It is not uncommon for those who first learn that Jesus gave Paul a different set of instructions from the twelve apostles to accuse us of teaching a capricious Jesus. They react vehemently with the Biblical admonition from Hebrews that Jesus does not change.
“Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever” – Hebrews 13:8
It is true that we should never forget that Jesus is God manifest in the flesh and is never changing.
“Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever thou hadst formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, thou art God.” – Psalm 90:2
“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning “ – James 1:17
God’s unchanging principles
From before the creation, God has always been. He will never change. The Scripture tells us of God’s unchanging character.
We know that for all time, the ‘goodness of God endureth continually’ (Psalm 52:1).
God will always and forever hate sin, but love righteousness (Psalm 11:7, 45:7).
God always keeps his promises, and cannot lie (Numbers 23:19, Titus 1:2).
It was regarding his promise given to Israel to make them a mighty nation that Malachi prophesies:
“For I am the LORD, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed.” – Malachi 3:6
These principles which constitute the ‘right and wrong’ will never be changed. God will never waver from these attributes of his character.
However, we should be careful not to confuse the unchanging character and nature of God from his dealings with humanity which has changed.
Noah was told of a flood and consequently built an ark by faith.
Abraham was told of an inheritance and went into an unknown land by faith.
The Israel army was told of a supernatural defeat of Jericho and marched around the walls for seven days by faith.
Moses delivered a law for righteousness, and the obedient of Israel offered sacrifices by faith.
Jesus told of a coming kingdom, and the people repented and were baptized by faith.
Paul spoke of the righteousness by faith through Jesus death and resurrection, and we believe it by faith.
It is evident that the faith content of God’s people has changed from faith to faith (Romans 1:17).
We do not follow our Lord’s command to offer sacrifices for our sicknesses, because we now know that Christ was the ultimate sacrifice (Matthew 8:4, 2 Cor 12:9).
We do not go only to the ‘lost sheep of the House of Israel’ as Jesus commanded, because we now know through Paul that there is no Jew or Gentile and we should go to all men without distinction (Matthew 10:5-6, Col 3:11, 1 Tim 2:4).
So while Jesus gave a specific ministry to the disciples to go to the circumcision, he also gave Paul a specific ministry to go to the uncircumcision (Gal 1:11-12).
“But contrariwise, when they saw that the gospel of the uncircumcision was committed unto me, as the gospel of the circumcision was unto Peter; (For he that wrought effectually in Peter to the apostleship of the circumcision, the same was mighty in me toward the Gentiles: ) And when James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given unto me, they gave to me and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship; that we should go unto the heathen, and they unto the circumcision.” – Galatians 2:7-9
It is the same Lord that gave different instructions.
Jesus the same yesterday, and today, and forever
Hebrews 13:8 speaks to the consistency of the character of Jesus, the fullness of the Godhead bodily.
Speaking directly to the Hebrews concerning their faithfulness to the doctrine, it is testified that Jesus is faithful to do as he promised. He is faithful to uphold his word.
“…lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.” – Matthew 28:20
It is the same Jesus that spoke the world into existence that came to ‘confirm the promises made unto the fathers’ (Romans 15:8).
These promises will be fulfilled and so Peter says,
“The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” – 2 Peter 3:9
The will of God
Just as it is incorrect to think that God’s dealings with man do not change; it would be wrong to think that God is changing his dealing arbitrarily. This dispensation is not a contingency plan, substitute plan, or simply the whim of God to do away with his promises.
Rather, the progressively revealed dispensations of God all work together towards a single and eternal will:
“That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him: “ – Ephesians 1:10
We should not be surprised to learn that God has spoken to different people at sundry times concerning these two distinctly different parts of his eternal plan.
Jesus’ ministry has changed in this dispensation from his ministry to ‘only the lost sheep of the house of Israel’ during his earthly ministry. However, this does not change the unchanging nature of our Lord.
“… there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord. ” – 1 Corinthians 12:5