Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure (Philippians 2:12-13, ESV).

Typically, the word “oxymoron” is used in reference to the circuitous ramblings of Interruptions – only the “oxy” is left off, leaving only “moron.”

My Google dictionary defines “oxymoron” as…

A figure of speech in which apparently contradictory terms appear in conjunction.

I agree, that’s not very helpful, so let’s go with the OGV (Old Guy Version) definition…

When two statements seemingly contradict one another.

That’s Philippians 2:12-13!

We are told by the Apostle Paul to “work out our salvation” and just a few verses later he says, “Oh, never mind, God will work it out for you.”

That’s an “oxymoron” statement if there ever was an “oxymoron” statement. Yet nobody when referring to the esteemed Apostle leaves off the “oxy” when describing him.

What does it mean, the “oxymoron” of “work out our salvation” while letting God “work out our salvation?”

When I get confused by a verse, I go to another translation. I believe that The Passion Translation gives clarity…

Now you must continue to make this new life fully manifested as you live and God will continually revitalize you, implanting within you passion to do what pleases Him.

Again, we work out our salvation while God works it out for us. 

Yes, a mystery and an oxymoron – but it’s exactly what happens. God never violates our free will and He never allows our free will to interfere with His sovereign will. God is big enough to allow us to make decisions but weaves everything into His eternal plan while giving us a desire to do His will. 

I’ve heard two proverbial statements about our works and God’s working…   

First, let go and let God. 

Second, God helps those who help themselves.  

These proverbial sayings are not in scripture, but both give insight into the “oxymoron” of Philippians 2:12-13.

Yes, we must obey, but God’s grace changes our desires and gives us the strength to do His will. We are responsible for our actions, but we can depend on God’s power to bring about our salvation!  

The “oxymoron” of Philippians 2 gives us both culpability and mercy!  

It’s a win/win for us! We try, but when we fail, our failures show us the need for God’s grace. Finding that grace, we leave sin behind.

I’ve heard this example…

We are standing on a cliff and slip. Our arms flail and there is nothing that we can grasp to save us. We are going to fall. We are lost.  

Then, from seemingly nowhere, a hand clasps our arm and pulls us back.

We see another hiker who became our savior.

We hug him and thank him! We make vows and pledges to never hike on that cliff again.

Let me conclude with a final translation of Philippians 2:12-13 (an OGV translation)…

We try and fail, realizing there is nothing that can be done. Just before we slip into despair or anger, the hand of God rescues us. We see Jesus as our Savior! We hug him and decide to never walk on that slippery path again. 

When we receive mercy, our love for Jesus gives us the motivation to never sin again.

I hope you enjoyed my OGV definition of “oxymoron” and the OGV version of Philippians 2:12-13. Perhaps you will no longer consider Interruptions as an “oxymoron” without the “oxy.”

And may the hand of God rescue us today!