Posted by: rcottrill | October 11, 2013

Yesterday, Today, Forever

Words: Albert Benjamin Simpson (b. Dec. 15, 1843; d. Oct. 29, 1919)
Music: James H. Burke (b. _____, 1858; d. _____, 1901)


Wordwise Hymns (Albert Simpson)
The Cyber Hymnal

Note: A. B. Simpson served as a Presbyterian clergyman for many years, but in the 1870’s he believed he had a “Second Blessing” experience, and gradually moved toward espousing more holiness teachings. In the early 1880’s his health gave way, and doctors told him he had only a few months to live. However, Simpson experienced a dramatic healing, enabling him to continue in active ministry for another thirty-five years.

This last experience seemed to crystalize his holiness position, and he began teaching that Christ is the believer’s: Saviour, Sanctifier, Healer, and Coming King. (This formula has been used also by the Assemblies of God, as well as the Four Square churches.) Simpson founded the Christian and Missionary Alliance (CAMA) denomination which holds this doctrinal position.

Though I have much in common with this group, have friends there, and have preached among them, I do not agree with all they teach. Pastor Simpson had a strong evangelistic ministry, and a great passion for world missions. In these things I certainly concur with his stand. However, I do not believe that the “Second Blessing” experience, or physical healing being unfailingly available on demand, can be supported from Scripture.

The latter issue is related to the present hymn, which is based on Hebrews 13:8, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” However, Albert Simpson, and those who believe as he did, take that verse much further than the inspired author of the text likely intended. It is one thing to say of Christ that what He is never changes, but quite another to say that what He does never changes.

The writer of Hebrews (whose identity is not known) was dealing with Jewish converts who were facing persecution (Heb. 10:32-33). As with John the Baptist in prison, some struggled with doubts and uncertainties. And like John they were asking, in effect, “Is Jesus the Coming One, or do we look for another?” (cf. Lk. 7:19). The ringing answer is, “Jesus is the Christ [the Messiah], yesterday, today, and forever. He is who He is. His identity will never change.”

However, we must not conclude from that that Christ never acts in a different ways, or did things at one time that He does not do now. For example, He died while on earth, but He “dies no more” (Rom. 6:9). And His healing miracles had the specific purpose of confirming His identity and authenticating His message (Acts 2:22), but that does not mean He will necessarily do the same today. The apostles likewise worked miracles for a similar purpose (II Cor. 12:12), but these things are spoken of as something past, by the writer of Hebrews (Heb. 2:3-4).

It is unquestionable that the Lord heals today. He does so through the natural healing processes God has built into the human body. He does so through medicines and medical treatments He has enabled human beings to discover. And, yes, He does so from time to time, by supernatural means that rise above and beyond this. But to imply as Simpson’s hymn does in CH-3 that miracles of healing are as readily available now as they were during the days when Christ walked the earth is to go too far.

CH-3) Oft on earth He healed the sufferer, by His mighty hand;
Still our sicknesses and sorrows go at His command.
He who gave His healing virtue to a woman’s touch,
To the faith that claims His fullness still will give as much.

Having said these things, there is much in this hymn that is encouraging. Most hymnals (other than the CAMA’s own Hymns of the Christian Life), select stanzas that are suitable for a wider use, and agree with other evangelical theological perspectives. As of this writing, the Cyber Hymnal doesn’t include the following two stanzas found in many hymn books. I believe they are likely Simpson’s stanzas four and five, with the last stanza in the Cyber Hymnal becoming number six.

4) He who pardoned erring Peter never needst thou fear,
He who came to faithless Thomas all thy doubt will clear;
He who let the loved disciple on His bosom rest
Bids thee still, with love as tender, lean upon His breast.

Yesterday, today, forever, Jesus is the same.
All may change, but Jesus never! Glory to His name!
Glory to His name! Glory to His name!
All may change, but Jesus never! Glory to His name!

5) He who ‘mid the raging billows walked upon the sea
Still can hush our wildest tempest, as on Galilee;
He who wept and prayed in anguish in Gethsemane
Drinks with us each cup of trembling, in our agony.

1) What does the Bible mean when it indicates that God never changes (Mal. 3:6)?

2) How would you briefly describe your own theology of bodily healing?



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