You, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind
by wicked works, yet now hath He reconciled in the body of His
flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and
unreproveable in His sight: if ye continue in the faith grounded
and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel,
which ye have heard, and which was preached to every creature
which is under heaven; whereof I Paul am made a minister
(Colossians 1:21-23, KJV).
Q: In Colossians 1:23, the word “if” is tripping me up. Any thoughts?
A: The key to this is the Greek word that has been translated as
“if” in this passage.
The Concordant Literal New Testament translates it accurately and clearly
as “since surely.”
And you, being once estranged and enemies in comprehension,
by wicked acts, yet now He reconciles by His body of flesh, through
His death, to present you holy and flawless and unimpeachable in
His sight, since surely you are persisting in the faith, grounded and
settled and are not being removed from the expectation of the evangel
which you hear which is being heralded in the entire creation which is
under heaven of which I, Paul, became the dispenser
(Colossians 1:23, Concordant Literal Translation).
The rendering of the Greek word as “since” is in agreement with definitions
provided by Thayer’s Greek Lexicon “since,” and Bullinger’s Critical
Lexicon “spoken of what is taken for granted.” E.W. Bullinger also says
in His Companion Bible, “Followed by the Indicative Mood, the hypothesis
is assumed as an actual fact.”
Here is what a few other Bible students have written:
In the original language of the New Testament this construction could
have the meaning of “if” or “since.” … The best way to communicate
Paul’s meaning to us is to translate the word “since” instead of “if.”
– Theodore Epp, The All-Sufficient Christ: Studies in Colossians,
Back to The Bible (1982), pages 57, 58
“It being a fact that ye continue in the faith.” – W.R. Nicholson,
Oneness with Christ: Expository Lectures on the Epistle to the
Colossians (1903), Bible Institute Colportage Association, pages 119, 120
The word here as it is used in many other places has the idea of
“since” – John Baker, Amazing Grace, Reconciled, March 2008
The word “if’” is used in various ways in the New Testament. The force
of the word is always determined by the mood of the verb with which it
is used. Two Greek words are used of “if.” One of them can be followed
by a verb in the indicative mood. Here the word “if” … is followed by a verb
in the indicative mood. In other words, there is no doubt about it. We can
supply the ellipsis: “If ye continue in the faith (which you will assuredly do.)
” … Paul uses the word “if’” in this way on several notable occasions.
In his great passage on the resurrection of Christ he says, “Now if Christ
be preached that He rose from the dead” (I Corinthians 15:12). There is
no doubt at all that Christ was being preached. The apostles were turning
the Roman Empire upside down with that very message. It was at the very
heart of apostolic preaching. – John Phillips, Exploring Colossians,
Kregel (2002), page 81
Another example of the usage of the word “if” can be seen in Colossians 3:1.
If you are risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ
sits on the right hand of God.
The idea being, “Since you have been raised with Christ, seek those
things which are above.”
“If ye continue” is clearer and more accurately stated as
“Since surely you are.” We know that the believer will continue,
because the believer is God’s “workmanship” (KJV) or the
“achievement” (CLT) of God (Ephesians 2:10), and Paul declared
confidence in His work.
Being confident of this very thing, that He Who has begun a good work
in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ (Philippians 1:6).
Clyde L. Pilkington, Jr.
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