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Study Resources :: Text Commentaries :: Don Stewart :: Does God Know Everything?

Don Stewart :: Can Anything about God Change?

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Can Anything about God Change? (Immutability)

Does God Know Everything? – Question 22

The traditional view of the God of the Bible is that He is changeless in His character as well as His actions. He always remains the same. However, there are many people today who contend that the God of the Bible can change. They insist that He does not remain the same but rather He reacts and interacts with humanity. Since He does not know exactly what is going to occur in the future His knowledge changes as well as His actions. In other words, He reacts to the changing circumstances.

Is it possible that God can change in any manner? Does He react and change as the circumstances change? The Bible has much to say on this matter. Therefore, it is important to look at what Scripture says about all aspects of God’s character with respect to change.

1. There Is No Change in God

To begin with, the Bible makes it clear that God cannot change. When one changes, they usually change for better or worse. Since God is absolute perfection no change for the better is possible since you cannot improve upon perfection. He does not develop, or grow. His knowledge does not increase since He already knows everything which is possible for Him to know.

The same holds true for changing for the worst. He does not deteriorate. He cannot forget what he already knows. Furthermore, He cannot change in any of His characteristics or attributes. Consequently, there is no inconsistency in Him.

Thus, as we search the Scripture it makes it clear that God does not change in His character, purpose, His fairness toward humankind, or in His promises. The technical term for this is immutability. He always remains the same. We can make the following observations.

2. God’s Basic Character Is Unchanged

The Bible speaks often of His changeless character. For example, we read the following in the writings of the prophet Isaiah.

Have you not known? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. (Isaiah 40:28 NRSV)

He does not grow faint or weary. Indeed, He cannot. Furthermore, His understanding of things is beyond our comprehension.

The psalmist wrote about the continuing love of the Lord for those who fear or trust Him. He called it the “steadfast” love.

But the steadfast love of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting upon those who fear him, and his righteousness to children’s children (Psalm 103:17 RSV).

The love of God remains the same for His people.

In addition, the Bible insists that the basic character of God is not subject to change. The psalmist said of God,

But you are always the same; your years never end. (Psalm 102:27 NLT)

This promise, in this context, is with respect to the guarantee of Israel’s preservation. He won’t change; therefore, His promises won’t change.

In the Book of Malachi, God Himself declares that He is unchangeable.

For I am the Lord, I do not change. (Malachi 3:6a NKJV)

In the context of Malachi, God is also guaranteeing the preservation of the nation Israel. Because He does not change, His promises will be kept.

3. There Is Not Change in the Character of the Members of the Trinity

God, by nature, is a Trinity consisting of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. He has always been a Trinity, and He always will be. His basic nature will remain forever the same. This means God the Son and God the Holy Spirit do not change.

For example, in the New Testament we find that James wrote about the unchanging nature of God the Father.

Every generous act of giving, with every perfect gift, is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. (James 1:17 NRSV)

The Father does not change in His nature. There is no variation in Him.

The same holds true for God the Son. The Bible says that the character or nature of Jesus Christ, God the Son is unchangeable. In speaking of the Son, the writer to the Hebrews said,

Even they will perish, but you remain forever. They will wear out like old clothing. You will roll them up like an old coat. They will fade away like old clothing. But you are always the same; you will never grow old. (Hebrews 1:11-12 NLT)

Clothing grows old and wears out. God the Son, Jesus Christ, does not. He will never grow old; His character will never change with the years.

The writer to the Hebrews stated this same truth about Jesus later in his letter.

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. (Hebrews 13:8 HCSB)

This is a comforting thought. The perfect character of Jesus will remain perfect for all eternity.

God Will Always Be Fair

Because God’s nature does not change, His character always remains the same. For one thing, this means He has been and always will be completely righteous. Consequently, His dealings with humankind are always right or just. He is never unfair.

The Apostle Paul spoke of God and His consistent fairness toward humanity. The Book of Acts records him saying the following.

“For he has set a day for judging the world with justice by the man he has appointed, and he proved to everyone who this is by raising him from the dead.” (Acts 17:31 NLT)

God will one day judge the world “with justice.” Indeed, He will judge humankind based upon the standard that He has set down. God will not change those standards. His judgment will be fair.

God’s Purpose Does Not Change

There is something else about God which does not change. This is His purpose or plan. The writer to the Hebrews gave this comforting thought to his readers about the plan and purpose of God.

God also bound himself with an oath, so that those who received the promise could be perfectly sure that he would never change his mind. (Hebrews 6:17 NLT)

When God plans something, it is carried out. He does not change His mind about what He has purposed. Therefore, when He tells us of His plan we can rest assured that He will not modify it or change it in any way.

Indeed, the Apostle Paul wrote that God had a plan for Isaac before he was even born. He said the following to the church at Rome.

This son was our ancestor Isaac. When he grew up, he married Rebekah, who gave birth to twins. But before they were born, before they had done anything good or bad, she received a message from God. (This message proves that God chooses according to his own plan...) (Romans 9:10, 11 NLT)

God’s plans and purposes have been unchangeable for all eternity.

In the Book of Job, we read that God does exactly as He pleases.

“But he stands alone, and who can oppose him? He does whatever he pleases.” (Job 23:13 NIV)

Again, His plans and purposes are not able to be altered by any one or any particular thing. They will come to pass.

Likewise, the psalmist declared that the purposes of God are firm; they do not change. He put it this way.

But the plans of the LORD stand firm forever, the purposes of his heart through all generations. (Psalm 33:11 NIV)

The plans are firm, they are set. Change is impossible.

