Q: What is God?
A: God is a spirit, infinite, eternal, and unchangeable, in his being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness and truth.
There is a saying that goes, “You can never step in the same river twice.” This adage is attributed to Heraclitus, an ancient Greek philosopher. He used this statement as an illustration to demonstrate his foundational maxim: everything is in flux. Everything changes, he said. The flowing waters of a river rush past constantly. In a real sense, because of this ever constant flow of water, we do not step in the same river twice. Change is as constant as time.
We experience the reality of constant change all around us. Those of us who are gardeners see our gardens grow in the spring and the summer and wither in the fall. We see our children grow up from a helpless infant to fully matured adults. Our relationships change, for better or for worse. Our culture changes, and these days the changes seem to happen at an exponential rate! Everything around us, everything within us, everything between us, and even we ourselves are subject to change. Heraclitus was on to something. Yet Scripture teaches us that though we change, and though everything in the created order changes, God remains unmoved by the forces of change. He is unchangeable, or, as the theologians say, He is immutable.
The Psalmist writes in Psalm 102:25-27,
Of old you laid the foundation of the earth,
and the heavens are the work of your hands.
They will perish, but you will remain;
they will all wear out like a garment.
You will change them like a robe, and they will pass away,
but you are the same, and your years have no end.
Though all things decay, even the firmest and most established things in creation, the heavens and the earth, yet God stands unmoved by the forces of change. He is the constant, unchangeable One.
There is much comfort in having a God “with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change” (James 1:17). We can know that our God isn’t a hotheaded, capricious deity who at one time offers us mercy and then the next pours out His wrath upon us. His love towards us doesn’t change like the weather, warm or cold depending on the season. His promises are sure (Malachi 3:6); His covenant is steadfast (Isaiah 54:10); His purposes unshakeable (Hebrews 6:13-20). All of this is rooted in the fact that God is unchangeable.
And we find the perfect picture of God’s unchangeableness as it relates to His mercy and grace to sinners in the person and work of our Savior. Our salvation utterly depends on Christ, and His status before the Father is unchangeable. The only way we could fall out of favor with our God is if Jesus fails or dies. But the author of Hebrews declares to us the unshakable Christ who stands unchanging for us in the presence of the Father: “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). It is the unchanging love of God in Christ to us that is our assurance. Although our faithfulness fails, though our love waxes and wanes, God remains unchanged in His faithfulness and love to us in Christ. As Horatius Bonar once wrote:
My love is oftimes low,
my joy still ebbs and flows,
but peace with Him remains the same;
no change Jehovah knows.