By Fred O. Blakely
A paradox may be defined as a principle contrary to received opinion; also an assertion or sentiment seemingly contradictory, but that may be true in fact. The paradoxes of God’s kingdom are a source of never-ending marvel and delight to those imbibing the life, and initiated in the ways, of God. Many and varied, these apparent inconsistencies tacitly suggest in themselves the divine wisdom and power by their contrast of these qualities with the judgment and might of man.
When they are illuminated by the individual’s experience of God and his actual incorporation into the Deity, the implicit witness becomes both explicit and unimpeachable. Not only is absolute harmony clearly evident, but with its perception there is the abiding knowledge that only God could have worked so incongruously by human criteria, yet in such glorious fact and reality.
Such is the excellence of the mind and ways of God to those of man, and such the antithesis between the two, that it is perfectly logical for the Bible to abound in paradoxes. In view of these circumstances, it would be rather astonishing if this were not the case, than that it be so.
The following are specimens of these ostensible anomalies found in Scripture include the experience of:
A. Saving life by losing it. (Lk. 9:24; Jn. 12:24-25).
B. Living though dead. (Rom. 6:3-5, 8; Gal. 2:19-20; contrast I Tim. 5:6; Eph. 2:1; Col. 3:5-7).
C. Seeing Him who is Invisible. (I Tim. 1:17; 6:16; Heb. 11:27; cf. II Kgs. 6:15-17; Acts 26:16-18; Lk. 24:30-32; Rev. 3:18). This is the basic need of us all--spiritual vision in Christ. That transmits the desire and the ability to do what God wants us to do.
D. Being not in the flesh, though still “in the body.” (Rom. 8:8-9; 7:5-6; cf. Heb. 13:3; Gal. 5:16). Herein also is the secret of our triumph over sin.
E. Sitting with Christ “in heavenly places,” though still in the world. (Eph. 2:1, 6; cf. Jn. 16:33; 17:15). This implies resurrection “together with Christ” (cf. Rom. 6:4-5; Col. 2:12; 3:1).
F. Being at once with the Lord and absent from Him. (Jn. 14:21-23; Rev. 3:20; cf. II Cor. 5:6-8). This present circumstance and relationship is why we can never be fully satisfied until we awake in His likeness and “see Him as He is.” (cf. Ps. 17:15; I Jn. 3:1-3; Eph. 3:17).
G. Knowing that which “passeth knowledge.” (Eph. 3:19; Rom. 5:5). Like the other mysteries of the kingdom, this is “spiritually discerned” (I Cor. 2:14). The natural mind can never possess this knowledge. Only the spiritual heart, enlightened by the Holy Spirit can do so. Thus is divine love “shed abroad in our hearts.” That is, the veil is lifted by the Spirit, and our powers of discernment are energized to perceive and realize.
H. Experiencing that which “passeth all understanding.” (Phil. 4:6-7; cf. vv. 8-9; Jn. 14:27; 16:33; Isa. 9:6; Acts 10:36; II Pet. 1:2). By human standards, this peace is a mystery; for it is peace in the very midst of [spiritual] conflict. But to them that are saved it is no mystery; is is of God, and very precious indeed!
I. Some other Paradoxes
1. A “root out of dry ground.” (Isa. 53:2). This is speaking primarily of our Lord Jesus Christ, but in our subordinate capacities, so also are we. (cf. I Cor. 1:27-31; II Cor. 12:9-10).
2. Nourishment in the wilderness. (Deut. 8:15-16; Ps. 23:5; 78:19; Jn. 6:27, 32-33). This consideration should encourage us to depend upon Christ.
3. Streams in the desert. (Isa. 35:6; Ps. 46:4-5; 78:15-16, 20; Jn. 4:10-14; 7:37-39).
4. Joy in suffering. (Acts 5:41; Rom. 5:3-5; II Cor. 12:7-10; Jas. 1:2-4).
5. Strength through Weakness. “My strength is made perfect in weakness” (II Cor. 12:9-10). See also Eccl. 9:11; Heb. 11:33-34; Isa. 40:28-31; Eph. 6:10; Zech. 4:6).
6. Poor, Yet Possessing all Things. “. . . as poor, yet making many rich . . .” (By imparting to them the true riches, in the form of spiritual gifts, and the teaching of the gospel). “. . . all things are yours” (I Cor. 3:21-23). “. . . heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ” (Rom. 8:15-17). “. . . heir of all things . . .” (Heb. 1:2). “. . .the poor of this world, rich in faith” (Jas. 2:5).
7. Christ the Prince of Peace and the Instigator of Conflict. “ . . . His Name shall be called . . . the Prince of Peace . . .” (Isa. 9:6-7; cf. I Cor. 14:33; Heb. 7:1-2; 13:20-21). The Instigator of division and conflict (Mt. 10:34-38; Lk. 12:51-53).
These paradoxes are not riddles to the people of God. “It is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of Heaven,” Jesus said (Mt. 13:11). He also indicated the rare blessedness that is ours in this insight and comprehension (vv. 16-17). To those thus gifted, these things reflect the “Lord’s doing,” and they are truly “marvelous” in our eyes.