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Immutability

(12 posts)

Unchanging God

Tuesday··2008·11·18 · 2 Comments
God himself does not change. He is as he always has been and will always be. But many Christians who would affirm that statement believe, on the basis of circumstances and experience, and even on the basis of a few passages of Scripture, that God does change his mind. How shall we answer them? J. I. Packer writes, “God’s purposes do not change.” “He who is the glory of Israel does not lie or change his mind,” declared Samuel, “for he is not a man who should change his mind” (1 Samuel 15:29). . . . Repenting means revising one’s judgment and changing one’s plan of action. God never does this; he never needs to, for his plans are made on the basis of a complete knowledge and control which extend to all things past, present, and future, so that there can be no sudden emergencies or unexpected developments to take him by surprise. “One of two things causes a man to change his mind and reverse his plans: want of foresight to anticipate everything, or lack of foresight to execute them. But as God is both omniscient and omnipotent there is never any need to reverse his decrees” (A. W. Pink). “The plans of the Lord stand firm forever, the purposes of his heart through all generations” (Ps 33:11). What God does in time, he planned from eternity. And all that he planned in eternity he carries out in time. And all that he has in his Word committed himself to do will infallibly be done. . . . No part of his eternal plan changes. It is true that there is a group of texts (Gen 6:6–7; 1 Sam 5:11; 2 Sam 24:16; Jon 3:10; Joel 2:13–14) which speak of God as repenting. The reference in each case is to a reversal of God’s previous treatment of particular people, consequent to their reaction to that treatment. But there is no suggestion that this reaction was not foreseen, or that it took God by surprise and was not provided for in his eternal plan. No change in his eternal purpose is implied when he begins to deal with a person in a new way. —J. I. Packer, Knowing God (InterVarsity Press, 1993), 79–80.

Hymns of My Youth II: Great Is Thy Faithfulness

Saturday··2011·11·05
It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness. —Lamentations 3:22–23 Great Is Thy Faithfulness Great is thy faithfulness, O God my Father! There is no shadow of turning with thee; Thou changest not, thy compassions, they fail not; As thou hast been thou forever will be. Refrain: Great is thy faithfulness! Great is thy faithfulness! Morning by morning new mercies I see; All I have needed thy hand hath provided— Great is thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me! Summer and winter and springtime and harvest, Sun, moon and stars in their courses above Join with all nature in manifold witness To thy great faithfulness, mercy and love. Refrain Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth, Thy own dear presence to cheer and to guide; Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow— Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside! Refrain —Great Hymns of the Faith (Zondervan, 1968).

In Preparation for the Lord’s Day: Immortal, Invisible

Saturday··2014·04·19
Immortal, Invisible Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. 1 Timothy 1:17 Immortal, invisible, God only wise, In light inaccessible hid from our eyes, Most blessed, most glorious, the Ancient of Days, Almighty, victorious—Thy great Name we praise. Unresting, unhasting, and silent as light, Nor wanting, nor wasting, Thou rulest in might; Thy justice, like mountains, high soaring above Thy clouds, which are fountains of goodness and love. To all, life Thou givest—to both great and small; In all life Thou livest—the true life of all; We blossom and flourish as leaves on the tree, And wither and perish—but naught changeth Thee. Great Father of glory, pure Father of light, Thine angels adore Thee, all veiling their sight; All praise we would render—O help us to see ’Tis only the splendor of light hideth Thee! —The Hymnal for Worship & Celebration (Word Music).

In Preparation for the Lord’s Day: Great Is Thy Faithfulness

Saturday··2014·05·17
Great Is Thy Faithfulness His compassions never fail. They are new every morning: Great is Your faithfulness. Lamentations 3:22–23 Great is thy faithfulness, O God my Father, There is no shadow of turning with thee; Thou changest not, thy compassions, they fail not; As thou hast been thou forever will be. Refrain: Great is thy faithfulness! Great is thy faithfulness! Morning by morning new mercies I see; All I have needed thy hand hath provided— Great is thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me! Summer and winter and springtime and harvest, Sun, moon and stars in their courses above Join with all nature in manifold witness To thy great faithfulness, mercy and love. Refrain Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth, Thy own dear presence to cheer and to guide; Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow, Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside! Refrain —The Hymnal for Worship & Celebration (Word Music).

