We’re continuing through the incommunicable attributes of God in our Doctrine of God series. A big word that means what he shares a little, or not at all with us, like His eternal nature. Today’s questions are, can God change, can He change His mind, and other questions of that nature.
Does God change?
God is unchanging in His being, perfections, purposes, and promises, yet God does act and feel emotions, and feels differently in response to different situations.
What does it mean that God doesn’t change?
Before there was anything, He was the same then, now, and will be after, while His creation does change (Psalm 102:25-27). His response to us also doesn’t change in reference to His patience, long-suffering, and mercy (Malachi 3:6). James 1:17 says only good gifts come from God so we can be confident they’ll come in the future because His character never changes.
Does God change like the universe He created?
“In the beginning, Lord, you laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands.
They will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like a garment. You will roll them up like a robe; like a garment they will be changed. But you remain the same, and your years will never end.” Hebrews 1:10-12
Does God change at all?
He is unchanging in ways that Scripture affirms only. That is His “being” and with respect to His “perfections” which we know as His attributes or various aspects of His character.
This also includes His purposes. Psalms 33:11 says “But the plans of the Lord stand firm forever, the purposes of his heart through all generations.” This is supported by Matthew 13:35, 25:34; Ephesians 1:4, 11, 3:9, 11; 2 Timothy 2:19; 1 Peter 1:20; Revelation 13:8.
Isaiah 46:9-11 says “Remember the former things, those of long ago; I am God, and there is no other;
I am God, and there is none like me. I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say, ‘My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please.’ From the east I summon a bird of prey; from a far-off land, a man to fulfill my purpose. What I have said, that I will bring about; what I have planned, that I will do.”
God is unchanging in His promises. Numbers 23:19 says, “God is not human, that he should lie, not a human being, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill?” Why would He? He’s all-powerful, he doesn’t have to lie, there’s nothing we could do about it.
Does God change His mind?
It appears so, like when He withdrew threatened judgment (Exodus 39:9-14), added fifteen years to Hezekiah’s life (Isaiah 38:1-6), and didn’t wipe out Nineveh (Jonah 3:4, 10). Before that, he was regretting even creating man (Genesis 6:6) or making Saul the king of Israel (1 Samuel 15:10). Doesn’t that mean His purposes changed?
It’s God’s attitude and intention with respect to the situation of the moment. Like with the threatened judgments to Nineveh and the Israelites, those were conditional promises. “If you don’t stop , I will do .” He promised to punish them if they didn’t stop, and not to punish if they did.
The purpose? Repent and turn to Him, like it’s always been.
Answered prayers are part of His purpose in the case of Moses interceding for the Israelites and Hezekiah’s added lifespan. He plays the long game.
Regretting a decision? It’s like the displeasure with your kids when they’re really bad. But you know it will work out in the end.
If God doesn’t change, then does anything we do matter at all?
The Bible is clear that our ultimate significance comes from the fact we were created for His glory, and He counts us as significant. He defines what is significant, and Jesus came to save us, not anything else.
Doctrine of God Posts
Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine by Wayne Grudem
Chapter 11: Incommunicable Attributes of God