KNOWING CHRIST

                                                   

 Philippians 3:10-12

 Brief Intro: 

As I mentioned in my last post, we would have to come back, camp out, if you will, a bit longer in verses 10-12, because there is so much Paul is expressing that, on its face, honestly, it just doesn’t make much sense, at least not concerning what we know about Paul’s life and conversion.

Those statements about “knowing Him,” “fellowshipping in His sufferings,” “conforming to His death,” etc., what’s that all about? We tend to glide past statements like this a-s-s-u-m-i-n-g we get it. We presuppose meanings to such things that may or may not be correct. We all do this at times, don’t we?

So, initially for myself, and now hopefully for your edification, I started digging to see what I have been missing by assuming too much in my own cursory reading of this Epistle.

So my aim in this post is simply this: to shed light on these statements of Paul and hopefully give you a much more precise and more applicable understanding of Paul’s heart, which he lays out to these believers in Philippi in these verses.

FOCUS ONE:

1.   To Know Christ 

What does this mean? If you have been a Christian for any length of time, you have learned what you know about Jesus mostly from Paul. He wrote about His death, burial and resurrection. He explained the meaning of the gospel and revealed to us this “mystery” called the church. He “knows” and understands these things better than anybody else. So what does he mean when He says that he wants to know Christ?

Paul says in verse 10, those very words, “I want to know Christ.” This statement seems to assume his thought back in verse 8: there is an “Infinite value in knowing Christ.” Compared to everything in his life, his history, as he expressed in verses 5-6, to know Christ more personally, more intimately, here-now is to Paul of greater worth than anything else the blessings and honor of this world have to offer.

He is not just seeking a greater cognitive knowledge of facts about Jesus, things learned from books or mentors; no, what Paul was seeking was an intimate relationship with his savior born out of the daily experience of walking with Him!

Through the joys and sorrows, the ups and downs, the good and the bad; through the trials and tribulations or the blessings and comforts; whether being persecuted for the faith or experiencing the heights of spiritual success in serving Christ, Paul knew that in these things he would learn more about Christ. He knew that walking through life’s twists and turns in humble obedience to the Lord Jesus Christ would be the catalyst for such an abiding relationship.

The word “know” in verse 10 has varied meanings in our English language, just as it does in other languages and just as it does in our bible. For example, it can mean “to have learned something by serious study.” Or to know something by experience. It can refer to intimate knowledge between two persons, and even deep personal intimacy and contact between two people like, such as with Adam and Eve as in Genesis 4:1. But as Dr. Boice comments, “but because this is what knowledge between persons is—deep, intimate union, Paul having been saved wholly and solely by Christ, wants to enter into the deepest possible union with Him.” Dear reader, that union is to be forged within the fires of our own human experience.

Much of our western Christianity has a mindset far from what we are reading here. Much of our Christianity is influenced by our parents, culture, and church, or the various churches we have attended over the past many years. 

What do I mean by that? I mean that some Christian’s Christianity is based more on family influence, beliefs, and example than on God’s word. The greater impact in their lives has been the various churches they attended and their particular ecclesiastical structure. But even more predominant than those two things is the influence and affect our culture plays in our individual and corporate walk of faith!

So, as we look at Paul’s words, I want you to think about how much of YOUR Christianity is BIBLICAL Christianity and how much of it comes from our culture and family backgrounds?

Ask yourself these questions as you think through this:

A. Is your love for God more an “emotion,” than it is a commitment?

B. In light of the incredible love God manifests to you at Calvary, are you extending similar love, mercy, and justice to those around you?

  1. We believe that Jesus died on the cross as an atonement for our sin, an act of incredible love. Our only appropriate response to our merciful savior is to submit to Him as Lord in all things. Are you submissive?

We can know Him personally and intimately. Jesus is not someone far removed from us. Our bibles tell us that He is near to us, with us, acquainted with all our ways. Don’t you desire to know Him more personally?

Folks, this is just the tip of the iceberg! For most of us, the reality of being able to know Christ more personally and intimately in our daily lives is sobering and challenging enough. But Paul doesn’t stop here. Paul also wants to know His power.

FOCUS TWO:

2.   To experience His mighty power

Paul says: “I want to know Him and the power of His resurrection.”

He is not only speaking of the divine power that raised Christ from the dead but of the power of the resurrected Christ now operating in his life. That power enables believers to “live a new life (Romans 6:4).” Because they have been raised with Christ (Colossians 3:1; Ephesians 2,5,6)

Ephesians 2:5,6: “Even though we were dead because of our sins, He gave us life when He raised Christ from the dead, (It is only by God’s grace that you have been saved). For He raised us from the dead along with Christ and seated us with Him in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ Jesus.”

Colossians 3:1 “Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand.”

Paul says that he wants to experience that power in his redeemed body, that “new creation” body that 2 Corinthians 5:17 speaks about. As Paul sets his sights on the realities of heaven, as he walks in this promise of “newness of life,” he wishes to experience that power more personally, more experientially in his limited time on earth.  But how? How did he wish to experience it? 

Boice again: “Above all, in the living of a godly life. Paul knew that a life lived with Jesus meant a life of holiness. But he also knew such a life was impossible if it depended upon his own natural powers. He had learned by experience his own inability to live as God intended; Paul longed for such a deliverance,{ as he expressed in Rom. 7:19, 22-24}, through Christ’s resurrection power.” 

