Immutable, Omnipresent, Omniscient
Compiled by Nick Power
Adapted from ‘Dictionary of everyday theology and culture’ ISBN-13: 978-1-60006-192-9. Published by Navpress 2010 – a really useful book!
What does immutable mean? The Oxford English Dictionary says that it means ‘unchanging over time and unable to be changed’.
How does this apply to God?
God being immutable means, though living and active in the world, He is unchanging in His being, character, attributes, purposes and promises. Because God is immutable He is always holy, wise, just and loving. He will never go back on His promises to give eternal life to those who repent and believe. This does not mean that He is inactive. God sustains the world and guides all of life, working out his will moment by moment to the end of the age. Jesus showed how God the Father is active yet immutable in His character and purposes.
How do we know this? The Bible tells us:-
- The writer of Hebrews says “The [heavens and earth] will perish, but you will remain; they will all wear out like a garment. You will roll them up like a robe; like a garment they will be changed. But you remain the same, and your years will never end” (Hebrews 1:11-12)
- Numbers 23:19 says “God is not a human, that He should lie, not a human being, that He should change his mind. Does He speak and then not act? Does He promise and not fulfill?”
- He is active - God guided Israel’s history to preserve the Messiah’s promised genealogical line; acted in Jesus’ life, death and resurrection and directed the founding of Christian churches worldwide.
- In the midst of changing circumstances like ours – from rejoicing at weddings to weeping at a friend’s death – Jesus always showed His unchanging, righteous character. Hebrews 13:8 tells us that “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever”.
If God is unchanging does He ever change His mind?
At first glance it might appear that he does – for example, when the people of Nineveh repented and God “relented and did not bring on them the destruction he had threatened” (Jonah 3:10). However, when you think about this you realise that God’s purpose has not changed – it was the ungodly Ninevites who changed their minds about sin.
There are two elements to God’s will and purpose. Firstly, His ‘unconditional will’ which comes to pass even if nations or people oppose it. “Surely, as I have planned, so it will be, and as I have purposed, so it will happen.” (Isaiah 14:24). Secondly, there’s His ‘conditional purpose’ which is where His purposes are fulfilled depending on the response of the people. “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and heal their land.” (2 Chronicles 7:14)
What does all this mean for us today?
- We can be fully confident that the love of God that sent His Son into the world to die on our behalf will never change. It will never falter or fail. More than anything else God wants us to return this unchanging love to Him with all our minds and emotions.
- God’s unchanging nature extends to every promise He’s made in His word. In life’s uncertain, and often difficult, times, we can be greatly encouraged to know that God’s promises are set in stone. See Hebrews 6:16,18.
- Even though God’s purposes are unchangeable this does not mean that our personal involvement and activities are insignificant. In fact, we should realise their huge importance. He includes US in his plans and strategies. What we do in our service to God contributes to His grand design. How amazing is that!!
What does omnipresence mean? Omni means ‘all’ or ‘of all things’. Presence means ‘being present’.
How does this apply to God? Omnipresence means that God is everywhere and in everything, both material and spiritual. God has always been and will always be – after all, He invented time! He is eternal. He is fully present everywhere. He’s not spread like a thin layer around the world. He is wholly present in every place and at every time.
How do we know this? The Bible tells us:-
- “Am I only a God nearby,” declares the Lord, “and not a God far away? Who can hide in secret places so that I cannot see them?” declares the Lord. “Do not I fill heaven and earth?” declares the Lord. (Jeremiah 23:23-24)
- God’s eternal nature and sovereign power means that He sustains all aspects of creation. God is perfectly aware of everything in history and everything to come. No one can escape or hide from Him. Psalm 139:7-8 says “Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.” The whole of Psalm 139 paints a picture of the awesomeness of God – well worth reading!
What does all this mean for us today?