Lord’s Day 46, 2014

Sunday··2014·11·16
I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the Lord.” Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow. —James 1:17 The Infinite and the Finite Thou Great I Am, Fill my mind with elevation and grandeur at the thought of a Being with whom one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day, A mighty God, who, amidst the lapse of worlds, and the revolutions of empires, feels no variableness, but is glorious in immortality. May I rejoice that, while men die, the Lord lives; that, while all creatures are broken reeds, empty cisterns, fading flowers, withering grass, he is the Rock of Ages, the Fountain of living waters. Turn my heart from vanity, from dissatisfactions, from uncertainties of the present state, to an eternal interest in Christ. Let me remember that life is short and unforeseen, and is only an opportunity for usefulness; Give me a holy avarice to redeem the time, to awake at every call to charity and piety, so that I may feed the hungry, clothe the naked, instruct the ignorant, reclaim the vicious, forgive the offender, diffuse the gospel, show neighbourly love to all. Let me live a life of self-distrust, dependence on thyself, mortification, crucifixion, prayer. —The Valley of Vision, Arthur Bennett, editor (Banner of Truth Trust, 2002). Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Please don’t miss worshiping with your local congregation if you can possibly help it. But if you’re in need of a good sermon, try these. Tweets about "sermon from:thethirstytheo" !function(d,s,id){var js,fjs=d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0],p=/^http:/.test(d.location)?'http':'https';if(!d.getElementById(id)){js=d.createElement(s);js.id=id;js.src=p+"://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js";fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js,fjs);}}(document,"script","twitter-wjs");

Lord’s Day 51, 2014

Sunday··2014·12·21
I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the Lord.” Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. —Hebrews 13:8 He Died and Lives Horatius Bonar (1808–1889) I hear the words of love, I gaze upon the blood, I see the mighty sacrifice, And I have peace with God. ’Tis everlasting peace! Sure as Jehovah’s name, ’Tis stable as his stedfast throne, For evermore the same. The clouds may go and come, And storms may sweep my sky, This blood-sealed friendship changes not, The cross is ever nigh. My love is oftimes low, My joy still ebbs and flows, But peace with him remains the same, No change Jehovah knows. That which can shake the cross May shake the peace it gave, Which tells me Christ has ever died, Or never left the grave! Till then my peace is sure, It will not, cannot yield, Jesus, I know, has died and lives,— On this firm rock I build. I change, he changes not, The Christ can never die; His love, not mine, the resting-place, His truth, not mine, the tie. The cross still stands unchanged, Though heaven is now his home, The mighty stone is rolled away, But yonder is his tomb! And yonder is my peace, The grave of all my woes! I know the Son of God has come, I know he died and rose. I know he liveth now, At God’s right hand above, I know the throne on which he sits, I know his truth and love! —Hymns of Faith and Hope, Second Series (James Nisbet & Co., 1878). Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Please don’t miss worshiping with your local congregation if you can possibly help it. But if you’re in need of a good sermon, try these. Tweets about "sermon from:thethirstytheo" !function(d,s,id){var js,fjs=d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0],p=/^http:/.test(d.location)?'http':'https';if(!d.getElementById(id)){js=d.createElement(s);js.id=id;js.src=p+"://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js";fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js,fjs);}}(document,"script","twitter-wjs");

