Do You Remember When?
Have you ever been that person? The one flip-flopping back and forth over something unable to make a decision. They perilously cannot make the painstaking choice between chocolate or vanilla ice cream so they wind up with two puddles instead! Or, then again, maybe they assert their passionate desire for strawberry ice cream, only to change their mind deciding upon chocolate after the ice cream was dipped in the bowl. Such a person of indecisiveness and change can be humorous to watch in the example of sweet treats, but it can be a disastrous habit in life for them in the grand scheme of life.
We have also seen the individual who pulls out of commitments because they constantly change their mind. They tell you that they will undertake an event, but then a better offer comes along and so they back out. It is not a legitimate reason, only a change of mind based upon whimsical desires. You can never trust the word of these individuals because they may or may not keep up since they have no loyalty to their commitments but continually flip-flop. Apparently, many evangelicals today believe God is in a state of change to one degree or another. Ligonier Ministries and Lifeway Research released their survey entitled The State of Theology where they dive into the beliefs held amongst American adults and evangelicals. Roughly 48% of American evangelicals believe God learns and adapts to circumstances meaning that he does change.1 The survey summarizes this result in the following manner:
“Despite the clear teaching of Scripture, this year’s survey reveals that approximately half of evangelicals believe that God learns and adapts to various situations, meaning that they believe that God does change.”2
It is deeply concerning on multiple levels that evangelicals to this proportion believe God changes. We need to clarify this truth biblically and discuss a couple of key points as to why it is important for us to understand!
One of the clearest statements of Scripture testifying to the reality that there is not even the slightest change in God is found in James 1:17:
“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.” -James 1:17
It is incredible that this verse states not even the slightest shadow of change is in God. I can sit at my desk beginning to raise my hand only so subtly and yet there is a shadow that is cast below the lamp. Even the slightest twitch of my fingers gliding across the keyboard results in small castings of darkness moving due to change. Yet, in God, no trace of even an almost indiscernible shadow or variation can be found. He is eternally unchanging and glorious. Perhaps you think I might be proof-texting one verse out of context to show the fallacious belief of God changing? Well, my friend, then let us examine Hebrews 13:8 which says:
“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” -Hebrews 13:8
Now, this is where theological precision is necessary. Certainly, Christ’s humanity went through many different periods of change. He grew from a baby to a man and even died on the cross. However, in terms of His divine nature, there is no change in Him. Christ Jesus has always been and will always be the same. Newsflash: if He is the same then He is not varying at all to any degree whatsoever! We have seen two crystal clear passages which assert God does not change. Yet, we must ask the question, why does this doctrine even matter?
One of the most vital reasons why we must uphold the doctrine of God’s immutability (that He does not change) is because of the central role it plays in the certainty of the redemption of God’s people. In Malachi 3:6 God says:
“For I the Lord do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed.”
The context of the book of Malachi is the unfaithfulness of the Israelite people. They have despised the name of God through polluted offerings (Malachi 1:6-7). Even the priests among the people had to be rebuked because they would not serve faithfully (Malachi 2:1-9). God goes so far as to say that the people had been “faithfulness” committing “abominations” before His sight (Malachi 2:10-11). Nevertheless, God did not entirely wipe out the children of Jacob. Why? He does not change and shall accomplish His intended purposes according to His plan. Notice, God was not caught off-guard by the lack of stellar behavior on the part of the Israelites. He did not gain new information needing to reevaluate the situation because he had new facts to sort through. No, God’s response is steadiness because He was still sovereign being in complete control over the entire situation. The basis of the redemption of His people rested in that changeless sovereignty. The certainty of my redemption has nothing to do with me, but everything to do with the unchanging God who will not change His mind about my being covered in the blood of Christ even in the midst of my shortcomings. Such a doctrine is not a license to sin, no it is the ground for eternal hope prompting us to live for the glory of this great God.
Far from being unimportant, the doctrine of God’s unchanging nature is vital to the Gospel of Christ. It is paramount for the certainty of our redemption! The reason we are not consumed as those who have been given grace is because our God never changes! Sadly, many in evangelical circles do not understand this clear and precious truth from the Word. We must continue to herald it, preach it, write about it, and defend it so that God might be glorified and the saints may be edified. It is sweet to the soul and nourishes us in Christ. May our hearts overflow with joy at the reality that God is not fickle, but certain in His promises which shall come to pass!
Doug Hammond says
Excellent message that also points to a concern I have that even in “fundamental”, orthodox churches people are not being instructed in foundational doctrine/principles. Hosea 4:6.
Jared Lincks says
Thanks brother, I appreciate your words of encouragement!