One of the characteristics of modern society is its infatuation with things that are new. Marketing experts recognize this and capitalize on it whenever possible. They convince a company to make a minor adjustment in the appearance or in the ingredients of a product, and just like that, the product is “new and improved.” It may not be substantially different from its predecessor, but because it is not exactly the same, it can be called “new.” Consumers, who have been conditioned to think that they must have the newest version of every product, flock to purchase these “new” items with little thought as to whether the new thing is actually better than the old one.
It may be surprising to some to learn that this fascination with “newness” is not itself a new thing. One proof of this fact is what Luke said about the Athenians when Paul visited that city during his second missionary journey. In Acts 17:21, after the Athenians had invited Paul to speak to them in the Areopagus, Luke noted, “(Now all the Athenians and the strangers visiting there used to spend their time in nothing other than telling or hearing something new.)” This was nearly 2,000 years ago and even back then people loved “new” things.
The irony of this fascination with newness, especially in a spiritual context, is that “new and improved” was never a part of God’s plan. In Eph. 3:1-12 Paul explained to the church in Ephesus that the message he had proclaimed to them was the eternal purpose of God that He carried out in Christ (v. 11). Even though it had been a mystery in past generations (vs. 4-5), and had only been fully revealed in the ministry of the apostles, it was the same message that God had ordained before the foundation of the world.
This should suggest something to us about the content of our preaching, and about the substance of our beliefs. The message of God may, in fact, be new to those who have never heard it, but it is actually an old message. It is a message that was first revealed in Gen. 3:15 when God told Satan that He would put enmity between him and the woman, and between his seed and her seed. That enmity is Jesus Christ, by whose sacrifice on the cross the sins of all mankind for all time have been atoned.
More than this, however, it is a perfect and timeless message. It is a perfect message, because it came directly from the mind of God. When the Lord Jesus lived on the earth, He said that He only spoke what the Father gave Him to speak (Jn. 12:49). Before He left the earth, He told the apostles that He would send the Holy Spirit to guide them into all the truth, but in doing so also pointed out that the Holy Spirit would only speak what God the Father commanded Him to speak (Jn. 16:13). Therefore, the message the apostles proclaimed was the one the Holy Spirit give them, and it was perfect and complete in every respect because it came from God Himself.
Because that message was, and remains, perfect, it is timeless and it needs no improvement. Jude, the Lord’s half-brother, said that the faith was “once for all handed down to the saints” (Ju. 3). For this reason, there is nothing new to be added to it. There is nothing new which can improve it. It must, therefore, be proclaimed just as it was by the men who first received it from the Lord.
We must be wary of anyone who claims something new with regard to God’s will for mankind. The scriptures tell us that they are God-breathed (inspired), and that they equip us for every good work (2 Tim. 3:16-17). Since this is true, the message they proclaim is a message for all people for all time, until the Lord comes again. Let us therefore seek “the ancient paths, where the good way is, and walk in it” (Jer. 6:16, NASB).