When the If Isn’t Iffy

When you fly standby, they tell you, “If we can find you a seat, we will call your name.”  When they call your name, you ask, “Did I get on?”  And they tell you, “If we called your name, you have a seat on this flight.”  Those two “if’s” mean different things.  The first “if” is iffy.  The second one is not.  The first “if” means “maybe, maybe not.” The second “if” means “since.”   Like when someone says, “If the sun comes up tomorrow… ”  It means, “of course this is certain to happen.”

Why the grammar lesson?  Because maybe you get freaked out when you see the word, “if,” in the Bible.  We’ve been talking about how wonderful it is to be reconciled and be transformed from an enemy of God into someone who is considered by God to be absolutely innocent (See: No Halfway Measure).  But the next line says “if,” and it sounds like there’s a catch.  It says, these wonderful things are yours:

“…if you continue in your faith, established and firm, not moved from the hope held out in the gospel.” (Colossians 1:23a)

Sounds like those you don’t get to keep the the wonderful things “if” you screw up and wander away from the faith.  But that’s not the right “if.” This “if” means “since you will certainly” continue in your faith.  This “if” isn’t “iffy.”

How do we know?  Well, the folks that read this in Greek could tell just by looking at it, because “if” is spelled differently if it’s iffy.  But without knowing Greek, we know because the next word is established.”  Established means permanently anchored on a strong foundation.  It’s not something you have to do for yourself everyday.  It is something that has been done for you, once, in the past and is your secure condition forever.

If you get accepted for standby and board, you don’t have to worry about doing anything else to make it to your destination.  (That is, assuming the plane makes it, for the purpose of this illustration…)  People on airliners don’t have to be careful so they won’t fall out.  “If” they are on, they are going to get there.  Same thing for the reconciled.  Once you trust Jesus and are reconciled, you are established, firm and will not be moved from your confidence in the promises of eternity.  You may wonder from time to time, when (if I can club the airliner illustration to death) you encounter some nasty turbulence in life.  But you will discover, in the process, that what Jesus has done for you, He did permanently in you.

That’s why they call it “Good News.”  Because the “if” isn’t “iffy.”

Quotes: The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (electronic ed.). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

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