in the


of Jesus



JESUS CONTINUED THE EMPHASIS Of the Old Testament if-condition about salvation. We shall see the same frequency of the if-emphasis in the New Covenant that we saw in the Old. The Bible uses considerable repetition of truths about our salvation “though ye know them, and be established in the present truth” (II Pet. 1: 10-15).

God’s covenant plan was projected on an if-basis. God specified His “if” for Cain, and this if-importance was followed with successive repetition by Moses, Joshua, David, Solomon, Hezekiah, Nehemiah, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Zechariah, and Malachi. As we reason from one covenant to another, the evidence increases for the belief that the conditional moral structure of one covenant is essentially the same as that of another covenant. The covenants embodied

promises and conditions; and when these covenants passed to future generations, they were not stripped of their “ifs.”

The Abrahamic Covenant was an If-Covenant. The Sinaitic Covenant was an If-Covenant. The Davidic Covenant was an If-Covenant. I will now try to prove to you that the New Covenant is an If-Covenant.

Jesus was a Jew. He lived as a Jew. He was born in fulfillment of Jewish covenants, although He was promised from the foundation of the world. He was the “son of David, the son of Abraham” (Matt. 1:1; Acts 13: 23; Rom.  1:3; Gal. 3: 16; II Tim. 2: 8).

As the Seed of the covenant fathers, Jesus fulfilled the covenants of salvation made to Abraham and David. In the process of covenant development, the covenants moved toward Christ for their fulfillment.

The New Covenant is founded on the Abrahamic-Davidic Covenants. Each covenant that followed the Abrahamic Covenant was an outgrowth and further expansion of the Abrahamic.

At the beginning of Christ’s ministry, He taught the conditional nature of salvation when He delivered His marvelous system of moral law in the Sermon on the Mount. For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. (Matt. 6: 14, 15)

In the Greek New Testament, “if” has the same conditional meaning in these texts as in the English. It is used to express a condition. It is also understood in this sense by law courts. Professor M. M. Bryant of Columbia University made a study to see how words are interpreted in law courts and the part they play in legal decisions. Professor Bryant put the result of this study, with legal citations, in a book, English in the Law Courts (F. Unger Co. 1962). On page 230, in law courts, when “if” is used to express a condition, it has the same meaning as in general usage: “in case that,” “allowing or supposing that.” As Bible covenants are legal transactions, their ifs would be interpreted in law courts as would be “if” in any other document.

        In chapter one, I quoted from the popular Calvinist writer, Arthur W. Pink: “Personally we have no more to do with our spiritual birth than we had with our natural birth.” Now here’s a quote from the same author on these if-texts in Matthew 6: 14, 15: “If ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.” Very searching indeed are these words, constituting a severe test of discipleship, a test which excludes from the ranks of God’s children those…refusing to forgive those who injure them.

First, our forgiveness is a condition or necessary qualification if we are to receive the continued pardon of God…. “But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” Unspeakably solemn is this, and each of us needs diligently to search his heart in the light of it…. It will be seen then, that the passage we have been considering presents a very real test of

discipleship. (his italics) The two statements are inconsistent and contradictory. A lawyer, using such contradictory language, would lose his case in court. I will not argue from all the if-statements Jesus made. A few are sufficient. Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? (Matt. 16:24-26)


The if-statement of Jesus on this occasion is in a context about a man losing his soul. So, we have evidence here that Jesus taught salvation to be conditional upon a man denying himself, and taking up his cross, and following Him continuously. Jesus taught here that “whosoever” obeyed the conditions for salvation would “save his life,” and whosoever did not obey the conditions would “lose his own soul.” The grammar of the Greek New Testament in this if-text means: “Begin now to follow me, and continue doing so.” True faith reveals itself in continual obedience to Christ’s conditions for salvation. Unbelief manifests itself  in  continually  disobeying  these  conditions. Christ does not give eternal life for a momentary surge of emotion or the fleeting impulse of a single act of faith. Jesus told about some people who “endure but for a time” (Mark 4: 17); “but he that endureth to the end shall be saved” (Matt. 10:22). It is evident that Christ was severe in His requirements for discipleship. He reminds us of what God required of Abraham: “Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house.

…” Similar conditions are given in Luke 14:25-35: And there went great multitudes with him: and he turned and said unto them, If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple…. So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple.


