Bible Study Series
Contemplating the Almighty
The Immutable God
How well do you know God’s immutability?
1) To be immutable means
a) that God can choose to change within Himself but cannot be influenced by any outside forceced by any outside force
b) that God cannot, does not, and will never change in any way
c) that God will stay basically the same but may have small, nearly unnoticeable changes as He so chooses
2) The Old Testament and the New Testament are very different
a) This proves that God changed from being primarily wrathful to more loving
b) God learned a better way of dealing with mankind and so evolved in His thinking
c) God did not change at all but rather replaced the Covenant of Law to with the Covenant of Grace
3) Regarding the three persons of the Trinity
a) God has always existed as a Trinity even before any Creation
b) God split into this at the Incarnation with part remaining in Heaven, part being born a human, and part moving throughout the Earth
c) God became a Trinity sometime in the far distant past
4) At His incarnation
a) only Jesus changed (of the Trinity) and so only He was no longer immutable
b) Jesus was still fully unchanging God but now was dwelling in human flesh co-existing with its nature
c) Jesus, for 33 years, ceased being God
5) Over time God is
a) becoming more perfect
b) not growing or increasing at all
c) increasing in knowledge and wisdom
6) God depends on
a) Nothing, He is totally self-sufficient
b) humans because we are His only outlet for His love, mercy, patience, etc
c) creation because He dwells and moves within creation
7) If God somehow could change it would be
a) towards greater perfection
b) for the worse
c) a lateral change in that He would not be any better or worse, just different
8) In order to allow us into His presence
a) God has to compromise to come down to our level
b) we obviously are not perfect so God has to meet us half-way
c) He raises us up to His level not by making us gods but clothing us in the righteousness of Christ
9) That God is immutable means
a) that our prayers cannot affect Him and so really accomplish nothing
b) our prayers only are answered “yes” when they already agree with God
c) our prayers do affect God’s actions although they do not change who and what God is
10) At the very end when God will create a new Heavens and new Earth
a) He will stay the same
b) He also will be purged of any impurity that sin m c) He will re-create Himself into a more glorious and awesome God
“Every good thing bestowed and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation, or shifting shadow.” To say that God is immutable is to state emphatically that all that He inherently is cannot vary, cannot change, cannot diminish, and cannot increase. Constitutionally, God is all that He ever will be all that He ever was. He has not reached the state of infinite perfection; He was never less. And although He is ever moving and working, all that defines who and what He is does not change. There is an immense distinction between what God does and what God is. There is no end to the movement of the former; there is no end to the stability of the latter.
“The heavens are telling of the glory of God; and their expanse is declaring the work of His hands.” As we behold the heavens and witness the glory and power of God, we are overwhelmed by His awesomeness, and though we are dwarfed by the power seen above and unable to imagine the greatness before us, this majesty of the heavens, like all else surrounding us, is wearing out. It, too, is not immune to the effects of sin and is powerless against its onslaught. Even through the heavens loom beyond our grasp of comprehension, they are as nothing compare to the power of the Almighty. If they, in all their immensity, cannot stem the degenerating effects of sin, then how much greater is God? He is unalterable, He is unchangeable; He is without variation.He is without variation.
God alone is self-sufficient. He alone is independent. All else need Him for their sustenance. “If He should determine to do so, if He should gather to Himself His spirit and His breath, all flesh would perish together, and man would return to dust.” The incredible frailty of all matter becomes obvious in contrast to the unchangeable quality of God. There exists nothing, save one, with the intrinsic ability to support itself, let alone to be able to resist corruption and obtain perfection. Self-sufficiency, thus, is necessary for the One who would be immutable. Though all in the universe stand helpless before the wearing of sin and though the heavens will be changed as one would change an old garment, God struggles not to remain immutable. He does not resist; He controls. “Of old Thou didst found the earth; and the heavens are the work of Thy hands. Even they will perish, but Thou dost endure; and all of them will wear out like a garment; like clothing Thou wilt change them, and they will be changed. But Thou are the same, and thy years will not come to an end.” When God establishes His eternal reign, none of creation as we know it will be the same as it is today. We shall be changed. There will be a new heavens and a new earth. Even those in Hell shall be cursed with indestructibility. But God will be the same. Everything else must be changed to conform to His immutable righteousness. The magnificence of this reality is but minutely grasped by our natural minds. Truly, our God is great.