Lord’s Day 1, 2017

Sunday··2017·01·01
I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the Lord.” Then Jesus again spoke to them, saying, “I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life.” —John 8:12 Why Walk in Darkness? Horatius Bonar (1808–1889) Why walk in darkness? Has the dear light vanished, That gave us joy and day? Has the great Sun departed? Has sin banished His life-begetting ray? Light of the world! for ever, ever shining; There is no change in thee; True light of life, all joy and health enshrining, Thou canst not fade nor flee. Thou hast arisen; but thou descendest never; To day shines as the past; All that thou wast, thou art, and shalt be ever;— Brightness from first to last! Night visits not thy sky, nor storm, nor sadness; Day fills up all its blue: Unfailing beauty, and unfaltering gladness, And love, for ever new! Why walk in darkness? Our true light yet shineth, It is not night but day! All healing and all peace his light enshrineth, Why shun his loving ray? Are night and shadows better, truer, dearer, Than day and joy and love? Do tremblings and misgivings bring us nearer To the great God of love? Light of the world! undimming and unsetting, Oh shine each mist away! Banish the fear, the falsehood, and the fretting, Be our unchanging day! —Hymns of Faith and Hope, Second Series (James Nisbet & Co., 1878). Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Please don’t miss worshiping with your local congregation if you can possibly help it. But if you’re in need of a good sermon, try these. Tweets about "sermon from:thethirstytheo" !function(d,s,id){var js,fjs=d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0],p=/^http:/.test(d.location)?'http':'https';if(!d.getElementById(id)){js=d.createElement(s);js.id=id;js.src=p+"://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js";fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js,fjs);}}(document,"script","twitter-wjs");

Faith and the Attributes of God (3)

Tuesday··2017·09·12
My righteous one shall live by faith —Hebrews 10:38 The more we learn of the attributes of God, the greater our faith should grow. Knowing who he is and what he is able to do should give us great confidence in him. Best of all, we can be sure that, in all of his attributes, he will never change. Our friends, good as they may be, will fail us, but God never will. What we trust today will be true tomorrow, and for eternity. We may doubt of creature power, because it is limited, but he is omnipotent. The creature may have strength, but want wisdom, and this may disable him, and weaken our confidence; but God is omniscient. A friend may have strength and wisdom too, but may be far from us; oh, but he is omnipresent. A man may have all these, but be prevented by death; but God is eternal. A man may have power, wisdom, propinquity,* life, but not be willing; but God is merciful, gracious, compassionate, and joins other attributes to his mercy, the more to confirm faith. Mercy endures for ever; there is eternity. Over all his works; there is immensity. Abundant in goodness, there is its infiniteness. His compassions fail not, there is unchangeableness. —David Clarkson, Of Living by Faith, Works (Banner of Truth, 1988), 1:181–182. * 1 : nearness of blood : kinship 2 : nearness in place or time : proximity    —Merriam-Webster

