By Jimmy R. Mickells
The word “unless” is used several times in the Scriptures. The Greek word ἐὰν μή (eh-an’ may) is often translated “except” in the King James Version and “unless” in the New King James. This word is found some sixty times in the New Testament. Thayer, in his Greek English Lexicon, defines this word as, “in conditional and final sentences: unless, if not” (p. 408). Look with me at a few of the verses where we find this word and notice how a blessing is only received when we meet certain conditions.
When Philip, the evangelist, met the Ethiopian eunuch on his way home from Jerusalem, he (the eunuch) was reading from Isaiah the prophet (Acts 8:27,28). The preacher asked him if he understood the things he had read (v. 30). His response was, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” And he asked Philip to come up and sit with him” (v. 31). This eunuch was humble enough to admit that he needed help in understanding who Isaiah had reference to in chapter 53. Philip began at that same Scripture and preached Jesus to him (v. 35). Would we be willing to admit that we don’t know? Would we allow someone to teach us the Bible? Would we be willing then to search the Scriptures to make sure the things taught are so like the Bereans (Acts 17:11)? Unless we are willing, we may remain in ignorance and be condemned!
In the conversation that Jesus had with Nicodemus, He said, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God” (John 3:5). He had to be born again (v. 3). This spiritual birth involved two things, the water and Spirit. How can one be born of the water and of the Spirit? Under the direction of the Spirit, through whom the word of God has been revealed (2 Peter 1:20,21), man has been told that he must be baptized in water for the remission of his sins (Acts 2:38). When he willingly submits to those instructions given by the Spirit, being baptized, he comes forth from that water a new creature, instructed to walk in newness of life (Romans 6:1-6). He has been born again! Baptism would do one absolutely no good unless it is preceded by faith, repentance, and one’s confession of Jesus as Lord. It is only when one submits to the Lord through faith that he can be saved by His grace (Romans 5:1,2). Do you want to enter the kingdom? Unless you are born again you cannot!
Shortly after Jesus fed the five thousand, He traveled across the Sea of Galilee to Capernaum (John 6). Many came to Him while there and He rebuked them saying that they did not seek Him because of the signs He did, but because they ate of the loaves and were filled (v. 26). Later they were told, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you” (v. 53). How can one eat His flesh and drink His blood? Obviously, they could not do such literally. It seems to me that verse 63 will help us to understand this expression. “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life.” We must consume His word or else there will be no spiritual life within us. This is something, as Christians, we should be busy doing day by day. Paul told Timothy, “Till I come, give attention to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine” (1 Timothy 4:13). Do you want spiritual life? Unless you eat His flesh and drink His blood you cannot have it!
Jesus said, “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me” (John 15:4). Notice how He said that we could abide in Him. “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you” (John 15:7). It is by obeying His word. If we do not bear fruit, by abiding in that word, we will be like a branch that is broken off, withered, and cast in the fire and consumed (vv. 2,6). The Lord expects us to be faithful to Him till death takes us home (1 Corinthians 15:58). He did not save us so that we could continue in the ways of the world. We are a separate people to live a separated life of holiness and godliness (1 Peter 1:13-15). Unless we abide in Him, there is no fruit that will result in our being saved!
Are you willing to do the things required by God to be saved? Are you willing to continue to be obedient to His will so that you can enjoy fellowship with Him? Unless we are willing, His grace will not cover one’s disobedience. He promises to save only those who will obey Him (Hebrews 5:8,9).