“This is a faithful saying: For if we died with Him, we shall also live with Him. If we endure, we shall also reign with Him. If we deny Him, He also will deny us. If we are faithless, He remains faithful; He cannot deny Himself” (2 Timothy 2:11-13 NKJV).
It has become very evident to me over the years that conditional statements are often not recognized as such. This may be cultural, or in other situations may be influenced by lack of education or even by personal prejudices (we often do hear what we want or expect to hear, don’t we?).
American visitors to South Asia often note that over there when one says “Yes” that means “immediately,” “maybe” means “yes,” and “no” means “maybe.” Trying to explain later that you really did not promise what they thought you promised (or maybe what they wanted you to promise) is a difficult task indeed.
This same principle applies to the way many people read or understand the Bible. God’s promises are considered infallible and universal, with no recognition of any conditions which he may have placed on the receiver. If he states that someone is saved, then it is assumed that their salvation is assured regardless of any other consideration or condition.
But a sincere study of Scripture will reveal that all of God’s promises, under any dispensation, are conditional. Israel was promised a land of milk and honey and status as God’s chosen people only if they kept his laws (as an example, Deuteronomy 7 records the blessings which would follow obedience and the punishment which would follow disobedience. Israel’s future disobedience would nullify God’s earlier land promise given to Abraham).
So also in the New Testament the promise of salvation is always conditional. Those who believe in Jesus will not perish but will have eternal life (John 3:16). All who call upon the name of Jesus will be saved (Romans 10:13). Those who obey the will of the Father will enter the Kingdom of Heaven (Matthew 7:21). Only those who repent will avoid perishing (Luke 13:3). Everyone who repents and is baptized will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38). These are but a few of the many conditional promises regarding salvation which are recorded in the New Testament.
Yet in spite of all the Biblical evidence, the religious world today is filled with doctrines of universal, unconditional salvation. Many of these are based on God’s nature – “God loves humans too much to send anyone to an eternal hell” it is claimed.
Note carefully the statement at the beginning of this article. Man may be unfaithful, but God is always true to his own nature. He is faithful, i.e., dependable or trustworthy. Among other things this means he can be depended upon to do exactly what he has said he will do. God cannot lie; therefore, we can always believe that he will fulfill his promises (Titus 1:2). That includes the promises of mercy and reward as well as the promises of punishment. The promise which any given person receives is dependent upon the conditions which he or she has met in this life.
“For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one of us may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad” (2 Corinthians 5:10).
“Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life” (Galatians 6:7-8).
Read again the words at the beginning of the article. We may live with Christ, but only if we have died with him. We will reign with him, but only if we endure. Don’t overlook the if.