Tag Archives: Divine Immutability

“Our safety lieth in God’s immutability” by Thomas Manton

“The Lord is unchangeable in holiness and glory. He is a sun that shineth always with a like brightness.

God, and all that is in God, is unchangeable; for this is an attribute that, like a silken string through a chain of pearl, runneth through all the rest:

His mercy is unchangeable, ‘His mercy endureth forever,’ (Ps. 100:5).

So His strength, and therefore He is called ‘The Rock of ages,’ (Isa. 36:4).

So His counsel, Mutat sententiam, sed non decretum (as Bradwardine); He may change His sentence, the outward threatening or promise, but not His inward decree; He may will a change, but not change His will.

So His love is immutable; His heart is the same to us in the diversity of outward conditions: we are changed in estate and opinion, but God, He is not changed.

Well, then,—

1. The more mutable you are, the less you are like God. Oh! how should you loathe yourselves when you are so fickle in your purposes, so changeable in your resolutions!

God is immutably holy, but you have a heart that loveth to wander. He is always the same, but you are soon removed, (Gal. 1:6); ‘soon shaken in mind,’(2 Thess. 2:2); whirried with every blast, (Eph. 4:14), borne down with every new emergency and temptation.

The more you do ‘continue in the good that you have learned and been assured of,’ (2 Tim. 3:14), the more do you resemble the divine perfection.

2. Go to Him to establish and settle your spirits. God, that is unchangeable in Himself, can bring you into an immutable estate of grace, against which all the gates of hell cannot prevail; therefore be not quiet, till you have gotten such gifts from him as are without repentance, the fruits of eternal grace, and the pledges of eternal glory.

3. Carry yourselves to Him as unto an immutable good; in the greatest change of things see Him always the same: when there is little in the creature, there is as much in God as ever: (Ps. 102:26-27), ‘They shall perish, but Thou shalt endure; they shall all wax old as a garment: Thou art the same for ever, and Thy years have no end.’

All creatures vanish, not only like a piece of cloth, but like a garment. Cloth would rot of itself, or be eaten out by moths; but a garment is worn and wasted every day.

But God doth not change; there is no wrinkle upon the brow of eternity; the arm of mercy is not dried up, nor do His bowels of love waste and spend themselves.

And truly this is the church’s comfort in the saddest condition, that however the face of the creatures be changed to them, God will be still the same. It is said somewhere, that ‘the name of God is as an ointment poured out.’ (Song of Solomon 1:3)

Certainly this name of God’s immutability is as an ointment poured out, the best cordial to refresh a fainting soul. When the Israelites were in distress, all the letters of credence that God would give Moses were those, (Exod. 3:14), ‘I AM that I AM hath sent me unto you.’

That was comfort enough to the Israelites, that their God remained in the same tenor and glory of the divine essence; He could still say I AM. With God is no change, no past or present; He remaineth in the same indivisible point of eternity; and therefore saith, I AM.

So the prophet (Malachi 3:6), ἔγω κύριος, οὐκ ἠλλοίωμαι, ‘I am the Lord, that change not’ (or am not changed); ‘therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed.’

Our safety lieth in God’s immutability; we cannot perish utterly, because He cannot change.”

–Thomas Manton, “Commentary on the Epistle of James,” The Works of Thomas Manton, Vol. 4 (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1871/2020), 4: 113-114. Manton is commenting on James 1:17.

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“The most excellent study for expanding the soul” by Charles Spurgeon

“It has been said by some one that ‘the proper study of mankind is man.’ I will not oppose the idea, but I believe it is equally true that the proper study of God’s elect is God; the proper study of a Christian is the Godhead.

The highest science, the loftiest speculation, the mightiest philosophy, which can ever engage the attention of a child of God, is the name, the nature, the person, the work, the doings, and the existence of the great God whom he calls his Father.

There is something exceedingly improving to the mind in a contemplation of the Divinity. It is a subject so vast, that all our thoughts are lost in its immensity; so deep, that our pride is drowned in its infinity.

Other subjects we can compass and grapple with; in them we feel a kind of self-content, and go our way with the thought, ‘Behold I am wise.’

