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THE ‘IF’ FACTOR

To be true to this topic, there are some passages that appear to be conditional in their presentation of the continuance of salvation. So, we will look at a few of the most prominent ones in the context, in which they are presented.

Hebrews 3:6

But Christ as a son over His own house; whose house are we, if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end.

Hebrews 3:14

For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence stedfast unto the end.

These two passages are dealt with together, because of their similarities in structure and content. In both, the ‘if’ is the subjuctive particle, ean’per. ‘Ean’ is the basic word used to denote the question of, IF. The added ‘per’ is there to heighten its force. It is normally translated, “if really, if truly”. Bear with me, please.

In the Greek, there are four (4) different ways to say, ‘If’. They are;

1). IF, as the case is/ Affirms the reality;

2). IF, as the case is not/ Denies the reality;

3). IF, as the case is probable/ The reality is probable, or assumed.

4). IF, as the case is possible/ The reality is possible.

The two phrases here, falls into the third category, the case of probability. The writer is expecting the probability of their continuing in confidence. When we look back on and understand the background of the letter to the Hebrews, we see the writer exhorting them to continue in faith, instead of lapsing back into reliance upon the old forms of Judasim. He is admonishing them to continue in faith and patience, and by so doing, reaching the plan and purpose of God for them in Christ. This plan and purpose of God for them is to be ‘the house’ of the Son, and to be ‘partakers’ of Christ. Again, we must understand the danger to these believers, according to the writer, is failing to achieve the purpose of God in their lives. That is the real danger of any believer. The writer says it this way in 4:1.

Let us therefore fear, lest a promise being left us of entering into his rest, any of you should seem to come short of it.

Herein lies the danger, and so the warning. That there could be a promise left us by God to be fulfilled, and we should come up short of it, through unbelief. These believers were missing or neglecting a very important ingredient of faith, which is patience. He says in 10:35-36,

35 Cast not away therefore your confidence, which hath a great recompence of reward.
36 For ye have need of patience, that, after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise.

The writer encourages them not to throw off their confidence, as one would do a worthless garment. They had need of patience. Thayer, in his lexicon, states that patience is,

the characteristic of a man who is unswerved from his deliberate purpose and his loyalty to faith and piety by even the greatest trials and sufferings.

These believers were possibly allowing the trials they were enduring on account of their faith in Jesus, to dissuade them from pressing on in the Faith. They were being tempted from stopping short of God’s intended purpose for them (maturity), by the things which they were suffering. It was for this reason, the writer exhorts them with the example of Jesus, who was made “perfect through sufferings” (2:10).

Col. 1:21-23

21 And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled.
22 In the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight;
23 If ye continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel, which ye have heard. .

Here Paul says that through the death of Jesus, he will present them holy, unblameable and unreproveable in his sight, IF YE CONTINUE IN THE FAITH, grounded and settled, not moving away from the hope of the gospel. This ‘if’ belongs to the first class, stated earlier. It is the class which affirms the truth or reality. According to grammarians, it is best translated since. It does not throw doubt upon the action stated, but affirms the reality of continued expectations.