[This is the second in a series on the attributes of God by Providence member Craig Redmond]
Change. It’s all around us. We see changes in communication: Hand-written letters using quill pens have been replaced by emails which are now being replaced by text messages sent from cell phones in line at the grocery store.
We see changes in many of today’s churches: increasing use of “seeker sensitive” philosophies and the watering down of the gospel to the point that in many cases I’m not sure the truth is actually still in there. We see changes in the economy: our nation that used to be based on agriculture and then manufacturing is now based on the service industry; catalog companies such as Montgomery Ward’s and Sears & Roebuck have long been replaced with megastores and online businesses.
We see changes in health care: house calls and herbal remedies have changed in many cases into HMO’s and federally mandated insurance programs. We see changes in politics: four years ago this nation elected a president whose main campaign platform was “change.”
I’ve even heard it said that “the only constant is change”. That catchy statement, though, is actually outright error as God Himself is constant. He does not change. This attribute is known as his Immutability. To make sense of that word, think of the words “imbalance” and “mutation” – “im-“ as a prefix means “not” (such as not balanced), and a mutation is a change... thus something that is immutable does not change.
John MacArthur, one of my favorite living Bible teachers, said in a sermon back in 1975:
“He is unchangeable. Hang on to this...tremendous concept. God is unchangeable... Not even a hint that He would alter. God doesn't change.
Now think about it. Change is either for the better or for the worse. Right? Both are inconceivable with God. He couldn't get any better and wouldn't get any worse. There's nothing to change. Now that sets Him apart from everything because everything changes. The heavens change. You look up and you see the heavens, they move about, they alter their course and yet they’re rigid in their course...
Not only that but the earth changes. I mean, man changes it...he changes the face of it with his bulldozers, he changes the atmosphere of it with his pollution...
The ungodly are going to change. They change all the time... Their attitudes change. Someday their whole identity is going to change when they find themselves before a Holy God. And what they think is a happy way to live is going to turn out to be tragic as they spend an eternity without God.
You know, even the saints change? The best of us? We change, don't we? How does this sound? John MacArthur, the same yesterday, today and forever. Not very good, does it? I'm not the same yesterday, today and forever. It's ludicrous. I change. There are times when my love for Christ burns and I obey. There are times when it smolders and I disobey. Aren't you like that? I change. Even the best of the saints change...
People, every single thing in this whole created universe changes except God. God never changes and neither does Jesus. That means He's God. Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today and forever is one of the greatest statements of deity of Jesus Christ ever made in the Bible. There's only one thing in the universe that doesn't change - that's God...”
Here is just a small portion of what Scripture itself testifies about God’s Immutability.
The counsel of the Lord stands forever,
The plans of His heart from generation to generation.
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.
For I the Lord do not change
Remember this and stand firm,
recall it to mind, you transgressors,
remember the former things of old;
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.
Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.
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.
How amazing that not even a trace of change exists within God! Not a single variation, not a single shadow or hint of change.
One may be wondering about the passages in Scripture where the Lord is said to regret creating man before the flood, or making Saul king, or where God did not destroy Nineveh as originally threatened after they repented. Did God change His mind in those situations? I looked at this in several sources and found a consensus among the sources I trusted that rather than God changing, these are examples of the Lord responding to changing circumstances.
I’ll just touch for a moment on the Jonah passage. An unrepentant Nineveh was going to be destroyed, but once they repented, God responded by showing mercy and compassion to them.
When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil way, God relented of the disaster that he had said he would do to them, and he did not do it.
Johnathan Edwards commented on this verse in the 1700’s:
“Another objection may arise from God's threatening to Nineveh. He threatened, that in forty days Nineveh should be destroyed, which yet he did not fulfil.-I answer, that threatening could justly be looked upon no otherwise than as conditional. It was of the nature of a warning, and not of an absolute denunciation. Why was Jonah sent to the Ninevites, but to give them warning, that they might have opportunity to repent, reform, and avert the approaching destruction? God had no other design or end in sending the prophet to them, but that they might be warned and tried by him, as God warned the Israelites, Judah and Jerusalem, before their destruction. Therefore the prophets, together with their prophecies of approaching destruction, joined earnest exhortations to repent and reform, that it might be averted... For it was for their wickedness that that destruction was threatened, and so the Ninevites took it. Therefore, when the cause was removed, the effect ceased.”
