Man is Mutable, God is Immutable.
1 Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me: and the Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple, even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in: behold, he shall come, saith the LORD of hosts. 2 But who may abide the day of his coming? and who shall stand when he appeareth? for he is like a refiner’s fire, and like fullers’ soap: 3 And he shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver: and he shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the LORD an offering in righteousness. 4 Then shall the offering of Judah and Jerusalem be pleasant unto the LORD, as in the days of old, and as in former years. 5 And I will come near to you to judgment; and I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers, and against the adulterers, and against false swearers, and against those that oppress the hireling in his wages, the widow, and the fatherless, and that turn aside the stranger from his right, and fear not me, saith the LORD of hosts. 6 For I am the LORD, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed.
Malachi is the last book of the Old Testament and in this passage reconfirms three fundamental ideas that have been written to the Jews who received this writing.
The First is that MESSIAH WILL COME as promised.
Christ was to be expected, nothing had changed of all God had stated in the past. From the first words given to Moses in Genesis, to this final of the 39 books of the Old Testament, the messiah that was promised will indeed come;
1 Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me: and the Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple, even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in: behold, he shall come, saith the LORD of hosts.
The Second is that when he comes he will condemn the world of sin.
2 But who may abide the day of his coming? and who shall stand when he appeareth? for he is like a refiner’s fire, and like fullers’ soap: 3 And he shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver: and he shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the LORD an offering in righteousness.
As you read the passage in Malachi it is impossible not to see the absolute nature of the wording, there is no ambiguity in the text, the certainty is important because this would be the final book of the Old Testament prior to a gap of some 400 years before the coming of Christ to the people.
Of convicting the world of sin, Jesus said this will be the work of his Spirit to do.
7 Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you. 8 And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment:
The Third is that of all that God has promised and told them, he does not change.
6 For I am the LORD, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed.
This morning, as we consider the nature of God, we will compare him to man and show how the Bible teaches a fundamental doctrine in Theology respecting the character of God called IMMUTABILITY.
Man Changes, God Does Not.
4 Being made so much better than the angels, as he hath by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they. 5 For unto which of the angels said he at any time, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee? And again, I will be to him a Father, and he shall be to me a Son? 6 And again, when he bringeth in the firstbegotten into the world, he saith, And let all the angels of God worship him. 7 And of the angels he saith, Who maketh his angels spirits, and his ministers a flame of fire. 8 But unto the Son he saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of thy kingdom. 9 Thou hast loved righteousness, and hated iniquity; therefore God, even thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows. 10 And, Thou, Lord, in the beginning hast laid the foundation of the earth; and the heavens are the works of thine hands: 11 They shall perish; but thou remainest; and they all shall wax old as doth a garment; 12 And as a vesture shalt thou fold them up, and they shall be changed: but thou art the same, and thy years shall not fail.
The letter to the Hebrews is addressing to the Jews that which the book of Galatians is addressing to the gentiles, and that is this desire to return to the law of God in order to be perfected in their faith and deserve heaven.
In other words, the people have not understood the grace of God and have returned to work for their salvation, lest they should lose that which was freely given them.
Here, so early in the letter, already a great distinction is being made between the nature and character of God and that of all his creation.
The quotation in the passage of Hebrews is taken from the Old Testament, from Psalm 45 and is addressing the nature and character of Messiah and the promise of him.
That which Malachi concluded, Hebrews is here taking up to show the people about the hope that they have, not in angels, not in priests, nor in works, but in the Son of God alone;
6 And again, when he bringeth in the firstbegotten into the world, he saith, And let all the angels of God worship him.
The angels are the ministers of God, but they are not GOD the Son;
7 And of the angels he saith, Who maketh his angels spirits, and his ministers a flame of fire. 8 But unto the Son he saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of thy kingdom.
Here, the quotation has the words of God the Father, addressing God the Son, again, “But unto the Son he saith, Thy Throne O God”, the pronoun ‘he’ referring to the God whom the angels worship in verse 6.
Hebrews is drawing the infinite distinction between angels and God, but then moves onto all of his creation, saying;
0 And, Thou, Lord, in the beginning hast laid the foundation of the earth; and the heavens are the works of thine hands: 11 They shall perish; but thou remainest; and they all shall wax old as doth a garment; 12 And as a vesture shalt thou fold them up, and they shall be changed: but thou art the same, and thy years shall not fail.
All creation had already changed at the fall of man, but all of creation will change again, even the heaven and the earth will be burnt up and a new heaven and a new earth will be created;
1 And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea.
12…but thou art the same, and thy years shall not fail.
