In which you learn how to lean on the God who never changes. The God who is immutable.
People can change. They can lie, cheat and defraud you. Augustine affirmed: “no created thing can be immutable.”
But the Bible teaches that God is not created, so He’s without change. He is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow.
And throughout history, the Bible, philosophers and theologians have upheld God’s immutability.
The Biblical Support for God’s Immutability
The Bible demonstrates repeatedly that God is not man, so he cannot improve or decompose.
Here’s an example from both the Old and New Testament:
“God is not a man, that he should lie, nor a son of man, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill?” Numbers 23:19
“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” James 1:17
Furthermore, this biblical idea of immutability in God thrived throughout history by the teaching and writing of classical Christian thinkers.
God’s Immutability Is Rooted in His Perfection
Sixth Century Christian philosopher Boethius reasoned, “If God is free of all defects, then God has no past or future. What has no past or future does not change. For what changes goes from what it was to what it then was going to be, and so has a past and a future.”
Hence, to Boethius, perfection required changelessness. No past, no future, just now.
Medieval Italian theologian Anslem argued God’s immutability is rooted in his perfection, for if God changed He would have to gain or lose some perfection that He has. An absolutely perfect Being cannot either gain or lose perfection.
In other words, whatever changes acquires something new, whether it be knowledge, beauty or holiness.
“Since He is perfectly holy,” said A. W. Tozer, “He has never been less holy than He is now and can never be holier than He is and has always been. Any deterioration is impossible.”
God’s Immutability Is Rooted in His Omniscience
God does not lack anything. Including knowledge of the future. In fact, God is fully aware at all times of every event in history. He understands prehistoric Sumerian history and modern history and the yet-to-be 23nd Century history of Russia in one sweep.
This has to be so if he is perfect and eternal.
Furthermore, Scripture calls God’s knowledge perfect. It asserts that His knowledge includes foreknowledge. Foreknowledge is an implicit way of saying that God knows not only the past and the present but also future events. And this knowledge does not change.
A Being whose knowledge doesn’t change has to be a being who always existed.
God’s Immutability Is Rooted in His Self-Existence
I’ve said this before, but Christianity hinges on God being everything and we being nothing. According to Acts 17:28, “In God we live and move and have our being.”
Thomas Aquinas said, “all creatures generally are mutable by the power of the Creator, in Whose power is their existence and non-existence.”
It follows that a self-existent being must exist if we exist, because we need an explanation for our existence. And if He exists the same yesterday, today and tomorrow, then He is immutable, changeless.
“There never was a time when He was not; there never will come a time when He shall cease to be. God has neither evolved, grown, nor improved,” Arthur Pink said.
A being who will never evolve, grow or improve is also a simple being.
God’s Immutability Is Rooted in His Simplicity
The doctrine of immutability has a deep connection to the doctrine of simplicity. A simple being is a unified whole, without parts. It’s perfect.
Since change is basically an introduction of something new to the old or a shift between the position of related parts, only a being composed of parts can change.
God lacks nothing: life, power, knowledge or relationship. He is simply self-existent, all-powerful, all-knowing and self-sufficient.
He is so simple He needs nothing. And is affected by nothing.
And because God is perfect, self-existent, omniscient and simple, there is no point in revising His Word. “The counsel of the LORD standeth for ever, the thoughts of His heart to all generations” says Psalm 33:11.
In a nutshell: His counsel is immutable.
God’s Wisdom and Knowledge Never Changes
When we seek God’s wisdom, we know that we are getting ancient knowledge that is never wrong–even if we can’t explain it. Or sometimes disagree with it.
If God’s counsel is permanent, it means the fulfillment of His promises are permanent. All of His promises are permanent.
Yet, despite the heavy biblical, historical and theological evidence that God doesn’t change, at times Scripture leads us to believe that God in fact changes His mind.
Does God Ever Change His Mind?
When Abraham pleaded with God to spare the righteous of Sodom, its obvious that God changed his mind several times during the exchange.
But that’s not the case.
A. W. Tozer said, “The essence of repentance–or changing your mind–is to move from one sort of person to another: the liar becomes truthful, the thief honest, the lewd pure, the proud humble.” In repentance, your whole moral texture of life is altered.
