1 Jan 2002

Conditional ifs?

Submitted by theshovel
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If as you say there is no condition other than the one you set forth then why didn't Paul say the reverse? I write to you not as a warning but to shame you. Anonymous

Now, maybe that logic makes sense to you, but it sounds rather bogus to me. :) I say this in all seriousness, for how could I respond to something so ridiculous?

As to the warning. If I read you correctly, you seem to assume that if our salvation is secure in Christ by what HE has done that there would be no possible explanation for Paul to warn them about anything. Or to put it the other way, that since "Paul says that he is writing to them not to shame them but to warn them" that he MUST mean that this could ONLY apply to the possible loss of their salvation? Is this the reasoning here? Please tell me you wouldn't be suggesting NO ALTERNATIVE as what his warning is about. If not, then you are only forcing Paul's words to comply with a doctrine instead of the other way around.

That little word IF really means what it says.

What you mean by this seems to be connected to a particular teaching rather than to a true communication by Paul to this specific group of believers. I say this because I presented the "if" as a real "if" and yet it appears that since it didn't fit the "if" of your teaching (based on your grouping of out-of -context verses) that you made your statement as you did. In other words, I believe the little word "if" really means what it says and it has to fit the whole context of the whole letter, not just a forced logic upon a verse here or there.

Now, the passages you have asked my thoughts on are wonderful and filled with the grace of this undeserved, freely given, and secure grace of Christ ... in context, that is. :) I will address them, but not all at the same time, and not tonight, since I go to bed at 8 pm. Actually, there are a couple of them that I've been planning on writing about for a while now so this will be a great opportunity. I'll probably start with the Colossians 1 passage. I don't think you've heard it dealt with the way I view it, and no, I still don't think you will agree with it, but you'll get to see it anyhow.

To consider a sentence or a paragraph of a letter you must consider the whole letter and not just the selected portion. Sure, there are certain statements in a letter that can almost stand by themselves, but even these were not written independently and, therefore, do not find their meaning apart from the rest.

If a line is quoted from one of my favorite stories I do not for a moment view it in isolation from its relation to the whole thing, including many intricate details and related characters. Those who are unfamiliar with the story merely hear a quote, and have no idea what is behind it, and therefore can only speculate its meaning. Unfortunately, the latter is how most read, study and interpret the Bible.

You say you are interested in my thoughts on Colossians 1:22-23, but I cannot tell you my thoughts on those statements as if they sit by themselves, for they do not sit by themselves and cannot be explained by themselves.

I'm including a piece I wrote on Colossians 1:9-10 because it's part of what leads up to the verses you asked about.


For this reason also, since the day we heard of it, we have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and understanding, so that you may walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects (literal - "unto all pleasing"), bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God Colossians 1:9-10

This is a very much used passage in "Finding the Will of God" teachings. But it's been pulled out of context so many times that no one seems to notice the obvious fact that nothing Paul says fits into the formulas ... NOTHING. Take a look. Nowhere in the whole context does he make any mention of "finding God's specific will for your life". Instead, Paul expressed a greater desire, which was to BE FILLED WITH THE KNOWLEDGE OF HIS WILL. This is also my desire for all of you.

What is this will? It's not a secret plan that you must discover ... it's much, much better than that! He has "willed" something.

...that is, the mystery which has been hidden from the past ages and generations; but has now been manifested to His saints, to whom GOD WILLED TO MAKE KNOWN what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is CHRIST IN YOU, THE HOPE OF GLORY." Colossians 1:26-27

From the beginning of Colossians 1 all the way to the end of it Paul wrote about CHRIST ... and he continues the whole letter in the same manner. Christ in YOU is the thing God has willed. Read it again and simply observe the obvious. It is so cool.

But shouldn't it follow that Paul wouldn't tell the Colossian believers anything different than what he told the others?

  • To the Corinthians he said,

    For I determined to know NOTHING among you except CHRIST, AND HIM CRUCIFIED 1 Corinthians 2:2

  • To the Romans,

    For I am not ashamed of the GOSPEL, for IT is the power of God for salvation (deliverance) to every one who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. Romans 1:16

  • To the Galatians,

    I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and delivered Himself up for me. Galatians 2:20

  • To the Ephesians,

    ...that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe ... Ephesians 1:17-18

  • To the Philippians,

    I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord ... that I may know HIM, and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; Philippians 3:8,10

The message is the same. It is the knowledge of Christ Jesus, the One who was crucified and raised again. It is everything involved in the reality of what He accomplished on the cross. Through Him we have been made alive to God! To be filled with this knowledge is what causes us to walk in a worthy manner! Why "worthy"? Knowing this will of God in all wisdom and understanding is to know that Christ in us is the ONLY thing that causes us to walk as those who are raised from the dead ... and THIS what is pleasing in His sight. Otherwise, we spend our days living like everybody else, DESPERATELY TRYING to achieve. This is the very thing He has delivered us from, and it is not worthy of God! Didn't we exist long enough in the dead zone? Aren't you sick of that old life of failure?

