Constants in a Changing World

River

This world is full of constant change. Many things come and go, whether they are people, cultures, governments, trends, or fashions. Yet the writer of Ecclesiastes noted, “There is nothing new under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 1:9). The changes we see are just perpetual cycles that exist in this world. But in the midst of the changes we face in this life, there are certain fundamental truths that will always remain constant.

The Nature of God

God is immutable and unchangeable: “For I, the Lord, do not change” (Malachi 3:6). The psalmist compared the changing and temporary nature of this physical world with the unchanging and eternal nature of God: “Of old You founded the earth, and the heavens are the work of Your hands. Even they will perish, but You endure; and all of them will wear out like a garment; like clothing You will change them and they will be changed. But You are the same, and Your years will not come to an end” (Psalm 102:25-27). Jesus, who was God in the flesh (Colossians 2:9), is “the same yesterday and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8).

Since God does not change, the characteristics of God remain constant as well. He is the “Holy One” who said, “You shall be holy, for I am holy” (1 Peter 1:15-16). God will never cease to be the standard of holiness. He is also sinless. Even while living in the flesh, Jesus “committed no sin” (1 Peter 2:22). This showed that whether on earth or in heaven, God cannot sin. Jesus said, “The Son can do nothing of Himself, unless it is something He sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, these things the Son also does in like manner” (John 5:19). God could not sin either on earth or in heaven.

One result of God remaining constant is that He can and will do what He has said. When He makes a promise, the thing that is promised will come to pass. God made certain promises to Abraham, including the promise fulfilled in Christ that “in you all the families of the earth will be blessed” (Genesis 12:3). The Hebrew writer mentioned the promise that was given to Abraham and said there were “two unchangeable things” (Hebrews 6:18) that guaranteed the promise – God’s purpose and His oath or His word (Hebrews 6:17). These “two unchangeable things” should give us “strong encouragement to take hold of the hope set before us” (Hebrews 6:18).

God’s unchanging nature assures us that the promises He made regarding our salvation and redemption will remain as long as the earth stands. We already noticed the unchangeable nature of God: “For I, the Lord, do not change” (Malachi 3:6). The second part of that verse mentioned one of the results of God’s unchanging nature – the “sons of Jacob, are not consumed.” The sons of Jacob, the Jews, were descendants of Abraham. The promise was made to Abraham that the Messiah would be one of his descendants. Christ’s coming to earth to die on the cross for our sins was part of God’s “predetermined plan” (Acts 2:23). If the sons of Jacob were destroyed, Christ would not come. If Christ would not come, we could not be saved from our sins.

God’s unchanging nature caused Him to providentially preserve the Jewish people, particularly the tribe of Judah, until the coming of Christ. The Jewish nation as a whole had departed from God and would be punished, but that punishment would not come until after Christ came. It came not long after that though in the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D.

Because God is unchanging, we can also be assured of judgment for both the righteous and the wicked: “We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ” (2 Corinthians 5:10). God has already “fixed a day in which He will judge the world” (Acts 17:31). We know this event is going to happen because God said that it will. God does not change. Therefore, we can be assured of His promises.

The State of Man

Another constant in this world of change is the sinful and lost state of man. Paul wrote, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). This condition is not unique to one certain group of people. Earlier in the chapter he wrote, “For we have already charged that both Jews and Greeks are all under sin; as it is written, ‘There is none righteous, not even one” (Romans 3:9-10). As long as the earth stands, mankind will have the problem of sin.

Something else that remains constant is that man, without God, lacks direction. The prophet Jeremiah recognized this truth: “I know, O Lord, that a man’s way is not in himself, nor is it in man who walks to direct his steps” (Jeremiah 10:23). Isaiah prophesied of Christ, the suffering servant, and explained why Jesus’ sacrifice was necessary: “All of us like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way” (Isaiah 53:6). When we turn to our own way, we turn away from God. We cannot direct our steps. We need guidance. No matter how long mankind inhabits this world, we will never discover the way of righteousness apart from God.

Man is incapable of saving Himself. We do need to be careful when we make this point because many misunderstand this. God does attach conditions to salvation (Philippians 2:12; Hebrews 5:9); but without His grace, we would be lost. We would not be able to find the path back to Him. We have already noticed that “all have sinned” (Romans 3:23). Isaiah explained that sin separates us from God (Isaiah 59:1-2). We were “helpless” (Romans 5:6) in this condition. We could not change the fact that we had sinned. Once sin had been committed, it took the sacrifice of Christ to “reconcile them both [Jews and Gentiles] in one body to God through the cross” (Ephesians 2:16). Man will never eliminate the problem of sin and will never come up with another way to be saved other than God’s way.

