James 1:17, “Every good thing given and every perfect gift
is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no
variation or shifting shadow.”
The shadows from sun shift; but the sun does not appear to
To say that God is immutable:
He cannot vary
He is all that He will ever be, all that He ever was
14"If He should
determine to do so,
If He should gather to
Himself His spirit and His breath,
15All flesh would perish together,
And man would return to
16"But if you have understanding, hear
Listen to the sound of my
We are like dust, easily blow away and gone forever.
God, on the other hand, is immovable.
Even if the entire universe should rebel against God, it
would be like a canoe attacking a battleship.
What really lasts?
Sin and time wear us down. By the end of the day we are
tired. After decades we find ourselves with less energy, our illnesses last
longer, and our bodies betray us more easily.
So what is permanent? Look up at the sky. There are stars
and galaxies. The universe is enormous. It is estimated that there are 300,000,000,000,000,000,000,000
or 300 sextillion stars in the universe. Yet God says that even the universe is
like an old sweater that is fraying at the elbows and with buttons falling off.
Even if God does not come back for a very long time and after tens of billions
of years the universe shutters to an end, God will still be there unchanged. He
will not be even the slightest different than when the universe began.
25"Of old You
founded the earth,
And the heavens are the
work of Your hands.
26"Even they will perish, but You
And all of them will wear
out like a garment;
Like clothing You will
change them and they will be changed.
27"But You are the same,
And Your years will not
come to an end.
Nothing can change God
God cannot be influenced to change either from without or
God cannot be influenced from without because it is not
merely that He stands far and above everyone else in power and might but that
He alone has power and might. We have only what He has given to us. There is no
great cosmic battle between good and evil, between God and the Devil. The Devil
only has being because God allows him to. Should God so choose, in an instant
the Devil would completely cease to exist.
God cannot change from within because there is no facet of
His being that is in anyway in conflict with another part of His being. As
infinite and complex as God is everything within Him functions perfectly
This is in contrast to ourselves. We have self-doubts and
misgivings. Our spirit strives with our flesh waging war within our members
(Romans 7:23). We sin and repent. We grow and regress. God has none of this.
God is not like the ancient mythologies where occasionally
the gods had to rush back home to take care of some crisis. And because God
does not have to worry about Himself He is able to focus all of His attention
on us. That is why He is able to boldly promise 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.” Because God does not need to hold back any
resources for Himself He is able to apply all of them to us and knowing that
the purpose which He has for our lives is one of perfection should give us an
enormous sense of honor.
God’s immutability is our survival
Malachi 3:6, “For I, the LORD, do not change; therefore you,
O sons of Jacob, are not consumed.”
Since God is perfect in all ways, if He changed in any way
it would have to be for the worse. So how would He change? Would He become less
patient? Less forgiving? Less merciful? Choose any one of those and it could
easily mean our destruction. We survive not because we are good or desire to,
but only because God is good. Since all that God is, is involved in the matter
of people, then any change in God would have to be to our detriment.
It is true that:
God is self-sufficient and so does not need us.
God can immediately take anyone’s life and still be righteous.
We are sinners and God is perfectly holy.
However, it is also immutably true that:
God is rich in mercy.
God loves us with a great love.
Although God does not need us, nonetheless, He greatly delights
in us. We are not without a friend in Heaven.
Because God does not change then neither do His eternal purposes
same way God, desiring even more to show to the heirs of the promise the
unchangeableness of His purpose, interposed with an oath,
that by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we
who have taken refuge would have strong encouragement to take hold of the hope
set before us.”
not die and find ourselves annihilated or find, as Christians, that we are in
promise of God is secure and every current promise of God is secure.
Truth is forever
Matthew 24:35, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My
words will not pass away.”
Truth is never dependent on our understanding or acceptance
of it. It is as true if we believe it and as true if we doubt it.
If I do something truly terrible and think that God can
never forgive me that does not make it suddenly true that I, indeed, cannot be
forgiven. God’s promise remains true and if I come to my senses someday then I
can still claim God’s promise of complete forgiveness. His promise of cleansing
me from all unrighteousness remained available through all of my doubts. It was
always right there for the taking even if I closed my eyes.
Truth does not have to be experienced to be true. I am saved
even if I do not feel like I am. I am still a child of God even when I am a
A while ago I had a little extra cash so I put it into an
envelope and hid it in a book. Then, with my memory being more gauzy than
photographic, I forgot about it. A year later my wife asked me about the money.
My response was, “What money? I didn’t hide any money.” It was a few months
after that when looking through my books that I found the envelope with the
money in it. I had mixed feelings from “Hey, I have more money than I thought I
had” to “My memory is not what it used to be.”
Even though I forgot about it, that money was always in the
same place and was always available. All I had to do was take it. The promises
of God are much the same. They are always available. We may forget about them,
ignore them, and doubt them. But when we humbly come back to them then we shall
find that they are just as efficacious and just as much a blessing. The
problem is not that God’s promises disappear but that we forget about them or
do not believe them. When we want to leave the confusion of the world, God is
ready to be our refuge and strength (Psalm 46:1). When we are guilty, God’s
cleansing and forgiveness is standing by to wash us (1 John 1:9). We may forget
God, but God never forgets us and when we return to God’s promises we will likewise
proclaim, “Hey, I have more blessings than I thought I had.”
Jesus Christ is immutable
The Bible says that Jesus Christ was born as a baby and that
He “kept increasing in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men” (Luke
2:52). And Philippians 2:6-7 reads, “Who, although He existed in the form of
God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied
Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men.”
Yet Hebrews 13:8 says, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday
and today and forever.”
Is this a contradiction?
Of course not. He emptied Himself of His glory, of His
privilege, of His right to, as God, do whatever He pleased.
God raises us up
Isaiah 59:2, “But your iniquities have made a separation
between you and your God,
And your sins have hidden
His face from you so that He does not hear.”
God does come down to our level to have a relationship with
us but raises us up to His level.
Because God cannot change He, therefore, changed us.
When we are saved we are not just made more righteous than
we were; we now have the righteousness of Jesus Christ. We now fully meet all
of God’s demands of perfection and holiness.
2 Corinthians 5:21, “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin
on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”
Our salvation is secure not because it rests in our loyalty
and character since those things change like a paper bag blowing in the wind.
Our salvation is secure because it rests in the fact that God does not change
and we are in God through Jesus Christ.
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.
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 God and His word.
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
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.
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
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.
addition to the ones discussed about, what are some other assurances that God’s
immutability means to us?
would an unchanging God do things differently because of prayer?
God does not change then why does He appear to be different in the Old
Testament than in the New Testament?
does God’s immutability make us feel more secure as a Christian?
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?
God is always the same then why do so many religions have such different views
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?
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?