We live in a world of constant change; even the atoms that form the building blocks of all matter are in constant motion. According to the psalmist, we are like the grass or “a flower of the field; the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more” (Ps. 103:16). But God is different. In the words of Irenaeus, God is “ever the same, equal and unalterable.”
Theologians sometimes describe this attribute of God as immutability. God is immutable with respect to His essence, being, and knowledge. He is the great I AM who “does not change like shifting shadows” (Ex. 3:14; James 1:17). Jesus shares this attribute. He is “the same yesterday and today and forever” (Heb. 13:8). At the incarnation Jesus Christ took to Himself a human nature that He did not previously possess. He “became flesh and made his dwelling among us” (John 1:14). Yet His divine nature, which already existed from eternity past, remained the same. The Spirit likewise shares this eternal and unchangeable nature (Heb. 9:14).
God does not need to gather additional information or deal with unforeseen circumstances. He does not alter His ultimate purposes as a result of our behavior. God’s perfect knowledge and power enable Him to incorporate the independent and contingent acts of all He has created into His plan. This includes the actions of those who do evil. While we are morally accountable for what we do, our actions will ultimately accomplish only what God has decided beforehand should happen (Acts 4:28).
Immutable does not mean detached or indifferent. The unchangeable God is also “the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort” (2 Cor. 1:3). God is affected by our circumstances; He is aware of our plight and responsive to our cry. The unchangeable God is also engaged with His creation. Passages that speak of God “relenting” employ figurative language to describe how people’s relationship with God or treatment at His hands changed. But these instances do not reflect a change in God Himself but rather the unfolding of His plan (Gen. 6:6; Ex. 32:14; 1 Sam. 15:35).
When we place our faith in Jesus Christ, the kind of relationship we have with God changes. God rescues us from the dominion of darkness and brings us into the kingdom of His Son. But God’s nature and character never change. Because He does not change, God will always keep His promises. He will never fail us or forsake us.
FOR FURTHER STUDY
To learn more about the immutability of God, read The Attributes of God: Volume 2 by A.W. Tozer (Wingspread).