Why God Must Punish Sin

Wednesday··2017·11·01
Sin being entered into the world, the Lord was concerned not to let it go unpunished. It is enough for our purpose, which is out of question, that it was the Lord’s will and determination to punish all sin. But there seems to be a sufficient proof, that it was not from the mere pleasure of his will that he should be punished, but there was a necessity for it, from the nature and perfections of God, and from his relation to man as his governor, and from the law enacted as the rule of his government. The Lord is obliged, not only by his truth and unchangeableness, but by his wisdom, holiness, and justice, to punish sin. His truth engages him to it. He threatens it in his law, and if he will rule according to law, it must be inflicted. His truth is obliged for the executing of the threatening, and to make good what he had declared to be his resolution. His unchangeableness makes it necessary. He did determine from eternity to punish it. The event shews that it was eternal purpose, and the counsel of the Lord must stand: he is not as man. His wisdom makes it necessary. The end and designs of his law and government would be lost, his law would appear to be powerless and insignificant, his government would be rendered contemptible, the authority of the one, and the honour of the other defaced, if sin is not punished. The holiness of God requires it. Sin is contrary to him; he hates it. If he will shew himself to be what he is, ‘an holy God, of purer eyes than to behold evil, and who cannot look on iniquity,’ Hab. i. 13, it is necessary to shew his hatred of it by punishing it: Josh. xxiv. 19, ‘he will not forgive,’ that is, he will punish, because he is holy, where, as in other places, the necessity of punishing is grounded upon his holiness. If the Lord be necessarily an holy God, it will be necessary to hate sin; for hatred of sin is essential to holiness, and cannot be conceived or apprehended without it. Now to hate sin . . . necessarily includes a will to punish it. It is essential to holiness to be displeased with sin. Now as the love of God is our chief reward, so God’s displeasure is the chief punishment of it. If then it be not necessary that he punish sin, there will be no necessity that he be displeased at sin. It will be arbitrary to the holy God to be pleased with sin, if it be arbitrary not to punish it. We might conceive that he may as well be pleased with sin as displeased with it, which is intolerable to say or imagine. Finally, His justice obliges him to punish it; for suffering is indispensably due to sin, and the sinner justly deserves it, and justice requires that everything, every one, should have his due, that every disobedience receives a just recompence of reward, Heb. ii. 21, Rom. i. 32, 2 Thes. i. It is righteous with God to give to every one according to his work. —David Clarkson, Justification by the Righteousness of Christ, Works (Banner of Truth, 1988), 1:282–283. This is very bad news, but there is good news to come.

Does God Repent?

