In the early years of my faith, every so often I would have an epiphany. Then I’d say to myself “now I get it!” Like when I figured out who the bride of Christ is (us).
And when I learned that my faith is backed by so much evidence and that God himself expects us to pursue intelligent faith.
And the day I understood that I really am saved by grace and not by works, I was learning little by little, but I changed. Christ did not change.
Moving Forward in Understanding
“When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways” (1 Corinthians 13:11). The message of Christ first appealed to me at the most basic level.
I was a preteen at Bible camp. By the time I truly accepted Christ as my Savior, I was more than 30 years old. At that time, spiritually speaking, I hadn’t grown up. I was still a child.
From the day I believed in Jesus as the only way to God, I started to grow again. Pablum was replaced by crunchy cereal, raw carrots, and eventually big chunks of meat.
I still have to cut it up small, but I keep growing; I’ll never stop. Eventually, I stopped thinking that the last epiphany was the final one.
Right the First Time
I’m grateful that my pastors don’t cut corners on the truth to make it easier or more appealing. They structure various learning opportunities for the curious, the new believer, and every level right up to precept classes.
In my older daughter’s first year of university, she took a chemistry course. The professor told his students “forget what they taught you in Grade 12.” Several tenets of high school chemistry were completely wrong, and the undergraduates had to learn chemistry as though for the first time.
To me, this is like rigging up a floor with a false bottom. Just when you think you’re standing on something solid — woosh! Stuff you thought was true is actually not true? Wait a minute — what part of this story can I believe? I can understand how one might come to mistrust the Bible under these circumstances.
The truth about Christ is beautiful. He is beautiful and awesome (in the true sense) — I can’t do him justice by my own words, but the Bible does. Scripture is intricately woven and entirely unified to draw a picture of Christ’s purpose, his message, and his promises.
Not a Progressive God
Our Savior represents “love” — we can say that with honesty — but real love isn’t only comforting and tender. Jesus did not refute the Lord’s teaching — he expanded on what was already said.
For instance, where the Lord said “do not commit adultery” (Exodus 20:14), Jesus clarified that “everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:28). He was tough on the topic of divorce too (vv.31-32).
Commentators might point out that Jesus appears to have contradicted the Father on a point or two. For instance, don’t take an eye for an eye but “if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also” (v.39).
No longer were his followers to love only their neighbors and hate their enemies; Jesus taught them to “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (v.44). Was this evidence that Jesus did not want us to worry about the Commandments? Is this progress?
No. “‘An eye for an eye’” was [...] intended to be a guiding ethic for legislators and judges; it was not meant to advocate personal vengeance.” Jesus was not contradicting Scripture.
He was separating civil judicial responsibilities from personal accountability in the matter of vengeance, making it a little clearer in the minds of his listeners: God has never wanted his people to exact vengeance. When he sent them out to defeat their enemies, this was a matter of obedience to him.
Social Norms Don’t Change His Mind
The Lord does not change his mind according to new social norms. Think about it — if that were true, then his commands would have altered over time. But they did not. His commandments stood, and they still stand.
The Lord’s stance on everything from marriage to debt relief has not altered. Yet, it would be hubris to suggest that society and culture never changed from the time of Moses until the day Jesus was born. Of course, it did.
There were more people, more ideas, the rise of numerous civilizations, multiple powers, religions, and so on. Yet, they did not influence the law of the Lord; only Israel’s response to his law.
God began in the Garden of Eden with a monogamous ideal for marriage, yet the men of Israel started marrying multiple wives as was the custom among some of their neighbors.
Women became second-class citizens, even though Genesis 1:27 says that “God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.”
They were equal. And people created the institution of slavery, even though Galatians 3:28 tells us “there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
I hope we can all agree that misogyny, polygamy, racism, and slavery are not progress, and they did not come from God. Yet, people of the Old Testament might have proclaimed something similar to what many Christians say today — “oh, that was back in the old days. Things have changed. We’re not supposed to take God’s Word literally.”
What does the Lord say? “For I the Lord do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed” (Malachi 3:6). If the Lord were fickle, changeable, he could have reneged on his covenant with Israel. He might not have sent his only Son to die on the cross, and then where would we be?
Helpful Progress in Christ
In what ways do we change so that our unbelieving neighbors see more of Jesus as we progress in faith? One very simple thing (and there are others) we can learn to do is to give up the pride that says we can and must earn salvation.
Romans 5:8 says that “while we were still sinners Christ died for us.” Even though it’s heartbreaking to think about the cost of my sin and my inability to make up for it in any way, I find this truth highly comforting.
The gospel bears fruit in spite of us and I can really rest. What a thing to offer the stressed and striving lost.
We can also learn to suffer authentically, yet hopefully. We can become prideful and (let’s face it) obnoxious with stoicism, which is simply too much to live up to.
Or, we can learn to endure, to let suffering shape our character, and to have hope when life hurts (Romans 5:3-4). My own glory as a stiff-lipped sufferer doesn’t give hope. God’s glory does.
Gentle Truth in Christ
The subject of Gospel Truth divides churches and communities. But the truth doesn’t change. Our discernment of the truth deepens if we keep reading with the help of Christ-led mentors and teachers. Through him, “you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:32).
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Candice Lucey is a freelance writer from British Columbia, Canada, where she lives with her family. Find out more about her here.