So, if I were to combine Colossians 1:9-10 and 26-27, the truth of that will is accentuated like this:
For this reason also, since the day we heard of it, we have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will — for to know His will in true wisdom and understanding is to know the riches of God's mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory — and this knowledge causes you to walk as those who are raised from the dead, for this is what is worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.

Let the truth of this miraculous life of Christ be the only reality that you consider worthy. Live your life in view of His work on your behalf. It is

the word of truth, the gospel, which has come to you, just as in all the world IT IS CONSTANTLY BEARING FRUIT AND INCREASING. Colossians 1:6

Yep! It does the work. And you'd better be glad of it.

So, which "will" are you trying to get filled with? Yours or His?


Now, when considering any individual statement in a letter - especially a pivotal verse like Colossians 1:23 - it is imperative to recognize the theme of that letter. And the unmistakable theme of Colossians is the fact that EVERYTHING REVOLVES AROUND, AND HAS ITS MEANING, IN CHRIST. To abandon this unifying reality for one sentence, or even one Greek word, is to misunderstand everything about that verse. More than that, it destroys the progression of Paul's reason for writing it.

It is also important to understand that there is a connection between Paul's bold claims of Christ and in what the Colossians had been going through. I hope you realize that he didn't present a doctrinal teaching to these people simply for the sake of study. No, no, the realities of Christ that Paul described to the Colossians are the meaning behind everything he wrote to them and was intensely connected to their real everyday life. I don't see one word he wrote as being random or unrelated, probably not even the various greetings at the end.

  • Right from the beginning of the letter Paul intertwines faith, hope and love together with CHRIST through the Spirit.
  • Paul's request for these people was that they be filled with the knowledge of God's will, and this "will" is none other than

    CHRIST in you, the hope of glory Colossians 1:27

  • The "kingdom" we have been transferred into is that of CHRIST.
  • It is in CHRIST that we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
  • CHRIST is the "image" of the invisible God. In other words, CHRIST is the exact reflection of the invisible God (The letter of Hebrews starts out by saying that Christ is the "exact representation" of God's nature - 1:3)

In the next few verses, Paul described two ways in which Christ is the "firstborn":

  1. the firstborn of all creation, AND
  2. the firstborn from the dead

Now I know there are certain cults that take pleasure in using these statements to support their claims that Christ was merely a created being, but those arguments are so pathetic in view of the incredible significance found in his being called "firstborn".

You see, just because most of us are not too affected by the position of firstborn I can guarantee you that the people of that time lived their lives around it. One who was firstborn was automatically placed in an undisputed position as head of the family in most societies and cultures (definitely those of the Hebrew, Greek and Roman cultures). In other words, the sons that came after the first one were simply out of luck in this respect, and the daughters weren't even considered.

The description of "firstborn" applied to the son of God declares Christ's PLACE of HEADSHIP in both the physical creation and the new creation.

In the realm of created things, Christ's position is a reality based on the simple fact that EVERYTHING that has been made was made FOR HIM and THROUGH HIM. You see, he was the WORD that came out of the "mouth" of God that performed exactly what God desired. Everything physical has its origin and source in CHRIST. Do you understand the implication? EVERYTHING in the physical realm, whether it can be seen or not, has its MEANING in CHRIST. That means, that in seeking for its own meaning the world has lost its meaning.

He is before all things, and in him all things hold togetherHebrews 1:3

So, without him holding it together, the everything that has been made through him could not even exist.

Now not only the physical world, but also in the realm of the new creation Christ is the "firstborn from the dead" because of the fact that he actually did pass from one to the other in the totality of his being as the union, the joining together of man and God. And in doing so, Christ "will come to have first place in EVERYTHING.

For it was the Father's good pleasure for ALL THE FULNESS to dwell in himColossians 1:19

Now don't let the amazing reality of Christ being referred to in this statement become overshadowed by a later statement,

For in him all the fulness of Deity dwells in bodily form Colossians 2:9

because we're not there yet. Consider what Paul had been leading up to at this point and you'll realize that the "fulness" has to do with Christ's position of "firstborn" making him THE EVERYTHING OF THE EVERYTHING in connection with US.

Is it any wonder then that Paul would directly follow up by saying,

...and through Him to reconcile ALL things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; THROUGH HIM, I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven. Colossians 1:20

For Christ himself is why this is all true!! You see, it's not only his WORK that has brought this to pass, HE is the reality that makes it all happen!!

More later, it's past my bedtime!

