“In virtue of this attribute, He is exalted above all becoming…” (Louis Berkhof)
Today, we focus on a very closely related attribute: God’s unchangeableness. While God’s independence describes his self-sufficiency, his unchangeableness (also referred to as his immutability) describes how this self-sufficient God has never, nor will ever change.
God is unchanging in that he is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow.
In studying God’s unchanging character, it can be helpful to focus on three different areas: God’s person, God’s purposes (i.e. plans), and God’s promises.
1.) God’s Unchanging Person:
God’s unchangeableness means that his being, essence, and character do not change in content or quality. He does not lose or gain any attributes over time, nor do any of his attributes fluctuate in quality. James 1:17 tells us that with the “Father of lights” there is “no variation or shadow due to change.”
While creation is constantly changing and being changed (just think of the ever-expanding universe!), the Creator is eternally unchanging, steady and dependable. While we humans have the ability to grow in things like knowledge and wisdom, our God has possessed these qualities in their perfection for all of eternity.
In his book The Christian Life, Michael Horton explains that while our ability to change can either mean getting better or worse, for God the ability to change would only mean becoming less perfect. Why is this? Well, if God could become better, it would mean that he wasn’t perfect to begin with. If he could get worse, then his ability to become imperfect only proves that he was never truly was perfect to begin with.
Another way to think of this would be to say that God’s total being (all of his nature and attributes) is complete and in need of nothing. Thus, the God who perfectly embodies love, justice, wisdom and knowledge has no need of growing in love, justice, wisdom or knowledge. He already possesses these attributes–and all his other attributes–in their fullness.
There are several passages of scripture that explicitly argue for this distinction between God and his creation. In Psalm 102 we see God’s unchanging character set against the temporal earth and stars–objects of our world that seem so steady and so eternal:
Of old you laid the foundation of the earth,
and the heavens are the work of your hands.
They will perish, but you will remain;
they will all wear out like a garment.
You will change them like a robe, and they will pass away,
but you are the same, and your years have no end.
(Psalm 102:25-27, ESV)
In Malachi 3:6 we see God’s unchanging character set against his people’s fickleness: “For I the Lord do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed.” While the Israelites were prone to change, their God was steady, faithful and constant. For this, they had much to be thankful for!
2.) God’s Unchanging Purposes:
Due to the truth of God’s unchanging nature, we can be confident that his plans are also unchanging. In other words: what he has decided to accomplish, he will bring to pass. In regard to his unwavering purposes, Isaiah 46:9-11 says this:
for I am God, and there is no other;
I am God, and there is none like me,
declaring the end from the beginning
and from ancient times things not yet done,
saying, ‘My counsel shall stand,
and I will accomplish all my purpose,’
calling a bird of prey from the east,
the man of my counsel from a far country.
I have spoken, and I will bring it to pass;
I have purposed, and I will do it.
(Isaiah 46:9-11, ESV)
3.) God’s Unchanging Promises:
Similarly, God’s promises–those things he has told us he will do–cannot be broken. Once again we must remember that his very character is unchanging, therefore his promises cannot go unkept. In Numbers 23:19 God says this: “God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?” (Numbers 23:19, ESV)
Why It Matters
It is a great comfort to know that God will not–indeed, cannot–change. If it were possible for the Lord to change in character then we could never be certain of his trustworthiness. He may be loving today, but will he be loving tomorrow? He may be just today, but will he be just tomorrow? He may be sinless today, but will he be sinless tomorrow? Without the knowledge of God’s unchangeableness, we would live in a constant state of uncertainty at best and a fearful state of dread at worst. For who would not dread a God who could one day become evil?
Thankfully the Scriptures tell of a God who is unchanging in person, purposes and promises. We can count on him to be himself in all of his perfection for all of eternity, for as Paul explained to Timothy: “He cannot deny himself.” (2 Timothy 2:13)
Because he is unchanging, we can have confidence in all that he has promised to do. We can cling to the truths of Scripture and find hope, peace, and encouragement in them. For instance, I am reminded of the famous words of Paul in Romans 8: “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39, ESV) What if we could not hold on to this precious truth of God’s unwavering love for his children? What if he could suddenly stop loving those he had promised to love? If not for the doctrine of God’s unchangeableness, we would have absolutely no guarantee that he wouldn’t.
Is there any greater encouragement to a believer than knowing that our salvation is guaranteed by an unchanging God? As believers, we can be secure in the knowledge that God will never change his mind about forgiving us! Once we are counted righteous through the blood of Christ–once we are justified by his atoning work on the cross–we are forever righteous in God’s sight. There is no turning back for this God who has chosen to set his love upon us! Consider Romans 8:38-30:
For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. (Romans 8:29-30, ESV)
You see, as an unchanging God, his plans cannot be altered and what he sets out to accomplish he will complete! So it is with you and I, dear sisters. If he has saved us, he will both keep us and sanctify us. His unchanging character will not allow anything else.
This doctrine should also cause us to faithfully preach of the gospel message to others. If God’s character can never alter, then his wrath will eternally burn against sin. Those who do not accept Christ’s atoning work on the cross will be judged for their sins. There will be no last minute change in God’s mind, therefore we must passionately preach the good news of the gospel to those who are walking toward an eternity of God’s judgement.