But when we come to this master-science, finding that our plumb-line cannot sound its depth, and that our eagle eye cannot see its height, we turn away with the thought, that vain man would be wise, but he is like a wild ass’s colt; and with the solemn exclamation, ‘I am but of yesterday, and know nothing.’

No subject of contemplation will tend more to humble the mind, than thoughts of God. But while the subject humbles the mind it also expands it. He who often thinks of God, will have a larger mind than the man who simply plods around this narrow globe.

The most excellent study for expanding the soul, is the science of Christ, and Him crucified, and the knowledge of the Godhead in the glorious Trinity.

Would you lose your sorrows? Would you drown your cares? Then go, plunge yourself in the Godhead’s deepest sea; be lost in His immensity; and you shall come forth as from a couch of rest, refreshed and invigorated.

I know nothing which can so comfort the soul; so calm the swelling billows of grief and sorrow; so speak peace to the winds of trial, as a devout musing upon the subject of the Godhead.

Nothing will so enlarge the intellect, nothing so magnify the whole soul of man, as a devout, earnest, continued investigation of the great subject of the Deity. And, whilst humbling and expanding, this subject is eminently consolatary.

Oh, there is, in contemplating Christ, a balm for every wound; in musing on the Father, there is a quietus for every grief; and in the influence of the Holy Ghost, there is a balsam for every sore.

It is to that subject that I invite you this morning. We shall present you with one view of it,—that is the immutability of the glorious Jehovah.

“I am,” says my text, “Jehovah,” (for so it should be translated) “I am Jehovah, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed.’ (Malachi 3:6)”

–Charles H. Spurgeon, “The Immutability of God,” in The New Park Street Pulpit Sermons, Volume 1 (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1855), 1. Spurgeon preached this sermon from Malachi 3:6 on January 7, 1855. He was twenty years old.

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“He is unchangeable in His grace” by Herman Bavinck

“He is who He is, the same yesterday, today, and forever. This meaning is further explained in Exodus 3:15: YHWH—the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob—sends Moses, and that is His name forever.

God does not simply call Himself “the One who is” and offer no explanation of His aseity, but states expressly what and how He is.

Then how and what will He be? That is not something one can say in a word or describe in an additional phrase, but “He will be what He will be.”

That sums up everything. This addition is still general and indefinite, but for that reason also rich and full of deep meaning.

He will be what He was for the patriarchs, what He is now and will remain: He will be everything to and for His people.

It is not a new and strange God who comes to them by Moses, but the God of the fathers, the Unchangeable One, the Faithful One, the eternally Self-consistent One, who never leaves or forsakes His people but always again seeks out and saves His own.

He is unchangeable in His grace, in His love, in His assistance, who will be what He is because He is always Himself.”

–Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics: God and Creation, Vol. 2 (Ed. John Bolt, and Trans. John Vriend; Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2004), 2: 143.

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“The simple triune Creator is the self-efficacious and ultimate origin of all that exists” by Steven Duby

“This formulation of divine simplicity has proceeded on the conviction that this attribute is an implicate of God’s singularity, aseity, immutability, infinity, and act of creatio ex nihilo.

It has been maintained throughout that a dogmatic approach to the doctrine is in order, and this has involved attending to the biblical teaching on the various attributes that imply God’s simplicity and supplying elaborative clarification and examining the ways in which each of these divine perfections conduct the theologian to a recognition of simplicity.

After delineating the central claims of the doctrine of divine simplicity, the proposed exegetico-dogmatic approach was carried out, following the manner in which each of the attributes distinctly considered addresses and vouchsafes certain of the constituent claims of the teaching of God’s simplicity.

God’s singularity implies that He is Himself the fullness of His deity subsisting, that He transcends the categories of genus and species, that He is really identical with each of His perfections and is therefore not composed of substance and accidents, and that He is without composition altogether in the uniqueness with which He is God.

God’s aseity implies that He is actus purus, ipsa deitas subsistens, ipsum esse subsistens, really identical with each of His own perfections, and free from all composition with nothing back of Him governing or actualizing His being.

Likewise, God’s immutability implies again that He is wholly in act, without potentia passiva whereby He might be altered or enhanced.

In His selfsameness and indivisibility, He is each of His perfections subsisting, without accidents and without any composition whatsoever.

