The Christian life is a paradox. To be exalted, we must humble ourselves (1 Peter 5:6-7); to gain, we must count all things but loss (Philippians 3:7-11); to live, we must die (Matthew 16:24-26). Therefore, we should not be confused when the Bible uses contrasting distinctions and differing terms to describe the various aspects and character of the believer’s new life in Christ. We are called God’s children (Galatians 3:26), yet we are called Christ’s bride (Revelation 22:17). The Father has adopted us (Romans 8:14-23; Galatians 4:1-7), but Jesus is not ashamed to call us brethren (Hebrews 2:9-12). This array of word pictures is given by the Holy Spirit to provide insight and clarity, and to reveal to us the abundant riches that are ours in Christ Jesus our Lord.
These differences are not restricted to a description of God’s saints. The scriptures are full of similar, yet contrasting terms. Sometimes sheep refer to the saved (Matt. 25:31-46), sometimes to the lost (Matt. 10:5-6). Sometimes sons are referred to as saved (I John 3:1-2), at other times they are said to be lost (Luke 15:1-3, 11-24, 31-32). Context must serve as our guide. Thus, it will benefit the believer to understand that God has chosen to reveal the purity of His truth in contrasting terms, much as a diamond held to the light reflects the colors of the rainbow. We would not say the gem produces conflicting colors, rather we would say they are complementing the various aspects of its character and beauty. So it is with the Bible.
Throughout God’s word the physical elements of our world are used to illustrate divine manifestations and workings. The sign of fire was given as a manifestation of the gift and power of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:1-4); but flowing water is also used to illustrate this same truth (John 7:37-39). God destroyed the world by a flood (2 Peter 2:4-10); the next time He will destroy the earth with fire (2 Peter 3:1-7). God used water and fire respectively for both a blessing and a curse.
We must embrace the fact that we, and all that we see, are God’s creation. He can use it in the way that pleases Him, and suits His sovereign purposes (Revelation 4:11). For all who will receive it, we, the world He has formed, and the Bible He has written, reveal in contrasting and complementary terms His desire to be known for who and what He is (Romans 1:19-21). We must not twist His words to fit our enterprises (2 Corinthians 2:17). We should constantly seek to know God more intimately (Philippians 3:8-10). Faithfully studying and meditating on His word should be a consecrating endeavor, and never a carnal pursuit (Psalm 119:9-16). We should purpose in our heart to humbly study the Bible, with the intent that we may rightly divide the scriptures; so that we might know God for who He truly is, and not for what we might fancy Him to be (2 Timothy 2:15).