God unchanging (God is Sovereign Part 5)

If you want to impress people with your learning than you can always tell them that “A natural implication of God’s aseity is his immutability.”[1] That sounds impressive doesn’t it?  If, however, you want to come across as a normal member of the human race and you want others to understand you then you can say that because God is sovereign, independent, without rivals and self-existent (aseity), this means that he will not change (immutability).

Here’s Bavinck using slightly more everyday language.

“Unchangeable in his existence and being, he is 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).”[2]

Indeed, the fact that God does not change is something that Bavinck says distinguishes the Creator God from the creature. “The difference between the Creator and the creature hinges on the contrast between being and becoming.”[3] And so he says:

“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.”[4]

In other words, God is trustworthy. It is not in his nature to change his mind. He is not fickle and because he is sovereign and independent, because there is no power in the Universe greater than Him, nothing to manipulate Him, nothing to force him to change course, we know that he won’t change His mind against His Will.

This means that we can trust God to keep His promises. He will not go back on His word. So the writer to the Hebrews says:

18 So God has given both his promise and his oath. These two things are unchangeable because it is impossible for God to lie. Therefore, we who have fled to him for refuge can have great confidence as we hold to the hope that lies before us. 19 This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls. It leads us through the curtain into God’s inner sanctuary. 20 Jesus has already gone in there for us. He has become our eternal High Priest in the order of Melchizedek.”[5]

At this point, hopefully you will have picked up on something wonderful and vital. We have talked about the truths that God is sovereign/powerful and that God is good/loving, but we may still end up treating these things as polar opposites in tension. Again, the temptation in our day and age is to see all power and authority as bad, controlling, tyrannical and abusive. This is not so with God. It is not just that He is strong and that He is good. He is good because He is strong.  His power and sovereignty is good. He exercises a loving rule.  I guess this is another way of saying that God is Simple. These characteristics are inseparable. Sovereignty and goodness are different perspectives on the same God.

[1] H Bavinck, The Doctrine of God and Creation, 153.

[2] H Bavinck, The Doctrine of God and Creation, 153.

[3] H Bavinck, The Doctrine of God and Creation, 156.

[4] H Bavinck, The Doctrine of God and Creation, 154.

[5] Hebrews 6:18-20.

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