the truth. He lifted up His eyes and saw the vision and what was in the vision? "I see ... the Son of man standing on the right hand of God." (Act 7,56) He was standing up as it were to welcome the soul of Stephen into those eternal abodes of peace. The first Christian martyr and He will receive all those who die in the faith, whoever they are, be he great or small. And not only so, our Lord ever lives to receive the bodies of His people. Christ has died for our bodies as well as our souls. He has purchased the whole man. The whole Christian is His purchased possession. The body of the Christian is as much Christ's as is his soul. We belong to the Lord. He has died to give us eternal life not only in the body but in the soul. So when the trumpet sounds, says the New Testament, and the dead are raised incorruptible, we shall be changed and this mortal shall put on immortality. And this corruptible shall put on incorruption. And we shall shine in glory and our bodies shall be like the body of Christ. And how do we know all this? Well, because the Word of God tells us. Christ is ever living and mediating on our behalf. And He is the same, yesterday, and today, and for ever (text).

Let me go on and say to you very briefly. My friends, there is endless comfort in this great central truth of the Bible. You know sometimes we are afraid for tomorrow. Many a parent and grand parent have used language like this. We have all done it. You have done it and I have done it. We say, "What kind of world will our children grow up in?" And then, "What sort of world will our grand children grow up in?" And we look over the fence of the next millennium and we say, "What kind of world will the next millennium witness?" Well, many things we do not know but one thing we do know, and that is it will be a world where Jesus Christ will be King and Lord, Priest and Prophet. He will teach the next generation as sure as ever He taught the previous generation. Jesus Christ has not lost His ancient power. He knows how to touch the hearts of men. He can touch the hearts of children as He touched the hearts of our grand fathers. He can touch the hearts of our great grand children whom we will never see with our own eyes because He is the same yesterday, and today, and for ever. We must not be swallowed up with over much grief because of the trials and troubles we see in our generation. Who knows but that our grand children will see great days, halcyon days, days so rich with blessing, that the ancient days will be forgotten. God can raise up preachers who will over talk Calvin and outstrip Whitefield and Wesley and Spurgeon and Dr Lloyd Jones. He can do things far beyond any comprehension of yours or mine.

You may know the story which I think comes from the life of Martin Luther. That Luther got depressed on one occasion and he got very gloomy and sad and all his thoughts were jet black. He thought that ahead of them in the church in Germany was darkness and trouble and sorrow and war and misery. And this spirit of depression gripped him for some days. And one morning he got up out of bed and came downstairs for breakfast. And there was his wife, all dressed in black. "My dear Katy", said he, "has someone died?" "Oh, yes", she said, "someone has died." "And Katy, who has died?" "Oh, well you should know. My dear, Martin," she said, "you should know who died." "Katy, I don't know. Who told you, who has died?" She turned to him, "Have you not heard?" "No, my dear, who is it?" "Martin, it's God" she said, "He's died." And he saw the incongruity and the folly of his depression. And he laughed. As dear Martin Luther often laughed and loved his Katy who was so faithful a wife, she had broken the bubble of his fear. Let us despair if my text is not true. Let us go into a madhouse if my text is not true. My text is true as the Word of God that Jesus Christ will be the same tomorrow as He was yesterday; the same in the future as in the past. The same Lord, the same Saviour, the same Ruler of the universe.

"But," you say to me, "isn't the world getting darker?" Well, in the last week I'll tell you the news I'v heard. I don't know whether the world is getting darker or not? But I'll tell you what I have heard in the last few days only. One friend wrote to me this. He said, "I have just got back from the United States. I have been preaching at a number of conferences. There have been about a thousand in these conferences and at each one, and he said, "wherever I go, mountains of good Christian books, reformed, solid, Calvinistic books are being sold in the United States all over the country." Another letter came the other day from Burma if you please. Burma - Myanmar if you want the modern name. This writer said, "I am translating good things into the Burmese language." They are reading these things in Burma. Another writer wrote like this in his letter, he said, "In China today I am able to take thousands of copies of the book of McCheyne to the Chinese people." Robert Murray McCheyne of Dundee in China! Today being read in Chinese for the first time in the history of the world. And in Brazil, Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones' writings are now in Portuguese. The people in Brazil are reading the sermons of Lloyd-Jones in their own language. What's the message? "...lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world" (Matthew 28, 20). I am the same, yesterday, and today, and for ever, says this great Man, this great Saviour, this great Lord, this great God, Jesus Christ.