God cannot be influenced to change, either from without or from within. He cannot be influenced from without because He alone is the source of all power. He does not merely stand far and above as the mightiest, but He also stands alone in might. All creation has ability only because God has generously given such, and there could be absolutely no resistance from creation should he decide to withdraw this ability. Beyond this even, He, alone, holds all things together. So how could anything or any combination of things cause the Almighty to change against His will? As previously stated, he does not merely resist and suppress opposing forces; He sovereignty controls them.
Neither can He change from within because there is no facet of His being which is in anyway inconsistent with another facet. As infinite and complex as God is, no aspect of Him differs or strives with any other aspect; they all function perfectly together. Indeed, He is not the mere summation of many infinite qualities, but exists as an inseparable unity. Division will not exist where division cannot exist. Even the concept of the Trinity proves no obstacle to this. Each member of the Trinity is fully God and forms but one God; there can exist no separation of purpose, no separation of being. The might Godhead is an indivisible unity of which no greater excellence can be obtained; no higher position may be reached. This is in vast contrast to us. We experience doubts and misgivings; the spirit strives with the flesh waging war within our members. We grow, we regress, and we change. We strive daily to become more like the Holy One who called us. We sin and repent; we learn. We love to look to the day when the body of our humble state will be transformed into conformity with the body of His glory. God has none of these characteristics. Infinity, both in vastness and in excellence, will never change. There is nothing within God that can sin nor can even conceive of it.
Because of this truth that God is perfect and is in no danger of being affected either directly or indirectly, He is able to concentrate all of His necessary attention and power into changing us to become more like Himself. For this reason, He can make such a bold promise as recorded in Philippians 1:6, “For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.” All of His superabundance resources can be applied to this goal as He requires none for Himself. The knowledge that the standards which the Lord of Hosts has set and the goal to which He is bringing us will never change should cause great security and comfort. Knowing that the purpose which He has for our lives is one of perfection should give us an enormous sense of honor. To realize that His glorious power, not our own, will accomplish this, leaves us with tremendous hope. Who upon the earth are more truly blessed than God’s people! What changes in one’s person does the flesh effect: bitterness, cynicism, arrogance, apathy. What stark contrast this is to the transformations enacted by the Holy Spirit.
“For I, the Lord, do not change; therefore you, O sons of Jacob, are not consumed.” Our security is in the immutability of God. If He ever changed it would be necessarily for the worse since no change could ever be for the better. God’s infinite perfection extends to every application of the term; therefore, there is no latitude for Him to vary within Himself. The character of God prevents our annihilation and not any excellency within ourselves. Therefore, if He were to become any less merciful or loving or patient, there would be nothing to prevent His consumption of us. Since all that God is, is involved in the matter of men, it would be impossible for Him to change in anyway and not adversely affect us by this change. But the truth is firm that He cannot vary; all that He has said concerning His relationship with us is eternally guaranteed by no less assurance than His holy, unshifting character. Our security of eternal life solidly rests on the unchangeableness of God.
A mind unadjusted to the whole truth concerning the Lord can easily become distraught. When pondering the truth that God shows mercy only how and to whom He chooses, that when He has decreed a matter it will come to pass exactly how and when He foreordained it, that He can immediately take anyone’s life and still be righteous, and that He reigns self-sufficient and does not need us at all, it is reasonable to feel insure and unsure. We may easily begin to develop the wretched attitude that we must constantly appease the King, lest we fall into disfavor with Him and be consumed by His wrath. However, it is Him immutability that gives security and trust. Though all the above is true, it is equally true that He is rich in mercy and that He loves us with a great love, and although He does not need us, He nevertheless infinitely and perfectly delights in us. He is faithful to us and though we are powerless before Him, we are not without a friend. God does not act capriciously or spontaneously. His overwhelming desire to lavishly pour out His love and make us happy cannot be estimated and cannot be fully appreciated. All that He does is completely consistent within Himself and that self will never change.
