People love simple statements. There are some in Scripture, but most of them are fairly complex. While one exception might be Hebrews 13:8, the common use of Hebrews 13:8 is anything but simple. It seems, though, the most common users neglect the verses on either side, for some reason (imagine my eye-roll). It’s easy, when a passage seems made up of staccato statements, to pick and choose from among them, like they make up some sort of buffet. And, in this particular case, I’ve done it too.
Remember those who led you, who spoke the word of God to you; and considering the result of their conduct, imitate their faith. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. Do not be carried away by varied and strange teachings; for it is good for the heart to be strengthened by grace, not by foods, through which those who were so occupied were not benefited.Hebrews 13:7-9 NASB (emphasis mine)
Jesus Christ is the same as He has always been. So, watch those who walk with Him so that you can as well. Notice that this doesn’t mean that I must apply the Jewish dietary laws to my current menu (bad teaching). It’s not necessarily a bad practice, it’s simply doesn’t bring you closer to Jesus. THAT is what the writer is getting at. What do most people do with verse 8? Depends on the group, but the typical usage ties it to some teaching found somewhere in Scripture, and justifies applying that teaching to wherever they happen to be. It has become, for some, the “multitool” of Scripture verses.
The truth is, there is tremendous comfort in knowing that Jesus is the same forever. And I believe this statement right here where it is in this passage is supposed to give that feeling. But the writer begins and continues to claim that, because of the consistency of Jesus, we can follow our leaders which will protect us from being carried away by varied and strange teaching. As you peruse the various entries of this blog, you may find things I’ve said that you believe qualify as “varied and strange teaching”. If you find any such things, please don’t be carried away by them.
Notice that these verses begins by referring to “leaders”. That’s also a neglected portion of this “buffet”. The writer of Hebrews calls on his audience to remember their leaders as a guard against false teaching. This works because Jesus remains consistent. We can imitate great leaders of our faith and experience the close walk with Jesus they experienced because our Savior remains consistent.
But we’re not great followers either. We have a “buffet” of churches now, and feel free to pick and choose among them based on what we hear, what the worship music is like, and whether the pastor remembers us. We feel empowered to direct the overseers, vote with our tithes, and kick up a fuss when leaders pick on us rather than those people.
So, this passage is a charge to follow the example of leaders. If they fail, take notice and don’t go that way. If they walk with Jesus, follow the same path, because Jesus is consistent.
Scripture quotations taken from the NASB. Copyright by The Lockman Foundation