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THEOLOGY > God > God's Essence > God is Constant         


God is constant. He does not change: He does not grow; He does not evolve; and He does not develop—He is immutable (Num. 23:19; I Sam. 15:29; Ps. 33:11; 90:2; 93:2; 102:24-27; Prov. 19:21; Isa. 14:24; 44:6; 46:9-10; 54:10; Mal. 3:6; Rom. 11:29; Heb. 1:10-12; 6:17; 13:8; Jam. 1:17; Jude 25; Rev. 1:8).

All His perfections are without variation, without addition or subtraction and without progression or mutation. He does not increase nor decrease in strength and wisdom. His glory does not fade nor become more glorious; His righteousness and truth are not supplemented nor diminished. His knowledge does not expand, and His decrees do not change. His promises are steadfast, and His word remains unadjusted for all eternity.

The song writer wrote:
“We blossom and flourish as leaves on the tree,
and wither and perish—
but nought changeth Thee.”

The very name of God, “I Am,” denotes His constancy; God is what He has always been, and what He is is what He will always be. Succinctly the psalmist states: “You are the same” (102:27). Constant is God in His essence, the One with whom “there is no variation or shadow of turning” (Ja. 1:17). He unchangeably is fixed in His being.

A dilemma for many with regard to the divine constancy is the fact that the Scriptures speak of God as changing His mind or repenting of some action (Gen. 6:6; Ex. 32:12, 14; I Sam 15:11; II Sam. 24:16; Jer. 18:8; Joel 2:13; Amos 7:3, 6; Jonah 3:4, 10). Several explanations have been offered.

One, the passages are to be understood as anthropopathisms—actions and emotions of God spoken of in human categories. For example, the anger of God (Ps. 78:58) is really a statement of God’s abiding opposition to sin; it is not an indication of God’s changing emotions because of sin. Though the Bible states that God “awoke” (Ps. 78:65), we know that He does not literally sleep; such language condescends to our level of comprehension and teaches us that God can and does intervene whenever He pleases.

Two, apparent changes in God are to be understood as actually additional insight into God’s original purpose, which is revealed to man progressively, part by part, bit by bit, stage by stage. From man’s viewpoint there may not be continuity, but from God’s perspective there is consistency relative to His nature and purpose. “The eternal and immutable God reveals Himself in time, and . . . what is thus revealed to us in a succession of moments is eternally and unchangeably in the mind of God” (Hoeksema, RD, 76).

Three, apparent changes in God are to be understood in light of actual changes in man; it is not God that changes, but man that changes. For example, Jonah proclaimed the destruction by God of Nineveh in forty days; the city repented, and then God repented (Jon. 3:4-10). Was God’s statement through Jonah a veiled warning or a pronouncement? Did God originally intend to destroy Nineveh or was the announcement of destruction actually intended to bring repentance to Nineveh? Who really changed—God or Nineveh? Dagg wrote: “In accommodation to our modes of speaking, God is said to repent when he effects such a change in his work as would, in human actions, proceed from repentance” (M of T, 65). However one understands God’s repentance, His repentance surely cannot be said to be the result of a consciousness of wrong doing, nor the reversal of His eternal purpose.

Four, the verses indicate that God’s response is according to the situation; He reacts or responds in different ways to different situations. As illustrated by Nineveh God’s judgment was certain before their repentance. But when repentance entered the situation, God’s position was no longer one of opposition to their sin but one of forgiveness of their sin. God’s attitude/action toward sin is judgment, whereas God’s attitude/action toward the repentant is one of acceptance. God never changed; the situation on earth changed, which seemed to bring about a change in God’s position and response.

