If God is Immutable, How Could Gifts Cease?
im·mu·ta·ble /i(m)ˈmyo͞odəb(ə)l/ adjective; unchanging over time or unable to be changed.
Someone texted in this question during the Spirit of Truth Conference Q&A panel. It seems to approach the concerns that might be brought about by a cessationist’s (one who believes certain spiritual gifts are no longer in use today) viewpoint on the spiritual gifts. The goal of the conference was not to argue cessationism vs continuationism (the view that all spiritual gifts are still active today). But it came up a handful of times, and it definitely causes disagreements in the global church.
Rather than arguing for cessationism or continuationism in this response, I think it will be more helpful to show that, while there may be good arguments for continuationism, arguing for that on the basis of God’s immutability (unchanging) is not valid.
To get to the heart of this we have to understand what God’s immutability implies. Immutability means that God is unchanging in his character, though not necessarily in his dealings with humanity. God does not change (Malachi 3:6). God does what he says he will do (Ezekiel 24:14). God does not make things up or lie (1 Samuel 15:29). God is eternal in his nature (Psalm 90:2-4). God’s holiness and glory are unchanging (John 17:5). And on we could go.
Thanks be to God we in Christ can wake up each morning and praise our immutable God who changes in his interactions with sinners. He once was at war with you, and your sin was your death sentence. But, by the grace of God in Christ, we can now be called children of God – not enemies. You were once far off but are now near by the blood of Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:13).
Every cessationist that I know of is absolutely convinced that God is unchanging in his character. God would not be God if his character changed. The view that certain gifts have ceased reflects a change in God’s dealings with his people, not his character.
The same argument could be made for Jesus’ earthly ministry. If we felt Jesus’ presence with us during his time on earth was a character trait of God, we would be terrified to see him leave us and return to Heaven. But he did go, and that is a change in God’s dealings with us, not his character. Jesus came for our salvation and returned to the Father glorified as our advocate. In Jesus, we see God’s unchanging eternal character (holiness, eternality, truthfulness, etc.), and we also see a massive change in God’s dealings with us.
Believing that certain gifts have ceased does not require God to have changed. Just as Jesus came at a time and point in history to fulfill the law of God, so viewing certain gifts of the Spirit to have been used at one time in history and now no longer used makes no impact on God’s eternal unchanging character.