Like most people, as we head into 2013 I am hungry for change. In our cities, our culture, our families, and even in ourselves we want some things–many things–to be different. A new year brings hope that “it” will get better. The underlying reality of this desire is that things are not as they should be. The world is corrupt, our lives are incomplete, and people are broken.
But for all of the change I do desire, my greatest hope for 2013 is actually no change at all. You see, the fact that change is possible is rooted in another truth–God does not change, but remains constant. The fourth question in the Westminster Shorter Catechism is, “What is God?” I memorized the answer to this question years ago, and the biblical truth contained in it is a constant source of comfort and courage to me.
Q 4. What is God?
A. God is a Spirit, infinite, eternal, and unchangeable, in his being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth.
Our eternal God is unchanging (the theological term is immutable) in his being, meaning that his nature does not change. He is perfect and incapable of development or corruption. He does not need to learn or grow in any respect. He is completely different from us. I change for the worse because of my own sin, or for the better because of his grace.
He is unchanging in his wisdom, meaning that he has all knowledge of himself and all things, knows what is best and has planned our days perfectly. Our God not only has wisdom, but he gives wisdom to those who ask for it (James 1:5).
He is unchaining in his power, meaning he never grows weary. Our God does not, cannot, tire. He does all that he pleases and no one can overthrow his plans. And he not only exercises his power to work and save, but he gives power to those who believe in his Son. His power works in us. (Ps. 135:6; Heb. 1:3; Eph. 1:19; Col. 1:28-29; Acts 1:8)
He is unchanging in his holiness, meaning that he is absolutely pure. God’s motives and actions are free from corruption or impurity, and he can therefore always be trusted and worshipped. Not only is God holy, but he makes his people holy. In justifying us he declares us to be righteous through Christ’s perfect obedience on our behalf. In sanctifying us he progressively makes us holy in this life. In glorifying us he will make us perfectly, practically holy in the end. (Is. 6:3; Eph 1:4; Heb. 12:14; 1 Jn. 3:2)
He in unchanging in his justice, meaning that he is perfectly righteous in himself and in all his dealings with others. He will not cheat, take a bribe, or act unfairly against anyone. It is his justice that condemns sin, punishes the wicked, vindicates the righteous, and protects the innocent. It is his justice that is ultimately on display in the gospel where God condemns our sins in his Son, and vindicates his Son through his resurrection from the dead. (Deut. 32:4; Rom. 3:26)
He is unchanging in his goodness, meaning that he is benevolent and kind toward all generally, but especially to his own people. His kindness to the church includes both their earthly care and provision as well as all spiritual blessings in Jesus Christ. (Ps. 106:1; 125:4)