In the constancy of the Divine Essence is found the reason for the constancy of God’s purpose. Because God is constant, His will is constant, for His will is the same as His essence. If His will changes then His essence changes, and God is not God. But God does not change in any facet of His being (Mal. 3:6). God is eternally consistent, or constant, in relationship to His nature; He proclaims: “I am YHWH, I do not change” (Mal. 3:6). Concerning His purpose He avows: “My counsel shall stand” (Isa. 46:10); and “Surely, as I have thought, so it shall come to pass, and as I have purposed so it shall stand” (Isa. 14:24). Of His plan Balaam speaks: “God is not a man, that He should lie, nor a son of man, that he should repent. Has He said, and will He not do? Or has He spoken and will not make it good?” (Num. 23:19); Samuel voices the same sentiments: “And also the Strength of Israel will not lie or relent. For He is not a man, that he should relent” (I Sam. 15:29).

What God speaks will come to pass, and it will not change because God Himself will not change. The plan of eternity becomes reality in time. What He wills in time was His will before time. And what He wills comes to pass because of who the One is who wills. “There are many plans in a man’s heart, nevertheless YHWH’s counsel—that will stand” (Prov. 19:21). Time is merely the unfolding of God’s will, and what was willed in eternity is what takes place in history. What God wills is what is, for constant is His will because He is constant.  The immutability of God does not imply that God is inactive, rather, it affirms that His actions are consistent with His nature and with His eternal purpose.

Unchangeableness is true of God. His essence is unchanged and His actions, which are consistent with His essence, are unchanged. Change is true of that which is created, but not of the Creator. God’s constancy, His immutability, stands over against the modern concept of process theology, where “change” is the key motif in this aberration of Biblical teaching; everything is in flux, in process, in evolution—even God!

The world is developing, and along with a developing world is a developing God; both are in process. According to this recent innovation, which is based upon the philosophy of Alfred North Whitehead, God is dipolar. God has a primordial or transcendent nature, which is constant; and God has a consequent or immanent nature, which is involved in the processes of the universe (Hartshorne called the primordial pole the abstract nature and the consequent pole the concrete nature). God is independent and dependent, independent in His transcendent nature and dependent in His consequent nature. Part of God is constant, and part of God is changing. The change comes from God’s involvement in the processes of the universe. For example, His existence is not impacted by the activity of man; but the activity of man does condition God’s responses to man’s activity. As man develops God develops, and His development arises from His involvement with creation. Such considerations cannot be reconciled with the cogent teaching of Malachi 3:6, Numbers 23:19, and Romans 11:29.

God’s constancy or immutability is in stark contrast to God’s creation which is characterized by flux and decay. The heavens and earth, which are the work of God’s hands, will perish, but God will remain. The psalmist avows: “They will all grow old like a garment . . . but You are the same, and Your years will have no end” (102:26-27).

Man himself wavers, indecisive, fluctuating. Enticed by evil and challenged by good, man embraces first one and then the other; he is torn between God and Baal. As fashions change so does man. Promises are made only to be broken. What is wrong today is deemed acceptable tomorrow. A new thing is always better than an old thing, and man quickly rejects the old and practices the new. Decisions made today are reversed tomorrow. To change is human. But above the processes of creation and the advancement of time is the unchanging God. There is an Absolute!

God’s constancy should be a terror to the wicked, those who oppose Him, break His laws, live without any thought of Him, and who seek, not His glory but their own. His standards do not change; His holiness does not change; His anger against evil doers does not change; and His judgment of sinners does not change. God’s day of reckoning may seem slow in coming, but it will surely come. “He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained” (Acts 17:31). The Day of Judgment is certain for the Judge and His purpose is constant. Because God is immutable this day will not be canceled, and “it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Heb. 10:31). Should not the unrighteous feel threatened?

Comforting and sustaining to the believer is God’s constancy. Man is not reliable but God is unchanging in regards to Himself and His Word. Fickleness and betrayal characterize human nature, but stability and faithfulness are true of our God. The prophet asserted that God’s love never ceases and that His faithfulness is great (Lam. 3:23).

Out of the tragedy and distress of the present there arises a hope for something better, and this makes possible the endurance of the moment. The assurance of this hope is anchored in the God who does not change (Ja. 1:17), who makes a promise to His people and who will remain capable and determined to bring the promise to pass. Whatever the present, the future is secure because God is constant.

For I am YHWH,
I do not change.
Mal. 3:6

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