“When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.”
One of the most perplexing problems in philosophy is understanding the relationship between permanence and change. Today’s verse passage provides an interesting case study in this connection. Paul makes it clear that even though he has experienced many profound changes in his knowledge, attitude, and stature, in some sense he is still the same person he was since childhood. Despite all sorts of change, his identity remains static, enduring, permanent. In the history of philosophy there have been some who insisted that all reality was static and changeless. For them, change was impossible; change must be an illusion. Others claimed the exact opposite, insisting that reality came down to process, change, and impermanence. On this view, enduring identities are impossible. The problem of course is that in our continued and repeated experience, both seem real and undeniable. How can they be brought together? The Bible provides the answer. The unchanging God Who created the world is the Sovereign over all historic eventuation. The immutable God reigns supreme over all change that takes place in His created order (Daniel 4:34-37; Ephesians 1:11). What’s more, it is God who assigns identity to all things, including us His unique image bearers. Paul’s address to the Corinthians is instructive. “For who maketh thee to differ from another?” wrote the great apostle, meaning that it is God Who distinguishes us. “And what hast thou that thou didst not receive? now if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst not received it?” (1Corinthians 4:7). Everything we have is a gift from God. This includes our particular identities, which we retain despite all sorts of experienced changes over time. Looking out into the world we see other kinds of permanence and change. We see the sun, moon, and stars moving in predictable fashion, forming a dependable clock-calendar system more reliable than any atomic clock. Likewise we see the regular procession of the seasons year after year. In all this physical change, we see God-ordained law-like regularity, a testimony to the power, goodness, and dependability of God. We must not, however, become so fixated on the regularity we see in the created order that we end up forgetting the Creator Himself (2 Peter 3:3-6). God promises us that unspeakably great changes are coming in the future. God will intrude into the world in a sudden and supernatural way. The unchanging God will change us instantly, fashioning us after the image of His glorified Son (1 Corinthians 15:52; Philippians 3:20-21; 1 John 3:1-2). That is just the beginning. The whole world is slated for stupendous, glorious and mysterious change (Revelation 21:1-5). This our God will do, for the blessedness of His redeemed and to the praise of His glory. Maranatha, our Lord come! (Revelation 22:20).