Discover more from Grace Upon Grace
The constancy of God.
God’s immutability does not correspond to passivity.
The oracle of Malachi is, simultaneously, a devastating yet comforting polemic, of sorts, against the people of Yahweh. In this prophecy, however, are the words, “I the Lord do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed” (Mal. 3:6), at which point the immutability and constancy of the Godhead is introduced. To be sure, the unchangeability of God is a concept which undergirds much of the Old Testament corpus; but Malachi’s inspired assertion remains one of the clearest and most concise declarations of the doctrine.
That God does not and cannot change is a claim with which theologians have wrestled for ages. Those who have grappled with this claim do so primarily on the grounds of God’s apparent inactivity and man’s free-will. Some theologians insist that if the truth of God’s unchangeability is pressed too far, then one risks contending for a sterile, immobile God who remains largely uninvolved with the activity on the world scene. Likewise, others have posited that if God’s immutability is emphasized to inordinate degrees, then one would be hard-pressed to account for human decision-making. Such theologians, often referred to as free-will theists or open theists, maintain that God does, indeed, respond to human actions in a manner that one might concede constitutes change. The glut of biblical data, however, refutes both of these notions and affirms the constancy of Yahweh.
God’s immutability does not correspond to passivity. On the contrary, it is precisely his immutable and authoritative Word which serves as the as divine underpinning of all things and of all life. This is evident especially in the books of 1 and 2 Kings, throughout which it is emphasized that all events happen “according to the word of the Lord” (1 Kings 12:24; 13:26; 14:18; 15:29; 16:12, 34; 17:5, 16; 18:31; 22:38; 2 Kings 1:17; 4:44; 7:16; 10:17; 14:25; 23:16; 24:2). God, unchangeable though he is, is involved in the minutiae of the world, bringing to bear his sovereign purposes notwithstanding the processes of human error or catastrophe. It is impossible for him to undergo any sort of change, quantitative or qualitative, seeing as he is perfect in his perfectness. He is infinitely unalterable (Num. 23:19; Ps. 102:26–27; James 1:17) and eternally dependable (Lam. 3:22–23).
It is precisely the constancy of God which substantiates the faith of those he loves and redeems, allowing them to endure the stresses and heavinesses of life in the knowledge of the One who remains unstained by change. “The biblical view,” writes Millard J. Erickson, “is not that God is static but that he is stable” (250). Or, as the psalmist declares, “The counsel of the Lord stands forever, the plans of his heart to all generations” (Ps. 33:11).
Grace and peace.
Millard J. Erickson, Christian Theology, 3rd edition (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2013).