November 7th 2010

Does God Change?

“For I the Lord do not change. Therefore you, O children of Jacob, have not perished.
Malachi 3:6 (NIV)

Some Christians believe that God never changes in any way about anything whatsoever. But that’s not true.

When we human beings try to describe God, the only tools we have are our human languages, with words that describe things we already know. We have no choice, we must use analogies and comparisons with created things, things we already know about through our five senses. But we need to remember that God is never exactly like anything to which we can compare him.

The pronoun ‘he’ in reference to God is only an analogy. It’s a mistake to think that God is actually male or female. Even the term ‘Father’ can be misunderstood. ‘Father’ refers to the relationship between the Father and the Son (John 1:14, 18, 34). The term also refers to the relationship between the Father and creation (Ephesians 3:14-15). But it’s only an analogy. It doesn’t mean that the Father is just like human fathers. It means that there are certain ways in which the Father is somewhat like an ideal human father.

So what about the question of whether God can change?

God—Father, Son and Spirit—is source and cause of all being and existence. He brings everything into being without anything bringing him into being. He is pure Being, and all other being finds its source only in him. All things depend on God for their existence, and he depends on nothing for his existence. So when we say God is “unchangeable” or “immutable”, we don’t mean that God cannot change as he, in his divine freedom, chooses to change. What we do mean is that God cannot be changed by anything outside himself, as though he were a created being.

When God created the universe, he freely in grace and love became something new—Creator—and he did so in the freedom of his grace and love. Likewise, when the Son became flesh in the Incarnation, God became something new—human like us and for our sakes. God did not have to create, nor did he have to become flesh, but he did so in his divine freedom out of the abundance of his grace and love.

But there is an all-important way in which God never changes! (See above). This and other passages about God’s unchangeableness are declarations of God’s absolute faithfulness to his covenant promise. In other words, God declares that despite all our trials of faith and doubt, he will never change his mind about loving us and saving us.

So, when we say that God is “immutable” (which means unchangeable) and “impassible” (incapable of feeling), we don’t mean that God cannot change or feel. Rather God cannot be changed, or moved, or hurt against his will by anything outside himself. But in his divine freedom as God, he can, and does, of himself and for his own loving purposes, both change and feel. The bottom line is that God loves you and God is for you, and he will never give up on you. 

Heavenly Father, thank you that you don’t change in your love and feelings towards us. As we live our Christian lives help us to make this more of a reality in our minds day by day to motivate us to seek to be more like you. In Jesus’ name we pray.

Study by Joseph Tkach 

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