Every time a new politician steps into the ring, he promises change. But change can be good or bad. We know we should change oil, lightbulbs, and dirty diapers. And growth requires change. But many people believe we should also change our morals, ethics, and beliefs to accommodate changes in culture. But should everything be open to change? The Bible gives us clear guidelines on what should change and what should stay the same.
“I, the Lord, never change,” God declares in Malachi 3:6. So that’s where we start. Change means a move in another direction. For God to change would mean that He either becomes better or worse, and God is ultimate perfection. He cannot change because He cannot be better than He already is; and He cannot fail or become less than perfect, so He cannot become worse than He is. God’s quality of never changing is called immutability.
God never changes, and nothing about Him changes: His character traits such as love, mercy, kindness, justice, and wisdom always exist in perfection. The methods He uses to deal with human beings have changed through the centuries, but the values and purposes behind those methods did not. For example, under the Mosaic Covenant, God declared that animals sacrificed in the manner He prescribed would atone for the sins of the people (Leviticus 4:23; 9:2–13; Numbers 29:11). Under the terms of the New Covenant, the Son of God Himself became the sacrifice, and the old system, having served its purpose, became obsolete (Luke 22:20; Hebrews 9:11–14). God’s holiness, His wrath against sin, and His extension of mercy did not change, but He did provide a better sacrifice for us: the perfect Lamb of God (John 1:29; Hebrews 10:10). This change from the Old Covenant to the New was needed, and it is wonderful, securing eternal life for those who trust in Christ (John 3:16–18).
God never changes, but people do: our bodies, brains, ideas, and values all change. In fact, God built into us the ability to change. Part of being created in God’s image is that human beings can think, reason, and come to conclusions distinct from physical or material realities (Genesis 1:27).
When God created Adam and Eve, they were perfect, but mutable. Any change they experienced was good, as they tended the garden and learned more of God and of each other. But sin brought about a negative change that altered not only Adam and Eve’s behavior and thinking but also their very nature. As a result, their environment changed, along with all of human history. In our sin, we lost our perfect environment and were left to wrest survival from an unforgiving planet (Genesis 3:17–19). Change had come, and it was not a good change.
Even when mankind fell into sin, God did not change. His love for humanity and desire for fellowship with them remained the same. So He took steps to redeem us from our sin—we are powerless to change ourselves in that regard—and He sent His only begotten Son to save us. Repentance and faith in Christ is God’s avenue of change to restore us to Himself.
Once we are “in Christ,” everything changes. We are born again (John 3:3). Our ideas change. Our perspective changes. Our values and actions change to line up with God’s Word. As the Holy Spirit works within us, we find that “the old has gone, the new is here!” (2 Corinthians 5:17). The Christian life is an ongoing series of changes as we grow in knowledge, faith, and holiness (1 Peter 1:16; Hebrews 12:14). We grow in Christ (2 Peter 3:18), and growth requires change.
Even good changes can be uncomfortable and scary. The Israelites in slavery in Egypt at first resisted Moses’ attempts to free them, believing Moses was a troublemaker who was making things worse for them—indeed, things did get worse before they got better (Exodus 5). At the pool of Bethesda, Jesus found an infirm man who had suffered his condition for a long time. Interestingly, Jesus asked him, “Do you want to get well?” (John 5:6). A strange question with a logical purpose. Before the Lord introduced the man to lifelong change, He wanted to know: do you really want this, or are you more comfortable with your life of begging and living off the charity of others? Are you ready to change?
Some people believe that God’s Word must change or adapt to keep up with the times. However, Jesus strongly validated the Scriptures and called them “truth” (John 17:17). He also said, “For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.” If God’s character does not change, then His Word does not change. His truth, standards, and way of salvation will never change (John 14:6). Changeable humans do not have the power or authority to change God’s Word, and only the foolish will try.
Change for its own sake is neither good nor bad. It depends on the direction the change takes you. We should be willing to change our minds and our lifestyles when we are shown from God’s infallible Word that we are wrong. We should embrace change, no matter how hard it is, when it comes from God. But we must respect that some things never change and are not meant to: pretending we can change God or His Word to fit our preferences is a dangerous idea and only leads to destruction.