“If” is a little big word—little in the number of letters it comprises, big in its consequences. It is often used in the Bible to set forth a necessary condition with which one must comply in order for a particular promise, benefit, or blessing to occur. Consider the following.
1. Jesus declared: “If you continue (abide, ASV, NASB) in My word, then you are My disciples indeed” (John 8:31). Turning that statement into a negative question, what would be the result of one not continuing (abiding) in the word/teaching of Christ? Is it not abundantly clear that a person must continue in the teaching of Jesus in order to be a true disciple/follower of Him?
When Christ issued the great commission to His apostles He told them to go teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, “teaching them to observe all things whatever I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19-20). That charge has not been abrogated! Those who become Christians are to be taught to observe all of the words of Christ (and, by implication, the words of His Spirit-inspired apostles (cf. John 16:13; John 13:20; I Thessalonians 2:13). From the very first day the church was established the early disciples “continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine,” i.e., observed all that Christ commanded (Acts 2:42). Paul wrote of the spiritual blessings and the wonderful life that would result “if indeed you continue grounded and steadfast in the faith, and are not moved away from the hope of the gospel” (Colossians 1:23). He urged the Corinthian Christians “not to go beyond the things that are written (exceed what is written, NASB) (I Corinthians 4:6, ASV). John warned: “Whoever transgresses and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God” (II John 9).
It is a serious matter to presume to go beyond what Christ and His apostles have authorized in the New Testament. It is urgent that we respectfully and faithfully abide in the word of Christ in all things and that we observe all of that and only that which He has authorized and taught. “If you continue in My word, then you are My disciples indeed”!
2. The apostle John wrote: “But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin” (I John 1:7). Here, again, is another important spiritual blessing—fellowship with one another and the constant cleansing from all sin by the blood of Christ—conditioned upon “if we walk in the light.”
To walk in the light is to walk in the steps of Christ who is the light (John 8:12). It is to “walk with God” (Genesis 5:24). Walking with God involves agreeing with God and His way. Amos asked, “Can two walk together except (unless) they are agreed?” (Amos 3:3). Too many people today have made up their own minds as to what they want to believe and practice in the realm of religion and how they want to live. Then they want God to put His stamp of approval on what they have decided to believe and do and give His blessings to it. It does not work that way! We can have true fellowship with God, fellowship with His children, and the constant cleansing of the blood of Christ only if we walk in the light! “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Psalm 119:105). “The entrance of Your word gives light; it gives understanding to the simple (the one uninformed in the way of the Lord)” (Psalm 119:130). IF we want God’s approval, we must walk in the light of His word, not in our own way.
3. In the same context as the preceding, John writes: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (I John 1:9). What a great promise this is to the child of God! Yet, it is conditional – IF we confess our sins! This is something that we as God’s children must do in order to have His forgiveness. Occasionally I encounter someone who says that there is not anything we do in order to be saved. I marvel at such a contention. Who is it that must confess their sins in order to have God’s forgiveness? God does not confess our sins for us, we confess our sins, and without such there is no forgiveness! Such a confession is a part of what is involved in walking in the light (I John 1:7). Christians are not sinlessly perfect (see I John 1:8, 10 in this very context). Walking in the light is not a matter of perfection but a matter of direction!
4. Paul wrote: “Therefore consider/behold the goodness and severity of God: on those who fell, severity; but toward you, goodness, if you continue in His goodness. Otherwise you also will be cut off” (Romans 11:22). Some folks do not want to behold or think about the severity of God, but Paul says we must do so. Too, it will be hard to read this verse and miss the necessity of continuing in the goodness of God. Unbelieving Jews (the “natural branches” on God’s olive tree) failed to do that and were cut off, thus experiencing His severity (Romans 11:17-23). Beyond the slightest shadow of a doubt, salvation from sin and eternal salvation in heaven is conditional, involving some things to which we must give attention and some things with which we must comply!
5. Following a beautiful description of the Christian graces which God’s children are to give “all diligence” to add to their faith the apostle Peter urges: “Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your calling and election such, for if you do these things you will never stumble, for so an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (II Peter 1:5-11). But what happens to the one who fails to do what Peter in this text tells God’s children to do? And who is the one who does the adding of the Christian graces to one’s life? Is it God who does it or is it the child of God who does it?
Let us pay attention to God’s “Ifs.” It is a little word with some huge consequences and it appears frequently in the word of God.
February 16, 2021