God’s Unfolding and Incrementally Revealed Will Does Not Mean God Changes
Not long ago, I had written several articles on the Shemitah and the guy who has made them famous for western Christians. I received one reply in particular that I thought was interesting.
“I think the author of this article misunderstands Hebrew Roots or at least how I understand it. The people I have heard talk about Hebrew Roots are talking about understanding the Bible as a whole and not only Grace. Every one I have heard has said we are saved only through the blood of Jesus, but would add that even Jesus said, “sin no more.” What is sin? How can we say abortion or gay marriage is wrong but ignore other laws of God? I feel the definition of sin by every evangelical is fuzzy. In one breath they say “do not have pre marital sex” but dismiss the God appointed feasts and festivals which we are repeatedly told to keep forever. If any law is applicable to both Jew and Gentile, then I would say they all are. I would also say the idea of Dispensationalism sounds more like evolution than solid theology. God never changes. I also believe that there are numerous examples suggesting we are grafted in. Arguably the whole book of Ruth is making this point since Jesus was a descendent of a Gentile (Ruth). She was grafted in and we are grafted in. So what is sinful for them is sinful for us. Not to say we are justified by works. Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, all the fathers were justified by faith. I also would not say I am better than another for trying (emphasis on trying) to do as God has called me to do, but I am just a man trying to have a relationship with a God that is holy, holy, holy. By trying to follow the law, I do not feel better but only see how much I fall short and am in need of the grace of a loving God.”
I want to zero in on the part that I’ve bolded in the above text. Notice how our friend equates Dispensationalism with evolution, then follows that up by stating God never changes. The two are not mutually exclusive. Of course, our friend is attempting to negate the concept of Dispensationalism by comparing it with evolution, something most Christians also reject because in evolution, (even theistic evolution), species changed and developed allegedly over millions and billions of years. Conversely, the Bible states that “God created” and means that when He created a dog, it already looked like a dog. When He created humanity, it was in the essential form that human beings exist in today.
Christians who see God’s Word as being fully authoritative also understand because of that the theory of evolution has no grounds. Either God created or He didn’t. Even Huxley said that if God created with the appearance of age, it would be impossible to disprove creation (my paraphrase). The two theories – Creationism and Evolution – are diametrically opposed to one another. Colossians highlights the fact that it was the Second Person of the Triune God, Jesus who was in charge of Creation and currently holds everything together.
But getting back to our friend, he dismisses any aspect of Dispensationalism based on the fact that it does what evolution does. According to our friend, he believes that Dispensationalism shows that God changes. Unfortunately, our friend has it 100% wrong. Nothing about normative Dispensationalism teaches that God changes…at all.
In a nutshell, Dispensationalism teaches that God simply revealed aspects of His will to humanity at different times and in different ways. This is where we get the various “epochs” or “seasons.” For instance, it was after the Flood that God told Noah that anyone who willfully took another human being’s life should have his life taken from him because that individual was literally striking out at God Himself since man was made in God’s image (cf. Genesis 9).
Here, God is instituting capital punishment, which He had not done prior. In fact, it is interesting to note that since there was no “thou shalt not kill” law that existed during the time of Cain and Abel, God could not hold Cain accountable (to death) for slaying Abel. The problem with Cain was that he brought the wrong form of sacrifice, which evidenced his rebellious nature.
It is also true that as we peruse and study God’s Word, what is very clear is that we see a distinct unfolding of what some have called the drama of redemption. God gave hints as to what would happen in Genesis 3, but he still kept quite a few things close to His chest. He did this for very good reason. The more He told humanity, the more He automatically told Satan. Why bother giving Satan the entire plan right up front?
As we go through the Bible, we learn about the sacrificial system, which we ultimately learn points to Jesus. By the time we get to the New Testament, we see God the Son in the flesh living out God’s perfect will, which culminated in His substitutionary death and resurrection. Who can read the New Testament and say, “Oh yeah, all that detail was already pronounced in the Old”? You can’t. You can go back to the Old Testament after reading the New and realize just how much more clear things become, but if you just have the Old Testament, things are not quite that clear.
So does any of this mean that God changed from the time of Creation to the time of Jesus? Hardly. Nothing about God changed and Dispensationalism does not teach that at all. Maybe a few hyper-Dispensationalists might veer off the correct path into that error, but that is not normative Dispensationalism.
But consider something else, which should hopefully, bring all of this into personal focus. I was born 58 years ago. As a baby, I was fed, bathed, clothed, and essentially taken care of each step of the way. As I grew, my understanding also grew. Eventually, I came to the realization that I was in need of a Savior. Turns out, Jesus is that Savior. By His grace, my eyes were open and I submitted and committed my life to him at age 13.
Years later, as I look back, I see how God has led me, incrementally. Over time, it seemed that God led me to a junior college, then to a Bible college from which I graduated. Eventually, He led me to a gal who became my wife and who has stuck by my side for three decades and counting. The Lord also led me to pursue a master’s degree in Bible and a doctorate in theology. He then led me to start putting my thoughts down in written form, articles and books. Beyond this, I have many audio messages housed in the ‘Net as well.
During our marriage, God directed us to different locations geographically, with the most recent one being here, in the southeast. Currently, God is moving me from teaching a Bible class at church on Sunday mornings to…I have no idea. He hasn’t revealed that part to me yet.
My point is simple. We can all look back over our lives as Christians and see how, why, and where God led us. However, back then, before some of those things happened, we were in the dark, guided only by our faith. This is what happened to Joseph, Daniel, Moses, and too many others to list here. God has never shown someone the entirety of their life all at once. It has always been in increments. Even so, no one says, “Well clearly, because God has shown me more today than yesterday, He obviously has changed!” God never changes. He simply chooses what He will share with us when we need to know it.
Why should He tell me years ahead of time what I’ll be doing when I turn 50, or who my wife will be when I was 28? God tells us or rather, reveals to us, on a need to know level. About six to eight months before we relocated from California, my wife and I were in Hawaii. As we walked up the slope of one small mountain, we stopped and started enjoying the scenery. Out of the blue, the impression came over me that we would be leaving California within a year’s time. I shared that with my wife. We had no idea why, how, when, or even to where, but as the weeks and months went by, it all became clear.
Did God change? Nope. He simply changed me. He revealed to me what He had known since before the foundation of the earth. If He had told me when I was six years old, it would have made absolutely no sense and been a waste of time on His part and He doesn’t waste time.
Dispensationalism does not teach that God changes. At its root, it simply tells us that at various times, God chose to reveal Himself to humanity in different ways and often gave special instructions during that time (the sacrificial system for Israel, as one example). That does not equate to Him changing. In fact, all it means is that He chooses to show us a different side of Him that we had no real knowledge of beforehand.
Do you read about the Mosaic Law and sacrificial system in Genesis 3? Nope, but you have a strong sense that God has a plan and is putting it into effect starting right there. Just because it is clear that God reveals Himself in different ways during different periods of time, this does not mean that it is being taught that He changes. God is fully God and in Him there is no shadow of turning!
The only thing that changes is man’s ability to “hear” Him or our ability to comprehend another aspect of God’s infinite wisdom and character.
God is God. He never changes. For our sakes and the sake of His plans and purposes, God has chosen to reveal things to us little by little. He did that through His Word and He continues to do that in our life. It has nothing to do with God supposedly changing and everything to do with the way He has chosen to do things.
If there is someone alive now who believes that God sat them down and revealed their entire life to them in all its detail, I’d like to meet that person. Why do I sense I shouldn’t hold my breath?