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Topic: The Gospel

Conditional and Unconditional Promises

by Darrel Cline

We have been asking What is the saving Gospel of Jesus Christ? (207) In two articles (213) (214) we have addressed the confusion that men have injected into the Gospel in respect to the issue of the claim that salvation is by faith. In this article we shall continue our attempt to clarify this matter.

One of the reasons that men are confused about the issues of faith is that they forget the bottom line (Romans 4:21): the fulfillment of the promise is up to the one who made the promise. Part of this confusion rests in the fact that the Bible reveals two kinds of promises. One is the conditional promise; the other is the unconditional promise.

An example of the unconditional promise is Genesis 9:8-11. In this text God makes an unconditional promise that He will never again destroy the whole earth by means of a world-wide flood. Never. No matter what men do or do not do, God simply made a promise that there would never, ever, be another flood of the kind found in Genesis 6-8. Because God did not put any conditions ("...if you will do...then I will do...), the promise is unconditional. It does not matter if men do the right kinds of things; if men do all the wrong kinds of things; if men believe the promise; or if men do not believe the promise. Unconditional promises are simply God's declaration of His commitment to act in a certain way. There are many such promises in the Bible.

An example of conditional promises is Mark 11:24: "Therefore I say unto you, What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive [them], and ye shall have [them]." (KJV). Here Jesus says that a condition of receiving what we pray for is believing that we shall have the thing requested when we make the request. This is what is called a conditional promise. If we do what God requires as a condition, we shall receive what He has promised to do in response to our meeting that condition. And this verse is precisely the one that causes much of the confusion that exists for men in respect to understanding faith. The verse does not say that we will get everything for which we pray. It does not say that we will get everything for which we pray as long as we say we are trusting God. There is often a large distance between what our mouths claim in regard to faith and what our hearts genuinely believe. The verse simply promises that if we believe that we will receive what we ask for when we ask for it, we shall have it. When we do not get what we ask for, we should not doubt the promise, we should, instead, look at the reality in our hearts that we did not believe God. Jesus says that if we believe, we shall receive. If we do not receive, guess who's fault it is!

The Gospel is like that. It is a conditional promise of forgiveness and eternal life based upon whether we believe that God will forgive and give us eternal life because of what Jesus did at Calvary. We believe Him and receive, or we do not.

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This is article #215.
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