The “IF” Condition
Gordon C. Olson, in his manual entitled Sharing Your Faith, gives one of the finest and most concise definitions of truth, as follows:
Truth is simply a true perspective, or a true picture in all proper proportions, of what exists. Gordon C. Olson, Sharing Your Faith, Chart IX, p. 3 (Bible Research Fellowship).
Despite many volumes written supporting a “once saved, always-saved” doctrine, when we honestly examine the words of Scripture’ we must not take the position of unqualified eternal security without question. An examination of biblical texts pins this false assurance to the floor. Continual commitment as a condition of salvation is well established. Guy Duty, in If Ye Continue, states:
An impartial truth-seeker accepts facts as he finds them. He has no personal preference. A Bible doctrine cannot be established merely by someone making a dogmatic statement. Guy Duty, If Ye Continue (Bethany Fellowship), p. 12.
Consider God’s “If” condition in first the Old and then the New Testaments.
The Old Testament
But if your heart turns away and you will not obey, but are drawn away and worship other gods and serve them, I declare to you today that you shall surely perish. You shall not prolong your days in the land where you are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess it. —Deuteronomy 30:17-18 (NASB)
If you forsake the Lord and serve foreign gods, then He will turn and do you harm and consume you after He has done good to you. —Joshua 24:20 (NASB)
If you will fear the Lord and serve Him, and listen to His voice and not rebel against the command of the Lord, then both you and also the king who reigns over you will follow the Lord your God. And if you will not listen to, the voice of the Lord, but rebel against the command of the Lord, then the hand of the Lord will be against you… —1 Samuel 12:14-15 (NASB)
As for you, my son Solomon, know the God of your father, and serve Him with a whole heart and a willing mind; for the Lord searches all hearts, and understands every intent of the thoughts. If you seek Him, He will let you find Him; but if you forsake Him, He will reject you forever. —1 Chronicles 28:9 (NASB)
Thus says the Lord of hosts, ‘If you will walk in My ways, and if you perform My service, then you will also govern My house… and I will grant you free access among these who are standing here.’ —Zechariah 3:7 (NASB)
The New Testament
Then Jesus said to His disciples, ‘If any one wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.’ —Matthew 16:24 (NASB)
Jesus therefore was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, “If you abide in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine.” —John 8:31 (NASB)
If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments, and abide in His love. —John 15:10 (NASB)
But I buffet my body and make it my slave, lest possibly, after I have preached to others, I myself should be disqualified. —I Corinthians 9:27 (NASB)
And although you were formerly alienated and hostile in mind, engaged in evil deeds, yet He has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through death, in order to present you before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach—if indeed you continue in the faith firmly established and steadfast, and not moved away from the hope of the gospel that you have heard, which was proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, was made a minister. —Colossians 1:21-23 (NASB)
Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching; persevere in these things; for as you do this you will insure salvation both for yourself and for those who hear you. —I Timothy 4:16 (NASB)
But Christ was faithful as a Son over His house whose house we are, if we hold fast our confidence and the boast of our hope firm until the end. Therefore, just as the Holy Spirit says, “Today if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts as when they provoked Me, as in the day of trial in the wilderness, where your fathers tried Me by testing Me, and saw My Works for forty years. Therefore, I was angry with this generation, and said, “They always go astray with their heart; and they did not know My ways”; As I swore in My wrath, “They shall not enter My rest.”‘ Take care, brethren, lest there should be in any one of you an evil unbelieving heart, in falling away from the living God. But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called ‘Today,’ lest any one of you be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have become partakers of Christ, if we hold fast the beginning of our assurance firm until the end. —Hebrews 3:6-14 (NASB)
“For in the case of those who have once been enlightened and have tasted of the heavenly gift and have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have, tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, it is impossible to renew them again to repentance, since they again crucify to themselves the Son of God, and put Him to open shame. For ground that drinks the rain which often falls upon it and brings forth vegetation useful to those for whose sake it is tilled, receives a blessing from God; but if it yields thorns and thistles, it is worthless and close to being cursed, and it ends up being burned.” —Hebrews 6:4-8 (NASB)
But My righteous one shall live by faith; and if he shrinks back, My soul has no pleasure in him. But we are not of those who shrink back to destruction, but of those who have faith to the preserving of the soul. —Hebrews 10:38-39 (NASB)
But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man shall be blessed in what he does. —James 1:25 (NASB)
Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble. —2 Peter 1:10 (NASB)
You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, be on your guard lest, being carried away by the error of unprincipled men, you fall from your own steadfastness. —2 Peter 3:17 (NASB)
And by this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments. The one who says, ‘I have come to know Him,’ and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him; but whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected. By this we know that we are in Him. —1 John 2:3-5 (NASB)
As for you, let that abide in you which you heard from the beginning. If that you heard from the beginning abides in you you also will abide in the Son and in the Father. —1 John 2:24 (NASB)
For if God did not spare the natural branches, neither will He spare you. Behold then the kindness and severity of God; to those who fell, severity, but to you, God’s kindness, if you continue in His kindness; otherwise you also will be cut off. And they also, if they do not continue in their unbelief, will be grafted in; for God is able to graft them in again. For if you were cut off from what is by nature a wild olive tree, how much more shall these who are the natural branches be grafted into their own olive tree? —Romans 11:21-24 (NASB)
The specified if-condition lies deep in Paul’s thinking. The Jews would be grafted in again ‘if they abide not still in unbelief.’ And the Gentiles would-also be broken off ‘if’ they did not ‘continue’ in faith. Ibid., p. 99. Jesus said:
If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered… and they are burned. —John 15:6
Here in Romans 11, Paul gave the if-condition its full force… There is salvation in God’s covenant tree for those who ‘abide’ in it. Paul had no doctrine such as ‘once in the Tree, always in the Tree. Ibid., p. 99.
God’s gift of salvation can certainly never be earned nor merited. We are saved as a result of God’s decision to offer us something we didn’t deserve: grace. This fact however does not negate the biblical insistence that salvation is also conditional. No condition will save us. Fulfilling a condition merely prepares the way for God to exercise that loving grace without which we would have perished. The conditions of salvation, repentance, faith and continuance are important because God has emphasized them. Yet, as we observe God’s desire to restore and then sustain a relationship with His creation, the logic behind His conditions is unmistakable.