Sunday, 5 February 2017
…that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, Philippians 3:10
These words now continue to explain the words of “that I may gain Christ” from verse 8, that in turn, was tied to the “knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord” of the same verse. By gaining Christ, he (and thus we!) can then “know Him and the power of His resurrection.” This is an immediate act of knowledge. In other words, by putting all other things behind, we come to know Christ.
However, this knowledge will be something that we can and should build upon for all of our lives. Despite this, it is the immediate act which is being referred to. There is a time in a person’s life when they come to “know” that they are separate from God, and that Christ is the answer to that separation. It is He who can and does fill the need which cannot otherwise be met. And further, knowing Christ includes, and indeed hinges upon, knowing the power of His resurrection. If Christ was not raised from the dead, then as Paul says –
“Now if Christ is preached that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ is not risen. 14 And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty. 15 Yes, and we are found false witnesses of God, because we have testified of God that He raised up Christ, whom He did not raise up—if in fact the dead do not rise. 16 For if the dead do not rise, then Christ is not risen. 17 And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins! 18 Then also those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable.” 1 Corinthians 15:12-18
Without the resurrection, everything else falls apart. There is no atonement for sin, for example. If that is true, then the death of Christ was pointless. He died as any other criminal died, and He did so bearing sin, because death is the wages of sin. Unless He came out of the grave, proving that He had no sin, then sin He had. And so knowing the power of His resurrection allows us the desire, and even the confidence, to know Him in a fully assured and wonderful way. From this point, we simply grow in our knowledge of Him. This knowledge includes “the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death.”
Once it is accepted and believed that Christ is resurrected, it then should lead us to wonder why He was resurrected. Someone who is resurrected is someone who was dead. If a person is dead and then resurrects, we have full confidence in what that resurrection implies, but we should then look back on what caused the death in the first place. What is the significance of what occurred?
In Christ’s death comes atonement for sin. Thus, we can see that He died for us. We stand justified before God because of His death, of which the resurrection is the proof. As noted above, if Jesus died in a state of sin, then He was no Christ, but rather a false Christ. But if He died without sin (proven by the resurrection), then He is the Christ and His work is sufficient for the work God promised in Him, even from the foundation of the world.
From this understanding, we then should desire to know the fellowship of His sufferings. He died for sin for us, and so we should also die to sin through Him. This isn’t simply the state of justification which we are granted by faith in Him; this is the process of sanctification where we grow to become more like Him. In this, we conform to His death – dying to sin because He died for sin.
But there is more to consider. Christ’s death wasn’t just an atonement for sin, but it was an act of selfless love. It was an act of devotion to His Father, and it was a pattern to follow. In all ways (of which we could ponder so many more), we are to join to Christ and become Christ-like. This theme literally permeates the New Testament. Of numerous passages and verses, we can go to Romans 8:17, 2 Corinthians 1:5, Colossians 1:24, and 2 Timothy 2:11. Even Peter wrote of this in 1 Peter 4:13.
Life application: When we give the gospel to someone and they accept it – that he has sin, that he deserves death because of sin, that Jesus took his place in the payment of that sin-debt, and that He rose again to prove this – we merely start that person on a journey which should then be pursued with every fiber of his being. We should not be content to say, “You are now on the highway to heaven (which is certainly true), but we should say, “You have just started on the assured highway to heaven. Use your time until you get there wisely, and get to know Christ in every detail and every way imaginable. In doing so, you will live a life far more satisfying than any other way you could live it.”
Lord God Almighty, is it enough to simply be saved and guaranteed a place in heaven because of what Jesus did? Surely what He did is enough for that guarantee, but it should never be “enough” for us while we remain here. Instead, give us the desire to know Him fully. To know the power of His resurrection, to know the fellowship of His sufferings, and to be conformed to His death. Help us to live our lives in Christ, for Christ, and with Christ in view at all times, never being merely satisfied with the final reward of heaven, but pursuing the immediate and beautiful reward of knowing Christ intimately, even as we await our promised inheritance. Amen.