We are a people accustomed to the shifting temperaments and moods of the people around us. Circumstances and consequences influence our dispositions far too much. We are easily induced by our emotions, and our behavior is often more directed by what we see than by what we believe. We are too frequently more concerned about what men thing about our actions than what God thinks about our heart. In this world of shifting loyalties and emotional instability, it is reassuring to know that the unchanging God is ever present. He transcends all of the weaknesses that plague man. We can always turn from the confusion of the world and find rest and tranquility in the presence of the Lord.
It is necessary to realize that because God does not change, neither do His eternal purposes. “In the same way God, desiring even more to show to the heirs of His purpose, interposed with an oath in order that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we may have strong encouragement, we who have fled for refuge in laying hold of the hope set before us.” His desires for mankind are eternally established. Though His means of accomplishment may differ, His basic purposes do not. In this lies the fortress wherein we may always flee and find hope, a hope sustained by a reliable promise and by an unbreakable oath. All that the Lord has purposed, He does with singleness of mind. Much confusion can be avoided, however, if a proper distinction is made between God’s eternal purposes and His system of administration. The former do not change; the latter does. This clearly is seen in the Holy Scriptures. Animal sacrifices have ceased because Christ was the one sacrifice for all time. Love has not supplanted wrath but, rather, has been freed through the propitiatory death of Christ. God’s purposes have always revolved around a greater manifestation of His glory and in drawing men closer to Himself, so that throughout time, it can always be said that “God does not take away life, but plans ways so that the banished one may not be cast out from Him.” What God does in our lives is always for the purpose of us experiencing Him more fully.
Another consequence of the immutability of God is the likewise unalterability of truth. “Praise the Lord, all nations; laud Him, all peoples! For His lovingkindness is great toward us, and the truth of the Lord is everlasting. Praise the Lord!” And again, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away.” Herein lies a great truth-God is faithful, God is immutable. All that He has said concerning our lives, the promises, the blessings, the gifts, are absolutely and eternally certain. Divine truth is never dependent on our understanding and acceptance of it. It is as true if we believe and acknowledge it as it is if we completely doubt it. Truth stands because God said it, not because we believe it. Though its application may depend on faith, its reality can never be in question. We would do well to establish this in our hearts and minds. The great relief and security this engenders to the doubting would is immeasurable. Indeed, much spiritual reality is applied to us even in our ignorance of it. Thus, the saved person is totally justified, though they may have no conception of that theme. The son of God will always be such regardless of whether they feel it or even believe it. And though our sin may be great and our hearts tell us we are wholly guilty before God, the promise of “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” stand eternally firm. The forgiven sinner is exactly that. The veritableness of truth lies no in that it is constantly experienced but in that it has been spoken by God. Therefore, because divine truth is never on our own reckoning, it is eternally available.
An amazing concept is that in our natural, unregenerate state, God sees us as described in Romans 3:10-18, and yet, in Christ, we can boldly stand in the presence of God without any fear. The justification in this lies neither in any magnanimity on God’s part nor in any compromise of His standards. He shows no leniency in allowing us this position. If it were possible for one man to be saved through God’s compassion and mercy, then it would be possible for all to be saved on this basis, and Christ’s sacrifices would have been needless and a great error. None of God’s dealings with men ever caused injury to His holiness nor to His deity. Though Jesus Christ did leave His estate of full glory and praise to condescend and dwell among men, in Him “all the fullness of Deity” dwelt in bodily form. The divinity of Christ could never change. He was as much God when He walked among men as when He reigned in the heavens and received constant worship and praise. He “emptied Himself” not of His deity, but of His rightful estate of glory and exaltation and of the capacity of self-government. Even in hunger and thirst, He was the almighty, omnipotent God. His physical level became equal with our own, but His moral level remained infinitely pure and perfect. Though He walked among sinners, He still despised the sin as vehemently as when He stood at the Father’s right hand.