Jim Minker :)

[Note: the guy apparently didn't want to hear more so I put this aside because I always have other stuff to write and do. So, if you want to hear more just let me know. Jim ]

Comments

For Christ himself is why this is all true!! You see, it’s not only NOT his WORK that has brought this to pass, HE is the reality that makes it all happen!! More later, it’s past my bedtime! Jim Minker :) [Note: the guy apparently didn’t want to hear more so I put this aside because I always have other stuff to write and do. So, if you want to hear more just let me know. Jim ] ok yes I would like to hear more for I am not yet tracking what the significance of the emphasis Paul is making yet. Also did you mean to put that extra ‘not’ in the above sentence? Or is it better off left out?
theshovel's picture

Hello Adam! Thanks for questioning my wording in that statement. Somehow that extra "not" got into the mix and totally messed up the meaning. I repaired it. :) However, the continuation will have to wait a bit. You may have to remind me a couple times. LOL!

Jim

No problem my brother! Thanks for fixing that so quick! A

Col 1:23 “IF ye continue in the faith…” I looked up the big IF in Strong’s and it seems that it could have been translated, “seeing that” By what Greek grammatical rules did the translators use the word “IF” instead of “seeing that”? Or did the translators chose the meaning that suit their doctrinal slant? So possibly that little word “IF” really doesn’t mean what the translators want the reader to think what they want it to say?
theshovel's picture

Hello Visitor, and thanks for your comment :)

While Strongs might offer "since then" as a possible translation, that could just as easily express Strong's doctrinal slant. I don't know. The meaning of an individual word can be debated, especially when the full weight of an argument is forced to rest upon it. However, the context reveals much of the writer's meaning by how it was used. That's why there are often multiple variations and meanings given to words. In other words, the way particular words have been used by those who speak or write it is the reason why our dictionaries sometimes present numerous meanings for the same word.

Our English language is not only not an exception, I suspect it may also have more variations than most languages since it is the product of numerous languages. While the person with whom I corresponded in this Q&A demanded a meaning based upon one word, you suggest the same. The real question here (as well as in many other places) is how the context, rather than a doctrinal stance, presents the meaning of the word by how the two play out together. In other words, we need to consider the full message Paul had communicated to these believers without forcing a meaning upon a word that might not contribute.

While you probably don't agree with how I've presented the context as it bears upon the meaning, I ask you to consider how a translation of "seeing that" may or may not fit together with how Paul's message plays out. To me, the use of "seeing that" is merely an attempt to help answer an often troubling verse. It's the Fast-Food version of an otherwise wholesome meal. :)

Regarding the word itself, here's a bit more insight. Now, the New American Standard Exhaustive Concordance, which uses the same numbering system as Strongs, is based upon a manuscript(s) that separates the combined word eige into two: ei and ge. from G1487 ei; a prim. particle; if, whether (a cond. part. introducing circumstances nec. for a given proposition to be true; sometimes used with a command or as an indirect question, etc.): NASB usage: although*(1), if(341), no(1), only(1), only*(11), suppose*(1), though(7), though*(5), unless(2), unless*(5), until*(1), whatever*(1), whether(19), whoever*(3).  from G1065 ge; a prim. encl. part.; emphasizes the word to which it is joined: NASB usage: indeed(4), indeed*(1), least*(1), so(1), though*(1), well(1), yet(2). As a combined Greek word, Strongs gives the following meanings, and this combined form seems to be found in only 5 places in the New Testament in the KJV. G1489  eige (ei'-gheh) cond. 1. if indeed, seeing that, unless, (with negative) otherwise [from G1487 and G1065] KJV: if (so be that, yet)

Similar to what you question, I also wonder why the KJV translators chose to ignore the added meaning of the combined word eige by only translating it as "if" rather than "if indeed" or "if so" or "if though" or "if unless" or "if whether". However, even without the added meaning, there is a contingency, a hinging of his statement upon what he had set up in his next statements. I hope you find this helpful. :) Jim

I can remember many years ago another teacher actually coming up with ‘in so much as’ as just as a legitimate translation of the word ‘if’ in this context. It’s funny, my immediate reaction to that was always one of ‘it means what is SAYS’.[just like the above readers response to Jim]For I think we most often hold to the BOOK itself because it IS such an important book of letters for us to read. But, like any book or anything thing in THIS world, it IS part of the elemental world and it is handled by those OF the world. To rely on the elemental is to cause ruin in the believers experience, for we are only reading testimony of the TRUE things God has ratified in the heavenlies![The realities themselves not contained in a BOOK]. If we had not been given the Spirit, we would have no way of really knowing inwardly what was of God or what was not of God, for He does the leading internally by that very same Spirit. The testimony of the realities themselves written in the ‘book’ are important clues to what we are experiencing within our very own hearts….ALREADY.[in some way, shape or form] Do we REALLY think that every piece of translation in the ‘book’ is going to favor grace? Especially knowing that the very essence of the flesh is comparison? You know, like “I’m more spiritual than YOU?”
theshovel's picture

Adam, I really appreciate what you've written, for as you say, the mind of the world is all about comparison.

Jim :)

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