- Rick LoPresti
A paradox is a tenet contrary to accepted opinion. A paradox seems to be self-contradictory and therefore absurd. Soren Kierkergaard wrote in “The Philisophical Fragments”, “This, then, is the ultimate paradox of thought: to want to discover something that thought itself cannot think.” There are parts of the Bible that seem paradoxical to “normal” thought, and therein lies the problem. Sin has clouded to ability of man to see clearly when it comes to spiritual things (Rom 8, 1Cor 1-2). The Bible speaks of the world in two ways – the people of the world (Jn 3:16), and the value system of the world (Jam 4:1-4, 1Jn 2:15-17). The value system of the world is illustrated by what the serpent tempted Eve with (Gen 3:1-7). It is repeated in what the devil tempted Jesus in the wilderness with (Mt 4:1-11). The tower of Babel also gives us an example of upside down values (Gen 11:1-11). As John described these values, they are the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life. Paul said the carnal mind in enmity against God, and cannot be subject to Him. The result of this is that within our nature is written a set of values that is directly opposite of God’s. That is why we cannot save ourselves, and we need a Savior. Jesus not only shows us the truth. He IS the truth (Jn 14:6). Without Him, the only other option is the value system of the world which seems to the natural man to make sense; but when God opens our eyes, we begin to see just how out of order it really is. When God helps us to see the error of sin, we repent and cast off that approach to life so we can embrace His values which are expressed in the Bible. God puts His Holy Spirit in us which is the Spirit of truth to which the world is contrary (Jn 14:16-17). By His Spirit He writes His values on our hearts (Eze 36:26, Jer 31:31-33, Heb 8:10, Heb 10:16). The problem is still not permanently solved yet, though, because we still have our human nature (Rom 7). So sometimes even after we are saved, the things God is saying and doing seem paradoxical to us.
The Bible has many seemingly paradoxical statements and situations. Moses was both the meekest man in the world (Num 12:3), and the most powerful (Ex – Num). God used him to deliver a whole nation out of slavery from the most powerful nation on earth at the time through mighty miracles. David experienced many paradoxes. He was anointed king (1Sam 16), yet he spent the next several years running for his life (1Sam 18-26). He did not seek for things too high for himself (Ps131:1), yet he reached as high as any man who ever lived (2Sam 7). He became the ancestor of the Christ (Mt 1:1). This is the first fact the New Testament gives us about Jesus. This is an example of one of the paradoxes Jesus taught. The humble will be exalted, and the proud will be humbled (Mt 23:12). This is directly opposite of the values of the world. The world says the way up is to exalt yourself. God says the way up is down. Jesus told the Pharisees, “Ye are they which justify yourselves before men, but God knoweth your hearts: for that which is highly esteemed among men is an abomination in the sight of God (Lk 16:15).” God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble (Jam 4:6, 1Pet 5:5).
The man who experienced the greatest paradoxes of all is Jesus Christ. He was the Creator (Jn 1:3 & 10, Col 1:16), yet He became a creation (Jn 1:14, Jn 3:13, Gal 4:4, Phil 2). He was sinless (2Cor 5:21, 1Pet 2:22, 1Jn 3:5), yet He became sin for us (Is 53, 2Cor 5:21). He was the high priest, but He was also the sacrifice (Heb 8-10). He was the Lion, but He was also the Lamb (Rev 5:5-6). He is the root and the offspring of David (Mt 22:41-46, Rev 22:16). He was born the King (Mt 2:2), and He was also a servant (Jn 13:14, Phil 2:7). He is the Life (Jn 14:6), but He died (1Cor 15:3). He was rejected, but He became the chief (Mt 21:42). He is the source of living water (Jn 4:10, Jn 7:38), yet He thirsted (Jn 19:28). He died, but He is alive forever (Rev 1:18). He is the Prince of peace (Is 9:6), but He is the conquering King (Rev 19). He is the Father (Is 9:6, Jn 14:7-11), and He is the Son (Is 9:6, Mk 1:1). He is the beginning and the ending (Rev 1:8). He is the Son of God (Mk 1:1), and He is the Son of man (Mt 12:40). He is exalted (Phil 2:9), and He is lowly (Mt 11:29). He is the Creator and Lord of the angels (Heb 1:6), and yet He was made lower than the angels (Heb 2:9). He did not know the day of His own return (Mk 13:32), yet He knows all things (Lk 10:22). There are more examples, but these show that Jesus is well acquainted with paradoxes.
We will confront paradoxes as well. When we are born again (Jn 3:3-5), we become the children of God. This gives us certain “rights” (Mt 17:25-26, Rom 8:16-21). Yet we will also have to go through some things (1Pet 1-4). Some things won’t seem to make sense to us, but we can have the peace of God which passes understanding (Phil 4:7). God promises us things which don’t seem to be coming to pass. Join the club of Abraham (Gen 17), Joseph (Gen 37, Gen 39-40), Moses (Ex 5), David (1Sam 18-26), and others. Our circumstances don’t seem to match what we thought God was going to do for us. God calls us to things it seems we cannot do. God tells us one thing, and people are telling us another. Sometimes things are as clear as day, and other times they are as clear as mud. Life for a Christian is not free of seeming paradoxes and contradictions. Sometimes it only makes sense to God who sees from His heavenly, divine, eternal perspective. We can either trust Him or not. We can know that Jesus went through far more difficult paradoxes than we ever will, and He is able to understand, relate, and help us (Heb 2:14-18, Heb 4:15).