Hebrews xiii. 8.
"Jesus Christ, the Same.''
Short notes of an address given at Norris Castle in 1908.
One of the first rules to be observed in Bible Study is to understand a text by its context. And this verse may be taken either with the preceding verse or with that following it. Many helpful lessons may be gained by coupling it with the seventh verse, but it seems to me more likely that it should be joined with the ninth, when it will read, "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, and today and forever. Be not ye carried about with divers and strange doctrines." The abiding Christ ought to have stable followers.
Now, physically, Jesus Christ was, in all probability, not the same after the resurrection. Those disciples going to Emmaus did not recognize Him. The disciples in the upper room thought He was a spirit. Mary Magdalene at the tomb did not instantly perceive Who it was speaking to her. It seems as if there had been some subtle and wonderful change. It was not the Person, which was the same, it was the Personality. That never changes.
But now to take a larger view. What was the attitude of the Saviour towards the Old Testament. He had a very definite attitude to the Bible, a very consistent attitude. He never changed in this. He studied it. He pondered it, He loved it, His thoughts were saturated with it. He knew, as He unwrapped the roll in the synagogue, exactly where to find the place He wanted. When He was tempted in the wilderness, it was with the Words of Holy Scripture that He met the Tempter. "It is written----it is written----it is written." He knew lots of it by heart.
He had no theories as to Inspiration, but He had a very practical attitude. We need not worry over the theories as to how it was inspired; we know it is inspired. There are many theories to-day about that dreadful disease of epilepsy. One celebrated man gives his theory, and it is accepted. And then another rises up and confutes that with a new theory. But all the time, the terrible fact is the same; there is the same awful disease in our midst. The theories may change, the fact remains.
Did He change in His attitude to the Holy Scriptures after His Resurrection? No. As soon as He was risen, He gave two Bible Readings; one to the men going to Emmaus and one to the disciples gathered in the upper room. To those two wayfarers, He said, "Ought not Christ to have suffered these things?" And beginning at Moses, and all the prophets, He expounded unto them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself. What do you think He said when He started at Moses? Why, He must have talked about the sacrifices, for both to those two and to the eleven, He showed them that "thus it was written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer." What was in the Prophets about His death? Surely they turned to that glorious 53rd of Isaiah.
Well, then, let our first lesson be "not carried about with winds of doctrine." Was my Master familiar with Scripture? Let me be as familiar with it. Did my Master find in the Old Testament, the prophecies of Himself? Let me find them there likewise. “It is enough for the disciple that he be as his Lord."
Whatever people say to-day about the Bible, His attitude to it never changes. Recently, in S. America, a pastor said to me, "Dr. Guinness, why, you preach from the Old Testament!" Of course I do, just as my Master did. The Old Testament is the divine illustration of the New Testament. The New Testament is the divine explanation of the Old.
Nor did He change in His attitude to foreign missions. When the men of Capernaum would have kept Him in their midst, His reply was, “Let us go into the next towns, that I may preach there." When He got twelve disciples, what did He do? He sent them forth. When He got seventy disciples, what did He do? He sent them forth. When He got 500 disciples, what did He do? He sent them forth. And at the end, when His hands were parted in blessing, His last word was "to the uttermost part of the earth."
He died for ALL----that means foreign missions. He said, "Go and tell ALL." But there are difficulties, grave and terrible difficulties in the way, unhealthy places, savage peoples. Do we say, "Master! We know you said “Go into all the world, but did you really mean it?" And He answers, "Did you ever know Me to change? I said ‘all the world’, and I meant ‘all the world.'"
We are not following a vacillating leader. He hasn't changed. When He was raised from the dead, He didn't alter. He emphasized His command to Go. When He gives the word of command, the word is Forward!