The heart of our fellowship with God lies not in any absurdity of God merely coming to us on our level, but in the glorious act of changing us to meet His standards. To have intimate communion with man, God had but two options: that He degrade Himself to meet us or that He glorify us to meet Him. Because He cannot change, He changed us. The divine standard imposed by God upon all persons is that of Himself. Consequently, all that He transforms is to this standard. Thus, because God measures righteousness by what He is and not by what we were, we are told that we have the righteousness of God, not just more righteousness than we had. Our transformation spanned infinity; we did not merely rise to a higher plane of virtue. What we have become is much greater then where we have come from. As a result of our position in Christ, our perfections preponderate our faults. We now meet, in Christ, all of the requirements of righteousness and holiness which God can demand. Therefore, because He is immutable, His acceptance of us cannot vary since it rests not on our changeableness but on His unchangeableness. What we demonstrate in unfaithfulness and inconsistency, the Lord infinitely surpasses and overbalances with His faithfulness and immutability. This is the focus. Our greatest meditation must be upon this. How much richer will our praise be, when we remember and believe the marvelous work which the almighty God has done in our lives, rather than dwelling on our own shortcomings.
This concept of our transformation is further understood by the theme of reconciliation. The word means “to change completely.” It finds its application in two distinct ways. One involves the reconciliation of the entire world in its relationship to God. This is stated in 2 Corinthians 5:19, “God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them.” Because of its extreme ungodliness, the world justly deserves God’s immediate judgment and wrath. However, as a result of Christ’s work at Calvary, God is not now required to impute to the world its sin. Thus, He is, instead, able to show mercy and kindness to what would be an otherwise unsalvable world.
The second application of the divine reconciliation involves the individual sinner himself. In Colossians 1:21-22 we read, “And although you were formerly alienated and hostile in mind engaged in evil deeds, yet He has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through death, in order to present you before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach.” The sinner, through reconciliation, is placed into a position where he is able to recognize and appreciate the sacrifice of Christ so to believe unto salvation. In neither instance does God change. He does not adjust to meet the situation, but all things are reconciled to Him. They are adjusted to this new relationship; He remains the same. It must be stressed, though, that any reconciliation is always righteously grounded in the finished work That God is unchanging is perhaps one of the most easily overlooked attributes which obviously constitute the Lord God Almighty. The perverted heart of the wicked grossly reforms God to meet his own standards and expectations. He is made to be all loving or too uncaring or not very powerful. They claim that what He did long ago for some in the Bible, He certainly does not do for any today and that His ultimate judgment of mankind will be based more on leniency than on justice. They mold God into the image of man. The most obvious conclusion is that He is too insignificant to be concerned about. The Christian, likewise, conjectures a concept of a capricious God or even one who has humbled Himself to meet man at his own standards. However, it is to our eternal benefit and to God’s glory that truth and reality are as He dictates and not as we perceive. The immutability of God! It is a theme too wonderful for an evil nature to believe. His purposes are immutable, His truth is immutable, His attributes are immutable. That eternity or any other influence will never change God is beyond our ability of comprehension. It is a theme exclusively of God. May our hearts grow ever more reverent as we meditate upon and more fully grasp this awesome and wonderful divine attribute.
What does God’s immutability mean to us?
We can trust God
James 1:17 says, “Every good thing bestowed and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights.” We can easily agree that any good thing that we receive is from God. God is good and He gives good gifts. But notice how this verse ends: “with whom there is no variation, or shifting shadow.” We can paraphrase this verse as, “God gives us good things and only good things and God never changes.” He will never give us anything that is not for our ultimate good. This means that we can trust God. He will not suddenly decide to toy with us. He will not grow weary of our stupid and foolish ways and decide to crush or abandon us. God will never renege on any of His promises. on any of His promises.
