“They changed their minds” Acts 28:6
by Steven Chan
Barack Obama’s clarion call to the people of the United States of America during the last General Election was to vote for change – a change in the government of the day. He won the votes and became the President of the USA. Now his challenger, Mitt Romney says that Obama will be pursuing “the status quo path” whereas Romney is now promising “real change and big change”! It is not the purpose of this article to discuss the merits or otherwise of either Presidential candidates. But the Presidential Campaign does highlight the appeal for change among the people. It seems that “change” is preferable to “status quo”.
Is “change” always better than the “status quo”? What does the Bible have to say about the subject of “change”?
1. God does not change:
In Mal 3:6, the Lord declared: “For I am the LORD, I do not change;” So, in Heb 13:8, the Bible says: “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever”. James 1:17: “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.”(ESV).
2. Some things should not be changed.
a. There are some who changed the worship of God to that of worshipping the creatures: Rom 1:22-24, 25: “Professing to be wise, they became fools, 23 and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man–and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things…and exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator.”
b. There are those who changed the sound doctrine (the faith) that has been once for all delivered to the saints (Jude 3): 1 Tim 4:1-2: “Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons, 2 speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their own conscience seared with a hot iron.” 2 Tim 4:3-4: “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; 4 and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables.” They crave for change in the doctrine of Christ even though the Bible warns against such changes: Rev 22:18-19: “For I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds to these things, God will add to him the plagues that are written in this book; 19 and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the Book of Life.”
2 Tim 2:2: “And the things which thou hast heard from me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also. (ASV)” We are to teach the same things that the apostles had faithfully taught in the fist century. There’s no room for original ideas that are different from what has been taught to us by the apostles. That’s why we need to search the Scriptures daily to ascertain whether whatever is taught to us in our worship services or bible classes are indeed so (Acts 17:11).
3. Some people do not like change:
The Jews accused Stephen of trying to change the customs of Moses: Acts 6:14-15: “for we have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place and change the customs which Moses delivered to us.”
4. But some people fail to realize that sometimes change is needed as in Heb 7:12: “For the priesthood being changed, of necessity there is also a change of the law.” The Levitical priesthood had been changed to that the priesthood of Christ which is unchangeable: Heb 7:24: “But He, because He continues forever, has an unchangeable priesthood.”
a. Change is necessary for sinners: Luke 13:3: “I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish.” Repentance involves a change of mind resulting in a change of action. The apostle Paul in Acts 26:20 testified that he preached all everywhere “should repent, turn to God, and do works befitting repentance.” Repentance necessarily requires change.
b. Saul the persecutor of the church changed or repented from his former ways and became the apostle Paul, a preacher of the gospel: Gal 1:23-24: “He who formerly persecuted us now preaches the faith which he once tried to destroy.” 24 And they glorified God in me.”
c. Christians are required to change on a daily basis as we are transformed by the renewal of our mind as we allow God’s Word to mold us and guide us in our lives: Rom 12:2: “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” Gal 4:19: “My little children, for whom I labor in birth again until Christ is formed in you,” 2 Cor 3:18: “But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.”
5. We are to avoid those who crave for change just because they do not wish to submit to God, His Word and governing authorities: Prov 24:21-22: “My son, fear the LORD and the king; Do not associate with those given to change; 22 for their calamity will rise suddenly, and who knows the ruin those two can bring?”
a. These are they who crave for change just simply for the sake of change or for self interest, self glory, selfish ambition or desire.
They are not content with what God has revealed in His Word. Whatever may be their motives, they go beyond the things which are written in spite of the apostolic warning in 1 Cor 4:6: “that in us ye might learn not to go beyond the things which are written; that no one of you be puffed up for the one against the other.” Such are so puffed up by their vain imaginations that they cannot see that their feet are leading them to destruction! (2 Pet 3:16). We need to “cast down imaginations, and every high thing that is exalted against the knowledge of God, and bring every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ;”( 2 Cor 10:5).
Change that comes from reliance on human reasoning, humanistic logic and a fertile mind for vain imaginations, speculations and opinions instead of simply trusting in God and the pure plain teachings of His Word (Prov 3:5) will result in some being puffed up against fellow believers, as they pride themselves as being more scholarly than the average Christian.
