Every PROMISE has an IF, and every IF has a PROMISE.
Let me say, what a privilege to be acquainted with those whom I shall associate with and love ETERNALLY in the glorious kingdom of God!
It is a statement we endorse…heartily! But one word must be added. Along with the “I shall” is an IF—because…
Every PROMISE of God has an IF: an IF that must be answered NOW.
The best part is that the IF condition CAN be answered in advance, so that we are ready for the PROMISE when the time is right. When we stand before the righteous Judge, we want no IF to stand between us.
The whole plan of salvation is built around these “IFs”. And isn’t this only reasonable? Paul called it our “reasonable service.” God isn’t giving ETERNAL LIFE to everyone, as Brother Nichols often said—so IMMENSE a reward for doing nothing? Certainly not! It is a GIFT but He wants a standard—or what would He have? Only a repeat of NOW!
Which no one would want!
One of the earliest IFs that comes to mind is this from the Pentateuch. God was revealing His long-range plan. At the very heart of it is His PROMISE.
Exodus 19:5 5Now therefore, IF you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people; for all the earth is Mine.
Two IFs here:
1: obey my voice, and
2: keep My covenant.
What is the promise that comes with the IF? To be God’s “special treasure above all people.”
And there is more. There is a ROYAL promise here.
Exodus 19:6 6And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’
Even in the time of Moses, God was revealing his plan for His coming KINGDOM! What does Revelation say about the position of those found faithful at the end of the 6000 years? They will be ROYALTY!
Revelation 5:9–10 9And they [the saints] sang a new song, saying: “You [Christ] are worthy to take the scroll, And to open its seals; For You were slain, And have redeemed us to God by Your blood [word] Out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation, 10And have made us kings and priests to our God; And we shall reign on the earth.”
Away back under the law in Moses’ time, God was planning for them, the royalty-to-be in the new world, the future kings and priests, Christ’s associates. They were to be “kings” with administrative tasks, and “priests” to be teachers. The qualification, the “IF” conditions for these positions were: “If you will obey my voice and keep my covenant.” In other words, make a promise and come through with it!
This is how the promises of Scripture come together, presenting ONE plan of salvation from beginning to end. It is all about the coming KINGDOM.
All through Scripture, every IF is a condition for a promise, and every promise is conditioned on an IF.
Isaiah points up the identical plan, and again the basis of the promise is an IF. This time a positive and a negative are bundled together:
Isaiah 1:19–20 19If you are willing and obedient, You shall eat the good of the land; 20But if you refuse and rebel, You shall be devoured by the sword”; For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.
There is a significant IF in the book of Job. This IF is about putting away wrongdoing and reaching toward God’s standard. We will read it from the New English Bible:
Job 11:14–15 (NEB) 14If you have wrongdoing in hand, thrust it away; let no iniquity make its home with you. 15Then you could hold up your head without fault, a man of iron, knowing no fear.
When there is “no iniquity,” you are “man of iron”—here is real strength!
Proverbs puts the IF along with a desire for God’s knowledge. The desire is not a casual curiosity. It is INTENSE desire, because it is about the knowledge that leads to LIFE.
Proverbs 2:3–5 3Yes, if you cry out for discernment, And lift up your voice for understanding, 4If you seek her as silver, And search for her as for hidden treasures; 5Then you will understand the fear of the Lord, And find the knowledge of God.
There are also negative IFs we want to block, a clear warning that “I don’t go there” because IF I do, I am in serious trouble.
Paul spoke to himself about one of these IFs when he was advising the Galatians. A personal lesson for them… because he also was in danger of backtracking, and IF he did, what shame on him!
Galatians 2:18 18For if I build again those things which I destroyed, I make myself a transgressor.
It is the same message as, “Don’t turn around to the things you’ve left behind.” Paul had powerfully resisted the pressures to go back to the useless rituals of Judaism even as he was warning them. It was an IF to block!
Peter had the same warning about backtracking, and the dreadful IF consequences.
2 Peter 2:20–21 20For if, after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the latter end is worse for them than the beginning. 21For it would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered to them.
It is the dark IF of apostasy—the lesson from Saul, and Solomon, and Demas, turning from the road to life to the road that leads only to the grave! IF we go back AFTER we have escaped? NEVER!
Paul said it in other words in the simile of running the Christian race. He who had been coaching and encouraging others—what if he should be disqualified?
1 Corinthians 9:26–27 (REB) 26For my part, I am no aimless runner; I am not a boxer who beats the air. 27I do not spare my body, but bring it under strict control, for fear that after preaching to others I should find myself disqualified.
IF plus a PROMISE has been the appeal of all God’s prophets and apostles. Hear it from the noble-minded and ever loyal Prophet Samuel. He made this proposition to Israel at a time when he was leaving them in the hand of their chosen king, a situation God did not advise but allowed.
1 Samuel 12:14–15 14If you fear the Lord and serve Him and obey His voice, and do not rebel against the commandment of the Lord, then both you and the king who reigns over you will continue following the Lord your God.
15However, if you do not obey the voice of the Lord, but rebel against the commandment of the Lord, then the hand of the Lord will be against you, as it was against your fathers.
If they would “fear the Lord and serve Him and obey His voice,” even though having a king was not the best choice, God would be with them. But Samuel knew how it would be with them, that they did not have a heart for God.
No obedience, so the PROMISE was annulled. They COULD HAVE—but didn’t. Too willful, too stubborn, too distracted? Their own way appealed more!
Which is what we must let go. And isn’t it worth letting go something WORTHLESS for something of ETERNAL value?
We take care of the IF, and God will come through with the PROMISE!
Absolutely! That is HIS promise to us, and we can DEPEND on it!