Wednesday··2018·03·07
On several occasions in Scripture, God is said to “repent” of things he has done or decreed. Since repenting, or changing one’s mind, necessarily implies learning and correction, this might lead, and indeed, has lead some, to conclude that God is neither omniscient nor immutable, and adjusts his actions to new information as he receives it. This conclusion, of course, contradicts the testimony of Scripture to the nature of God, and therefore must be erroneous. Yet the passages that describe God as repenting cannot be ignored. How, then, should they be understood? [C]ertain passages . . . seem to suggest . . . that the plan of God does not stand firm and sure, but is subject to change in response to the disposition of things below. First, God’s repenting is several times mentioned, as when he repented of having created man [Gen. 6:6]; of having put Saul over the kingdom [I Sam. 15:11]; and of his going to repent of the evil that he had determined to inflict upon his people, as soon as he sensed any change of heart in them [Jer. 18:8]. Next, some abrogations of his decrees are referred to. He made known through Jonah to the Ninevites that after forty days had passed Nineveh would be destroyed, yet he was immediately persuaded by their repentance to give a more kindly sentence. [Jonah 3:4, 10.] He proclaimed the death of Hezekiah through the mouth of Isaiah; but he was moved by the king’s tears and prayers to defer this [Isa. 38:1, 5; II Kings 20:1, 5; cf. II Chron. 32:24]. Hence many contend that God has not determined the affairs of men by an eternal decree, but that, according to each man’s deserts or according as he deems him fair and just, he decrees this or that each year, each day, and each hour. Concerning repentance, we ought so to hold that it is no more chargeable against God than is ignorance, or error, or powerlessness. For if no one wittingly and willingly puts himself under the necessity of repentance, we shall not attribute repentance to God without saying either that he is ignorant of what is going to happen, or cannot escape it, or hastily and rashly rushes into a decision of which he immediately has to repent. But that is far removed from the intention of the Holy Spirit, who in the very reference to repentance says that God is not moved by compunction because he is not a man so that he can repent [I Sam. 15:29]. And we must note that in the same chapter both are so joined together that the comparison well harmonizes the apparent disagreement. When God repents of having made Saul king, the change of mind is to be taken figuratively. A little later there is added: “The strength of Israel will not lie, nor be turned aside by repentance; for he is not a man, that he may repent” [I Sam. 15:29 p.]. By these words openly and unfiguratively God’s unchangeableness is declared. Therefore it is certain that God’s ordinance in the managing of human affairs is both everlasting and above all repentance. And lest there be doubt as to his constancy, even his adversaries are compelled to render testimony to this. For Balaam, even against his will, had to break forth into these words: “God is not like man that he should lie, nor as the son of man that he should change. It cannot be that he will not do what he has said or not fulfill what he has spoken” [Num. 23: 19 p.]. What, therefore, does the word “repentance” mean? Surely its meaning is like that of all other modes of speaking that describe God for us in human terms. For because our weakness does not attain to his exalted state, the description of him that is given to us must be accommodated to our capacity so that we may understand it. Now the mode of accommodation is for him to represent himself to us not as he is in himself, but as he seems to us. Although he is beyond all disturbance of mind, yet he testifies that he is angry toward sinners. Therefore whenever we hear that God is angered, we ought not to imagine any emotion in him, but rather to consider that this expression has been taken from our own human experience; because God, whenever he is exercising judgment, exhibits the appearance of one kindled and angered. So we ought not to understand anything else under the word “repentance” than change of action, because men are wont by changing their action to testify that they are displeased with themselves. Therefore, since every change among men is a correction of what displeases them, but that correction arises out of repentance, then by the word “repentance” is meant the fact that God changes with respect to his actions. Meanwhile neither God’s plan nor his will is reversed, nor his volition altered; but what he had from eternity foreseen, approved, and decreed, he pursues in uninterrupted tenor, however sudden the variation may appear in men’s eyes. The sacred history does not show that God’s decrees were abrogated when it relates that the destruction which had once been pronounced upon the Ninevites was remitted [Jonah 3:10]; and that Hezekiah’s life, after his death had been intimated, had been prolonged [Isa. 38:5]. Those who think so are deceived in these intimations. Even though the latter make a simple affirmation, it is to be understood from the outcome that these nonetheless contain a tacit condition. For why did the Lord send Jonah to the Ninevites to foretell the ruin of the city? Why did he through Isaiah indicate death to Hezekiah? For he could have destroyed both the Ninevites and Hezekiah without any messenger of destruction. Therefore he had in view something other than that, forewarned of their death, they might discern it coming from a distance. Indeed, he did not wish them to perish, but to be changed lest they perish. Therefore Jonah’s prophecy that after forty days Nineveh would be destroyed was made so it might not fall. Hezekiah’s hope for longer life was cut off in order that it might come to pass that he would obtain longer life. Who now does not see that it pleased the Lord by such threats to arouse to repentance those whom he was terrifying, that they might escape the judgment they deserved for their sins? If that is true, the nature of the circumstances leads us to recognize a tacit condition in the simple intimation. This is also confirmed by like examples. The Lord, rebuking King Abimelech because he had deprived Abraham of his wife, uses these words: “Behold, you will die on account of the woman whom you have taken, for she has a husband” [Gen. 20:3, Vg.]. But after Abimelech excused himself, God spoke in this manner: “Restore the woman to her husband, for he is a prophet, and will pray for you that you may live. If not, know that you shall surely die, and all that you have” [Gen. 20:7, Vg.]. Do you see how in the first utterance, he strikes Abimelech’s mind more violently in order to render him intent upon satisfaction, but in the second sentence he clearly explains his will? Inasmuch as there is a similar meaning in other passages, do not infer from them that there was any derogation from the Lord’s first purpose because he had made void what he had proclaimed. For the Lord, when by warning of punishment he admonishes to repentance those whom he wills to spare, paves the way for his eternal ordinance, rather than varies anything of his will, or even of his Word, although he does not express syllable by syllable what is nevertheless easy to understand. That saying of Isaiah must indeed remain true: “The Lord of Hosts has purposed, and who will annul it? His hand is stretched out, and who will turn it back?” [Isa. 14:27]. —John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion (Westminster John Knox Press, 1960), 1.17.12, 13, 14.