According to 2 Tim 3:13-14, such “will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived. 14 But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them,” It is important to know from whom we are learning (2 Tim 3:15-17). Matt 7:20: “Therefore by their fruits you will know them.” In light of the exhortation of Jesus, one will do well to examine the life of the teacher to see whether he is bearing good fruit with his teachings.
b. There are those who change their minds in the face of every wind of doctrine that come their way. The Bible describes them in Eph 4:14 as “tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting,” They lack maturity of faith that would enable them to be rooted and grounded in love and in the once for all delivered faith (Eph 3:17; Col 2:7). Hence, they lack the ability to discern between good and evil (Heb 5:14) and are likely to change their minds easily.
c. There are people who quickly change their minds because of their life experience or as they are influenced or impressed by what they see or are told, without careful, prayerful and deeper thoughts and considerations as to the operation of God’s overriding Will and whether what they see or are told is indeed the truth from God.
In Acts 14:11-13, after witnessing the healing of a crippled by Paul and Barnabas, the people at Lystra exclaimed: “The gods have come down to us in the likeness of men!” 12 And Barnabas they called Zeus, and Paul, Hermes, because he was the chief speaker. 13 Then the priest of Zeus, whose temple was in front of their city, brought oxen and garlands to the gates, intending to sacrifice with the multitudes” – and this was refused by Paul and Barnabas.
Later on, after hearing from the Jews from Antioch & Iconium, these same people changed their minds and stoned Paul and left him for dead outside the city (Acts 14:19).
One moment, the multitude declared them to be gods; the next moment, they stoned him to near death! Such is the fickleness of some people: how quickly they changed their minds!
The opposite happened in Acts 28:4-7 when the people in the island of Malta saw Paul being bitten by a viper, they said: “No doubt this man is a murderer, whom, though he has escaped the sea, yet justice does not allow to live.” That’s how some today also will also say when they see some misfortunes befall a person as happened in the case of Job and the man born blind in John 9.
Then when Paul did not suffer any harm from the bite, they “changed their minds and now said that he was a god”: “5 But he shook off the creature into the fire and suffered no harm. 6 However, they were expecting that he would swell up or suddenly fall down dead. But after they had looked for a long time and saw no harm come to him, they changed their minds and said that he was a god.”
Do the above examples summarize our own way of looking at such happenings in our lives? When bad things happen in our lives – do we change our minds about God and His dealings with us?
Or will our faith remain as steadfast as Job’s in Job 1:20-22: “who worshiped God. 21 And he said: “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return there. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; Blessed be the name of the LORD.” 22 In all this Job did not sin nor charge God with wrong. Job 2:10: Shall we indeed accept good from God, and shall we not accept adversity?” In all this Job did not sin with his lips.”
In other words, Job did not blame God for his misfortune. Will we be able to glorify God in spite of our misfortune?
Change is neither always better than the status quo nor worse off than the status quo. It all depends on whether the change is required by our God or is consistent with His Will.
Change without due consideration of God’s Will may lead us to much harm. Prov 14:12:”There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.” Jer 10:23: “O LORD, I know the way of man is not in himself; it is not in man who walks to direct his own steps.”
We certainly need God to guide us in our lives and to change our lives in accordance with His Will: Prov 3:5-8: “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; 6 in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths. 7 Do not be wise in your own eyes; Fear the LORD and depart from evil. 8 It will be health to your flesh, and strength to your bones.”
Let us endeavour to walk with God just as the Psalmist did and he shared his experience of walking with God in Psa 73:21-28:
“21 Thus my heart was grieved, and I was vexed in my mind. 22 I was so foolish and ignorant; I was like a beast before You. 23 Nevertheless I am continually with You;
You hold me by my right hand. 24 You will guide me with Your counsel, And afterward receive me to glory. 25 Whom have I in heaven but You? And there is none upon earth that I desire besides You. 26 My flesh and my heart fail; But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. 27 For indeed, those who are far from You shall perish; You have destroyed all those who desert You for harlotry. 28 But it is good for me to draw near to God; I have put my trust in the Lord GOD, That I may declare all Your works.”
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