- Because God is fully everywhere at all times, he is always accessible to all people – whether they recognise him or not. Acts 17:26-28 says “From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. God did this so that they would seek Him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’”
- To those of us that believe that Jesus has redeemed us, He is present in a more profound way. He dwells within us and prunes us and shapes us so that we become effective in serving Him and doing His will. Over time this continual relationship deepens so that those who know His voice and experience His presence come to know Him in a deeply personal and intimate way. If this seems too amazing to imagine read Isaiah 57:15, John 15:1-16, 1 Corinthians 3:16, Ephesians 1:13-14, Hebrews 13:5, John 10:2-4 and 2 Timothy 4:17!
- God’s omnipresence means that all (yes, ALL) people are of value to Him. Nobody is unimportant to Him. As followers of Christ ALL people should be of great value to us as well. (Luke 15)
- God’s ongoing presence within us allows us to accomplish His will. Because the Holy Spirit lives within us as believers, we have received gifts to serve Him and others and build up the church. The Spirit enables us to preach the gospel, serve the poor, minister to those in need and give of our resources to advance His kingdom. His permanent indwelling presence bears rich spiritual fruit in our own lives such as peace, love and joy.
His omnipresence also means that however difficult or challenging our circumstances are we are never alone – even when we sleep (Genesis 28:16). Even when God seems hidden or distant, we’ll eventually realise that He was there with us all the time (Job 42:5). In the midst of life’s busyness and difficulties God’s ever present help will always provide comfort and security. (1 Kings 17; Psalm 46]
What does omniscience mean? The Oxford English Dictionary simply says ‘knowing everything’
Does God really know everything? The short answer is ‘YES’, but what is everything and how do we know?
- All things. God is conscious of and interested in all things: from the largest galaxy to the smallest sub atomic particle. He determines the number of stars and names each one. (Psalm 147:4-5)
- All humanity: God knows our innermost thoughts, worries and fears as well as every aspect of our physical, emotional and spiritual world. (Psalm 139:1-4, 15; Psalm 94; Matthew 10:29-30)
- All times: God’s knowledge of everything extends to the future as well as the past and present. (Isaiah 44:8, 25-28; Ephesians 1:5; Romans 8:29)
God is perfectly good and so it follows that His knowledge is perfect and pure. It is uncorrupted by evil, misconception or subjectivity. He has nothing to learn because he already knows all things and has always known all things. It is impossible to overstate the quality, quantity or perfection of his knowledge.
Why is it important for us to know this?
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- God’s omniscience reminds us of His intimate care. He is fully aware of our temptations, troubles, misfortunes and pain. This should provide us with comfort in difficult times. We should know with certainty that he will always use our trials for our ultimate good. (Romans 8:28-30)
- God’s omniscience gives a reason to be joyful. God knows how fragile we are and recognises our limitations (Psalm 103:14-16). Even so, He graciously has chosen to save and redeem us from our sin (Psalm 51:4-5; Ephesians 1:3-14). He also knows our very best thoughts, actions and attitudes and one day we will be rewarded for them (Matthew 25:14-23). God always knew that one day we would be like His Son (Romans 8:28-29). This is a lifelong process, God’s perfect foreknowledge of this gives us cause for joy and celebration. Even through our sins and failures we can be certain that one day we’ll be like Jesus (1 John 3:2).
- God’s omniscience is a warning for all ‘would-be’ disciples. We might be able to fool others, but we can never deceive God. Hypocrisy is foolish and should be avoided. To do otherwise places us in a spiritually dangerous place (1 Samuel 28; John 13:21; Acts 1:25).
- God’s omniscience motivates as to be humble and not boastful. God’s knowledge of all things should prevent us from boasting about what we will or won’t do (Micah 6:8; Matthew 26:33-35). Unlike God, we don’t know what the future holds so we should live in submission to His perfect will (James 4:13-16).
- God’s omniscience means He knows our hearts. God desires our complete devotion so we should make every effort to rid ourselves of sin and do as He commands (2 Chronicles 16:9). Although God’s perfect knowledge of us doesn’t determine our actions it should encourage us to nurture a deep and heartfelt love for Him. As a result this should encourage us to making a lifelong commitment to fulfill His calling in our lives (Colossians 3:23-24).