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Figures Friday

God bless you in the name of Jesus Christ, out of whose mouth went a sharp two-edged sword (Revelation 1:16).

An oxymoron is a sharp, wise, or pithy saying that stems foolish.  It is a figure, in which what is said at first sight appears to be foolish, yet when we come to consider it, we find it exceedingly wise.  It is a smart saying, which unites words whose literal meanings appear to be incongruous, if not contradictory: but they are so cleverly and wisely joined together as to enhance the real sense of the words.

II Corinthians 12:8-10:
For this thing [people who were Paul’s thorn in the flesh] I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. 9 And he [God] said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness.  Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, [It does not say sicknesses.] in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then am I strong.

Everywhere Paul went, people constantly tried to alter the Gospel which he preached.  These people who followed him were thorns in the flesh.  People, Paul’s thorn in the flesh, were the messengers of Satan sent to buffet him, to obstruct his ministry, to weaken his resolve to continue his work.  Satan was responsible for the trouble Paul endured.  He inspired and possessed these people who obstructed and buffeted Paul.

What was God’s answer to Paul’s prayer.  “My grace is sufficient for thee. . . .”  Paul’s conclusion was:  “Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake:  for when I am weak, then am I strong.”  That is the figure of speech oxymoron.  An oxymoron is a figure in which what is said at first glance appears to be foolish, yet when we consider it in depth, we find it exceeding wise.  Some things are so rich that language falls short in expressing the truth.  Since language falls short God resorts to oxymoron to try to describe it, so we can understand it.  God’s grace allowed Paul to be strong in situations in which he was without strength.  Paul took on life’s challenges “head-on.”  Paul’s strength was made perfect in his being challenged to handle the situation.  There is nothing that humbles one more than looking one of life’s biggest challenges in the eye and taking it on.  When we know we cannot handle it by ourselves, we are much more likely to rely on God’s grace to pull us through.

Matthew 16:25-26:
For whosoever will save his life [psuchē] shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life [psuchē] for my sake shall find it. 26 For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul [psuchē]? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul [psuchē]?

Psuchē is used four times in these verses.  Saving and losing seem to be contradictory.  Verse 25 is the oxymoron and verse 26 is the explanation.  On the surface this may seem foolish, but upon further reflection we see its wisdom.  “Find,” as the opposite of “lose,” is here equivalent to “save.”  It also carries the idea of something great and unexpected, a treasure discovered.  What is found is salvation far beyond all that they looked for.

Acts 5:41:
And they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy [kataxioō] to suffer shame [atimazō] for his name.

The oxymoron, “rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name.” is pointed to by the words “worthy” and “shame.”  Kataxioō means to deem or count worthy and atimazō means “to dishonor or treat disgracefully.”  They rejoiced that they were worthy to be treated unworthily.  Think about that for a while.

I Corinthians 9:17:
For if I do this thing willingly [ekōn], I have a reward [misthos]:

Ekōn means “voluntarily or without wages or compensation.  Think about that one.  If I do this thing without wages, I have wages.

II Corinthians 6:4a, 8-10:
But in all things approving ourselves as the ministers of God. . .  8 By honour and dishonour, by evil report and good report: as deceivers, and yet true; 9 As unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and, behold, we live; as chastened, and not killed; 10 As sorrowful, yet alway rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing all things.

How can opposites produce the same approval.  Think about it.

II Corinthians 8:2b:
. . .deep poverty abounded unto the riches of their liberality.

This oxymoron implies that they were very poor.  That fact notwithstanding, they were able to make a liberal contribution.  The phrase “riches of liberality,” is a Hebraism, meaning rich, or abundant liberality.  The sense is, their liberality was much greater than could be expected from persons so poor; and the object of the apostle is, to excite the Corinthians to give liberally by their example.

God highlighted some scripture with this figure, oxymoron.  Although they may cause us to scratch our heads in wonder.  Let’s not forget to consider these wise sayings and draw all we can from them.