That God is Immutable

by Edward Leigh

God is in himself, and in his own nature, immutable (Numbers 23:19; 1 Samuel 15:29).

Immutability is that whereby anything, in its essence, existence, or operation, is unchangeable. God's unchangeableness is that whereby God, in his essence, properties, and decrees, is unchangeable.

The Scripture proves the immutability of God both affirmatively (Exodus 3:6; Psalm 102:29) and negatively (Malachi 3:16; James 1:17).

Immutability is twofold:

  1. Independent and absolute, and that is only in God.

  2. Dependent and comparative, this may belong to some creatures, which they have from God, but yet infinitely different.

  3. God is unchangeable originally and of himself; these from him.

  4. In the manner, God is in his essence immutable; that and his being are all one, therefore he is both potentially and actually so; the creatures are only actually.

  5. God is so from eternity, they only from their first being.

All other things are subject to change and alteration. They may lose what they had and attain something which before they had not; even the immortal spirits are thus mutable. They may fall into sin or be annihilated; but in God, there is no change. He is what he is, always the same, void of all mutation, corruption, alteration, and local motion (Psalm 90:2; 102:26-27; 1 Timothy 1:17; Psalm 110:4; Hebrews 1:11; 6:2).

A reasonable creature may be changed in five ways:

  1. In respect of existence, if it exists sometimes, and sometimes not.
  2. In respect of place, if it is moved from one place to another.
  3. In respect of accidents, if it is changed in quantity or quality.
  4. In respect of the knowledge of the understanding, as if it now thinks that to be true which before it judged to be false.
  5. In respect of the purpose of will, if it now decrees to do something which before it decreed not to do.

God is not changed in any of these ways:

Not the first, because he is eternal, neither beginning nor ever ceasing to exist.

Not the second, because he is present everywhere, not newly beginning to exist in any place.

Not the third, because God is a simple essence, and there is no accident in him.

Not the fourth, because he is omniscient (παντογνώστης), and cannot be deceived in his knowledge.

Not the fifth, because he changeth not his decrees, since he most wisely decrees all things.

God is unchangeable in every way:

  1. In essence or being, he cannot be changed into another nature, neither can that nature which he hath be corrupted and decay.
  2. In essential properties, his mercy endureth forever; he doth not love and then hate.
  3. In his will and counsel (Psalm 33:11; Romans 11:29), the counsel of the Lord shall stand (Proverbs 19:21).
  4. In place, the sun runs from one place to another, but God doth not move from one place to another; he is always where he was and shall always be, viz., in himself.
  5. In his word and promises (Isaiah 14:24; 2 Corinthians 1:19; Romans 4:6).


  1. From his perfection, all change is a kind of imperfection; there is indeed a change, corruptive and perfective, but the perfective alteration supposeth the subject to be imperfect.
  2. He is uncompounded, therefore altogether immutable, a pure act.
  3. He is truly and properly eternal (אֱלֹהֵי קֶדֶם), therefore immutable; for he is truly eternal, who is always the same, without beginning, change, or end.
  4. If God should change, then either he must change for the better, and then he was not best and perfect before; or for the worse, and then he is not best now.

If he should be changed, it must be from some other thing stronger than himself, and there is none such. Nothing without him can change him because he is omnipotent; and nothing within him, for there is no ignorance in his mind, inconstancy in his will, nor impotence in his power.

Object: God does repent (Genesis 6:6; 1 Samuel 15:11; 2 Samuel 24:16; Psalm 135:14; Jeremiah 26:13; 18:8). To repent implies a change.

Answer: God is not said to repent properly, but in the manner of men, not affectively but effectively. God does that which men do when they repent: they cease from doing what they have done and do the contrary, changing their actions. God's repentance of the evil in those places is a resolution not to do the evil he had threatened or not to persist in doing what he had begun to do. There is a change in the creature but no change in God, either in respect of his nature or decree; therefore, in other places, it is said he does not repent, meaning he does not change or alter his mind. God wills a change but does not change his will. The change is in us, not God, as houses and trees seem to move to those on a ship, but the ship moves, and they stand firm. One may, with the same will continuing immutable (says Aquinas), will that now this thing be done, and afterward the contrary; but the will would change if one began to will what he did not will before.

Object: God promises and threatens some things that do not come to pass.

Answer: Those threatenings and promises were not absolute but conditional; and however the condition was uncertain concerning men, yet it was most certain concerning God. His promises are made with the condition of faith and obedience (Deuteronomy 28:13), and his threatenings with an exception of conversion and repentance (Psalm 7:2).

Object: God is reconciled with men with whom he was offended before.

Answer: The object is changed; God is still the same. As the sun, which was troublesome to sore eyes, is pleasant to them when healed; the sun here is not changed, but their eyes.

Object: Why are prayers or means necessary if God is immutable? Why do I pray or hear?

Answer: God immutably wills both the end and the means, and therefore, as he wills your pardon, so he wills your prayer.

Object: God created the world, and Christ was incarnate and made man. Now, he who was made something he was not before or did something he did not before seems to be changed. He is a man, he was not so once; he is a Creator, he was not so from eternity.

Answer: Christ only assumed and took to himself a human nature; he was not changed into it. Creation is nothing but God's will from eternity that the world should exist in time, so that the creature has something now which it had not before, but God's will has not.

God is not changed in any way, though he changes his actions according to his good pleasure.

  1. This is terrible for wicked men. God is unchangeable, having threatened to curse them and bring destruction upon them; they must change, or else there is no repealing of the curse. The wicked hope he will change; the godly fear he will change.
  2. It comforts the godly, to whom he has made many promises (Numbers 23:23; Hebrews 13:5). He is constant and will perform them. He told Adam that the seed of the woman should bruise the serpent's head. He was long but sure, for it was fulfilled at last. His covenant is everlasting (Isaiah 55:3). I am God and change not; therefore, you are not consumed (Malachi 3:6). We should labour for God's love; it is a freehold and like himself, immutable. Whom he loves once, he loves forever: God's people shall never fall from grace, never be wholly overcome by temptations.
  3. We should imitate God's immutability in a gracious way, being constant in our love to God and men, in our promises and good purposes. As the martyr said, "Rawlins, you left me, and Rawlins, you find me." We should pray for the establishment of our faith and patience.
  4. We should admire the glorious nature of God, for what an infinitely glorious God he must be, who has had all that happiness and glory from eternity. We should worship the true God because he is immutable, and we shall be so hereafter, being made most like to him (Psalm 102:27).
  5. It confutes the Eutychians and Ubiquitarians, who held that the Godhead became flesh. Can a spirit be a body, and both visible and invisible?


Source: Leigh's Body of Divinity.

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