Jesus Christ, The Same

Stephen Whitmore, Clacton-on-Sea

Category: Devotional

Hebrews 13. 8 is one of the better known verses of Scripture, and we would all rejoice in the sweetness of its truth however we read it. If the verse is set in its context, it carries a beauty which should thrill our hearts as much as any rendering. It also carries a force which should encourage us in every trial that life may bring, and set us on a firm foundation to withstand every form of false teaching. We can consider:

 The Setting of the Verse
 The Evidence of Yesterday
 The Prospect of Forever
 The Assurance for Today
 The Test of Teaching

The Setting of the Verse
We find this verse at the end of an epistle that brings out the excellence of our Lord Jesus Christ in every aspect of His glorious Person and work. As the epistle progresses, He is seen to be greater than prophets, angels, Adam, Abraham, Moses, Joshua, Aaron and Melchisedec from among men. He also brings in a covenant that supercedes the Old Covenant, and offers a sacrifice that fulfils all that was foreshadowed by the offerings of past days. Here is the encouragement for those who are challenged concerning the lack of visible objects of worship.

The Evidence of Yesterday
The thoughts of the saints are turned in the previous verse to consider those who have been their guides. This appears to refer to the elders of the past days, men who may well have finished their course in martyrdom. These men were encouragements to fulfil the charge, 'Be content with such things as ye have', v. 5. What set them apart was the twin support: they knew the word of God, and their faith was centred in the Person of Jesus Christ, the Same. Let us never forget that, however important it is to know the word of God, it should always lead to a life that demonstrates the knowledge of the Lord in every detail. John speaks of this when he writes of the fathers, 'Ye have known Him that is from the beginning', 1 John 2. 13, 14. There is no exhortation for such men, there is no additional charge, because they have the fulness of Christian experience. It is to this experience that Paul refers when he writes, 'that I may know Him', Phil. 3. 10. This is the goal set before every believer. It is not achieved by knowledge of the word of God alone, but by allowing the Holy Spirit to take the word of God, to reveal the Lord in the word, and to make both a living reality in every detail of life. It is good when we can think of men like this who have guided us. It is far more important that we should set it as our single goal in life to reach this experience. Every other exhortation and charge of the Scriptures will be fulfilled if this is reached.

As we think of why such men were sustained, and became an example to others we can stop to think of where their faith found its anchor. The reference here to 'the Same' should remind us of the opening chapter of the epistle, 'Thou art the same', v. 12. The quotation from Psalm 102 clearly identifies the Son with the Jehovah of the Old Testament. In its immediate context, He is the One who is the Same in contrast to the vast creation which is to be folded up as a garment. We are resting on the assurance that there is One who is more certain than the most stable object that we could ever contemplate. He is able to encompass the vast, seemingly infinite, universe in the same way as we take up our clothes. 'Yesterday' might point us to creation, and we see the One who was there, the Source and Object of Creation, Col. 1. 15-17. It might point us to the One who delivered His people from the might of Egypt, and led them through the wilderness. The power that saved, the mercy and grace that supplied every need in the face of a multitude of murmurings and rejections from the people. It reminds us of the One who came in meekness and lowliness to live amongst men, of the One who experienced every trial of human life apart from sin, Heb. 4. 15. It tells us of the One who was ready to offer Him-self without spot unto God, and yet has taken a place at the right hand of God in triumph. Wherever we look to learn of the excellence of our Lord, it only serves to assure our hearts that we never lose out if we follow Him.

The Prospect of For Ever
If we look back to consider the 'yesterday', then we need no encouragement to look forward and consider the 'for ever'. Who has not thrilled in the promise of our Lord, 'I will receive you unto Myself', John 14. 3. We await the moment when we hear the shout, and we are caught up to be for ever with the Lord. The glorious prospect for the believer gleams brightly, and is frequently the only beam to lighten the dark days in which we live. How miserable we would be if we had no prospect beyond this life. If this is so for us, then how much more for those who lived in constant fear of the sound of the feet of those who would arrest and even kill them. It is such men who were the guides of the first readers of this epistle. The faith that the readers are to imitate is the faith that would not just suffer, but would take joyfully the spoiling of their goods, Heb. 10. 34. These were men whose faith was the mainspring of their life, not because they were great in faith, but because their faith rested in a great Person. If only we could really learn the simple lesson of faith: it is not the amount of faith that brings comfort, it is the confidence we have in where that faith is placed. The simplest child with the simplest faith in the Lord has more assurance than the greatest faith could ever give if placed anywhere else. We are those privileged to see the future, not to answer the questions that men ask, but to learn the sweetness of the fulfilment of the love that took our Lord to the cross for us.

The 'forever' takes us beyond this. We can look on to the day when all creation will join in the song of the ages, as they tell out the glories of the One whom we love. If our love for Him is true, then our hearts should thrill in the assurance that He will be vindicated and glorified in the place of His rejection. True love will count it far better that He is acknowledged than that we receive of His mercy and love. It was true love that caused Him to give up ail for us upon the cross. If this is so, then surely we ought to think of what He receives before we think of what we receive from Him.

The Assurance for Today
The glorious assurance of this title is simply that we may live every moment of every day in the certainty that the One who excels all who have ever lived in the past, and the One who secures every prospect that is set before us for the future is the One who is the Same today. We may enjoy every experience that those of old ever knew; we may face every trial of life in the assurance that we are walking with One who has been there before, and who has overcome already. We are in the 'today', and He is still the Same as He ever was or ever will be. How often do we stop to think what we have trusted Him for: deliverance from sins, eternal salvation? If we can trust Him for this, what are the needs of today in comparison?

The Test of Teaching
The verse is a pivot however. It not only points to the assurance that He is the Same as we face every aspect of life; verse 9 reminds us that He is the Subject of all Scripture. When Luke records that 'he expounded unto them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself', Luke 24. 27, we may learn that every Scripture has its fulfilment in Him. If we do not find Christ in the Scriptures, we have missed their true subject. The guides of verse 7 were men who had proved this, and made it good in their life. If He is the Subject of all Scripture, then its purpose is that we should be moulded into His likeness, 'we all . . . are changed into the same image from glory to glory', 2 Cor. 3. 18. The debates would quickly fade, and the uncertainties would become a foundation for godly living if only we would allow the Spirit to bring the Scriptures home to our hearts and lives. Paul left Timothy at Ephesus with a charge whose end was 'charity (love) out of a pure heart, and of a good conscience, and of faith unfeigned', 1 Tim. 1. 5. In particular, he was to silence those who ministered 'questions, rather than godly edifying', 1 Tim. 1. 4. Let us take care that we fulfil this, whether in public or in the home, so that we, too, become examples of Christ to a coming generation, if the Lord has not returned for His people.