Also on this same verse, here are some thoughts from Charles Spurgeon:
“There is no change in God, absolutely considered, but there is often an apparent change. That which he threatens, while men remain in sin, is not executed upon them when they repent and turn to him. He is always the same God. From the beginning, he has been “the Lord God, merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin.” If he did not pardon sin, when men turn from it with sincere repentance, he would have changed his method of dealing with the penitent; but when he does forgive, it is according to his way from the beginning, for he has ever been a tender, and compassionate, and gracious God.”
Writing about these kinds of verses in 2004, Paul Washer wrote:
“He does not change, but He is not static, apathetic, and uninvolved with His creation. He is dynamic and interacts with His creation. He is always the same, but His relationship and dealings with mutable men will vary according to how they respond to Him.”
There are similar explanations for the other passages that may appear to contradict the fact that God is unchanging in His nature, His attributes, and His will; however, for time sake, I’ll not dwell on the others.
This week, as we turn toward the application of God’s Immutability, I am going to start with a quote John MacArthur from later in the same sermon I quoted earlier:
“What does it mean to me as a Christian that He doesn't change? I'll tell you what it means. It means comfort to me. Listen, if ever He loved me, He loves me forever. If ever He forgave me, He forgave me forever. If ever He saved me, He saved me forever. If ever He promised me anything, He promised it to me forever... God doesn't change His mind. Aren't you glad about that? And He may look at me and say - MacArthur, I ought to really wipe you out, but I am the Lord, I change not. And it says in one of the most powerful portions of Scripture... If we believe not, 2 Timothy 2:13, yet He abides faithful, He can't deny Himself."
Do you know what your salvation and security is based on? What's it based on? God's unchanging character...God's absolute nature. Jeremiah 31:3 says this: "I have loved you with an everlasting love," If ever He loved you, He loved you forever.
Christian, I don't know how that hits you but for me that is exciting. I belong to Him and He's going to take care of me. If He ever promised me a promise, He promised it to me forever. If it says - My God shall supply all your needs...that doesn't mean that He ran out of stuff in 1950 and now He's got problems. That's good for everybody for all time. I'm secure in that, aren't you?
What does it mean to an unbeliever? This...if God said a soul that sins will die, He meant it. If God said the wages of sin is death, He meant it. If God said there is an eternal hell. He meant it. And if that's what He says now, that's what He said in the past, that's exactly what's going to come to pass. The Bible says in Psalm 119:89, "Forever," how long? "Forever, O Lord, Thy word is settled in heaven." God never changes. For some of us that's ecstatic joy. For others of us it ought to be fear.”
As another description of the application of this glorious attribute, here’s the last quote of the morning, it is from Charles Spurgeon who preached the following in 1858:
“If he be the same to-day as yesterday, my soul, set not thine affections upon these changing things, but set thine heart upon him. O my heart, build not thine house upon the sandy pillars of a world that soon must pass away, but build thy hopes upon this rock, which, when the rain descends, and floods shall come, shall stand immovably secure. O my soul, I charge thee, lay up thy treasure in this secure granary. O my heart, I bid thee now put thy treasure where thou canst never lose it. Put it in Christ; put all thine affections in his person, all thy hope in his glory, all thy trust in his blood, all thy joy in his presence, and then thou wilt have put thyself and put thine all where thou can never lose anything, because it is secure... My heart, I charge thee, trust all thy concerns with him who never can be taken from thee, who will never leave thee, and who will never let thee leave him, even "Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, and to-day, and forever."
One final comment, you may have noticed that I mentioned the years in which certain texts about God’s Immutability were written. This was on purpose. God’s immutability was true when Scripture was written – in fact it was true before the start of time, it was still true in the 1700’s, it was still true in 1858, it was still true in 1975, it was still true in 2004, and it is not only still true today, but it will be for all eternity yet to come.
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