Hypothetical Considerations. . . .

what if 2  Insight & Perspective

Charles Swindoll, in a message titled, “How High Is Your A.Q.? – Part 2, exemplifies another rhetorical technique, which we will call “Hypothetical Considerations.”   While something did not really happen, considering the “realistically possible” can provide . . . .

  • clarity
  • insight
  • understanding
  • meaning
  • awareness
  • perception
  • perspective

. . . . to what is actually happening.

Here is Charles Swindoll speaking about Judas on the night of the Lord betrayal, as the disciples were assembled for the “Last Supper”. . . . .

Audio Link — @15: 46-minute mark of the original message — “How High Is Your A.Q. – Part 2

They dipped it in and then handed that morsel to a very special guest at the table.

You want to know the truth about it. . . .

If the disciples had known — ohhhh — Judas wouldn’t had a chance in a lifetime to live through the meal.

And if a Judas could be known in this assembly — he hasn’t got a chance.

Because we don’t relate well with those that are different from ourselves. . . . .


Somewhere in Swindoll’s sermon preparation, he calls to mind the hypothetical . . . .

What could have been different, which though it wasn’t yet would have or could have changed-up the whole situation?

Before you dismiss this technique as inappropriate or worse yet unbiblical — “Doing this  is bringing into the passage what might have happened and there are a lot of ‘might have happened.’  This is eisegesis, not exegesis!”

Nevertheless, note that Jesus Himself does this in His speaking!

Matthew 11:21 — Woe unto thee, Chorazin! woe unto thee, Bethsaida! for if the mighty works, which were done in you, had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes.

and again in . . . .

Matthew 11:23 — for if the mighty works, which have been done in thee, had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day.

Jesus calls up what did not happen and could never have happened because the Son of God was not and could not have been present in those cities during that period of history.


and Paul also uses the hypothetical to make his arguments — It did not happen, but if it had happened . . . .*

Romans 4:2 — For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; but not before God.

I Corinthians 15:16 — For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised

Galatians 3:32 — Is the law then against the promises of God? God forbid: for if there had been a law given which could have given life, verily righteousness should have been by the law.


God not only knows what will happen and what has happened in history, but he also knows all the “permutations and combinations” which could have taken place but never did.  Therefore, He argues the hypothetical with authority, but none-the-less argues the hypothetical with his audience.

Sometimes a point can be driven home by considering the hypothetical!



In fact, Swindoll calls up an established biblical principle from his stated hypothetical

@7:41 minute mark of the original message — audio link

In fact, it says, He went out and it was night.

The night was bright compared to the heart of Judas . . . .  You see I am making an issue of it because there is a place where discernment steps in and says — No longer is there room for fellowship and that’s true in the family of God – may I add — and don’t forget it, no matter how I may apply the message in broad liberal terms in a moment — don’t forget what I am saying right now.

In the New Testament it is clearly set forth that the church is to maintain a distinctive purity.



Note however, that the disciples did have fellowship and communion with Judas because they did not know he was the one who would betray.  Swindoll is arguing from the hypothetical that had they known it was Judas, there would have been no fellowship or shared communion.


Other Hypothetical Examples:


Had Saul valued David, rather than feared him due to his growing success and influence, Saul would have had been advantaged.  But jealousy made it a competitive relationship, rather than a complementary relationship.


Eliab begins mocking David!  Go back and tend to your few sheep and leave us alone.  But now put Jonathan next to David on that day.  You see we know that Jonathan would not have mocked David, but encouraged, supported, and maybe even joined David because Jonathan was also a giant killer (I Sam 14).  It was because Jonathan had the same heart and Eliab did not that made the difference.


A caravan comes by on that day and the suggestion is made to sell Joseph.  What if the suggestion remained unthought, or thought when it was too late?  What if the caravan did not pass at that period of time?  Fret not — God has a thousand other ways to move Joseph — alive and well — into Egypt.


The Scriptures speak of something we are to do — Here it says, “Put Off”.  If it didn’t say that we may have concluded that sanctification is something that God does outside of our own activity.


Moses walked about from the Palace.  Now put Achan in that situation and what does it look like.  Oh, it was not a little gold and a few garments which Moses walked away from, but a kingdom of stuff and opportunity


What would have Samson done if he were Joseph in Potiphar’s house?  Do you see the difference?


Had Sapphira or Ananias — either one of them — challenged his or her spouse the outcome would have been far different,  But instead of challenge, they collaborated.


* Which is different from a “for if” (i.e. — II Corinthians 3:11 / Luke 23:31 / Matthew 6:30) which argues that if something did happen and it did, then such has implications today.


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