When God Repents

Friday··2018·03·16
You might ask, “Doesn’t the Bible say from time to time that God repents?” Yes, the Old Testament certainly says so. The book of Jonah tells us that God “repented of” the judgment He had planned for the people of Nineveh (Jonah 3:10, KJV). In using the concept of repentance here, the Bible is describing God, who is Spirit, in what theologians call “anthropomorphic” language. Obviously the Bible does not mean that God repented in the way we would repent; otherwise, we could rightly assume that God had sinned and therefore would need a savior Himself. What it clearly means is that God removed the threat of judgment from the people. The Hebrew word nacham, translated “repent” in the King James Version, means “comforted” or “eased” in this case. God was comforted and felt at ease that the people had turned from their sin, and therefore He revoked the sentence of judgment He had imposed. When God hangs His sword of judgment over people’s heads, and they repent and He then withholds His judgment, has He really changed His mind? —R. C. Sproul, Does Prayer Change Things? (Tyndale, 2009), 11.

God Is Not Moody

Thursday··2018·04·19
[O]ften when the subject is God’s mercy, the Bible stresses His faithfulness and immutability. Indeed, God—as Savior of His people—is the one true constant in all the universe. This is why He redeems His people rather than summarily destroying them when they sin: “For I, the Lord, do not change; therefore you, O sons of Jacob, are not consumed” (Mal. 3:6). His wrath against sin is real, but it does not provoke Him to alter His Word, revise His will, revoke His promises, or change His mind: “God is not a man, that He should lie, Nor a son of man, that He should repent; Has He said, and will He not do it? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good?” (Num. 23:19). The necessary implication of God’s immutability is that He is not subject to shifting moods, flashes of temper, fluctuating dispositions, or seasons of despondency. In theological terms, God is impassible. That means He cannot be moved by involuntary emotions, suffering, pain, or injury. In the words of the Westminster Confession of Faith, God is “infinite in being and perfection, a most pure spirit, invisible, without body, parts, or passions” (2.1). . . . Divine impassibility is not an easy concept to grasp. . . . Nowadays, even some Christian theologians shun the idea of divine impassibility because they think it makes God seem cold and aloof. But that’s a false notion. To say that God is not vulnerable, that He Himself cannot be hurt, and that He isn’t given to moodiness is not to say He is utterly unfeeling or devoid of affections. Remember, Scripture says God is love, and His compassion, His lovingkindness, and His tender mercies endure forever. “The Lord’s lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, For His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness” (Lam. 3:22–23). The main problem in our thinking about these things is that we tend to reduce God’s attributes to human terms, and we shouldn’t. We’re not to imagine that God is like us (Ps. 50:21). His affections, unlike human emotions, are not involuntary reflexes, spasms of temper, paroxysms of good and bad humor, or conflicted states of mind. He is as deliberate and as faithful in His lovingkindness as He is perfect and incorruptible in His holiness. The unchangeableness of God’s affections is—or should be—a steady comfort to true believers. His love for us is infinite and unshakable. “As high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is His lovingkindness toward those who fear Him” (Ps. 103:11). His constant mercy is a secure and dependable anchor—both when we sin and when we suffer unjustly. “Just as a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear Him” (v. 13). Far from portraying God as unsympathetic and untouched by our suffering, Scripture emphasizes His deep and devoted compassion virtually every time it mentions the unchangeableness of God. Notice that I have quoted almost entirely from Old Testament texts to establish the connection between God’s compassion and His immutability. The commonly held notion that the Hebrew Scriptures portray God as a stern judge whose verdicts are always unrelentingly severe is an unwarranted caricature. In fact, God’s lovingkindness is often given particular emphasis in the very places where His fiery wrath against sin is mentioned (e.g., Neh. 9:17; Ps. 77:7–10; Isa. 54:8; 60:10; Hab. 3:2). Even the prophets’ most severe threats and harshest words of condemnation are tempered with reminders of God’s inexhaustible kindness and sympathetic mercy (Jer. 33:5–11; Hos. 14:4–9). —John MacArthur, None Other (Reformation Trust, 2017), 114–116.

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