The Meaning Of “If”

Q. I’m confused at times with the meaning of the word “if”. Several places in the Old Testament God promises Israel that He will bless them “if” they follow the commands He gave them (i.e., Deut. 7:12). However in the New Testament the word “if” sometimes is used to mean “since”. I think I read in one of your postings that the Greek word for “if” is “eige”. The reason I need this sorted out is some are using the word “if” not in the “since” translation but as being a conditional “if” to try and prove we can lose our salvation. Can you help?

A. First, Remember that even though the promise God made to Abraham was unconditional, the Old Covenant was based on obedience.

Israel’s relationship with God is eternal, but in order to enjoy the benefits of the relationship they had to obey His commandments. In Deut 7:12 the Hebrew word translated “if” literally means “as a consequence of” or “because”. (Deut. 7:12 is the only time in the entire Old Testament that it’s translated “if”.) It means the benefits of the relationship would come as a consequence of their obedience to His commandments.

When we get to the New Testament, we’re dealing with a different language, Greek, and a different covenant, the New Covenant. Our covenant is based on faith. The Greek language has several different words that can be translated “if”. In 2 Tim. 2:11-12 the Greek word translated “if” is “ei” and is conditional because the passage speaks of requirements for salvation. “If we die with Him we will also live with Him” means “if we let His death substitute for ours we can be born again”. But if we don’t we can’t.

The posting of mine that you’re thinking of has to do with Colossians 1:22-23. There the word translated “if” is “eige”. It’s a different word and means “inasmuch as” or “since”. So in Col. 1:22-23 Paul was saying that God has reconciled Himself to us through the death of His Son since our faith is established and firm.

But in all this, we’re violating a primary rule of interpretation, which is to let clear verses help us understand those that aren’t so clear. Ephesians 1:13-14 and 2 Cor. 1:21-22 are two of the clearest examples that show our salvation is guaranteed from the moment we believe. Since Paul also wrote those verses, and since he wrote everything under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, he couldn’t have contradicted himself by saying something different somewhere else.

Going to the original language can be a good way for us to get the full meaning of a passage. But to do so in an attempt to negate the clear promises of God can cause unnecessary confusion. And we know who the author of confusion is.

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