God is holy, immanent, and immutable

Scripture teaches us that we have been created in the image of God. There are many ways in which we resemble Him or reflect His attributes. Scripture also encourages us to seek to be like Him in how we see things, treat things, and value things. God is empowering us to navigate life like He wants us to, but we also need to acknowledge that while we're learning to be more like Him, He is far above us and is the perfection of all the attributes we're seeking to emulate.

And while some of His attributes can be incorporated into what we value and what we do, other attributes cannot even be replicated because they are unique to God alone.

For example, God teaches us to be holy because He is holy. We'll talk more about His holiness in just a moment, but that attribute is an attribute that He actively empowers us to model. In fact, He also tells us that through faith in Jesus Christ, we become holy in His sight.

Scripture also teaches us that God is immanent and immutable. Those attributes can be appreciated, but they cannot be copied. We'll define what those terms mean momentarily, but God's immanence and immutability belong to Him alone. We do not possess those attributes, nor can we expect to develop them as our faith matures.

So, as we continue our look at who God is and what He's like, let's examine His holiness, immanence, and immutability.


I. God is holy

Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”
— 1 Peter 1:13-16, ESV

Holiness is a valuable concept to understand, but it's often misunderstood and sometimes maligned. Scripture tells us that God is holy. This means He is "set apart" from His creation. In Him, there is no sin, nor is it possible for Him to sin. When the Lord judges sin, He isn't being hypocritical by doing so because He is the perfection of holiness and the standard by which right and wrong are measured.

God is praised throughout Scripture for His holiness.

“There is none holy like the Lord: for there is none besides you; there is no rock like our God. -1 Samuel 2:2
And one called to another and said: Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!” -Isaiah 6:3

Scripture also teaches us that God makes us holy when we come to faith in Jesus Christ. As Jesus atoned for our sin when He died in our place, we are sanctified or made holy when we trust in Him.

"And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all." -Hebrews 10:10

God has always called His children to live "set apart". We are called to be obedient children who can now see things like He sees them. We've been empowered to no longer live in ignorance like we once did, but to conduct ourselves with a set-apart mindset and lifestyle that reflects the presence and heart of God within us. During the Old Covenant era, the Lord repeatedly encouraged the people of Israel to live distinct and set apart from the beliefs and practices of the pagan nations that neighbored them. During the New Covenant era we currently live in, the Church is encouraged to be careful not to welcome the ungodly beliefs and practices of this fallen world into our lives.

In my own experiences, and through the experiences of others, I have often seen attempts to emulate the holiness of God criticized by those who felt a sense of conviction because of their unwillingness to live in holiness. When I became a serious follower of Christ during my high school years, I was regularly maligned by some people I was close to. I also remember hearing about the criticism two elderly sisters that I am friends with received because of their desire to follow Christ and live a "set apart" life. One of their neighbors in particular used to malign them for attending worship services and offering rides to those who wanted to go with them. He would disparagingly call them "the church ladies" and would criticize their faith.

Our adversary, the devil, makes it his goal to tempt us to embrace worldliness and not live a life that honors Christ, practices holiness, or lives set apart from the sinful priorities of the era we live in. Satan seeks to damage and devour people, Christians included. His goal is for us to minimize or devalue God's holiness, and to forget the fact that we are seen as holy in God's eyes, so that living in holiness might become a foreign concept to us.

Have you ever praised God for His holiness? Have you ever asked Him for the grace to reflect His holiness in your life?


II. God is immanent

"And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together." -Colossians 1:17
"He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power." -Hebrews 1:3a

The immanence of God is an attribute of God that we can and should appreciate, but we cannot copy. It is an attribute that belongs to God alone. When we speak of God's immanence, we're talking about the fact that God's sovereign control over His creation extends everywhere at once. He is distinct from His creation, yet He is present in His creation, upholding it by His powerful word.

Both the Apostle Paul and the writer of Hebrews speak of this attribute and they make a point to express the fact that God the Son, Jesus Christ, displays this perfection of God by holding all things together and upholding the universe by the word of His power.

