The Attributes of God: Immutability (part 1)

by Lauren Dyck

“Of old you laid the foundation o 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.” Psalm 102:25-27

In reference to Psalm 102:25-27, Wayne Grudem notes, “God existed before the heavens and earth were made, and He will exist long after they have been destroyed. God causes the universe to change, but in contrast to this change He is ‘the same.’”[1] In theological terms, this is known as the attribute of ‘immutability.’

God’s immutability is defined as His “perfect unchangeability in His essence, character, purpose, and promises.” Or, expanded in this way, “God is unchangeable in His nature, perfections, purposes, promises, and gifts. God does not change His mind, His will, or His nature.”

A summary of verses given in “Biblical Doctrine: A Systematic Summary of Bible Truth” as edited by John MacArthur and Richard Mayhue, in support of the doctrine of God’s immutability are as follows:

  1. He is eternally the same (Ps. 102:25-27)
  2. He is the first and the last (Isa. 41:4; 43:10; 44:6; 48:12)
  3. His what He is (Ex. 3:14)
  4. He is incorruptible, alone having immortality, always remaining the same (Rom. 1:23; 1 Tim. 1:7; 6:15-16; Heb. 1:11-12)
  5. His thought, purpose, will, and decrees are unchangeable:
    1. He executes His threats and promises (Num. 23:19; 1 Sam. 15:29)
    2. He does not repent of His gifts and calling (Rom. 11:29)
    3. He does not cast off people with whom He has made a unilateral covenant (Rom. 11:1)
    4. He glorifies those whom he foreknows (Rom. 8:29-30)
    5. He perfects what He starts (Ps. 138:8; Phil. 1:6)
    6. His faithfulness never lessens (Lam. 3:22-23)
  6. He does not change (Mal. 3:6; James 1:17)

Change is constantly taking place around us: we change (our minds as well as physically), places change, the environment, animals, the world, and in fact all of creation is constantly changing. But we see in the Scripture references given above, that thankfully, we have a God who is unchanging, constant, and always the same.

Think about it this way, if something changes, it must do so in some chronological order; there must be a point in time before the change took place, and by necessity, a point in time afterward. In other words, change must happen within the constraints of time, and God, being eternal, is not bound by time and He alone exists outside of time’s constraints. Also, immutability is necessary for God’s perfections. If something changes, it must change for the better or for the worse and since God is perfect, any change for the better is impossible, and any change for the worse would mean He was no longer perfect.

God’s immutability is also related to His omniscience. When we change our mind, it is because we have learned some new information that we did not previously know or understand, or because our circumstances have changed. God, being omniscient, cannot learn something new that He did not already know, or be caught in a circumstance that He was not previously aware of. So, even when the bible speaks of God changing His mind, or repenting, it must be understood that the circumstance or situation changed, not God.[2]

Herman Bavinck makes this observation regarding the importance of the doctrine of immutability in relation to the nature of the Creator/creation distinction between God and man:

“The doctrine of God’s immutability is of the highest significance for religion. The contrast between being and becoming marks the difference between the Creator and the creature. Every creature is continually becoming. It is changeable, constantly striving, seeks rest and satisfaction, and finds this rest in God, in Him alone, for only He is pure being and no becoming. Hence, in Scripture God is often called the Rock. . .”[3]

We see how important immutability is to the other attributes of God. In fact, as we continue to look at more attributes in upcoming articles, we will continually see how they are all interdependent and cannot be separated. Immutability means that God’s nature is absolutely unchangeable; it is not possible that He should possess one attribute at one time that He does not possess at another time.[4]

So, what does this mean for us? We have a God who never changes and keeps all of His promises. The more you and I get to know Him through His revelation in Scripture, the more our trust in Him grows because we see His faithfulness in all things.

[1] Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology, p.163

[2] This does create some questions regarding passages that seemingly teach that God does change His mind, or repent, but I believe that a careful examination of those texts reveals the truth of the statement I just made. I will show this in another article where we will examine a few of those passages the seem to contradict immutability.

[3] Herman Bavinck, The Doctrine of God, p. 149

[4] The attribute of ‘simplicity’ explains this fact which I will look at in another article.


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