Isaiah the prophet also records the Lord saying that His purposes will stand.

“I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say: My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please.” (Isaiah 46:10 NIV)

God will not alter His purpose for any particular thing or any person.

Therefore, it is abundantly clear from a study of Scripture that when God plans or purposes something that plan will come to pass exactly as stated. Change of plans is not something the God of the Bible does.

His Promises Do Not Change

The Bible also testifies that God does not change in His promises. Once He has made a promise He keeps that promise. The Lord spoke the following truth through the Old Testament prophet Balaam who made this statement about God.

“God is not a human being, that he should lie, or a mortal, that he should change his mind. Has he promised, and will he not do it? Has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?” (Numbers 23:19 NRSV)

What a tremendous comfort these words are! The unchanging God will come through with everything which He has promised to His people.

In First Samuel, we read that the God of the Bible is unlike humans in that He does not change His mind.

“And he who is the Glory of Israel will not lie, nor will he change his mind, for he is not human that he should change his mind!” (1 Samuel 15:29 NLT)

He is not like humans in that respect. He will not go back on His promise.

Paul wrote to the church at Rome that God has given certain gifts and callings that cannot be revoked. He put it this way.

For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. (Romans 11:29 ESV)

Again, we find this to be a comforting truth.

The Bible emphasizes that God is faithful to the promises that He has made to humankind. The prophet Jeremiah said,

The unfailing love of the LORD never ends! By his mercies we have been kept from complete destruction. Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each day. (Lamentations 3:22, 23 NLT)

Great indeed is His faithfulness!

The New Testament also says that God will not deny His promises. Paul made this clear to Timothy when he wrote,

If we are faithless, He remains faithful; He cannot deny Himself. (2 Timothy 2:13 NKJV)

While we are unfaithful, He is faithful to that which He has promised.

God has the power to follow through with His unchangeable promises. We read about the following promise that God made to Abraham.

No distrust made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. (Romans 4:20, 21 ESV)

Abraham could rest in God’s promises, because he knew the Lord always kept His Word.

4. Some Promises of God Are Conditional

When God promises something to us He will complete His promise. This is a fact. However, some of the promises God has made to humankind are conditional, based upon humanity’s response. The prophet Jeremiah records God saying,

“If at any time I announce that a nation or kingdom is to be uprooted, torn down and destroyed, and if that nation I warned repents of its evil, then I will relent and not inflict on it the disaster I had planned. And if at another time I announce that a nation or kingdom is to be built up and planted, and if it does evil in my sight and does not obey me, then I will reconsider the good I had intended to do for it.” (Jeremiah 18:7-10 NIV)

This particular promise is based upon the obedience, or disobedience, of the people. God, however, knows what they would do since He has knowledge of all events whether it is be past, present, or future.

Though God Does Not Change He Is Not Inactive

There is something else that needs to be emphasized. When we say God does not change we do not mean that He is a static, impersonal being or is without passions or emotion. Indeed, the God of the Bible dynamically interacts with His creation.

Although God does not develop, or grow, He is not inactive. To the contrary, He is actively involved with humanity. Jesus made this clear when He said the following to the religious leaders.

But Jesus answered them, “My Father has been working until now, and I have been working.” (John 5:17 NKJV)

Although God’s actions and dealings with humanity may vary or change, He does not change. In His essential being He is always the same. Human beings can change, God cannot.

Thus, the idea that God changes with the circumstances is not a biblical idea. When He lovingly interacts with His people it is not based upon the changing circumstances with which He was previously unaware. He knows ahead of time what will occur. Nothing ever takes Him by surprise.

Summary – Question 22
Can Anything about God Change? (Immutability)

There are Bible-believing Christians who insist that change is possible with God. Since they think that God does not know what will happen in the future He must, of necessity, change with the changing circumstances. Is this what the Bible teaches us about God?

It is not. The Bible says that God will never change. This includes His future plans as well as His dealings with humanity. They are not revised or altered based upon changing circumstances.

Indeed, there are a number of specific ways in which the Bible says that the God of Scripture will remain the same.

First, there is His basic character. Nothing about it will ever change. He will not become more loving or less loving, more holy or less holy. His character will remain constant. In point of fact, He is perfection and perfection cannot be improved upon.

Next are His purposes, they will remain constant. His plan and purposes are once and for all set. Consequently, there is no power in the universe which can change them. When the God of the Bible plans something, it will come about. This is a fact.

His promises to the human race will not change either. When He gives His Word He keeps His Word. He is unlike human beings who change their mind or go back on their promises. God never does this. Indeed, it is not possible for Him to do this. God always keeps His Word. This is a comforting thought for believers.

While the God of the Bible does not change, some of the promises which He has made to humankind are conditional. They are based upon how we respond. While we do not know what the outcome will be God certainly does.

Therefore, though the promises are based upon our behavior the Lord knows exactly how we will behave.

Though God does not change in His character this does not mean that He is inactive. To the contrary, the Bible portrays God as being actively involved in the lives of humanity. He is a God who cares and who does get involved. In fact, from the first page of the Bible until the last we find God involved with His people. He is truly a God of action.

In sum, God does not change or alter His plans because of the behavior of humans as some have claimed. Nothing takes Him by surprise so He does not have to react to changing circumstances. While we do not know what is going to occur, the God of the Bible, the God of knowledge, does know.

Therefore, we should never use the word “react” when describing God. He does not react to us in the same sense as we react to others. Indeed, He does not have to react because He knows exactly what will occur.

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