God however, remains the same, he does not change.
WHY DOES THIS MATTER?
We will prove the doctrine of the immutability of God, we can do it easily with the Bible and we can do it philosophically in an upcoming coming point, but WHY DOES IT MATTER to us that God does not change? Why should that be important?
FAMILIES SUFFER WITH MUTABLE MEMBERS
When it comes to families, one of the greatest burdens are any member of the family that become unpredictable in their behaviour.
One form of sorrow for a child is the potential fear of a mother or father who may come home from work or rise up from bed and be in a foul mood, even abusive. Now, we might all get tender from time to time, and there is no doubt that even that small change is difficult enough to bear, but what if there was a genuine fear in a child not knowing what the father was going to come home like?
There are many families this way, and the pressures of life have affected potentially either or both parents to become UNPREDICTABLE.
What sort of comfort is that for the children?
When the home is host of an unpredictable member of the family, where do the other members of the family find their safe place of rest?
BUSINESSES SUFFER WITH MUTABLE MP’S
During 2020-2021, we had seen multiple businesses fail from the unpredictable decrees of unpredictable men and women who behaved like abusive kidnappers, they stole the people, promised to care for them, then arbitrarily changed rules at the drop of a hat.
In Victoria, on the 10th of February, 2021, when Victoria had ONLY ‘2’ new cases of Covid 19, Daniel Andrews locked down the state for five days from the 12th of February, just in time for valentines day weekend when all the venues were stocked and preparing for a well-needed increase in their income after a sombre holiday period. That was the third lockdown.
The fourth lockdown was on May 27th, 2021 for 14 days, a decision made on the 24th when only 4 cases were recorded. On the day it occurred Victoria had 12 new cases and ONLY 34 active cases in the entire state.
All this seems almost arbitrary and harsh and unpredictable, but it is not until we remember that the state was removed from its sixth and final lockdown on a day that recorded 2,189 new cases of Covid 19 on that very day, and 23,230 active cases in the state, on the 21st of October 2021.
The Bible says
2 When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice: but when the wicked beareth rule, the people mourn.
Not families nor businesses can function with any degree of blessing or hope when unpredictable people influence our lives.
Though man is called to be temperate and moderate in all things, man sadly is naturally prone to unpredictable changes that affect all around him. Capricious is the word that describes the unpredictable change in people.
But it does NOT describe God as the Bible presents him.
God therefore inspires hope and rest knowing that he does not change, HE IS PREDICTABLE to those who know his character and nature.
Man Changes, God Does Not.
Man Changes, God Cannot.
God being immutable is both taught in the Bible but also it is the logical conclusion of an eternal God.
Man Changes, God CANNOT change;
15 For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones.
God is Eternal, something we covered in the very first sermon on this subject. And being ETERNAL, he CANNOT CHANGE. I will explain that in more detail shortly.
Firstly we need to have an understanding that the majority of the arguments AGAINST the understanding that God is IMMUTABLE, comes from men who think of God as a part of this universe, a PRODUCT of the universe.
In short, they believe that God made the BOX and everything that is in the box, but they also think that he is restricted TO THE BOX.
TWO contending theologies are given to us that wants to challenge the understanding of the God of the Bible, one is called OPEN THEISM, the other is called PROCESS THEOLOGY.
Both are similar in their respective ideas.
Open Theism, also known as The Openness of God, essentially teaches that man’s free will is sovereign and God is subordinate to that free will in man.
In other words, God does all he does around mans activity rather than God being all knowing AND sovereign over man.
Open Theism teaches that God changes with the times and acts in accord with mans actions.
Gregory Boyd, in his book The God of the Possible wrote;
“[The impossibility for God to foreknow future actions] entails that future free decisions do not exist (except as possibilities) for God to know until free agents make them.”
Clark Pinnock, is a theologian who wrote a book titled “God Limits His Knowledge”, and says on page 150;
An important implication of this strong definition of freedom is that reality is to an extent open and not closed. It means that genuine novelty can appear in history which cannot be predicted even by God.
In his Systematic Theology, he explains it more clearly saying;
God has the power and ability to be … an ‘ad hoc’ God, one who responds and adapts to surprises and to the unexpected. God sets goals for creation and redemption and realizes them ‘ad hoc’ in history. If Plan A fails, God is ready with Plan B.
Does that sound like the God of the Bible? Do you think God is ‘surprised’ by history?Are there occurrences in the Bible that were somehow “unexpected” by God?
The Bible presents a distinctively opposite idea. Far from an “ad hoc God” who “responds and adapts”, the scripture presents him as in control and unable to be changed in such ways.
