The Immutability of God

The Immutability of God

 

 

changing colorsLast Tuesday was the first day of autumn. That means for the past couple of weeks, we have witnessed the changing of the seasons. Temperatures have cooled and leaves are beginning their color transformation. And when leaves change colors, I am reminded of one of the most important yet easily overlooked characteristics of God.

Scripture asserts that God is immutable. Immutability means that God does not and will not change. This is the attribute to which one of the psalmists referred when he said that the earth and heavens “will perish, but You will endure; Yes, they will all grow old like a garment; Like a cloak You will change them, And they will be changed. But You are the same, And Your years will have no end” (Psalm 102:25-27). His point is that while nothing created ever stays the same, the One who created everything will always stay the same. 

What about God does not change? Some may assume that God’s immutability is an indicator that He never changes His mind. However, Scripture references some occasions when God did change His mind. For example, God changed His mind about destroying the Israelites and creating a new nation through Moses after the whole golden calf incident at Mount Sinai (Exodus 32:9-14). God changed His mind about destroying the people of Nineveh after seeing them penitently respond to his warning of conquest through the prophet Jonah (Jonah 3:1-10). So, to say that God is immutable does not mean that God never changes His mind.

God’s immutability is evidenced in two primary ways. First, the unchanging nature of God is a reference to His PERSON. Those characteristics that make Him God will never change. He will always be omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent. He will not stop possessing such qualities as holiness, faithfulness, goodness, love, and mercy. Scripture says that these divine attributes are “everlasting,” which means that they will always persist (Psalm 100:5; 103:17; 111:3; 119:89-90; Isaiah 40:28; Jeremiah 31:3). This is why  James could say in James 1:17-18 that “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.” This statement follows James’ contention that 1) “the testing of your faith” is something to celebrate (James 1:2-4) and that 2) “God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one” (James 1:13). His point is that, although God may test us in order to bring about spiritual maturation, He will never tempt us because that would be contrary to His inherent goodness. James’ argument is based on the fact that God’s attributes lack “variation” or “change.” As a result, we should not hesitate to place our trust in Him who always stays the same.

Second, the unchanging nature of God is a reference to His PROMISES. Scripture repeatedly asserts that God does not, cannot, and will not lie (Numbers 23:19; 1 Samuel 15:29; Titus 1:2). In fact, the author of Hebrews said that “It is impossible for God to lie” and referred to this as an “unchangeable” truth (Hebrews 6:18). That means that God will not break a promise that He made to His people. This would include His promise to provide a way out of temptation (1 Corinthians 10:13), His promise to never forsake us (Hebrews 13:5), His promise to forgive the sins of those who confess their sins (1 John 1:9), and His promise to never stop loving us (Romans 8:38-39). Since Scripture asserts that God’s promises will not change, we should face the future with confidence, knowing that our future is anchored in His promises.

In a world where nothing seems to stay the same, we can find great comfort in the fact that the One who gave us life, the One who provides for our salvation, and the One in whom our faith is based is “the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). To put it simply, change is inevitable but God is eternal. That means God will never stop being God.