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

Don Stewart :: What Should We Conclude about Passages That Seem to Say That God Has Changed His Mind?

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What Should We Conclude about Passages That Seem to Say That God Has Changed His Mind?

Does God Know Everything? – Question 29

If we accept the fact that God is perfection, and that He cannot change, then how do we account for certain parts of the Bible that seem to indicate that God changed His mind? What are we to make of such passages?

In addition, why does the Bible speak of God regretting that He did something? As we have noted, there are several instances in the Scripture where God seems to relent, or change His mind, about something that He was going to do as well as passages that speak of God having regrets. How shall we view these parts of Scripture?

We can make the following observations about this important subject.

We Know That God Does Not Change

To begin with, we know that God does not change in His character or His promises. This is what He says about Himself. This is clear from Scripture. In fact, all Christians believe this to be true.

How Do We Explain The Passages?

If God does not change, then how do we understand these passages that seem to teach that God does change in certain ways? How can they be consistent with the idea of a changeless God? There are three things which we must note.

The Change Was with Humanity

We see in each of these instances when God “changed His mind” that a prayer of repentance is what altered the outcome of the situation. The change was not with God, but with humanity. When the conduct of human beings changed towards God, the conduct of God appeared to change toward humankind. Yet, God was consistent in His behavior all along.

For example, in the case of Hezekiah, God answered his prayer and extended his life for fifteen years. Again, the change was for the benefit of humanity, not for their detriment.

The Change Is Always God Stopping Punishment

When Scripture tells us about God changing His mind of what He said He would do, each instance is in regard to punishment, or in the case of Hezekiah, death. It is never a case of God promising to do something good, and then changing His mind and judging the people. His promises to His people will not be broken.

The Bible says,

...for God’s gifts and his call are irrevocable. (Romans 11:29 NIV)

God never breaks His promises. There is not one example in Scripture of God doing so. Indeed, there never will be.

Sorry Has the Idea of Being Grieved Rather than Having Regrets

There is something else that has to be considered. When the Bible says God was “sorry,” it has the idea of being grieved. It does not have the idea of regret in the same way that humans regret.

God cannot have regrets in the same way which we regret because He knows everything that has happened as well as everything which will happen. Thus, He cannot regret any decision.

In sum, when we look at these passages which seem to say that God has changed His mind, or that He had regrets about past decisions, we should not understand these statements as if humans had made them. God is not a human being. Statements about His nature and His actions do not have a direct correspondence to how we think and feel.

Indeed, these statements are for our benefit. They give us a better idea of His character by comparing them to things with which we can relate. However, the comparison is never exactly the same. We always need to keep this in mind. Otherwise we are going to run into a number of problems.

Summary – Question 29
What Should We Conclude about Passages That Seem to Say That God Has Changed His Mind?

There are several passages in the Bible where is it says that God repented, or changed His mind, as well as regretting certain things which took place. To many, this indicates that God can have second thoughts, and can change His plan if necessary.

While there are a number of passages which seem to teach that God actually changes His mind in certain instances this is not the case at all. In fact, the Bible assures us that God will not change his mind. Furthermore, He has no regrets, no second thoughts.

When dealing with these passages there are three things which we must keep in mind.

First, any seeming change in God’s dealings is from humanity’s point of view, not God’s. It is from our perspective that God changes. Indeed, Scripture gives us a number of direct statements which say that God never changes. Thus, we should not assume that the change has been with Him. It has not.

Second, every time God is said to have changed His mind it was in favor of humanity rather than against. We never find God going back on any promise He made to the people to bless them or be with them. He always keeps those promises.

Third, there is also the possibility that the word translated “repent” has more the idea of being grieved or sorry. If this is the correct translation then there is no issue here with respect to God’s dealings with humanity.

The biblical writers are not trying to tell us that God changed His mind or regretted what He had previously done; rather they are attributing emotions to God which express how He looks at the particular situation.

Therefore, we conclude that the God of the Bible does not change His mind. He does not ever do this.

In His Prayer in Gethsemane, Did Jesus Believe It Was Possible to Bypass the Cross? ← Prior Section
Does God Dwell in Time? Next Section →
CONTENT DISCLAIMER:

The Blue Letter Bible ministry and the BLB Institute hold to the historical, conservative Christian faith, which includes a firm belief in the inerrancy of Scripture. Since the text and audio content provided by BLB represent a range of evangelical traditions, all of the ideas and principles conveyed in the resource materials are not necessarily affirmed, in total, by this ministry.


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