When what the Bible clearly says we should do is opposed by what our culture is telling us then we should, without question or hesitation, obey what God says in the Bible. Maybe we will not get that promotion as quickly or we will not marry as soon as we had hoped or we will never hear those accolades that we so desire but ultimately our blessings will be much more abundant and our satisfaction for doing what is right will be deep into our bones. It is God who blesses and God who curses. We will never regret trusting G Even in what we may perceive as failure may be a great success in God’s eyes. Many times we set out to accomplish something but it fails and then we are quick to question God, “Why didn’t You help me out? Where were You when it all came crashing down?” God is not in the business of making us successful in all aspects of life but rather to be successful in godliness and sometimes those two goals may be at odds. Through failure we learn perseverance, hope, proven character, and to trust in God. All of the great people in the Bible had spectacular failures that they rebounded from to eventually rise even higher. Failure does not mean that God is against us or that we are hopeless and inept. That failure may be exactly what God wants so that, in the end, we may not have a great accomplishment but we have become a better person. Our success must be measured by righteousness and not by power, fame, or money.
The verses immediately preceding James 1:17 address temptation. God never tempts us to sin. Temptation is the work of the world, the flesh, and the Devil. This is important because we know that since temptation is never from God we can readily apply 1 Corinthians 10:13, “No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, that you may be able to endure it.” No matter how intense the pressure to sin, God will always, without fail, give us an opportunity to escape from it. This will never change. It also means that if we do sin then it was because we chose the sin rather than the escape. No one can ever force us to sin because no one is greater than any of God’s promises.
Confidence in His desires for our life
Do you struggle with thinking that God might suddenly turn on you and fill your life with garbage? That He will suddenly stop loving you or caring about you? Then immerse yourself in the truth that God will never change, not even in the subtle way that a shadow may shift. The intensity of His desire to give us the abundant life that He promises in John 10:10 does not vary from person to person. Its manifestation may differ but never the passion of His desire to bless. The fullness of joy and pleasures forever in Psalm 16:11 are not capriciously here today and gone tomorrow. God did not love you when you got saved only to leave you when you sin or in a trial. Because God does not change neither does His tremendous affection and desires for us ever change. Circumstances may seem to dictate otherwise, but we can be assured that behind them God is still the rock and fortress that He always has been and always will be.
We can become more godly
If God kept changing then for us to develop godly character would be like trying to build a house when the plans keep changing or trying to score a goal when the net or goal post constantly moves. But because God is always the same we have a fixed goal that we can aim at.
One example is that we can become more faithful because we are confident of what God’s faithfulness is like. Moses made great mistakes and yet because God was faithful to him Moses eventually became the leader and representative of God to a nation. Peter likewise made many mistakes and yet because God was faithful to him Peter ultimately became a great man of God and a foundation of the early church. In these two people we can see this same faithfulness of God across thousands of years. This should not only motivate us but also give us great confidence knowing that as we work on being faithful God will give us the grace necessary. us the Any example of God’s character is like driving towards a mountain. It is steady and certain. We will not blink and it is suddenly different. What God was in the Bible God is today.
Answers to quiz
2) c 1) b
Max has been a fairly steady Christian for a number of years. He has had his ups and downs but has always managed to work through them. For the last several months he has been overwhelmed with a very difficult trial and his faith has wavered. He often says, “God doesn’t love me” even though many of those times he says it in a mildly joking manner. He skips church every once in a while and when he does go he seems uninterested in the singing and sermon. You have been one of his close friends over the years. How can you encourage Max and is there anything regarding God’s immutability that might be especially helpful?
1) In addition to the ones discussed about, what are some other assurances that God’s immutability means to us?mutability means to us?
2) Why would an unchanging God do things differently because of prayer?
3) If God does not change then why does He appear to be different in the Old Testament than in the New Testament?
4) If God does not change and Jesus is God then how did Jesus grow from a baby to a man?
5) Why do we not bother to learn more about God and who He is?
6) How does God’s immutability make us feel more secure as a Christian?
7) If God does not change then how come sometimes I feel more like He loves me and other times I feel more like He is mad at me?
8) If God is always the same then why do so many religions have such different views of God?
9) Why should I even care about whether God can change or not?
10) Does God’s immutability apply to all of God or only to some aspects?
11) If God loves us so much then why does He not change? In a marriage, the husband and wife will change to better themselves for the sake of the other person?
Copyright Bob La Forge 2011 email: email@example.com