Saturday, January 25, 2014

Our Faithful Unchanging God

L.A.C.E. Bible Study
RE:  Chapters 5-6 of Discovering God by Philip Ryken

At first glance, the attribute that God does not change, also termed “immutability” seemed fairly straightforward to me.  However, when I got further in my study of it, I realized the immutability of God is a rather huge concept.  It is vastly important, and should not be overlooked.   A. W. Pink says of immutability, “This is one of the divine perfections which is not sufficiently pondered.  It is one of the excellencies of the Creator which distinguishes Him from all His creatures.”  A careful study of this attribute is important for the believer.  J.I. Packer writes, “The first and fundamental difference between the Creator and His creatures is that they are mutable and their nature admits of change, whereas God is immutable and can never cease to be what He is.
Just as we studied His eternality and its relationship to the other attributes, immutability is similarly connected.  We talked previously that if God was not eternal, then at some point His goodness, His promises, His glory, and so on would have an end.  Likewise, we can add to that that if God is eternal and is also immutable, then He is not just in existence forever but forever unchanging in His being as well.  Remember that eternality means God had no beginning either.  He is self-existent; proclaimed by God to Moses in Exodus 3:14, “I AM, WHO I AM.”   Dr. S. Lewis Johnson says, “That which has no evolution and no succession is the same yesterday, today, and forever.”  Tozer explains that anyone who can change in the least little bit is not self-existent, self-sufficient, or eternal.  God does not change and is all of those things.  He further states that only those made up of parts may change, thus God being self-existent is not composed.  “There are in Him no parts to be altered.  And since He is self-sufficient, nothing can enter His being from without.”  Dr. Johnson illustrated God’s immutability with an object lesson used by the ancients.  If you look at a cube, no matter what way you place it, measure it, test it, it will be equal in all dimensions.  It is always in the same posture, thus illustrates God’s immutability.  

Another example to explain or describe the immutability of God that has been used by many theologians, also used in the Bible, is comparing God to a “rock.”  Deuteronomy 32:4 says, “The Rock, his way is perfect, for all his ways are justice.  A God of faithfulness and without iniquity, just and upright is He.”  A. W. Pink says, “Therefore God is compared to a rock which remains immovable, when the entire ocean surrounding it is continually in a fluctuating state.”  We are like the ocean, constantly changing, and as Tozer explains, “Neither the man is fixed nor his world, and he and it are in constant flux” but not so with God.  In thinking about this illustration, I decided to look at the various scriptures in which the term “rock” is used in the Bible, besides the Deuteronomy 32:4 verse.  Interestingly, the term is used at least 115 times in Scripture (OT & NT combined total).  

Most of the time, “rock” falls into one of three categories:  referring to God Himself, a way of shelter or covering for His people, or the provision of water when God provided water it from a rock for the Israelites in the desert.    A look at these Scriptures brought two words to mind that go with all three categories- stability and constancy.  Most people we think of that are pillars of stability are constant in their character.  However, even the best of these dear souls are no match for God, whose stability of character is unchanging.    Our Lord God is our rock in the sense of being a fortress or stronghold. In medieval times, fortresses, many of which were castles and some even churches, provided protection from the enemy, a safe place equipped for an entire village for stability in times of turmoil, and a sense of permanency for the village as well.  A good king took care of his people in this way, outfitting his fortress or fortresses with the best equipment, provisions, and the strongest of building materials possible for the time.  

Biertan Fortified Church in Central Romania, first documented to be in existence in the 1200’s, and fortified in the 1500’s, boasts three tiers of 35 foot walls and a remarkable door with fifteen locks that could be opened all at once with the turn of one key.  Still standing today, it is on the list of UNESCO preserved historic sites.  Obviously, man-made things do change as they do eventually decay. However, just imagining the intricacies of these fortresses has made me marvel at how much greater and perfect our true fortress is, and how much greater and unchanging love and devotion our King of Kings has for his kingdom.  Scripture says in Psalm 18:12, “The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.”  Consider the character of our King, the fortress and giver of good gifts 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.”  Spurgeon writes, “Perfect stability belongs alone to God; he alone, of all beings, is without variableness or shadow of a turning.  He is immutable; he will not change.  He is all-wise; he need not change.  He is perfect; he cannot change.”
Reading the teachings of J.I. Packer, A.W. Tozer, A.W. Pink, Charles Spurgeon, and Philip Ryken, I have found several points in which they commonly agree.  All would agree with Tozer when he says, “God cannot change for the better.  Since He is perfectly holy, He has never been less holy than He is now and has always been.  Neither can God change for the worse.  Any deterioration within the unspeakably holy nature of God is impossible.”  J.I. Packer, in Knowing God, in his chapter, “God Unchanging” outlines six aspects of the attribute of God’s immutability:  1)  God’s life does not change, 2)  God’s character does not change, 3)  God’s truth does not change, 4)  God’s ways do not change, 5)  God’s purposes do not change, and 6)  God’s SON does not change.  A.W. Pink in his book on the attributes outlines basically the same although termed slightly different:  1)  God is immutable in His essence citing Malachi 3:6, “I am the Lord, I change not” and Exodus 3:14, “I AM THAT I AM.”  2)  God is immutable in His attributes, 3)  God is immutable in His counsel in that His will never varies, and 4) God is immutable in His purposes.  There are many Scriptures used by these godly men to prove these important points.  I wish we had the time in this session to go through them all.  For more study and a better understanding of this complex attribute I highly recommend you read the seventh chapter of A.W. Pink’s, The Attributes of God, “The Immutability of God” available as a PDF online and the seventh chapter, “God Unchanging,” from the book Knowing God, by J.I. Packer.
What peace the Christian can have from studying God’s immutability.  God’s promises, commandments, steadfast love will not be altered, nor revoked.  A.W. Tozer, in The Knowledge of the Holy, says it best:  “Today, this moment, He feels toward His creatures, toward babies, toward the sick, the fallen, the sinful, exactly as He did when He sent His only-begotten Son into the world to die for mankind.”  How wonderful we have such a constant Savior whose plans and purposes for the world will never change. No matter what situations we may face we have a dependable righteous God that is always in control.  Praise be to God.