We continue in our 6th sermon in the series of the attributes of God. We took a brief pause to look at a couple of sermons on the book of James before other ministers took over the series and so we continue on with what I feel is a VERY important series but also a very difficult one. This is a time of lent as I write this. Lent to Christians, not just Catholics is about penance, sacrifice, abstinence, fasting, alms giving, purification, and deep spiritual devotion and reflection demonstrated by increased prayer, focus on God, increased church attendance, and association with Christ through self-imposed restrictions. Today we are looking at the immutability of God. In other words, the changeless and immovable nature God. In effect this is God’s PRIME attribute because of all of His others stems from this one. God is essentially according to one of the Anglican cardinals of faith “a spirit, whose being, wisdom power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth are infinite, eternal, and unchangeable.” When I was a child I loved and still do, learning about sharks. One I’m particularly interested-the great white shark. I remember watching “Jaws” as a child with my father, truly I remember doing many things with my father and in that time it was not only as father and son but also a chance for a father to teach his son about the world around him, and this was no different. I remember sitting on the couch and we were watching Jaws, and I was not frightened in the traditional sense; it was more so a fear in the same way I fear the sun or God; it is a fear of something that is greater than me, something that I should respect. As I watched in awe,
I asked about what ancient sharks looked like and was surprised to find out that the great white is in fact perfect. It has had no need to evolve. It has had no need to evolve. I stand in awe as well but in a VERY different way when it comes to an immutable God. God is infinite, and as an infinite God cannot be ever changing. I don’t struggle personally with the concept of God never ending but I do struggle with the concept of a being that never began and has not changed. It is not because I don’t believe that He is immutable but it is the fact that my pathetic human brain cannot handle it. There are dozens of Bible verses that support this attribute of God, some of them are listed: Num. 23:19; 1 Sam. 15:29; Ps. 102:26; Mal. 3:6; 2 Tim. 2:13; Heb. 6:17–18; Jam. 1:17. There is one text that stands out to me as evidence of God’s immutability, “He who is the Glory of Israel does not lie or change his mind; for he is not a human being, that he should change his mind.” 1 SAM 15:29. But the traditional view of God’s immutability is characterised with the following precepts:
1) God is unchanging; He is not affected by anything or is swayed in any way, shape, form, or prayers.
2) God is without emotion and is not reliant upon an outside force to change His mood.
3) He needs nothings, desires nothing, and His immutable nature is connected to all other parts of His nature.
4) Nothing we could do could ever sways Him or makes Him take notice of us because that would imply that He was not aware of us before.
But there is another side of the coin, which is called the more open view of God’s immutability; or for lack of a better term a “mutable” God. This is a God who is swayed by our emotions, a God who feels anger and compassion and can be swayed by our prayers and our offerings can gain His favour. But wait this does not sound right either? This is a view that God sent Christ down as a permanent solution to a problem God did not see coming (the fall of man). I’m confused because I know the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is not an unfeeling entity who does not even know or care about me. Even more in the Bible than God’s immutability is mentioned about God’s love. At the same time though I do not worship a God who can be swayed and overwhelmed by the needs of the world that He did not see. So which body of thought actually represents the true nature of God? It is the first, God IS an immutable God! The issue lies in how we view Him, understand scriptures, and ponder on His nature. So we will be looking at how these two conflicting views focus to one. God is unchanging, in Malachi He tells Israel that because God is unchanging and remembers His covenant promises they have not been destroyed.
See brothers and sisters we have been defining God as an immutable God by our philosophical definitions. In fact the very concept of an immutable deity was first presented by Plato and Pliny. We need to understand God’s immutability in the terms of the Holy Bible. And so according to the Bible what are God’s immutable characteristics:
- God cannot change His actions. Numbers 23:19 – “God is not a man, that He should lie, nor a son of man, that He should repent.” God does not break His promises; but it does not mean God is inflexible. God has never once been this inflexible rule breaker but at the same time He was never been a reactive God always trying to think up different behaviour strategies to correct our sin like some cosmic head master.
- God does not change in His nature. Psalms 102:26 – “They shall perish, but thou shalt endure; yea, all of them shall wax old like a garment; as vesture shalt thou change them, and they shall be changed.” He was and is and is to come. God does not age, or grow, or evolve in knowledge or physical nature. He does not exist in our time but does not exist of it; he occupies all things in all ways and as such all things have come from Him He does not need to change because if He did it would not make Him God and then our faith would not matter anyways.
- God’s third immutable characteristic is that He does change in His reaction to sin. Christ was always meant to come down. Adam and Eve were always going to sin. It seems to us that God reacts to us and puts plans into place. This is not the case, when God comes to Noah and says oh I am going to wipe out the world and start clean; this wasn’t a recent thing but rather a plan set out that when it came time in human standards to execute this plan He did. In Genesis 18 Abraham pleads with God for the lives of the people in Sodom and Gomorrah begging to begin with 50 people will save the city then it eventually whittles down to 10. This is not Abraham convincing or moving God to change His plans but it is in fact a chance for God to demonstrate that He has mercy on the wicked city on earth; and this is carried over to a wicked generation and Christ’s salvations, that generation is us.
How is Christ a demonstration of God’s immutability? People would say that Christ is proof that either God is either mutable or Christ is not the essence of God in flesh. However like with all of God’s attributes and His nature at times it seems contradictory to us but with all His attributes what we may view as contradictory they are in perfect harmony. It is called a hypostatic union; “In the beginning was the word and the word was with God and the word was God… 14 and the word became flesh and dwelt among us…” (John 1:1, 14). Both natures co-exist separately but temporarily in perfect harmony, adding flesh to a divine nature does not change the already divine nature. Jesus was not a god-man; like a demi god from Greek mythology; these two natures are in communication with one another and both natures are connected to the single person; this is called “communication idiomatum” which means that both natures are in perfect communion in the being of Christ. In John it says; “and now, glorify Thou Me together with Thyself, Father, with the glory which I had with Thee before the world was.” Paul says that in Him all the deity dwells in bodily form.
Theology is good and it is important but what good is knowledge if we do not do something with it. What applications can we take to live in fullness in Christ for all time?
- We can live knowing that the expectations of God for us have been the same, are the same, and will be the same. As a teacher I can tell you that students respond the best when a teacher is consistent in their behaviour and learning expectations for them.
- God’s emotions do not change; God loves us now; He always did, and always will. When a person is lost to hell God does not stop loving them, and He will love and lament their choice for all time.
- The promises we have in Christ written in the Bible are complete! There is no hidden book or secret code that will throw us for a loop.
These topics are very deep and difficult and as you read this I pray you feel almost like it’s a pilgrimage; particularly since it is the time of lent and coming of Easter. God bless.