24 The LORD of hosts hath sworn, saying, Surely as I have thought, so shall it come to pass; and as I have purposed, so shall it stand:
How does this relate to God being IMMUTABLE? It relates to his eternality, challenging that God is outside TIME, or OUTSIDE THE BOX. If God is BOUNDED by time, he must be at least CAPABLE OF CHANGE. But, if God is OUTSIDE of time, if he is eternal, God CANNOT CHANGE. Again, I’ll explain that more after the example of PROCESS theology.
The second idea proposed is called “Process Theory” or “Process Theology”, The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church defines it as:
“A contemporary theological movement which emphasizes the processive or evolutionary nature of man and the world, and holds that God Himself is in process of development through His intercourse with the changing world”
The notion was introduced by Alfred North Whitehead, an English Mathematician and Philosopher in his 1929 book ‘Process and Reality’, and crept into Christian circles.
He gave consideration to what he saw in the natural state of the world in his time and the rise of Evolutionary Theory, and basically believed, since everything is in the process of becoming in the world, so too God was in the process of becoming. God was changing in line with the world.
John Fienberg brings out the understanding of the argument from both Open Theism and Process Theology in a summary.
He writes that because the Bible shows God as interacting in his creation, in other words, ‘tinkering with those things he created IN THE BOX’, he is seen to change his mind respecting his judgement upon his people at times, he is seen in the scriptures to act differently at different times, and he even became man in Jesus Christ to redeem man, therefore he MUST BE CHANGEABLE.
Process Theology essentially teaches that God is on the way to BECOMING God, rather than eternally BEING the ‘I AM’ of Exodus 3.
These ideas restrict God to the Box he created for man. It takes its view of God from within the box attempting to put God in the Box with them before they understand him.
MAN CHANGES, GOD CANNOT.
God may act differently in time and history, but that does not alter WHO HE IS!
What it would change is WHEN HE IS!
Every attribute of God weaves together the finest tapestry, that should a single thread be unwound, the entire tapestry would come apart.
If we are to take the idea that God changes his nature and being, we then deny he is ETERNAL and timeless. Why? Because the question must arise as to WHEN he changed.
The infinite creator, as read of in the Bible, has no beginning and no end, he “Declares the end from the beginning and from ancient times things that are not yet done” (Isa 46:10), modern theologians, however, have placed the God of the Bible into the same box the universe is contained and try to understand his nature by the restraints they see in the natural world.
If God can change, WHEN can he change? When can a transition occur in an infinite eternal state?
We can understand a change occurring IN TIME, because this would limit the occurrence to a point in history, but how do we understand a CHANGE in one whom the Bible states “Inhabiteth Eternity”;
15 For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy;
If, for example, God happened to change at the time you were born, we can understand it but only because we KNOW there was a limitation respecting how many people were born before you.
But if there was an infinite number of people who exist before you, will we ever get to you?
Let’s say I was to number the people in this room and by the time I got to say Wade, he would jump up and yell out his name, we can conceive of this ONLY because there is a limit as to how many people are in this room.
But if there were an unlimited number of people before Wade, will we ever get to him? How do we even get to the FIRST one to begin counting?
If God was bounded by time like we are, Knowing that TIME had a beginning, then we can conceive of the potential for God to change. But if we live in a universe where both Time/ Space and Matter came into existence “in the beginning”, and God created the universe from outside of it, from outside THE BOX, then there can be no time when God had ever changed.
The Bible clearly presents all the information we need to know what it teaches, but to satisfy those who desire to have their intellect stimulated logically, the fact that God is eternal removes any ability for the essential nature of God to change. What he does in history changes, but his nature and character does not, indeed cannot.
There is also the recognition that any change can ONLY be for the better of for the worse. If God is PERFECT, as the Bible teaches, there is no ABILITY to change for the better, and no NEED to change for the worse! 🙂
Man Changes, God Will Not.
13 For when God made promise to Abraham, because he could swear by no greater, he sware by himself, 14 Saying, Surely blessing I will bless thee, and multiplying I will multiply thee. 15 And so, after he had patiently endured, he obtained the promise. 16 For men verily swear by the greater: and an oath for confirmation is to them an end of all strife. 17 Wherein God, willing more abundantly to shew unto the heirs of promise the immutability of his counsel, confirmed it by an oath: 18 That by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us:
A tremendous comfort is given to each one of us when we see and trust that a promise is made that cannot but be fulfilled. Hebrews teaches those that have placed their trust in God that he will fulfil all he has promised.
He could swear by no better person than he is, promising he would bless Abraham and multiply him, so Abraham patiently endured trusting the promise made.
