Years ago, when I was merely beginning to consider verses that may hint at the possibility of a chance that conditional security could have a tiny opportunity of gaining credibility in my understanding, this particular verse may have been the culprit that started my “descent into heresy”.
The circumstances, combined with my studying this verse in Colossians, seemed to be completely unrelated. It came about because I was meeting with a bunch of word of faith “believers”. I had been visiting with them, trying to understand their thinking, (instead of just taking someones word on their thinking.)
Anyhow, they were looking at the temptation of the Lord, and specifically the “if” statements the devil was throwing out at Him. I can’t recall the specific clause they landed on, but their conclusion followed the Arian heresy*. Two minutes after I asked some pertinent questions, and understood their settled stand on this matter, I spoke of my conviction, thanked them for their hospitality and quietly excused myself from thier home.
But the talk haunted me and set me on a bit of a study on the word “IF”. (Carl – you need to git a life!)
Anyway, I found a table (see end of post) that seemed helpful in explaining the different conditions in the Greek manuscripts that the English word “IF” was trying to communicate to us.
Colossians 1:23 uses the first class condition. But I am getting way ahead of myself.
Lets consider the passage first.
And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister.
Boy, that would be devastating for the conditional position.
But wait! Lets try that same translation for other instances where the first class conditional “IF” is used in the New Testament.
How bout this one.
Since your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell
This verse actually instructs believers to pluck their eye out, since their eye offends them!
OK – Lets try this verse
assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus,
Ephesians 4:21 seems to allow using “assuming” instead of “if”, but this seeming exception should not make the rule. Paul may be questioning these believers if they really heard “Him” to make a point.
OK Carl, how can you say it is the exception to the rule. Check out these verses to consider if translating this word as “since” makes sense.
Since I cast out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore they will be your judges.
And Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good that we are here. Since you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.”
SINCE Satan is also divided against himself, how will his kingdom stand?
Father, SINCE you are willing, remove this cup from me . . .
SINCE I am not doing the works of my Father, do not believe me . . .
Now SINCE I am wrong and have committed a deed worthy of death, I am not refusing to die . . .
For SINCE Abraham was justified by works, he has a basis for boasting . . .
For SINCE those who follow the law are heirs, faith is canceled out and the promise is voided
1 Corinthians 7:9
But SINCE they are not exercising self-control, they should get married.
1 Corinthians 8:13
SINCE food causes my brother to stumble, I will never eat meat . . .
1 Corinthians 9:17
For SINCE I do this willingly, I have a reward; but since I do it unwillingly, I have been entrusted with a stewardship
1 Corinthians 11:6
For SINCE a woman will not veil herself, she should cut off her hair . . .
1 Corinthians 15:13
Now SINCE there is no resurrection from the dead, neither has Christ been raised
1 Corinthians 15:19
SINCE in this life we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most miserable
1 Corinthians 15:32
SINCE the dead are not raised, “let us eat and drink for tomorrow we die.”
For SINCE justification comes through the law, then Christ died for nothing.
For SINCE the inheritance is from the law, it is no longer from the promise.
Now brothers, SINCE I am still preaching circumcision, why am still being persecuted?
For SINCE the blood of goats and bulls . . . sanctifies those who have been defiled
SINCE you are without the discipline which all children share, then you are illegitimate and not sons
Now SINCE you do not commit adultery, but SINCE you murder, you have become a transgressor of the law.
OK – I think I made my point. A simple reading of the passage communicates the conditionality intended by the author. So it seems Paul is informing the Colossians of their conditional status before their Master.
As an aside, a few months after my study on this passage was complete, I was attending a newly formed Bible study and coincidentally looking at the first chapter of Colossians. The spirit of the meeting was very cordial and I sensed an openness to ask questions. Since I had just learned of this passage, I thought I would bring it up.
NO DISCUSSION ALLOWED.
The leader actually stood up from his chair, and approached me in front of the rest of the group. “The preacher said those verses should be read differently.” Therefore that was all the discussion that was needed. I am sure he was seeking to maintain the purity of the faith, protect the weak, or enforce his leadership, but that night sticks with me.
A couple of practical applications come to my mind from this experience
If I feel threatened by a believer’s differing views, ask yourself…
Are you depending/trusting in a man’s interpretation of a verse, passage or theology? Professional Christians may have oodles of learning, but NOTHING replaces self study and prayer in seeking to understand the Word.
Have I “finished” searching out the Scriptures? They – the Scriptures – tend to speak of Him, and with that hope, the Word is worthy of trying to understand.
Do I discuss opposing views with respect and an honest effort to understand the position? The Word of Faith folks, in my opinion, were wringing the Scriptures of truth, but any mockery, dismissal, anger or intimidation would accomplish absolutely nothing positive. Trust me – I have personal experience of this!
Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.
- According to Wikipeadia – The Arian controversy was a series of Christian theological disputes that arose between Arius and Athanasius of Alexandria, two Christian theologians from Alexandria, Egypt. The most important of these controversies concerned the substantial relationship between God the Father and God the Son.