God’s infinity too implies that He is actus purus. In His boundless perfection, each of God’s attributes is really identical with His essence, and each of the divine persons is really identical with His essence subsisting in a certain manner.

Finally, the act of creatio ex nihilo implies that God is actus purus and ipsum esse subsistens without any eternal co-existents.

Just so, the simple triune Creator is the self-efficacious and ultimate origin of all that exists.”

–Steven J. Duby, Divine Simplicity: A Dogmatic Account (T&T Clark Studies in Systematic Theology; New York: Bloomsbury Academic, 2018), 235.

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“He is unchangeably the same eternal God” by Herman Bavinck

“As living, thinking beings in time, we stand before the mystery of eternal uncreated being and marvel.

On the one hand, it is certain that God is the Eternal One: in Him there is neither past or future, neither becoming or change.

All that He is is eternal: His thought, His will, His decree.

Eternal in Him is the idea of the world that He thinks and utters in the Son; eternal in Him is also the decision to create the world; eternal in Him is the will that created the world in time; eternal is also the act of creating as an act of God, an action both internal and immanent.

For God did not become Creator, so that first for a long time He did not create and then afterward He did create.

Rather, He is the eternal Creator, and as Creator He was the Eternal One, and as the Eternal One He created. The creation therefore brought about no change in God; it did not emanate from Him and is no part of His being.

He is unchangeably the same eternal God.”

–Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics: God and Creation, Vol. 2 (Ed. John Bolt, and Trans. John Vriend; Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2004), 429.

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“Without losing Himself, God can give Himself” by Herman Bavinck

“A deep chasm separates God’s being from that of all creatures.

It is a mark of God’s greatness that He can condescend to the level of His creatures and that, though transcendent, He can dwell immanently in all created beings.

Without losing Himself, God can give Himself, and, while absolutely maintaining His immutability, He can enter into an infinite number of relations to His creatures.”

–Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics: God and Creation, Vol. 2, Ed. John Bolt, and Trans. John Vriend (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2004), 2: 159.

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“If God were not immutable, He would not be God” by Herman Bavinck

“God is and remains the same. Everything changes, but He remains standing.

He remains who He is (Ps. 102:26–28). He is YHWH, He who is and ever remains Himself.

He is the first and with the last He is still the same God (Isa. 41:4; 43:10; 46:4; 48:12). He is who He is (Deut. 32:39; cf. John 8:58; Heb. 13:8), the incorruptible who alone has immortality, and is always the same (Rom. 1:23; 1 Tim. 1:17; 6:16; Heb. 1:11–12).

Unchangeable in His existence and being, He is so also in His thought and will, in all His plans and decisions. He is not a human that He should lie or repent.

What He says, He will do (Num. 15:28; 1 Sam. 15:29). His gifts (charismata) and calling are irrevocable (Rom. 11:29). He does not reject his people (Rom. 11:1).

He completes what He has begun (Ps. 138:8; Phil. 1:6). In a word, He, YHWH, does not change (Mal. 3:6).

In Him there is ‘no variation or shadow due to change’ (James 1:17).” On this foundation Christian theology constructed its doctrine of divine immutability…

If God were not immutable, He would not be God. His name is ‘being,’ and this name is “an unalterable name.” All that changes ceases to be what it was. But true being belongs to Him who does not change.

That which truly is remains. That which changes was something and will be something but is not anything because it is mutable.

But God who is cannot change, for every change would diminish His being. Furthermore, God is as immutable in His knowing, willing, and decreeing as He is in His being.

The essence of God by which He is what He is, possesses nothing changeable, neither in eternity, nor in truthfulness, nor in will. As He is, so He knows and wills—immutably.

Augustine wrote, ‘For even as You totally are, so do You alone totally know, for You immutably are, and You know immutably, and You will immutably. Your essence knows and wills immutably, and Your knowledge is and wills immutably, and Your will is and knows immutably.’ (Confessions, XIII, 16)

Neither creation, nor revelation, nor incarnation (affects, etc.) brought about any change in God. No new plan ever arose in God. In God there was always one single immutable will.”

–Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics: God and Creation, Ed. John Bolt, and Trans. John Vriend (vol. 2; Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2004), 2: 153-154.

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