What is the most important word in the Bible? Have you ever thought about it? The word “God” would undoubtedly garner most, if not all, of the first place votes. I wouldn’t be caught dead voting otherwise. There are, however, other words that are often overlooked. Many words would come to mind: sacrifice, faith, grace, love, and so on. I would like to suggest that the simple word if is one of the most important words in the Bible. It is also one of the most challenging words in all of life. If does many things in the space of two letters.
If is proof of man’s free will. God told Cain in Genesis 4:7 “If you do well, will not your countenance be lifted up? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door…” Cain had the power to choose which path he would take, each with a different promised outcome.
If requires judgments. In the books of the Law we can see if associated with consequences or judgments…. The word if appears 39 times in Lev. 13 (59 verses). The action to be taken is the direct result of a compulsory judgment. Leviticus 13:4 reads, “But if the spot is white in the skin of his body and appears no deeper than the skin, and the hair in it has not turned white, the priest shall shut up the diseased person for seven days.” The priests were to examine something, leprosy in this case, make a judgment, then follow God’s instructions.
If promises results. Whether reward or punishment, if sheds light on the consequences of our choices. Proverbs 2:1-5 says “My son, if you will receive my sayings, And treasure my commandments within you, Make your ear attentive to wisdom, Incline your heart to understanding; For if you cry for discernment, Lift your voice for understanding; If you seek her as silver, And search for her as for hidden treasures; Then you will discern the fear of the LORD, And discover the knowledge of God”. What a wonderful promise. The consequences of making a bad choice are just as easily seen in scripture. Malachi 2:2 says “If you do not listen, and if you do not take it to heart to give honor to My name,” says the LORD of hosts, “then I will send the curse upon you, and I will curse your blessings…”
If offers hope. We read the question in Job 14:14 “If a man dies, will he live again? The answer to that question is found in John 8:51 “Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps My word he shall never see death.”
It is that hope of salvation that is offered throughout the scriptures with the word if:
Romans 10:9 “ that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved.”
Act 8:36-37 “And as they went along the road they came to some water; and the eunuch said, “Look! Water! What prevents me from being baptized?” And Philip said, “If you believe with all your heart, you may.” And he answered and said, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.”
If does, as mentioned at the first point, grant free will to every individual. You do have the power to make a poor choice with consequences not to your liking. It is then that you may begin to think if only.
Isaiah 48:18 “If only you had paid attention to My commandments! Then your well-being would have been like a river, And your righteousness like the waves of the sea.”