Salt is good: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be seasoned? It is neither fit for the land, nor yet for the dung- hill; but men cast it out. He that hath ears to hear, let him hear. Jesus, with striking emphasis, repeated that he who does not obey the forsake-all condition “cannot be my disciple.” Jesus then used the illustration of salt losing its savor and He used it in a context about conditions for salvation. “In this place the salt appears to denote disciples and the idea to be: genuine disciples are an excellent thing, valuable as salt to a corrupt world, but spurious disciples are as utterly worthless as salt which has lost its savor” (Expositors Greek Testament). “Without absolute surrender of self, the contest is hopeless” (Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown Commentary). The Pulpit Commentary, commenting on Christ’s salt statement here, says: Here “salt” stands for the spirit of self-sacrifice, self-renunciation. When in a man, or in a nation, or in a Church, that salt is savorless, then that spirit is dead; there is no hope remaining for the man, for the people, or the Church. The lesson was a general one–it was meant to sink into each listener’s heart; but the Master’s sad gaze was fixed…on the temple of Jerusalem where his glory-presence used to dwell. Men cast it out. Jesus could hear the armed tramp of the Roman legions of the year 70 as they cast out his people from their holy land. Further authoritative support for this view is found in The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah.3 As savorless salt is not fit for the dunghill, so also many who profess salvation are unfit for the Kingdom of God.

Let the reader consider Christ’s plain statements about conditional salvation, and then read what the Eternal Security teachers say: “There is no need for continuous faith on the part of the saved person” – “The predestinated are saved without regard to what they may or may not do.” The teachings of Christ repudiated this deceptive assurance. Christ revealed that multitudes are hopelessly deceived, but that they will finally see at the judgment they were deluded with a false security about their salvation (Matt. 8: 11, 12) .

We look now at a few more of Jesus’ if-statements in John: Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed…. They answered and said unto him, Abraham is our father. Jesus saith unto them, If ye were Abraham’s children, ye would do the works of Abraham…. If God were your father, ye would love me…. He that is of God heareth God’s words: ye therefore hear them not, because ye are not of God…. Verily, verily, I say unto you, If a man keep my saying, he shall never see death. (John 8:31-51) We now look at Calvin’s entire exposition of Christ’s conditional statement in John 8:31. “If ye continue in my word.” Here Christ warns them, in the first place, that it is not enough for any one to have begun well, if their progress to the end does not correspond to it; and for this reason he exhorts to perseverance in the faith those who have tasted of his doctrine. When he says that they who are firmly rooted in his word, so as to continue in him, will truly be his disciples, he means that many profess to be his disciples who yet are not so in reality, and have no right to be accounted such. He distinguishes his followers from hypocrites by this mark, that they who falsely boasted of faith give way as soon as they have entered into the course, or at least in the middle of it; but believers persevere constantly to the end. If, therefore, we wish that Christ should reckon us to be his disciples, we must endeavor to persevere.  (The emphasis is Calvin’s.) Calvin sounds like an Arminian here, doesn’t he? In checking Calvin’s commentaries on various if-texts, he seemed vague and inconsistent to me, but this was one of the few clear statements I found.

But you must be careful reading Calvin because he gives it to you in one place, and takes it away in another. Like Augustine, he is inconsistent and self-contradictory. Notice in the above statement that Calvin used “if” twice.


The Jews boasted to Christ about their security in the Abrahamic Covenant: “Abraham is our father.” But Jesus unmasked them as being hypocrites with: “If ye were Abraham’s children, ye would do the works of Abraham.” It was by the Abrahamic works- test that Jesus proved them to be of “your father the devil”· and, “The lusts of your father ye will do”; and, ‘Ye do the deeds of your father” (John 8:39-44).

We have seen there were four conditions to the Abrahamic Covenant and that Abraham obeyed and continually kept these conditions. This was what Jesus referred to as the “works of Abraham.” With this, Jesus showed the same moral conditions of the Abrahamic Covenant to be in effect for the New Covenant. It was not conditional for Abraham and unconditional for Abraham’s children. To these Jews who smugly believed they were predestinated to the eternal Abrahamic kingdom, Christ applied two other tests: the sin-test and the Word-test. “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whosoever committeth sin is the servant [slave] of sin.” “He that is of God heareth God’s words: ye therefore hear them not, because ye are not of God” (John 8: 34, 47). Jesus said that anyone who persisted in sin was of the devil, and did the lusts and deeds of the devil. The devil “abode not in the truth” (John 8:44). “By their fruits ye shall know them.” This is a test that Christ applied to false prophets and false believers, as the context of Matthew 7: 15-27 shows. Jesus used three tests on these Jews: the works-test, the sin-test, the Word-test. And even John Calvin, in the above quotation, said that Christ “distinguishes his followers from hypocrites by this mark.”

The Jews claimed eternal security in the Abrahamic Covenant because they were the sons of Abraham, and, “once a son, always a son.” Jesus told us a remarkable story about this father-son relationship in Luke 16:22-26: And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried: And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me…. But Abra’ha’m said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented. And beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence.


