If God undergoes emotional change and if His perfections, His essence, or His actions fluctuate in response to the creature, then it is reasonable to wonder whether God’s promises, Christ’s saving work to fulfill those promises, and the application of those promises both now and in the future are entirely certain. If God’s perfections change, if He fluctuates from one emotional state to the next, then His promises might change as well.Matthew Barrett, “None Greater: The Undomesticated Attributes of God,” pg. 135.
(i capitalized the Divine pronouns in reproducing the quote)
Perhaps you follow this blog, and perhaps you have been wondering where my almost-daily posts have disappeared to?
Well, i have been writing a lot. The writings have just been larger projects than a 1,000-word blog update. Between November 1, 2018 and March 31, 2019 i wrote the rough draft of a 430 page novel. And since April 1, 2019, i finished writing (rough draft by hand) a 100 page exposition of Galatians 3:16. (I am currently in the process of putting it into my word processor.)
The reason why the title of this post contains a reference to authoring and why the opening quote mentions promises four times, is because of Galatians 3:16 and the ultimate truth that Paul declares therein.
Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. He does not say “and to seeds,” as though referring to many, but referring to one, and to your seed, who is Christ.Paul the Apostle, Galatians 3:16
As an author, i read a lot! The best types of stories to read are stories with twists. The problem though, is that the twists have to make sense. You can’t have the story heading one direction, with all hints and clues pointing the same direction, and then twist it 180 degrees at the end. That leaves a reader feeling cheated and oftentimes angry.
Paul tells us in 2 Timothy 3:16, that all Scripture is “theopneustos” (“breathed out by God”). It isn’t too far out there to say that the Bible is God telling us a story. And as a good story-teller knows, twists are great, but they must be done right. You can’t throw a twist at a reader that was not already set-up in the earlier pages.
Now, forgive me for backtracking, but the quote i opened with is speaking to the topic of God’s impassibility.
God has been described throughout church history as impassible, or as one who is without passions. Our God is, by nature, incapable of suffering, and He is insusceptible to emotional fluctuation. Rather, we worship a God who is in complete control of who He is and what He does. Never is there any action by God that is out of line with His unchanging character. Instead of being divided by different emotional states or overcome by sudden, unexpected moods, moods that reveal just how vulnerable and dependent He is on what we do, the God of the Bible is a God who never becomes anxious, lonely, or compulsive.
. . .
Not only is the word “emotion” foreign to the biblical witness, but the word itself is a very recent invention. In the history of Christian thought, “passions” were contrasted with “affections,” the former having negative connotations never to be applied to God lest He be confused with the creature.Matthew Barrett, “None Greater: The Undomesticated Attributes of God,” pg. 113-114, 129.
(i capitalized the Divine pronouns in reproducing the quotes)
If God was to change His mind–for whatever reason–then He would cease to be the God of the Bible. In other words, if God makes a promise, He won’t get angry and change His mind about His promise. Or to put it yet another way: God hasn’t changed His mind about the nation of Israel. The church has not replaced the nation of Israel.
Look back up at Galatians 3:16. “Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed . . . who is Christ.” The whole Old Testament leads one to think that Israel is the big kahuna of the Bible, God’s favorite people, those who have a special place in God’s heart. But then Paul says that Abraham’s seed wasn’t Israel at all. It was Christ–because the promises were not spoken to Abraham’s seeds. They were spoken to Christ.
And if we reread our Bible with this knowledge in mind–especially if we have a working knowledge of biblical languages–we can see it clearly. As early as Genesis 3:15, we see the first mention of “seed,” and 1) it is singular, 2) it is said to come from a woman [which isn’t biologically possible], and 3) it will defeat the serpent.
I will put hostility between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed. He will strike your head, and you will strike his heel.God, to the serpent; Genesis 3:15
Israel as a nation was never going to defeat the serpent. The story of the Bible proves this. The serpent continually trips up the nation of Israel, from Genesis 4 all the way to 2 Kings 25. But when Jesus, the one born of a virgin, comes onto the scene, the serpent (Satan) can’t touch Him (cf. Matthew 4:1-11; Luke 4:1-13).
God doesn’t change His mind in the New Testament. He doesn’t pull a “lame-writer move” and give a twist that wasn’t set-up well. Jesus was promised–in terms of “seed”–the moment sin came into the world. God wasn’t up in heaven for even a day, scratching His head, saying, “Well, what do I do now?” He already had it all planned out, and as soon as Adam and Eve fell, God explained His rescue plan. The Old Testament tells 1) the story of Jesus’ physical ancestors, 2) the reason why no nation can claim God’s favor on their own, and 3) the story of the redemption of the world from the effects of sin.
We are all sinners. Our lives look just like Israel’s history–even as believers. We claim we love God, we claim to belong to God, but then something temporal comes around and we chase after that instead. God disciplines us, and we come back, but then before long the cycle repeats.
Christ came into the world to save sinners, and the story of the Bible is exactly that. It is not about Israel in the Old Testament and the church in the New Testament. Rather, the Old Testament: “Jesus is coming!” the New Testament: “Jesus has come!” Revelation: “Jesus is coming back!” It’s all Jesus! From Genesis 1:1 to Revelation 22:21 it is all about Jesus!
If you’ve never trusted in Christ, i plead with you today to believe in Him. He was first promised over 6,000 years ago, and He came 2,000 years ago, and He could come back again at any moment.
You’ve sinned. He didn’t. He didn’t deserve to die. You did. You don’t want to die. He died on the cross 2,000 years ago. He took your place on that cross, if you place your faith in Him. And then He rose again to prove that death had no power over Him. Trust Him today, and seek Him daily, and death will also ultimately have no power over you. There is no more worthy pursuit than seeking Jesus Christ.
In this with you.
Soli Deo Gloria
Thanks for reading.