Minutes With Messiah Logo

Twisting It

by Tim O'Hearn

There is a right way and a wrong way to use scripture. That statement is true on so many different levels. You can use scripture to teach someone the truth because you care about them, or you can beat someone over the head with it just to prove that they are wrong. You can use scripture to justify your own (sometimes misguided) actions, or you can use it to correct your mistakes. Many people take scripture out of context to prove something that it does not even say. Nobody is immune to that temptation. It happens by Church of Christ members, Baptists, Catholics, atheists and agnostics, and many others.

There are a number of scriptures that are frequently taken out of context. Some use Hebrews 10:25 to make people feel guilty about missing a single assembly of the church, ignoring verse 24 that says to provoke others to “love and good works.” Husbands beat their wives with Ephesians 5:22 (“Wives submit yourselves unto your own husbands”) while ignoring the second verse following (“Husbands love your wives”). One of the most misused scriptures, however, is Hebrews 13:8. “Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever.”

Most often, it seems, this verse is used to try to prove that non-Jewish Christians today are bound by the Law of Moses. In fact, when used that way the verse is frequently misquoted. Someone will say that non-Jews must keep the sabbath or keep kosher because “God is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” Therefore, what God made as law for one group of people must be law for all. Never mind that the verse speaks of Jesus Christ, not God. If God forbade eating pork (or even any meat) at one time, then it must be forbidden for all times, in spite of Genesis 9:1-3 which clearly says otherwise. If God gave sabbath to the Jewish people, then he must object to people assembling on Sunday today, even though sabbath was not primarily about assembling together.

What is the context of the verse? Is it about the Law of Moses? No. The preceding verse (or sentence, since the Bible was not written in verses) is about obeying those in positions of leadership, “considering the end of their manner of life.” What is the end (manner in which they died; goal) of their well-spent life. It is Jesus Christ. The fact that he is the same (if that is what the scripture says) through eternity is merely proof of his messiahship.

On the other hand, some would say that the verse is even misquoted in its common form. A perfectly valid translation appears to be “Jesus Christ, himself yesterday, today, and forever.” The Greek word translated “the same” is more often translated “him” or “himself.” It is the word auto, from which we get automobile (a vehicle that moves itself) and autobiography (a recounting of one’s own life). Using that as the translation, the verse means that Jesus was himself the Messiah for all time. He pre-existed, exists, and will always exist as the Messiah. It has nothing to do whether God can change his mind or his laws. Rather it has everything to do with his authority. We obey our leaders as they obey the one who has eternal authority.

God can change the way he deals with man, even if his personality never changes. He can make man a vegetarian, then an omnivore, and then limit what one group of people eats. He can take a nation out of captivity, and give them a day of rest because of their captivity, and never bind that day on those other nations that did not share that experience. He can demand animal sacrifices up to a point, and then provide the ultimate sacrifice to replace them. God deals with man in many ways. Nevertheless, his Messiah is still the Messiah through all of eternity. And no amount of twisting the scripture can change that fact.