This Jew, claiming birth and sonship in the Abrahamic Covenant, appealed to Abraham as “Father.” This was acknowledged by Abraham who called him “Son.” But the father was in Paradise forever and the son was in hell forever. No one could ever pass the great gulf that separated them. Christ’s teaching enraged the Jews more than did His miracles. They had Him crucified because of His teaching–the teaching that He was the Son of God and Saviour of the world; teaching that exposed them-Abraham’s covenant sons–as children of the devil; teaching that made salvation conditional with a big “if”; teaching that put a covenant son of Abraham in torment forever; teaching that had them–  “the children of the kingdom . .. cast into outer darkness:  [where] there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matt. 8:12).

Some teach that these Jews who are cast out of the Kingdom will get another chance to enter it. But there is no evidence that the Jews understood it that way. Nor will it be so understood by the Jews when they are cast out. Why do they weep and gnash their teeth if they get another chance? Some interpreters make “outer darkness” to be different from “damnation,” but the Jews didn’t understand it that way. On this if-condition in John 8: 31, Professor A. T. Robertson, the foremost; Greek authority of modern times, wrote: Your future loyalty to my teaching will prove the reality of your present profession. So the conclusion of this future condition is put in the present tense. As then, so now…. Continuance in the word (teaching) proves the sincerity or insincerity of the profession. It is the acid test of life.”

Jesus made everything conditional upon obedient love. Everything comes from God’s free grace, but obedience and faith make it possible for God to give this grace to those who qualify for it. Jesus made this clear with more ifs. “If ye love me, keep my commandments.” “If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him” (John 14:15, 23).

If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned. If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love. (John 15:6, 10) If any man willeth to do his will, he shall know the teaching.  (John 7:17, RV)

On the latter reference, Dr. Robertson wrote: The conditional is used here with “full force of, to will, to wish.” Christ’s if-essential demands the continual wish, will, obedience, and love of those who claim salvation. God’s covenant of salvation is an eternal-life guarantee to all who “abide” in it. It has Christ’s “verily, verily,” behind it. Christ is the surety of it (Heb. 7:22). It is validated by God’s “oath.” And God has put His “yea-amen” to it (II Cor. 1:20). It is a “sure word of prophecy” to all who continually believe (II Pet. 1: 19).

 The “ifs” in Christ’s teaching is sufficient evidence for our conclusion that salvation is conditional. The authority of the Greek New Testament fully corroborates our view. True love and faith working together have continuous action in Christ.

Every time Jesus asked a person to follow him he used the…present imperative. “And he says to him, Follow me.” Mt. 9:9. That is, begin now to follow me, and continue doing so; When the present imperative is used, it denotes continuous or repeated action.


The Greek New Testament teaches in John 3: 15; 5:24; 6:35; 6:54; 11:25: “Whosoever is continually believing has eternal life” — “He that believes on me continually shall never thirst” — “He who keeps eating my flesh and drinking my blood has eternal life” — “He that persistently believes in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live.” The idea is of an action begun, and to be continued. Jesus taught in the parable of the sower that the good seed continues to grow until it brings forth good fruit. Other seed does not continue to grow because it is choked by the cares and pleasures of life and does not bring forth fruit (Luke 8: 14, 15). I am the true vine…. If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned. (John 15:1, 6)

Christ here again makes salvation conditional upon abiding continually in Him. “There is nothing for a broken off branch to do but wither and die.” …”The apostles are thus vividly warned against presumption” (Robertson). “He is cast forth. The aorist tense. Lit., was cast forth. The aorist, denoting a momentary act, indicates that it was cast forth at the moment it ceased to abide in the vine. Forth-signifies from the vineyard; outside” (Vincent). The continue-in-sin doctrine is refuted by Christ’s continue-in-faith doctrine. He who continues to sin falls into an eternal death-trap. There is no unconditional salvation when God uses His pruning-knife.

Jesus clearly taught us here that the teaching of “once in the Vine, always in the Vine” is a great deception. (We shall see more of this in Romans 11.)

Two men asked Jesus what they must do to inherit eternal life. One asked: “What good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?” Jesus replied: “If thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments” (Matt. 19:17). The other inquirer asked: “Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus directed him to the commandment: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighour as thyself.”

Then Jesus added: “This do, and thou shalt live [eternally].” Salvation is of the Jews. But no Jew could enter the Kingdom of God unless he continually obeyed the covenant commandments. That is what the King of the Jews said. The New Covenant salvation is an If-Covenant. The evidence demands this conclusion.




1966 Bethany House Publishers Reproduced with permission



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