As you’ve seen, this can’t be true with God. How do we reconcile this contradiction? Here’s how…
God modifies His language to fit our way of thinking. He speaks from a human standpoint. When God speaks this way, its called anthropomorphism–a human trait is given to a non-human.
That means we can’t take literal Scriptures where God appears to change His mind or repented any more than we are to take literal Scriptures where he has hands, eyes or wings.
The Bright Side of God’s Immutability
Does it bring you peace and comfort to know that our personal God does not change?
In a fallen world where change and decay dominate, even a truly good man can’t feel happy. We are dogged by the sadness of things that rust and fall apart: relationships, cars, our bodies. The familiar goes away, dies.
But there is hope:
Though heaven and earth pass away God’s words will not fail. Matthew 5:18
“For the mountains shall depart, and the hills be removed; but My kindness shall not depart from thee, neither shall the covenant of My peace be removed, saith the LORD that hath mercy on thee.” Isaiah 54:10
“I have loved thee with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with everlasting kindness.” Jeremiah 31:3
We cannot rely upon people. But we can rely upon God.
That’s why God is compared to a rock in Deuteronomy 32:4. A rock remains immovable, said Arthur Pink, “when the entire ocean surrounding it is continually in a fluctuating state.”
Nevertheless, though God is changeless, He’s not without passion. Though immovable, He’s not impregnable. Though permanent, He’s certainly not impersonal. He speaks to us. And allows us to speak to Him.
But on one condition.
If God Can’t Change, Why Should We Pray?
The biblical attitude toward prayer is that God “changelessly answers prayer in accord with his desires and purposes of holy love” [PS].
So what’s the point in prayer if we can’t change God’s mind?
The first thing you have to remember is that we are not offering anything to God that He didn’t already know.
“God not only knew what we were going to pray,” wrote Norman Geisler, “but He ordained our prayer as a means of accomplishing His purpose.”
Prayer is not a means by which we change God, overcome His reluctance or get our will done in heaven. Prayer is God’s way of getting His will done on earth by seizing on our willingness to change.
When we repent in prayer, nothing happens to God. The change is in us. We simply move from under one unchanging attribute of God to another.
That’s why it’s useless to fight against an immovable God, one who “is unchanging in veracity and purpose, faithfulness and justice,” said 19th Century Reverend John Dick.
And as you’ll see in a minute, behavior and obedience in prayer is critical.
The Dark Side of God’s Immutability
The sinner is the only one who has to fear the eternal, changeless God:
“Therefore will I also deal in fury: Mine eye shall not spare, neither will I have pity: and though they cry in Mine ears with a loud voice, yet will I not hear them.” Ezekiel 8:18
God hates sin. He hates it eternally. Thus, the punishment of all who die in their sins is eternal. Unrelenting. Uncompromising.
God never cools off in his affections nor His justice. God has unchanging anger at our sin and unchanging pleasure in our repentance.
My advice is that we approach this doctrine of immutability with fear and trembling. Here’s why…
God is, was and will always will be a good, just and holy God. Therefore, we should expect His retribution to be the same on the future Day of Judgment as it was when He expelled Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden, erased wicked mankind off the face of the earth with the flood and scolded the nation of Israel with the brutal Assyrian and Babylonian deportations.
Furthermore, God’s full display of fury against sin was displayed in Christ’s crucifixion.
Do not depend on human beings: ”Put not your trust in princes, nor in the son of man, in whom there is no help.” Psalm 146:3
If you trust other people more than God, then you disobey God.
History explains this much: People who like you today may hate you tomorrow. The Bible explains in more vivid terms: “The multitude who cried, ‘Hosanna to the Son of David,’ speedily changed to ‘Away with Him, crucify Him.’” [AP]
God, however, will never turn on you. It’s impossible. He’s changeless.
At times it may seem that He has abandoned you or forsaken you. More likely it is you who walked away from God. And you who dug your own grave.
Regardless, when you cry out to God, because His mercy and love are everlasting and never change toward repentant sinners, He will not only hear you, but He will also rescue you.
This thought alone should soothe fear in our soul.
**Part of The Nature of God series.**