But don't we see good Christians taken away? Look at the elders we've lost in Inverness. Look at the trouble in the churches in Scotland. Look at the disappointments we've all seen and the decline and the troubles. Doesn't it seem that the light's about to go out? And the church is about to vanish? Yes, it means that the Gospel will disappear from Scotland and England and all the other countries if Jesus Christ should happen never to be the One spoken of in my text. But if my text is true, Christ can revive His work, reform His church, transform the face of the earth in a moment. I wonder if you know what happened to the United States two centuries ago. There was a terrible war of independence. The British government in its stupidity, I have to say, outraged the colonial Americans. The Boston Tea Party, we wouldn't give them proper representation. So they say we won't be taxed unless you gave us a voice. "No taxation without representation". That was the slogan in America at that time in the war of independence that they waged as they threw the tea overboard at Boston.

Now after that great war of independence in America, terrible atheism came in. The writings of man like Tom Paine and sceptics and doubters from France. At the French revolution these books flooded into America and the infant colony was in danger of being swamped by apostasy. Even George Washington, the President of the United States, was afraid that civilization and church going would vanish in the new founded colonial country of America. But within 20 years or so of the war of independence, Jesus Christ had had a say in affairs. What was happening? The Holy Spirit Himself was being poured out upon the infant country of the United States. Within a few years later than that it was a country of Bibles, a country of mission, a country of revival, a country of evangelical preaching and churches. How did it happen? It defied all the laws of human nature. What's the secret of what happened there? The secret is in my text. It was Jesus Christ, the same as He was on the day of Pentecost. The same as when He raised Martin Luther from being a monk to becoming a reformer. The same that put John Knox into Scotland. The same that transformed the face of the earth. His power, His grace, His love is wonderful kindness to the sons of men is the same and it will be the same until the trumpet sounds and the end of the world shall come.

My dear friends, let us not be unduly afraid for the things that we seem to be terrorised by in our generation. It is after all very much our unbelief that leads us almost to the verge of despair. Well might Jesus Christ say to us as He said to others, "O ye of little faith, wherefore did you doubt? Where is your faith?" My friends, let us take hold of this text. Let us take hold of it with both hands, earnestly. Let us lay hold upon this text as upon the anchor of our soul. Jesus Christ, the same, for ever. He will not leave nor forsake His people until He has done all that He has promised to do. All nations shall be blessed in Him and all nations shall call Him blessed. From the rising of the sun to the going down thereof, His name shall be great among the heathen.

But I must close and my time is gone. And I make two applications. First of all, my beloved friends, those of you who are not professing Christians, can I speak to you first? Don't you see everything in this world is a passing shadow? Don't you see the madness of living for the things of time and sense? What are people doing tonight in this town and all over the country and all over the western world? They are glued to the television. Or they are going to their club and eating and drinking houses and tomorrow they are back to the grind. It's over tomorrow. Everything is moving like a shadow. There is only one thing which is secure, one thing is solid. My challenge to you, dear friend, is, are you building upon this great foundation? Are you trusting in Jesus Christ? The same forever is your hope and your faith and your assurance rooted in Him? There is the question of questions for you. And if indeed the Word of God is truly in your heart and you have believed unto salvation and now is the time to proclaim your faith to the world. Don't wait till you are 70 years of age. You may never get there anyway. Make your profession of Christ if He is truly in your heart tell the world you are not ashamed to confess Him amongst men in this present life. Jesus Christ will never forsake you. No, though heaven and earth pass away, His promise to His people will be secure.

But as to you who are Christians, what shall I say to you? Well, dear Christian friends, have no fear. Fear nothing and fear no one. But make Jesus Christ your fear and your dread. Fear to displease Him. Though they strip you of everything you've got, serve Him and you will never, never be forsaken. His disciples in the days of His flesh took up their cross and followed the Lord until they themselves in some cases were also brought to the cross and to crucifixion. Did they die with tears and fears? Not they. They died the death of heroes. They knew where they were going. They were going to the place which they were informed about: the house of many mansions. Why would they want to go there? Because there they would see Him face to face for Whom it is said He is "the same, yesterday, and today and for ever" (text). This is the unchangeable Word of the great unchangeable Saviour. Let us therefore take it to ourselves and take comfort as we face the duties and privileges of the Lord's supper.

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