This is another short article on the, sometimes, weird language that Christians use to describe God and their faith. Christians use all sort of words and phrases that have no meaning to outsiders.The first blog in this series explains the background of these articles.
Not all the words used in Christian Churches come from the Bible. Some are technical terms that describe aspects of God’s character, actions or expectations of his children. One of these words is immutability.
In ages past, such as during the America of Jonathan Edwards or the Victorian and Elizabethan England of Charles Spurgeon, terms such as immutability might have been readily understood. Today, the concept of immutability is familiar, but might not be received or understood by the casual listener at a Church service or Christian meeting.
It means, “unchanging through time; unalterable; ageless“. In so far as it’s origin is an adjective used to describe something that does not or cannot mutate, (i.e. change).
If you enjoy math, you’ll be familiar with the concept of a constant. It is a number, which, for a variety of reasons does not change. One of the most well-known constants is π (sometimes written pi – referring to the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter). If you’re more technically minded you might know about immutable objects used in object-oriented programming.
When Christians talk about immutability they are referring to an attribute of God. To refer to God as immutable is to say that, in His being and in His eternal decrees (decisions), he does not and cannot change. It also means that God does not change in his essence. In other words he is always consistent with himself, his character and his promises.
James 1:17 says God “does not change like shifting shadows.”
God has not evolved, improved, or weakened. He says in Malachi 3:6 “I the LORD do not change.”
He is altogether perfect in his being and is the same yesterday and today and forever (Hebrews 13:8).
But God is not just unchangeable in his nature – he is also unchangeable in his decrees. As finite people, what causes us to change our minds and plans? (e.g., lack of foresight, lack of power to carry our plans out, lack of sleep, a whim?) Well, this is not so with God. God is certainly powerful to carry out, to completion, all of his plans.
So what does God’s immutability mean for us? We should be greatly encouraged and strengthened by this. Why? Because it means that God can be trusted and that we can rely on His promises in the Bible. He will always act in conformity with what he has promised. If he says he loves us – that love is unchanging – it isn’t conditioned or dependent on my performance (good or bad!). If he says he will forgive our sins – that forgiveness is everlasting. He isn’t going to retract or renege on a promise just because he had a bad a day. For me, as an inconsistent, fickle nincompoop who is always acting selfishly and, at times, destructively, this attribute of God is a supreme mercy.