The Truth of God’s Word

The word of God is truth. Jesus stated this in His prayer to the Father shortly before His betrayal when He said, “Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth” (John 17:17). The psalmist wrote, “The sum of Your word is truth” (Psalm 119:160). The gospel, which is the word of God, does not change. Paul rebuked the Galatians for following “a different gospel” (Galatians 1:6). He explained that what made this a “different gospel” was not that everything about it was different, but that it was a perverted form of the gospel (Galatians 1:7). Paul then emphasized the fact that anyone who would change the gospel “is to be accursed” (Galatians 1:8-9). Remember, the gospel is “the power of God for salvation” (Romans 1:16). Man’s need for salvation is one of the constants we noticed earlier. If man’s need for salvation does not change, then “the power of God for salvation” will not change.

Since the gospel does not change, the conditions contained in it that man must meet in order to be saved do not change. What people were told to do to be saved in the first century are the same things we must do to be saved today. Upon hearing the gospel, we must believe (John 8:24; Hebrews 11:6), confess that belief (Romans 10:9-10), repent of our sins (Luke 13:3; Acts 2:38; 17:30), and be baptized to have our sins washed away (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; 22:16; 1 Peter 3:21). After doing these things, we must remain faithful throughout our lives (Revelation 2:10).

Because the truth of God’s word does not change, we are not to follow the wisdom and teachings of men. There are numerous warnings in the New Testament about following the words of men rather than the word of God. Paul urged the saints in Rome, “Keep your eye on those who cause dissensions and hindrances contrary to the teaching which you have learned, and turn away from them” (Romans 16:17). The Colossians were told, “See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ” (Colossians 2:8). John admonished that we must not believe everything we hear. He wrote, “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world” (1 John 4:1).

We have a fixed standard in the word of God. Therefore, we must not allow culture to determine what is right and wrong for us. The truth of God’s word does not change with the cultures, societies, or governments of men. Therefore, we are not to bind one culturally accepted practice to the exclusion of other authorized practices. We are also not to engage in unauthorized practices, even if they are culturally accepted. Paul wrote, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:2).

– Application –

When we understand that there are certain things that do not change, that will have an effect on what we do. We realize that God does not change. Man’s need for salvation does not change. The truth contained in God’s word does not change. Let us now notice some applications we can make from an understanding of these principles.

Preach the Gospel to the Lost

The gospel is the only means we have of converting the lost (2 Thessalonians 2:14). It is “the power of God for salvation” (Romans 1:16). The only way men will be saved is if they hear, believe, and obey the gospel. Those who never hear will be lost: “Faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ” (Romans 10:17). Those who do not believe will be lost: “And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6). Those who will not obey will be lost: “The Lord Jesus will be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire, dealing out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus” (2 Thessalonians 1:7-8). The gospel must be preached for men to be saved.

In spite of the condemnation for perverting the gospel (Galatians 1:6-9), many today want to change the message in order to reach more people. They want to leave out what they believe others will find offensive. They want to add what others will like. In many cases, they turn away from the gospel altogether as their means of reaching people for more culturally relevant methods. They claim that people today just do not want to hear plain Bible preaching anymore. If that is true, then those people will be lost. If they are not interested in the gospel, they are not interested in God’s power for salvation. Without a change in attitude, there is no hope for them.

We must not be swayed by what people like. Paul told Timothy that a time would come “when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths” (2 Timothy 4:3-4). How was Timothy to respond to this prevailing attitude? Was he to alter his message or methods so these people would listen to him? No! He was told to “preach the word” and “endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry” (2 Timothy 4:2, 5). We need to take this to heart as more and more people are uninterested in the gospel. Our job is not to produce results, but simply to preach and let God bring the increase (1 Corinthians 3:6).

Hold Fast the Pattern

Some scoff at the idea that there is such a thing as a New Testament pattern. Yet we see admonitions given in the New Testament to hold fast the pattern: “Retain the standard [Hold fast the pattern, NKJV] of sound words which you have heard from me, in the faith and love which are in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 1:13). Paul told the Philippians to “join in following my example, and observe those who walk according to the pattern you have in us” (Philippians 3:17). As Moses was told, “Make all things according to the pattern which was shown you on the mountain” (Hebrews 8:5), we must do things according to the pattern we have received. This applies to many different areas.

Evangelism – Under the previous point, we noticed that the gospel must be preached to save the lost. Throughout the New Testament we see preaching done by local churches (Acts 13:1-3; 1 Thessalonians 1:8) and individuals (Acts 8:4). Nowhere do we find Christians forming organizations apart from the local church through which to preach the gospel. Such organizations do not fit the New Testament pattern.

Worship – The New Testament provides us with a pattern for what should be done in our worship assembles. Observing the Lord’s Supper and taking up the collection are to be done on the first day of the week (Acts 20:7; 1 Corinthians 16:1-2). Other actions that are to be done in the assembly, but are not limited in Scripture to the first day of the week alone, are singing (1 Corinthians 14:15, 26), praying (Acts 2:42; 12:5), and preaching or teaching (Acts 2:42; 11:26; 20:7). Jesus said that all of these things are to be done “in spirit and truth” (John 4:24). This means we must do those things that have been authorized and do them with the proper attitude.