The Greek word (Dunamis) used in verse 10 means power, especially inherent power. All the words derived from its stem (Duna) have the basic meaning of being able or capable. In other terms, Paul means having the ability to overcome resistance!

Since Christ died and rose again, overcoming the powers of death through the Holy Spirit, as Paul stated in Romans 8:11, he knew that same power, that same Holy Spirit, was able to help him overcome the resistance of the world, flesh, and the devil.

Dear Christian, Paul was sensitive to this power, are we? Are you? We should understand and believe that a life of holiness is impossible in our natural abilities. You and I desperately need this resurrection power to live a life where we can more wholly, more intimately experience a deeper relationship with our savior. 

Perhaps you are reading this, and these things that I have been talking about so far make no-sense-at-all-to-you, well, hold on because I have a few more things to say that you probably won’t understand either. This is because the things I am talking about are not “taught by human wisdom,” but taught by the Holy Spirit. A person who has not received God’s grace through His Son Jesus will see these things as foolishness and won’t be able to understand them because they are spiritual truths for His children, something that you presently are not!

But the good news is that even though you have sinned countless times against your creator, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, and rightly deserve His condemnation—God in His love sent His only-begotten Son, Jesus, to take on human flesh and die in the place of sinners like yourself, like all of us. He accepted the sacrifice of His Son as full payment for your sins and evidenced that by raising Him from the dead. He now offers forgiveness of sins and eternal life to everyone, including you dear friend, if you but turn to Jesus in repentant faith. You cannot earn something as wonderful as this. It is God’s free, unearned gift to those who genuinely trust in the finished work of Christ at Calvary.

The third thing Paul speaks of is “fellowship in His sufferings.”

FOCUS THREE:

3.   To suffer with Him, being conformed to His death

“I want to “know” Him, and the “power” of His resurrection and the “fellowship of His sufferings.”

Again, what does he mean, right? Paul does not mean that he wished to suffer for human sin as Christ did because only Jesus could do that to the Father’s pleasure and satisfaction. So, Paul is speaking in a different sense. 

Paul wished, as one commentator expressed better than I could: “to stand with Christ in such an individual union that when the abuses and persecutions that Christ suffered also fell on him, as he knew they would, he could receive them as Jesus did. He wanted to react like Jesus, because he knew that abuse received like Jesus would actually draw him closer to his Lord.” Receive rightly and react rightly!

Paul earlier expressed this back in 1:29: “for to you it has been granted for Christ’s sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake.” In 1 peter 4:12-13, Peter said: “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you. But to the degree that you share in the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory, you may rejoice with exultation.”

Paul knew that to be a Christ-follower and to walk in a holy manner before this world and His redeemer meant that trial and tribulations, suffering in varying degrees, would come part and parcel with his new allegiance. He knew there was a right way and a wrong way to “run the race set before him,” and he accepted that fact humbly and wanted to receive and react appropriately to the sufferings that God would allow to fall on him, “for His names sake,” as we saw in 1:29. 

He knew that through such sufferings a deeper, more intimate relationship- or “knowing” of the Lord was possible, and he counted the cost and decided that the surpassing value of knowing Christ was worth it all! (3:8)

This fellowship of Christ’s suffering is won at a high price….the price of loyal, intentional obedience (vv. 13-14)!

Christian, are you like Paul desiring to receive and react humbly and obediently to our father in heaven no matter what He allows to come your way?

Or do you count hardship and suffering in your life as something strange and to be avoided at all costs?

Do you realize that there is a biblical way and a worldly way of thinking about sufferings? Which theology do you hold?

These statements of Paul explain why he desires to know Christ more personally and experience His power and fellowship in His suffering because he wants to “attain” or experience the resurrection from the dead.

FOCUS FOUR:

4.   To attain (experience) the resurrection from the dead

Talk about complex statements. If the others were a bit hard to comprehend, what about this one??? 

Does it mean that Paul was afraid of his eternal security? No, not at all. The man who wrote Romans 8:38-39 and Philippians 1:6 is not a man who fears that. Paul is obviously, speaking of something different.

Paul is not thinking in these terms; one commentator writes: “he is thinking about something else. Actually, he is saying that he wishes to be so much like Christ in the way he lived that people would think of him as a resurrected person EVEN now, even before physical death.”

Dr. Kuiper agrees and, in his thinking, has said: “The word resurrection literally means to ‘place,’ or ‘stand up.’ To the Greek mind, living people were standing up, and dead people were lying down. So, making a Greek pun, Paul says, “I want to know Him, and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings that I may give the spiritually dead a preview to (eternal life in action) as I am standing up outstanding among those who are spiritually on their backs—spiritually dead.”

Brothers and sisters, is it our desire to be so living for Christ in this world that we would appear as a resurrected person living among the dead?

Conclusion:

With so much said and much to think upon, what’s our summarized takeaway from these scriptures? I believe it is this:

What Paul is expressing is biblical Christianity. Vile sinners are forgiven by grace, forsaking their own perceived righteousness and receiving Christ’s, now pursuing their savior. Laying aside what is behind and counting it all a loss to grasp hold of something more precious, something of greater value, and reaching forward to what lies ahead, “laying hold of Christ Jesus!”

Is this our Christianity or are we holding on to some other definition of Christianity that is not biblical, or perhaps comes from our culture, upbringing, or something else?

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