Does God Change His Mind?
REGARDING God, the Bible says: “With him there is not a variation of the turning of the shadow.” And reassuringly, God himself said: “I am Jehovah; I have not changed.” (James 1:17; Malachi 3:6) How Jehovah God differs from those who are hard to please and cannot be trusted because they constantly change their mind!
Some Bible readers wonder, however, if God has changed his mind. For example, at one time Jehovah God gave Christians the power to perform miracles, but now he does not. In ancient times, God tolerated polygamy, but he no longer does. Under the Mosaic Law, Jehovah required Sabbath-keeping, but now he does not. Do these instances not show that God has changed?
First of all, we can be sure that God never changes his standards of love and justice. Also, his “eternal purpose” to bless mankind by means of his Kingdom has never changed. (Ephesians 3:11) Nonetheless, just as you might change your mind about a person whose behavior consistently disappoints you, Jehovah does change in response to changing circumstances.
God also changes his instructions to his people according to their situation and needs. This should not surprise us. Consider what a competent tour guide would do when he sees danger ahead. He would tell his group to take a different road, away from the danger. That, however, does not mean that he has changed his mind about the destination, does it? Let us, therefore, examine the aforementioned three examples, which some find puzzling.
Why Did Miracles Cease?
Why did God give miraculous powers to some of the first-century Christians? You may be aware that when Israel was God’s chosen nation, God often demonstrated by miracles that he was with them. Through Moses, God exercised his awesome power in delivering Israel from Egypt and guiding them through the wilderness into the Promised Land. Regrettably, time and again the Israelites did not respond with faith. When Jehovah finally rejected Israel and established the Christian congregation, he gave miraculous powers to the apostles and others. For example, the apostles Peter and John cured a man lame from birth, and Paul restored a dead man to life. (Acts 3:2-8; 20:9-11) Miracles they performed helped to establish Christianity in many lands. Why, then, did miracles cease?
The apostle Paul explained by means of an illustration: “When I was a babe, I used to speak as a babe, to think as a babe, to reason as a babe; but now that I have become a man, I have done away with the traits of a babe.” (1 Corinthians 13:11) Just as parents treat a small child differently from an adult son, so Jehovah’s way of dealing with the Christian congregation changed when it was no longer “a babe.” The apostle Paul explained that such miraculous gifts as the ability to speak in foreign languages or to prophesy would “be done away with.”
Why Was Polygamy Allowed?
Jesus showed that God set the standard for marriage when He told the first human pair: “A man will leave his father and his mother and will stick to his wife, and the two will be one flesh.” (Matthew 19:5) Marriage was to be a lasting bond between two persons. However, by the time God organized the Israelites into a nation and gave them the Law, polygamy had become a common practice. Thus, though God did not originate or encourage polygamy, he provided laws to regulate it. When the Christian congregation was formed, God’s Word clearly prohibited polygamy.
Jehovah God tolerates certain things until his time to correct them. (Romans 9:22-24) Jesus showed that Jehovah had temporarily tolerated improper marriage customs as a “concession” made out of regard for Israel’s “hardheartedness.”
Why Was Sabbath-Keeping Temporary?
God instituted the observance of a weekly Sabbath after he delivered the Israelites from Egypt. He later made it part of their national Law. (Exodus 16:22-30; 20:8-10) The apostle Paul explained that Jesus offered himself as a sacrifice and “abolished . . . the Law of commandments consisting in decrees” and “blotted out the handwritten document.” (Ephesians 2:15; Colossians 2:14) What was “abolished” and “blotted out” included the Sabbath law, for the Bible goes on to say: “Therefore let no man judge you in eating and drinking or in respect of a festival or of an observance of the new moon or of a sabbath.” (Colossians 2:16) Why did God give the Law, including the Sabbath, in the first place?
The apostle Paul wrote: “The Law has become our tutor leading to Christ.” Then he added: “Now that the faith has arrived, we are no longer under a tutor.” (Galatians 3:24, 25) Rather than changing his mind, God used the Sabbath as a temporary arrangement to teach people that they should regularly take time to meditate on spiritual matters. Although the Sabbath law was temporary, it pointed forward to the time when mankind would find lasting rest from physical and spiritual afflictions.
A Trustworthy and Loving God
The Biblical examples considered above show that Jehovah God did give different directions and instructions at different times. But that does not mean that he changed his mind. Rather, he responded to the needs of his people under varying circumstances, and he did so for their benefit. The same is true today.
Because Jehovah does not change his standards, we can always know what we must do to please him. Furthermore, we can be certain that everything God has promised will come true. Jehovah says: “Everything that is my delight I shall do . . . I have formed it, I shall also do it.”
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God never changes his standards of love and justice
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Paul explained that, in time, miraculous gifts would “be done away with”
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Marriage was to be a lasting bond between two persons