What Does “Immutability of God” Mean?

Immutability of God

The concept of God’s immutability, his unchanging nature, resonates strongly throughout the pages of Scripture. A resounding declaration of this timeless truth is found in Malachi 3:6, where God unequivocally states, “I the Lord do not change” (see also Numbers 23:19; 1 Samuel 15:29; Isaiah 46:9-11; and Ezekiel 24:14).

James 1:17, too, reinforces the immutability of God, proclaiming, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness nor shadow of turning.” The imagery of “shadow of turning” conveys the movement of the sun from our perspective, casting shadows as it rises and sets. Yet, with God, the Father of lights, there is no such shifting. He is unchanging in His nature, perfections, purposes, promises, and gifts. His holiness precludes any turn toward evil, and, as the source of light, darkness finds no place in Him. The unchanging character of God is further emphasized in the assurance that every good and perfect gift originates from Him, ensuring that evil cannot emanate from His essence, nor does He tempt anyone to it (James 1:13). The Bible unequivocally asserts that God remains constant, unwavering in His mind, will, and nature.

The logical underpinnings of God’s immutability are profound. First, any change implies a chronological sequence, with a point in time before and after the change. Yet, God exists beyond the constraints of time, being eternal (Psalm 33:11; 41:13; 90:2-4; John 17:5; 2 Timothy 1:9).

Second, God’s perfection demands immutability. A change, by definition, is either for the better or the worse. For God to change for the better, something would need to be added, yet He, being perfect, lacks nothing. Conversely, a change for the worse would mean a loss, rendering God imperfect, which is inconceivable.

Third, God’s omniscience is intricately linked to His immutability. Unlike humans who may change their minds due to new information or altered circumstances, God, with complete knowledge, cannot learn something new. Instances in the Bible where God appears to change His mind, such as in Exodus 32:14 and 1 Samuel 15:11-29, are better understood as shifts in dispensation and outward dealings with humanity, not changes in God Himself.

Numbers 23:19 emphatically states, “God is not a man, that He should lie, nor a son of man, that He should change His mind. Does He speak and then not act? Does He promise and not fulfill?” These words resound with the resolute affirmation of God’s immutability: He remains unchanging and unchangeable.

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