Preserving what’s old, accepting what’s new

Nothing is as constant as change. In a divine service in Mexico on 7 August the Chief Apostle put the focus on old things that must be preserved and new things that are good—impulses that are particularly important at this time.

The service was based on a Bible text from the New Testament: “Then He said to them, ‘Therefore every scribe instructed concerning the kingdom of heaven is like a householder who brings out of his treasure things new and old’” (Matthew 13: 52).

“To understand the meaning of this Bible text we have to look at the context,” Chief Apostle Schneider said in his opening remarks. Jesus Christ came and proclaimed the kingdom of God to the people and told them, “I did not come to destroy the law of Moses, but to fulfil it.” This surprised the people, of course. The Son of God did not always keep the Mosaic Law. “Jesus had to explain to them how to understand the Mosaic Law correctly: it is the law of God.”

The law of God

Jesus formulated the law of God as follows: above all, you must love God with all your heart and your neighbour as yourself. “God gave the Ten Commandments to the people of Israel to explain to them how to express love of God and love of neighbour in concrete terms,” the Chief Apostle explained. Then there was a whole series of other rules that helped the people of Israel to live their faith on a daily basis. But these laws were always adapted to the circumstances, even in those day. For example, God was not worshipped in the same way in the desert as in the temple or later in exile.

In Jesus’ time, the circumstances had changed again and were entirely different, which is why He made it clear to the people that “the will of God, the highest level, is always more important than the rules of everyday life”. The most important thing is always to love God and your neighbour. And that is why Jesus could say, “I fulfil the law of God.” Concerning the Pharisees, however, their love of neighbour was not exactly their strong point.

The new law explained by Jesus

Jesus once more made it clear to the people what the most important rules were:

  • rebirth out of water and the Spirit
  • eating His flesh and drinking His blood
  • denying oneself and being transformed into the image of Jesus Christ.

The Apostles and the rules

Jesus charged the Apostles with the mission to proclaim the will of God and the new law and to lead the congregations. That also required laws that were then adapted to the time. For example, the members of the first church shared all their possessions with one another. In later congregations this was no longer necessary.

“What the first Apostles did, today’s Apostles also do,” Chief Apostle Schneider continued. They explain how we can put our faith into practice today. “They have to interpret this law and adapt it to today’s situation.” As a result, some believers are confused while others are even upset. At worst, some reject the whole message.

“Brothers and sisters,” the Chief Apostle said urgently, “let us be aware that the essence has not changed. The essence of the message is the same. Jesus Christ is God. And to be saved you must believe in Him, accept Him as your Lord, and keep His law. You have to love God and your neighbour. You have to keep the Ten Commandments. You have to be reborn out of water and the Spirit, receive Holy Communion, and be transformed into the image of Jesus Christ.” There is no reason to reject the message. On the contrary: “Those who accept what is preached are blessed by God.”

Changes today

Keeping the old things and adapting them to today’s situation applies to every child of God. “We are open for new things, but we don’t give up the old things which continue to be essential,” the Chief Apostle reminded the congregation. Changes can give rise to new things, which is good.

  • Changing circumstances: People no longer have as much time to volunteer and become involved in the Church and serve the Lord as they used to. But other things open up in return. “Couldn’t you do something new for the Lord and your neighbour?” the Chief Apostle asked. For example, talking to people you have never talked to before or doing something good for people you have never cared about…
  • Changing society: The diversity in society has also changed the composition of our congregations. “We have to accept this new composition, this variety, these differences, and accept one another as Jesus accepts us.” But the old rules still apply: “If you want to be a disciple of Jesus, deny yourself and follow His example. This is what it means to be transformed into the image of Christ.”

Towards the end of his sermon, the Chief Apostle connected his thoughts to our annual motto: “We are together in Christ. Not only with Christ, but in Christ.”

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Katrin Löwen
Mexico, Chief Apostle, Divine service