The Immutability of God

In our brief series of posts, we’re thinking about those characteristics of God that distinguish him from us. We’re doing so to inform our understanding, to engage our hearts and ultimately to provoke our praise. We want to shift our eyes from the mundane and contemplate his majesty.

And so the characteristic of God that we’re going to think about is God’s immutability. It means that God is unchangeable. He is not unchangeable in every way imaginable but in the ways that scripture identifies. It’s perhaps more helpful to say that God is consistent.

There are ocasions in scripture where God does appear to change in his relationship with his creation. For example in Jonah God relents from destroying the wicked unbelieving Ninevites. He saves them from their impending threatened judgement. But the reason for that ‘change’ was that the circumstances changed. They repented. God couldn’t react the same way to a group of repentant as he would to a group of unrepentant individuals. This highlights that we need to think of God’s consistency and unchangeableness in the way that scripture does.

So here are three ways in which scripture presents God as unchangeable.

1. God is unchanging in his person

In Psalm 102:25-27 we read these words

25 In the beginning you laid the foundations of the earth,
and the heavens are the work of your hands.

26 They will perish, but you remain;
they will all wear out like a garment.
Like clothing you will change them
and they will be discarded.

27 But you remain the same,
and your years will never end.

It’s hard to think of anything more permanent than the universe; the earth and the heavens. But the Psalmist’s point is that God existed long before they did. And he will exist long after they have been destroyed. He’s not temporary as they are. He’s permanent. He’s not only as old as the hills; he’s older than the hills. He causes the universe to change. But he is unchanging.

Those of us in Knowing God small groups will have read these words this term,

6 “I the LORD do not change. So you, O descendants of Jacob, are not destroyed.

They’re taken from Malachi 3:6. God describes himself as unchanging with respect to his qualities of patience, long suffering and mercy. And so his character never changes in the slightest degree. He is always the same. In who he is, he is constantly wonderful. His being, his personality remains unchangeably brilliant. Unlike us, he doesn’t have to grow up and mature. The fact that he is unchanging in his person means that he can’t get any better and he won’t get any worse. He never loses any aspect of is character. It’s not as though he used to be a God of anger but now he’s a God of love. He has both of those attributes in spades and he always will. He doesn’t have different sides of the bed. You  always know where you are with God.

2. God is unchanging in his purposes

In Psalm 33, the Psalmist compares the plans that we make with the plans that God makes

10 The LORD foils the plans of the nations;
he thwarts the purposes of the peoples.

11 But the plans of the LORD stand firm forever,
the purposes of his heart through all generations.

Our plans are subject to change. Not God’s. There’s a reason that we write things in pencil. There’s a reason that PDA’s have a delete button. Our plans are constantly being altered. They’re subject to change. But once God has determined that he will bring something about, he will. He writes in his filofax with indelible ink. His purpose is unchanging and it will be achieved. He won’t have second thoughts and decide that it wasn’t such a good idea after all. He won’t come up with a better plan after giving it more thought. He won’t ditch what he’s doing at the moment and decide to do something else. He won’t back away from his course of action.

3. God is unchanging in his promises

In Numbers 23:19, the prophet Balaam says this,

19 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 fulfil?

Once God has promised something, it stays promised. He won’t change his mind. He doesn’t say one thing to one person and one thing to another.  He’s not unfaithful. Unlike us he never breaks his promises. He never says one thing and does another. He’s not inconsistent.  Therefore we can trust him.

Conclusion

God is unchanging with respect to his personality, his purposes and his promises. He’s not erratic because in his essential personality he  stays the same. He’s not unpredictable because his plans never alter. And he’s not inconsistent because what he says he’ll do, he always does.

Scripture sometimes describes God as a rock; not because he’s insensitive and hard hearted, but because he’s solid. He’s reliable. You can trust him with your life.

For further reading see

  • John Frame, No Other God, Salvation Belongs to the Lord & The Doctrine of God
  • Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology
  • Bruce Milne, Know the Truth

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