I Want To Know
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“…that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.” Philippians 3:10-11
The passage from becoming a child of God to the resurrection is a path inevitably filled with suffering and self-denial and battling the flesh and fighting sin. But it is also infused with the power of Christ's resurrection. The same power that raised Christ and then helps us live and grow in this life will be the power that brings our remaking and resurrection. Knowing Christ involves all of these things.
This text from Philippians is a gold mine, but let's just focus on briefly answering five questions: What does it mean to know Christ? What does it mean to know the power of his resurrection? What does it mean to share in his sufferings? What does it mean to become like him in his death? What does it mean to "somehow" attain to the resurrection of the dead?
What does it mean to know Christ?
Primarily knowing Jesus means being born again. And let’s just appreciate the fact that Jesus is knowable! He is knowable because he made himself human and identified with us, was perfectly obedient for us, so righteousness could be credited to us, given to us by God, through faith.
At the same time, he is unfathomable! Romans 11:33 sings, “Oh the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!” The riches of Jesus are unending! We will never reach the end of exploring who he is and knowing him better. So, we press on to know him.
But what’s up with Paul saying “I want to know Christ?” Paul knows Jesus already, right? Better than any of us, I’d wager! So this sentence is not a plea for salvation – this sentence comes from somewhere deep inside Paul – it’s a yearning to plumb the depths of Christ. The gist of what he’s saying here is “I want to know him BETTER AND BETTER.
What is the power of his resurrection? Ephesians 1:19-20 says, "and what is the immeasurable greatness of His power to us who believe, according to the working of His vast strength. He demonstrated this power in the Messiah by raising Him from the dead and seating Him at His right hand in the heavens."
Did you catch that? The vigorous, unstoppable energy and strength that was coursing through the universe when Christ was raised – is the same stuff available to the believer as they are raised to life and daily recreated after the image of their creator. The strength that raised Jesus is transforming us!
This is not your "best life now" kind of power. This is Holy Spirit strength to walk as Christ did, to be abundantly fruitful and growing in love, joy, peace, patience, and kindness.
This power is at work in the life of the true Christian, to make us holy, to enable us to grasp the great dimension of God’s love for us, to strengthen us so we can endure and persevere, to remake our hearts so we love each other the way we ought to, and to use our words, our lives, our personalities – to show others what Christ is like and lead them to salvation.
It’s this level of power we need. Not power to be powerful, but power to be transformed.
What does it mean to share in his sufferings? It means we’ll be rejected like he was. The world won’t recognize us, and it won’t love us. Remember that Paul has already told the Philippians, (and the Holy Spirit is telling us) in 1:29 that it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only BELIEVE in him but also suffer for his sake.
2 Timothy 3:12 contains one of Scriptures most precious promises:“Everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” You won’t find that on an inspirational calendar!
Just like Gospel partnership, sharing in Christ’s sufferings means there’s a joint participation, an intimacy in the suffering, with Christ Jesus himself. It's not as if we’re in it alone, but Jesus, as our great high priest who’s gone before us, is beside us as we endure it.
What does it mean to become like him in his death? It means following Jesus in the way he calls us to. Jesus told his disciples quite plainly that if “anyone would follow him, they must take up their cross and follow him.” Self, our past life, our sinful nature - these must die. It means, for us, confession and repentance and brawling with our sin.
Romans 6:11 tells us to consider ourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. This is what it means to become like him in his death, for we too must die to ourselves so we can live for God. And Paul is still doing this, still reaching for it, and therefore showing us that this is a process. In 1 Corinthians 15 Paul says he “dies daily.” What a joy and a freedom to die to the things that kill us, that belong to our old nature. We are born again and being made new!
What does it mean to SOMEHOW attain to the resurrection from the dead? Is Paul expressing doubt here? Is he unsure if he will experience resurrection? Everywhere else Paul writes, he speaks of his eternal life and resurrection as a sure and certain hope – that nothing will separate him (or us) from the love of God that is Christ Jesus!
So, no, he is not uncertain. That is not what is being expressed.
First, the word “somehow” suggests Paul is just uncertain of the timing and circumstances of the resurrection. You get the sense that Paul can’t adequately get even his brilliant mind around this resurrection thing.
Secondly, the language here refers to the resurrection of the saved, not the general resurrection at the end of the age. He’s just not sure whether he will be part of the resurrection because he will have died by then, or whether he will be transformed without dying because the Lord will return before he dies.
Paul seems to expect that he stands a good chance of dying in the course of his work. He sees the writing on the wall. He knows that his course isn’t going to lead him to wealth and a retirement in a seaside Roman villa. No. He understands fully that the path of following his precious Savior will most likely mean death at the hands of a Roman centurion.
Remember back in chapter two Paul says that he is poured out like a drink offering for the Philippians, and more to the point, in 2 Timothy 4:6 he says that “I am already being poured out like a drink offering and my time of departure is near.” Paul, in some manner at some point, will attain the resurrection, he’s just not sure when.
So what this comes down to is, do you want to know Christ? If we ask this of God, like Paul did, if we’re going to make this our daily desire, we’re going to find out what it means to experience his power, share in his sufferings, become like him in his death, and to attain to the resurrection of the dead. You can’t know Christ without experiencing all of these.