T. PIERCE BROWN
On several occasions God has seen fit to reveal a truth in a more striking manner by using a paradox. Note some of them. The way up is down. Luke14:11, “For every one that exalteth himself shall be humbled; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.” James4:10, “Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall exalt you.” 1 Peter 5:6, “Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time.” This principle is not appreciated by most of those in the world, and by many in the church, but it has tremendous value for those of us who are concerned about where we stand in God’s sight. How to have the humility that pleases Him is an important question. It is interesting to note that this is about the only virtue of which we are aware that one cannot attain by striving for it directly. If one places the gaining of humility high on his list of priorities, he may discover that he may be so proud of himself for having gained it that he loses it, if he ever had it. The way to gain humility is to so lose ourselves in service for others that we do not know, nor really care too much, whether we are humble or not.
Another paradox is that in order to be free, you must be bound. This idea is expressed in such passages as 1 Cor.7:22, “For he that is called in the Lord being a bondservant, is the Lord’s freedman: likewise he that was called being free, is Christ’s bondservant.” One may deliberately choose to do this, as Paul expressed in 1 Cor. 9:19, “For though I was free from all men I brought myself under bondage to all, that I might gain the more.” In James 1:25, we find, “But he that looketh into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and so continueth, being not a hearer that forgetteth but a doer that worketh, this man shall be blessed in his doing.” Law is a thing that binds, but liberty is being set free. The wondrous, though paradoxical truth is that it is only in obedience to law can we be free. This is why Jesus said, “If the Son of Man makes you free, then ye shall be free indeed.” Those who assume that freedom in Christ means freedom from law make a dangerous and grievous mistake. The principle is true even if our everyday life. We have traffic lights that restrict our freedom so that we may continue to have freedom to move through busy intersections. If we disregard those laws, we may not only lose our freedom to drive, we may lose our freedom to live. The law of gravity is a God-given law. If we try to break that law, we discover that the law breaks us. It is only through obeying the laws of aerodynamics that we were able to break free of the law of gravity. The principle is that a higher law may often make us free from a lower one, but we are never free in an absolute sense.
Third, we must die to live, even as we must live to die. Jesus uses the word “dead” in two senses in Luke 9:60 when he said, “But he said unto him, Leave the dead to bury their own dead.” The same thing is true in Luke15:24, “For this my son was dead, and is alive again.” We can even be dead and alive at the same time, as6:11shows, “Even so reckon ye also yourselves to be dead unto sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.” First Timothy 5:6 shows it to be possible in another area. “But she that giveth herself to pleasure is dead while she liveth.”
One may be poor, yet rich and vice versa. James 2:5 expresses it this way, “Hearken, my beloved brethren; did not God choose them that are poor as to the world to be rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which he promised to them that love him?” Revelation 2:9 shows that it is possible for a whole church to be poor, yet rich. “I know thy tribulation, and thy poverty (but thou art rich)” Revelation3:17shows that it is possible for us to be rich, yet poor. “Because thou sayest, I am rich, and have gotten riches, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art the wretched one and miserable and poor and blind and naked.”
In each of these paradoxes we find powerful lessons, for we can decide whether we want to go up or down. We can decide by what we want to be bound, for that will determine from what we will be free. We can decide whether we want to live or die, and to what, for if we live in sin, we are dead to righteousness, and if we die to sin, we may find life in Christ. We can decide whether we want to be rich or poor. It is interesting to note that one may have much of this world’s goods and still be rich in faith and good works, as 1 Timothy 6:17-19 clearly shows, but it is harder to do than we realize, and very deceptive. Paul says, “But they that are minded to be rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and hurtful lusts, such as drown men in destruction and perdition.” The expression, “minded to be” is from the present participle, “bouloumenoi” which means “continuing to have as a central or primary will.” In the King James version it says, “will be rich.” It is not merely a wish (thelo) or passing desire, but a central purpose. However, if one uses properly what God has chosen to give him as a steward, he can be rich materially and spiritually. Perhaps many are fooled by the deceitfulness of riches to think they are doing that, so Paul pointed out that it was a temptation and a snare.