Immutability: God Doesn’t Change
“Immutability—God Doesn’t Change” is the next installment in our monthly series of articles on theological words. We hope that this series will encourage Christians to grow in their walk with Christ and deepen their understanding of the theology found in the Bible.
As you might guess from the title, immutability is a biblical doctrine which means that God does not change. He is perfect in all His attributes and in His counsel (His plan throughout history; or His decreed will). God’s perfection means that He cannot become any better or any worse. He has no potential to become greater in any way. Therefore, we can be assured that our God is dependable and always faithful—the same yesterday, today, and forever.
A.W. Pink said:
God is immutable in His essence. His nature and being are infinite, and so, subject to no mutations. There never was a time when He was not; there never will come a time when He shall cease to be. God has neither evolved, grown, nor improved. All that He is today, He has ever been, and ever will be. “I am the Lord, I change not” (Mal. 3:6), is His own unqualified affirmation. (A. W. Pink’s Studies in the Scriptures, Volume 5 of 17 Vols – 1930-31 – Paperback Edition, Copyright © 2001, by Jay P. Green, Sr.)
We understand God’s unchangeableness from the Bible. Regarding His being or attributes, James 1:17 says, “Every good gift and perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.” We see that God cannot change, not even a shadow or hint of it is possible.
Regarding God’s counsel or His plan:
Numbers 23:19—“God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent: hath he said, and shall he not do it? or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good?”
Jeremiah 4:28—“For this shall the earth mourn, and the heavens above be black; because I have spoken it, I have purposed it, and will not repent, neither will I turn back from it.”
Answering a Couple Common Objections
Some people question the truth of the claim that God is immutable, saying that there are times when Scripture states that He changed His mind or repented in an action He took. One example is that God repented that He had made Saul the king of Israel (1 Samuel 15:11). This does not mean that God would go back and change His action or wishes that He had made a different plan. On the contrary, God does ordain certain things to come to pass that might bring Him sorrow because of man’s sin, however, they came about because of His perfect wisdom. Saul’s sin did not surprise God, in His omniscience. He chose to make it part of His perfect plan. God’s repentance is not like man’s repentance. He does not sin and He does not regret actions the same way we do. His actions and plan all come from perfection, omniscience, and omnipotence.
We also see times when it seems like God changed His mind, like when He added fifteen years to King Hezekiah’s life (2 Kings 20), or when God relents from destroying Nineveh after Jonah’s warning (Jonah 3:10). But, these instances point to God’s plan and actions in a way that relates to man’s way of thinking.
John MacArthur adds:
From a human perspective, of course, God sometimes appears to change His plans or His actions based on what people do. But this is not so from God’s viewpoint. Because He knows and always has known the future perfectly, having planned it according to His unalterable decree, He always acts in the way that He planned to act from eternity past. While men do not know how God will act and are sometimes astonished as they see His sovereign plans unfold, God is never surprised. He continues to work as He always has, according to His eternal purpose and good pleasure (cf. Ps. 33:10-12; Isa. 48:14; Dan. 4:35; Col. 1:19-20). (MacArthur, John, “Divine Immutability and the Doctrines of Grace (pt. 1),” posted May 4, 2009. Ligonier Ministries. https://www.ligonier.org/blog/divine-immutability-and-the-doctrines-of-grace-pt-1.)
What about the fact that God the Son became a human being? Isn’t that a change in God’s essence or attributes in some way? The answer to this is simple, no. When Jesus Christ became incarnated, His deity was not affected. For there to have been a change would mean either that Jesus Christ, the second person in the Holy Trinity, would have ceased to be God (which is impossible), or He would have had to become some sort of mix of human and deity (also impossible). But, we know that Christ is 100 percent God and 100 percent man at the same time. He is one person with two natures (Hebrews 1:8, Romans 9:5, John 1:14, Philippians 2:7). Jesus taking on flesh did not change His deity in the least and thus His immutability stands.
So How Does this Relate to Me?
The doctrine of immutability is a precious doctrine because it reminds us of the Rock that we have in our God (Deuteronomy 32:4). We, as humans, are always changing. We are not dependable. We let each other down every day. Our heroes rise and fall. We constantly change our minds. We get old, we get tired, and eventually, we die.
But God is a fortress (Psalm 18:2), and His counsel stands forever (Psalm 33:11). He neither slumbers nor sleeps (Psalm 121:4) and we know that we can rest in His shelter. He will satisfy those who love Him (Psalm 91).
We know that God will always keep His promises and that He will be the same today as He has always been in the past. He will be the same tomorrow and forever!
This should affect our hearts, causing us to rise up and praise Him for who He is and all that He has done.