Good Reasons for Godly Change

Change is a difficult subject. Some people love it, some people hate it. Yet when it comes to our Christian lives and the lives of our assemblies our enthusiasm for change, or distaste therefor, shouldn't be the be all and end all. While change for change's sake isn't the right approach, neither is staying the same for the sake of staying the same.

So when and why should we change? How do we determine when change is a good thing? Well, let's take a biblical example of a big change. For the first few years of the existence of the church, all the members were Jewish. Lots of people were getting saved, and lots of assemblies were being planted, but only really among Jewish communities. Eventually, after the pioneering preaching of Philip (Acts 8), some not-quite-Jews were accepted in, but these were Samaritans, and for all the animosity that existed between Jews and Samaritans, they at least accepted the Torah and were looking for the coming of the Messiah.

Gentiles were another matter entirely. To a first-century Jew, if Samaritans were bad, Gentiles were even worse. Most 1st-century Jews would probably never dream of entering a Gentile house, and certainly they wouldn't countenance eating a meal together. So the shock among some of the believers in Jerusalem when Peter returned from preaching the Gospel to Cornelius and his (Gentile) household was typical of the time and culture (Acts 11:3).

The idea of accepting Gentiles was uncomfortable. For some of the Christians it probably seemed like a change too far. It meant their customs, their culture, their way of life and even their concept of church all had to change. After all, if they were to break bread with Gentiles at the Lord's Table, how could they refuse them at their own tables?

As we can see from the book of Acts and Paul's letter to the Galatians, this change wasn't an easy one. It took some time to get through the issues surrounding the inclusion of Gentiles in the Church. Yet that also allows us to see some of the reasons for good, godly change. The early church didn't change because it would seem more attractive to the world (the Jews around them in Judea would have been put off by the inclusion of Gentile believers). Neither were they pragmatists; they didn't change because it seemed to work. They had much better reasons for change than that.

1. Change because of Scripture

Jesus, before He ascended, sent His disciples to take the gospel to 'all nations' (Matt. 28:19). They had the Word of the Lord on the matter. We too need to act in accord with the Word of God which we have in Scripture. 2 Tim. 3:16 tells us that Scripture is useful for 'correction'. So if Scripture is going to correct us, that means it must bring about change.

2. Change because of the Gospel

The inclusion of the Gentiles in the Body of Christ was a result of Christ's saving work on the Cross. He has reconciled us to the Father, and in doing so has reconciled us to each other, and so made one new man (Eph. 2:11-18). So the early church had to change their church-culture in order to reflect the Gospel. And we too must be prepared to change when our behaviour isn't becoming to the gospel (Phil. 1:27).

3. Change for God's Glory

Back in the Old Testament it had already been prophesied that people of all nations would come and worship God and bring Him glory (Ps. 86:9). In fact, the reaction of those who were shocked at Peter's behaviour in eating with Cornelius, after Peter had explained all that had happened, was to glorify God for the salvation of the Gentiles (Acts 11:18). So this change was needed for God's glory. In the same way we are to do all things for God's glory (1 Cor. 10:31), so if what we're doing isn't bringing glory to God, or is limiting God's glory, a change is needed.

So, there you go, three good reasons for godly change: change for the Scriptures, change for the Gospel, and change for God's glory.