Text: James 1:17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.
As we look around at the world we live in, change is apparent everywhere and in everything. With the change of seasons we see flowers spring forth from a seed, blossom with wonderful fragrance, and eventually wither away shortly after their peak of beauty. In our own lives we are aware of the change in knowledge, ability, and form as the years pass by. Even the angels, we understand from Scripture, are subject to changes in their knowledge (1 Peter 1:12).
The earth itself and the bodies in heaven are perhaps the most stable parts that we might consider with regard to change. The sun and stars continue their motions year after year as when they were first created. The earth remains firm and solid as in its youth. However, it is these seemingly changeless objects to which the Psalmist compares God. In Psalm 102:26-27 we find that the earth and heavens shall "wax old like a garment, but thou art the same."
In this lesson we shall study one of the most important attributes of God - immutability. Our concentration shall be on understanding what it means to be immutable. Consider this thought… If God were to ever change, everything would fall apart, and if man never is to change everything will fall apart.
I. Describing Immutability
The Puritan author, Stephen Charnock, defined God's immutability as this: God is unchangeable in his essence, nature, and perfections. He wants nothing, he loses nothing, but doth uniformly exist by himself, without any new nature, new thought, new will, new purpose, or new place. James 1:17 describes God as one "with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning."
II. Determining Immutability
How can we determine whether God is really immutable? Consider the following reasons:
In Malachi 3:6, God says "I am the LORD, I change not." The name Jehovah (Lord) signifies that God is always the same. Remember that the name Jehovah is equivalent to "I am". All things that change are transformed from something they were to something they were not. Therefore, it could not be truly said that "they are", but God, because he changes not, can say "I am that I am".
In Matthew 5:48, Jesus said, "your Father which is in heaven is perfect." If God is perfect, then He cannot change. With all change, there is either a loss of what was or an acquisition of something that was not. If God changed for the better, He could not have been perfect, and if He were to change for the worse, He could no longer be perfect. As we strive for perfection, we are constantly changing. A man that wants to be the perfect basketball player must develop better skills and lose any bad habits. If God were to change, then there would have to have been something lacking in Him that he needed to gain or something that He had that He needed to lose. In either case, this would mean that He was not perfect.
Psalm 145:3 says of God, "his greatness is unsearchable", and Psalm 147:5 "his understanding is infinite"'." If God is infinite, He cannot change. All change ends in either addition or subtraction of something. If something were added to God, He could not have been infinite, and if something were subtracted then He would no longer be infinite. Change implies limits or boundaries, but God, as an infinite being, has no limits.
In Romans 3:23 we read, "For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God." God could not be the standard to which to be compared if it were possible for Him to change. The world could not be governed or ordered by something that was mutable. A principle is by definition something that is fixed or stable, and therefore God must be immutable.
III. Differences with Immutability
Man by nature is double-minded and is likened in Scripture to a wave that is blown and tossed up and down, over and over. In stark contrast, God is likened to a rock - an object which never seems to change no matter what the environment. What an infinite distance there is between God and man! Man is inconsistent in so many ways, but God remains steadfast and, therefore, ought to be the One in whom we place our trust and confidence.
When the political leaders of our country cannot even determine when not telling the truth is a lie, can there be any question to man's instability concerning truth? Sadly enough, this inconsistency is not limited to the lost world, but can be found in the church as well. How has the church changed over the past several decades! Doctrine, dress and standards that were once firmly believed to be the truth, are now simply old-fashioned. How soon we forget truth that has been delivered to us! Like the children of Israel, we turn aside from the way which God has commanded. Like the foolish Galatians, Paul might well ask us "Ye did run well; who did hinder you that ye should not obey the truth?". Numbers 23:19 "God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent: hath he said, and shall he not do it? or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good?"
Since man cannot even trust himself to remain steadfast with the truth, we ought to therefore turn to the immutable One who "keepeth truth for ever" (Psalm 146:5-6). God is the perfect standard. Imagine trying to measure a room with a ruler that changes every day. With God, what was true today will be true tomorrow. His Word does not change! It was good for the Christians in the 1st century and remains just as good for the Christians in the 20th century. What God said about man, sin, heaven, hell, science, and anything else is just as true today as it was when it was written by "Holy men of God". If it's true, it's probably not new, and if it's new, it's probably not true!
How often do we waver between God and Baal? We resolve to love God as John today, but tomorrow we find ourselves betraying our Lord as Judas. Saul determined not to further persecute David, only to return a short time later to his old game. How often did Pharaoh tell Moses that he would let the people go, but the next day change his mind? The children of Israel cried out zealously, "The Lord he is God", but shortly afterwards they returned to their idols.
Unlike man, when God determines He will do something, you can count on Him to do it. God told Noah that He was going to bring a flood upon the earth, and He did. He told David that his son would sit on the throne after him and build the Temple. Later Solomon was able to testify, "the LORD hath performed his word that he spake, and I am risen up in the room of David my father, and sit on the throne of Israel, as the LORD promised, and have built an house for the name of the LORD God of Israel" (1 Kings 8:20). The Bible contains one example after another showing that God always does what He says He will do. No wonder the Psalmist says, "it is better to trust in the LORD than to put confidence in man" (See also Proverbs 3:5).
Joseph Smith, the founder of the Mormons, believed that God was once as we are now. In fact, Lorenzo Snow, another Mormon, is quoted as saying: "As man is, God once was; as God is, man may be". (Next time you discuss God with a Mormon, prove to him that his god isn't the God of the Bible on the basis of immutability.) What a blasphemous and misguided doctrine to believe that God could change. It is important that we as Christians understand that God is immutable that we be not "tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine." God would no longer be God if He were not immutable, and we would have no grounds for trusting Him. Christian, let this testimony remain ever fixed in your minds: "I am the LORD, I change not"!