The Church – The church is described as “the pillar and support of the truth” (1 Timothy 3:15). As such, it is to be engaged in the works of evangelism (Ephesians 3:10) and edification (Ephesians 4:16). A local church is also authorized to provide limited benevolence in certain circumstances, such as a natural disaster (Acts 11:27-30) or a widow having no family to care for her (1 Timothy 5:3-16). In all cases in the New Testament, collective benevolence in which money was used from the church treasury was used to help Christians (Acts 4:32-35; 11:29; Romans 15:26; 1 Corinthians 16:1; 2 Corinthians 8:4; 9:12). A local congregation has no authority to provide benevolence to non-Christians. Furthermore, the pattern for the work of the church does not include anything recreational or social.

There is also a pattern for the organization of the church. There is no spiritual organization on earth larger than a local congregation. There is no earthly headquarters for the church – it is in heaven where the head of the church is (Ephesians 1:22-23). Each congregation is to be self-governing, having qualified elders who oversee the congregation (Acts 20:28; 1 Peter 5:2; 1 Timothy 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9). Those elders are to be assisted by deacons who fulfill the role of servants (1 Timothy 3:8-13). This is God’s design. There may be cases in which a local congregation has no elders because there is not a plurality of men qualified and willing to do the work. But that congregation must respect the pattern and work toward being Scripturally organized one day. In the meantime, they have no right to find a new form of organization. They must work towards following the pattern, not make their own pattern.

Christian Living – The way we live our lives must also be patterned after the teachings of the word of God. Paul told the Philippians, “Brethren, join in following my example, and observe those who walk according to the pattern you have in us” (Philippians 3:17). He told the brethren in Colossae, “Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus” (Colossians 3:17). We are not at liberty to live our lives in just any way we might want. We must live as God would have us to live.

Do Not Let Culture Shape Your Morality

It is possible to reach the point in which sin does not seem that bad. The Jews had reached that point in Jeremiah’s day: “They were not even ashamed at all; they did not even know how to blush” (Jeremiah 6:15). They reached this point because they had departed from “the ancient paths, where the good way is” (Jeremiah 6:16). When we let our standard shift from God’s word to the world, sin will not be seen as something that is shameful. This very thing is happening today. What used to be shameful is now accepted by society. As time goes on, this will happen more and more in the church. Let us consider a few examples.

Immodest Dress – God has set a standard as to what constitutes modest or proper clothing. We might expect those in the world to ignore this standard, but it is not uncommon to see those among God’s people allowing culture to define what is acceptable. Many see nothing wrong with exposing one’s chest or thighs, but this is repeatedly defined in Scripture as nakedness (Genesis 3:10; Exodus 28:42; Isaiah 47:2-3). Adam and Eve, even after they “made themselves loin coverings” (Genesis 3:7), were considered “naked” (Genesis 3:10). Dress is modest based upon God’s word, not what is commonly accepted in the world.

Adultery – Some do not believe there is such a thing as an adulterous marriage. Therefore, in their minds, every marriage is legitimate and acceptable. But the Bible teaches that there are some who are married according to the laws of man and, therefore, seen by men as married, but have no right to be married by God’s marriage law. There is no marriage bond between such people. An adulterous marriage is one in which one party in the marriage is bound to another. Jesus spoke about this when He was asked a question about divorce: “And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery” (Matthew 19:9). In the scenario Jesus described, the man’s relationship with the second woman was called a marriage, but it was an adulterous marriage. Paul wrote, “For the married woman is bound by law to her husband while he is living… So then, if while her husband is living she is joined to another man, she shall be called an adulteress” (Romans 7:2-3). There are many married people who do not have a right to be married to their current spouse. Society, as a whole, sees nothing wrong with this; but society is not our standard.

Homosexuality – There is a growing acceptance, even among denominations, of those who practice homosexuality. Despite the fact that this is plainly condemned in Scripture (Leviticus 18:22; Romans 1:26-27; 1 Timothy 1:9-10), many see it simply as an alternative lifestyle and that we should accept those who engage in the practice. In the future, we should see more of this in the church, but that does not mean that it should be tolerated. The church in Corinth had some who had engaged in this practice in the past. Paul said, “Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God” (1 Corinthians 6:9-11). Regardless of what our society may accept, the word of God remains unchanged. We cannot let society or culture determine what is moral and right.

Conclusion

As we see changes happening in the world around us, we need to remember that some things never change. God will never change. Man will always be in need of salvation. The word of God – our standard for morality, righteous, and truth – will never change. Let us remember these unchanging truths and let them guide us through the changes in this life.


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