What is incredible is that when such a reliable testimony and covenant is given as “an oath for confirmation”, it is certainly an end of all strife, we can simply rest in that promise.
In days gone by men would shake hands on a deal and the perfect testimony of the character of the man was based on him fulfilling terms of the deal. Beloved, even today, every man is ONLY as good as his word!
In days gone by we would look at contracts also and give consideration to them in written form that they would seal the deal, but even today lawyers are making a fortune creating contracts that bind only one member of the party to the deal tighter than the other. I would never sign work contracts that were larger than a few pages, the larger the contract and the more obscure the language, made the opportunity greater for the other party to get out of the deal.
In days gone by National Constitutions were the law of the land. ALL other laws were to be SUBJECT to that governing document. If a law was deemed unconstitutional, it did matter what it said, it was disregarded. In other words, a government or company might have you sign a law or contract that was unlawful under the Constitution, even if you agreed to it you would not be held by it.
Sadly, however, man changes and his promises change, and so multitudes of laws have come into being that, one atop another simply make our constitution a worthless document. We saw this in effect in the last few years.
19 God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent: hath he said, and shall he not do it? or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good?
Man Changes, God WILL Not.
17 Wherein God, willing more abundantly to shew unto the heirs of promise the immutability of his counsel, confirmed it by an oath: 18 That by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us:
The greatest consolation we have is that God is the most trustworthy refuge we can ever find. He has laid a hope for us that is absolute and secure, he CONFIRMED IT BY AN OATH, and we are the “heirs of the promise through the immutability (unchanging nature) of his counsel.
Man is Mutable, God Is Immutable
9 Remember the former things of old: for I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me, 10 Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure:
Confusion is often found in the concept of immutability that applies all God does to all his is, but this is not the case.
It is the nature and character of God that does not change. What he does and how he reveals himself to man through the ages, does indeed change. One of the greatest examples is in Jesus Christ for the salvation of mankind.
Turn to Hebrews chapter 1
1 God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, 2 Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds; 3 Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high;
God was always a Saviour to his people, and he desired their change.
From the earliest times in the scriptures we see that God desired a relationship with man, but from the beginning the greatest change in history occurred when man sinned against God, it is a history we refer to as The Fall of Mankind and it occurred through the sin of Adam in his disobedience to God.
From that time forward God had promised a Saviour to man, to rescue him from his sin, to change him and bring him into everlasting fellowship with God.
The Fall of Man Changed everything in the Universe BUT GOD.
21 Because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now.
This change caused both the dying of creation, AND the spiritual death of man together with his physical dying.
Man died spiritually immediately. But God, who declares the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done had prepared an ark, not of wood, but of flesh, to rescue those who desired to be saved.
The FIRST CHANGE in man was his fall.
The SECOND change in man is the NEW BIRTH.
3 Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. 4 Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born? 5 Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.
Only those who were once spiritually dead can be spiritually reborn. If you are NOT born again YOU ARE NOT SAVED.
Let me be sure to repeat that, IF YOU ARE NOT BORN AGAIN YOU ARE NOT SAVED, but still lost. YOU may have agreed in your head that Jesus is who he says he is, but your heart remains of stone and not flesh.
God said through Ezekiel, “and I will take the stony heart out of their flesh, and will give them an heart of flesh:” (Eek 11:19)
I have no doubt there are those within this church who are NOT born again, not truly saved.
A George Barna survey done many years ago surveyed a large number of Churches and asked the question of the New Birth, 80% of the respondents said they were not born again. Even if these figures were REVERSED for this Church, it would mean a reasonable number of you who call yourself “Christian” are not saved, you have not been changed, you have not yet gone from death to life, but await that judgement that will fall on all the lost.
So the FIRST CHANGE IN MAN was the fall, the SECOND must be the New Birth, the THIRD occurs in a moment;
1 Corinthians 15:51–52
51 Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52 In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.
While God changes not, man MUST be changed.
Our bodies, in a single moment of time, will go from corrupt to incorrupt and we shall be changed.
Of the damned in hell, Jesus said “where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched”, of the saved, the scripture says “we shall be raised INCORRUPTIBLE, and we shall be changed”.
Both the damned in hell and the saved in heaven shall be given bodies FIT FOR PURPOSE, but both shall be changed.
MAN IS MUTIBLE, GOD IS IMMUTIBLE.
The only question for you today is which change do you desire to obtain at life’s end?
. Gregory Boyd, The God of the Possible, p. 120
. Clark Pinnock. “God Limits His Knowledge,” p. 150
. Clark H, Pinnock, “Systematic Theology,” p. 113