Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever,” the apostolic writer declared in Hebrews 13:8 (NKJV). It stands in relationship to the earlier observation in Hebrews 12:1, “…we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses.”
The cloud of witnesses includes people from every generation who have served in the kingdom of God. They include the faithful named and unnamed in Genesis 2–11. They include those who followed the faith of Abraham, the account of the promise which begins in Genesis 12 and continued throughout the Old Testament era, and even into our time.
The cloud of witnesses also includes those who believed in the revelation of God found in Abraham’s descendant, Jesus of Nazareth. They include the faithful of the past 2,000 years as the gospel has spread around the world. For many of us, they include our parents, siblings, friends, and colleagues who are gathered with Christ around the throne of God.
This Spring we are beginning the IPHC quadrennial conferences in the United States. Delegates will gather in the coming months across this nation to select conference leaders for the next four years. The members of the Executive Committee will stand before you and lead in the installation service of new conference councils.
In that service, I often reflect upon Hebrews 13:8 and its context related to leaders. Among the items mentioned in that context, 13:8 calls us to “remember those who rule over you, who have spoken the word of God to you, whose faith follow, considering the outcome of their faith.”
Hebrews 13:17 again refers to rulers (the same word used in verse 8) when it says: “Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account. Let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you.”
These verses about leadership have the assurance of Hebrews 13:8 concerning Jesus as the sure foundation, link, and hope concerning human leadership in the church.
In a sense, all who have led the work of God through the ages, whether Israel as a light to the nations, or the church as the body of Christ, share in the promise that Jesus Christ is Lord over each generation of leaders and followers. Technology and methods often change; but His authority and His mission remain the same.
Leaders must live as those who declare the Word of God. We must live as those whose lives are on public display; our lives should inspire others to follow Jesus as we have followed Him. Hebrews 13:17 is a warning to leaders—challenging us to humility, godliness and prayer. We must give an account to Jesus for how we have led. We must hear the voice from heaven, and have eyes that discern and understand the world in which our flocks live.
Those who follow us in our seasons and assignments of leadership are challenged to “remember” us and to follow in such a way as to not cause “grief.” The Greek word translated “grief” in the New King James Version means to sigh, to groan. How many of us as leaders have groaned or sighed at the challenges we face! I suspect there are times the sheep in our flock sigh at us!
As a student of history, I find joy in reading about the well-known and the less-known periods of God’s actions in the world. One of the books I’m reading is Constantine and the Bishops: The Politics of Intolerance by H.A. Drake (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2002).
I’m learning a lot from reading this: the nuances of age and conflicts that have shaped so much of our world, the dynamic interplay of spiritual and earthly powers, the dangers of over-simplifying church history, an appreciation that the same Holy Spirit in our lives today was at work in their lives 1,700 years ago. A book like this reminds me that Jesus Christ really is “the same yesterday.”
But I’m also very aware that Jesus is “the same today.” At the close of January, the IPHC Executive Committee met in our home for a light dinner and prayer. We prayed for the IPHC, for the world, for one another.
Bishop McGhee, whose Discipleship Ministries department is now leading much of our core value emphasis on “All Generations,” observed that the four members of the executive committee were all sons of IPHC pastors and preachers. Someone then remarked that the four wives were all daughters of IPHC laity. It really caused all of us to give thanks for our parents and their faithfulness to Christ that continues to live through us.
Finally, I am thankful that Jesus Christ is “the same forever.” That “forever” is the open door to our tomorrows.
Recently I was in Argentina for an event arranged by The Awakening. Several hundred young adult leaders from across Latin America gathered to meet, be mentored, and grow in the Word and prayer. As I watched them earnestly seeking God at the altars, I was so thankful for these men and women who serve Christ now and will serve in a future that transcends my time on this earth.
Their time will not transcend Jesus’ time! We know that the Son of God, the Living Word, the second person of the Godhead, has existed throughout eternity. Jesus is the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, of the redemptive purposes of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. As the One who “is the same yesterday, today, and forever,” He transcends time, but is manifest in time.
Jesus, who was present in the early Christian centuries, who is present with us now, will be present in the tomorrows as we await His return!
By Doug Beacham
This article was published in the March 2018 issue of Encourage.