This is an attribute of God that I don't typically hear as much about as I do His other attributes, but when I dwell on the practical implications of this perfection of God, my heart experiences a greater sense of peace and contentment.

From the time I was young, I have often tried to juggle many tasks at once. I must like doing it because it's a repeated pattern in my life. I readily accept multiple responsibilities and I try to work hard to do the best job I can to fulfill them. But inevitably, I eventually come to a point when I realize I have either taken on too much or I'm trying to sustain too many things. In those moments, the healthiest thing I can do is remind myself of the truth of the gospel all over again. I don't have to sustain everything in my power. That's a task that only Christ can accomplish. He's the one who upholds the universe and I can praise Him for His ability to do so perfectly.

Praising the Lord for His immanence can help remind us that we don't have to be everywhere at once, upholding and sustaining all things in our strength. We can step back, take a breath, and find rest in Christ who joyfully accomplishes this task for His glory and for our benefit.


III. God is immutable

The word of God also teaches us that God is immutable. This means that God does not change. He is unchangeable because in all ways, He is already perfect. There is nothing He needs to learn because He already knows all things. There is nothing about Himself that needs to improve. He has been, is, and always will be the essence of absolute perfection.

“For I the Lord do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed.
— Malachi 3:6, ESV

I imagine that in some ways, the immutability of God takes us a little while to appreciate because it's completely different from what we're used to in regard to our own development. Biologically speaking, we spend our lives observing our bodies growing or changing. At each season of life, we typically possess characteristics that are commonly present for that season. We grow taller and stronger, then grayer and weaker. And if we're humble and teachable, our knowledge and wisdom can grow as well. But such is not the case with God. He has no need to change, nor could it be said that He was perfect if He still had room to grow in any area.

The immutability of God can also seem like a foreign concept to us because of the relational changes we're used to experiencing among one another. Just consider how your relationships with others have changed during the course of your life. Who did you interact with on a daily basis when you were 10? How often do you see them now? Who did you once trust, but now you find it difficult to do so because they either abandoned you or betrayed you? Who did you once spend time with, but now you find it difficult to be together because of geographical distances that have forced you to live further apart?

Mankind changes, but God does not change. He has and always will be perfectly omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient, eternal, good, gracious, holy, loving, and immanent. There will never be a day when God's perfect nature will mutate into something else. Even though all sorts of things are changing within us and around us, and even though our relationships with others may change, we can take great comfort in the constancy and immutability of God. God never changes.

Personally speaking, I have to say I'm also encouraged by the fact that this means that God's future plans will likewise never change. The ultimate outcome for what He has brought into existence will be perfectly fulfilled. Those who trust in Him will live in His presence forever. Sin, grief, sorrow, and shame will all be eradicated. Hearts will never be broken again. Relationships will never again be severed. Loved ones will never be missed. The unchanging joy of the Lord will forever prevail.

I'm also encouraged by the fact that the love of God for His children never changes. If you have faith in Jesus Christ, you have been adopted forever into the family of God. His love for you is a fatherly love that isn't conditional in nature. If you are part of His family, there will never be a day when He will regret welcoming you in or giving you His name. Even if you go through a low stretch in your life or a difficult season due to a regretful choice, God's love for you will not change. He will not stop loving you on your worst day, nor is it possible for Him to love you more on your best day. Scripture tells us that just as God the Father loves God the Son, so too does He love all who are "in Christ" by faith.

This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,” -2 Peter 1:17b
"I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.” -John 17:26

Because God is immutable or unchanging, His love for those He has made His children will not be altered, tarnished or rescinded. This fact should bring great comfort to our hearts in the midst of this changing world because it contrasts with every other relationship we've ever experienced.

God's perfect holiness, immanence, and immutability are fascinating to ponder. What a privilege it is to reflect on who He is, and how He chooses to transform us while also assuring us that He will never change.

© John Stange, 2018