The word serving as the title of this article is a small word having only two letters. However, its importance cannot be overstated. This little word “If” appears literally hundreds and hundreds of times in both the Old and New Testaments.
Most of us will recognize that this little word is generally expressing a condition. The On-Line Dictionary gives the following definition of this word: “conjunction: introducing a conditional clause • on the condition or supposition that; in the event that.”
A lot of false doctrine would be eliminated if folks would just observe the use of this little word in various statements of Scripture. For instance in Ephesians chapter one, Paul is discussing the peace that Christ brought about “through the blood of His cross” (v. 20). Because of this peace made possible through the blood of Christ, Paul mentions that “You, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath He reconciled in the body of His flesh through death” (v. 21-22a). He then adds His purpose and desire for them as being “to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in His sight” (v. 22). All sounds great so far. Christ died and shed His blood on the cross for the purpose of bringing about peace for those who previously had, by wicked works, made themselves enemies of Truth. He intends to present these same folks unto God as holy (sanctified) people. But wait! He isn't finished. There is more. And it starts with that little word “IF.” “If ye continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel” (v. 23). By definition, the word introduces a conditional clause. There are conditions in verse 23 attached to the promises and blessings of verses 21 & 22. “IF” the conditions are met, the promises and blessings will be freely given. The “presenting” will take place. “IF” the conditions are not met, then neither will the promises and blessings be received. They will not be “presented unto God holy and unblameable and unreproveable.” There are conditions that MUST be met BEFORE the promises can be kept. If this is not true then the word “IF” makes no sense at all.
Let's look at another passage with the word “IF” playing a major role in what is said. We hear a lot of folks talking about the preservation of the saints. The idea is usually expressed something like this. If you have been saved by God, then God will never allow you to sin to the point of falling from God's grace. Now let’s look at a passage that indicates just the opposite. The passage is II Peter 1:10. It reads, “Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for IF ye do these things, ye shall never fall.” Here Peter discusses the possibility of our never falling. However that promise is preceded by the little “IF” which introduces a conditional statement. “IF” the things mentioned here are followed, one will never fall; but what “IF” the things mentioned by Peter are not done? Just the opposite will occur. One will most certainly fall.
Now turn to I Peter 1:3-5 where Peter discusses the preservation of the saints. He speaks of our inheritance, describing it as “incorruptible, undefiled, fadeth not away” and then he tells us that it is “reserved in heaven.” For whom is it “reserved in heaven?” Peter answers that. He says it is “reserved in heaven for you who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.” The argument goes something like this: if we are kept by God's power, then there is no way that we can ever be lost. Folks who misinterpret Peter's statement in this manner miss entirely what is being said.
Peter clearly shows that there are two parts to our being “kept.” The first is God's part; Peter calls it His “power.” Paul also spoke of “God's power unto salvation” in Romans 1:16 and identifies the power as the “gospel of Christ.” The second part of our being “kept” is “through faith.” That is man's part. God provides the power through His word. That power, “IF” followed, will result in our receiving that inheritance described by Peter. But man must accept the conditions laid down in the power of God (His Word) in order to be kept: for that inheritance that is “reserved” for us. That is “through faith.”
Before we become Christians, we have to make a choice to do so. After we become Christians, we must make a decision to do what God teaches in His word in order that we might be able to have that crown. Paul said “henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness” (II Tim. 4:8). The word “henceforth” is like the word “IF.” It is showing a condition: henceforth (because I have “fought a good fight, kept the faith, and finished my course”) the crown awaits me. But “IF” he had not done so, there would certainly have been no crown.
Are you observing carefully the conditions that are given for being a faithful child of God in order that you might have the crown, the inheritance reserved for you in heaven? Don't overlook the importance of the clauses introduced by this little word “IF.”