‘If’ indicates a choice, a decision that must be made, sometimes with far-reaching long-term consequences. Cain was told by God, “If you do what is right, you will be accepted. But if you do not do what is right, sin will destroy you” (Gen 4:7). Cain made the wrong choice, choosing to go the pathway of sin.
‘If only…’ are words of regret, lost opportunity and uncertainty, inferring being powerless or unable to affect change about a decision that has been made. “If only we had…” (Ex 16:3). Hell will be populated by multitudes who will lament 'If only I had followed Jesus rather than the easy sinful option'.
We don’t often see the full implication of unwise choices or the enormous blessing that is ours by doing things God’s ways. It was clearly pointed out to the Israelites, “If you fully obey the Lord your God…all these blessings will come upon you…However, if you do not obey the Lord your God…all these curses will come on you...” (Deut 28:1,2,15).
A lot hinges on our choices
have the prerequisites directly attached, they are in associated verses that mention the same topic and help to bring clarity and a fuller understanding. Our human reasoning and freewill determine how we respond to all the options we are confronted with, whether we will go His way or our sinful way. The condition for a promise to be honoured by God (who always keeps His word) is always dependent on us meeting the ‘if’ stipulation first (Num 23:19). A few examples are: “For as many as receive Him, He gives the right to be His children” (Jn 1:12); “If you continue in my Word, then you are my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (Jn 8:31,32); “We have come to share in Christ if we hold firmly till the end the confidence we had at first” (Heb 3:14). For the promised blessings to become reality, meet the requirements.
See also: choices, conditions, consequences, free will, promises.