APRIL 8 – EASTER—AND MISSIONS

That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection.

Philippians 3:10

 

Do we really believe that the resurrection of Jesus Christ is something more than making us the “happiest fellows in the Easter parade”?

Are we just to listen to the bright cantata and join in singing, “Up from the Grave He Arose,” smell the flowers and go home and forget it?

No, certainly not!

It is truth and a promise with a specific moral application. The Resurrection certainly commands us with all the authority of sovereign obligation—the missionary obligation!

I cannot give in to the devil’s principal, deceitful tactic which makes so many Christians satisfied with an “Easter celebration” instead of experiencing the power of Christ’s resurrection. It is the devil’s business to keep Christians mourning and weeping with pity beside the cross instead of demonstrating that Jesus Christ is risen indeed.

When will the Christian church rise up, depending on His promise and power, and get on the offensive for the risen and ascended Savior?

 

Lord, Your resurrection is a call to action. No other religion can claim the power You displayed on that first Easter morning. You are the one, true God! Give me opportunities to tell others about Your saving power.[1]


power

that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection (3:10a)

Paul had already mentioned the deep, experiential knowledge of Jesus Christ that comes at salvation (v. 8). But still the cry of his heart was that I may know Him. That initial saving knowledge of Christ became the basis of Paul’s lifelong pursuit of an ever deeper knowledge of His Savior. Specifically, Paul longed to experience the power of His resurrection. He knew there was no power in the Law. He also knew there was no power in his flesh to overcome sin or serve God (cf. Rom. 7:18). But because he knew Christ and had His righteousness imputed to him, Paul had been given the Holy Spirit and the same spiritual power that raised Jesus from the dead.

His resurrection was the greatest display of Christ’s power. Rising from the dead (cf. John 2:19–21; 10:17–18) revealed His absolute power over both the physical and spiritual realms (cf. Col. 2:14–15; 1 Peter 3:18–20). Paul experienced Christ’s resurrection power in two ways. First, it was that power that saved him, a truth he affirmed in Romans 6:4–5: “Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection.” In salvation, believers are identified with Christ in His death and resurrection. But more than that, it is Christ’s resurrection power that sanctified him (and all believers) to defeat temptation and trials, lead a holy life, and boldly and fruitfully proclaim the gospel. Paul gladly exchanged his impotence for Christ’s resurrection power, and desired to experience its fullness.

fellowship

and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; (3:10b)

A fourth benediction salvation brought Paul was fellowship with Jesus Christ. The apostle speaks specifically here of the fellowship of His sufferings. As he has just noted, Paul was conformed to His death at salvation (cf. Rom. 6:4–5). But he has something more in mind here, a deep partnership and communion with Christ in suffering. When he met Christ, Paul gained a companion to be with him in his suffering—One who endured far more intense persecution and suffering than anyone else who ever lived, all of it undeserved.

The deepest moments of spiritual fellowship with the living Christ are at times of intense suffering; suffering drives believers to Him. They find in Him a merciful High Priest, a faithful friend who feels their pain, and a sympathetic companion who faced all the trials and temptations that they face (Heb. 4:15). He is thus uniquely qualified to help them in their weaknesses and infirmities (Heb. 2:17). That blessed, comforting truth led Paul to exclaim, “Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Cor. 12:10).[2]


10 Paul understands that knowledge of God only comes from knowing Christ, whom God raised from the dead (Koperski, 236). “To know Christ” is akin to putting trust in him (Ps 9:10) and being loyal to him (Jer 2:8; 9:2–3). Putting trust in Christ is for Paul the same thing as putting trust in God. He assumes that one becomes like the one who is known, so that one is willing to forgo privileges and entitlements and undergo suffering and death. Knowing Christ is not some sublime, cerebral enlightenment but something that is experiential. For him it means becoming Christ’s slave, loving others as Christ did, and giving of himself as Christ did.

The “power of his resurrection” may refer to the influence that the risen Christ exerts on the believer, but it more likely refers to the power that raised Jesus from the dead (Eph 1:19–20). Paul’s belief that Christ’s resurrection was the firstfruits and that those who belong to Christ will be raised with him (1 Co 15:20–28) drives his reversal of values and reordering of priorities. The difference is between placing one’s confidence in the flesh and placing one’s trust in the hope of the transformation of the flesh.

Paul makes clear that experiencing the power of Christ’s resurrection is accompanied by participating in his suffering and death (Ro 8:17; cf. 1 Co 15:30–31; 2 Co 1:5; 4:8–11; Gal 6:17; Col 1:24; 2 Ti 2:10). God’s power and protection of his people do not prevent them from bearing the cost of holding fast to the gospel in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation (Php 2:15–16). They must experience the weight of the cross before they taste the power of the resurrection (cf. George R. Beasley-Murray, The Book of Revelation [NCB; London: Marshall, Morgan and Scott, 1974], 181). Paul understands from Christ’s example that one only finds life by pouring it out for others, just as Christ poured out his life (cf. Stagg, 207). Resurrection is placed first because one will not be able to put suffering and death in proper perspective unless one is first convinced that God conquered death by raising Jesus from the dead (1 Co 15:12–28). Paul is no masochist and does not rejoice in suffering for its own sake. It only brings him joy because it is “certain evidence of his intimate relationship with his Lord” (Fee, 333). His aim is not to suffer but to become Christlike in suffering—being obedient to death and dying for others. Being conformed (symmorphizō, GK 5214; NIV, “becoming like”) to Christ’s death (Ro 6:5; 2 Ti 2:11) will result in being conformed (symmorphos, GK 5215; NIV, “like”) to his glorious resurrected body (3:21).[3]


3:10 As we read this verse, we come to the supreme emotion of the apostle’s life. F. B. Meyer calls it “The Soul’s Quest for the Personal Christ.”

The most frequent treatment of this passage is to “spiritualize” it. By this is meant that sufferings, death, and resurrection are not to be taken literally. Rather, they are used to describe certain spiritual experiences, such as mental suffering, dying to self, and living the resurrected life, etc. However, we would like to suggest that the passage should be taken literally. Paul is saying he wants to live as Christ lived. Did Jesus suffer? Paul wants to suffer too. Did Jesus die? Then Paul wants to die by martyrdom in his service for Christ. Did Jesus rise from among the dead? Then Paul wishes to do the same. He realized that the servant is not above his Master. Thus, he desired to follow Christ in His sufferings, death, and resurrection. He does not say that all must adopt this view, but for him there could be no other pathway.

That I may know Him. To know Him means to gain practical day-by-day acquaintance with Him in such an intimate way that the apostle himself would become more Christlike. He wants the life of Christ to be reproduced in himself.

And the power of His resurrection. The power that raised the Lord from the dead is set forth in Scripture as the greatest display of might which the universe has ever seen (Eph. 1:19, 20). It would seem as if all the hosts of evil were determined to keep His body in the tomb. God’s mighty power defeated this infernal army by raising the Lord Jesus from the dead on the third day. This same power is placed at the disposal of all believers (Eph. 1:19), to be appropriated by faith. Paul is stating his ambition to experience this power in his life and testimony.

And the fellowship of His sufferings. It takes divine strength to suffer for Christ. That is why the power of His resurrection is put before the fellowship of His sufferings.

In the life of the Lord, suffering preceded glory. So then it must be in the life of Paul. He must share Christ’s sufferings. He realized that there would be nothing of an atoning value in his own sufferings as there was in Christ’s, but he knew, too, that it would be inconsistent for him to live in luxury and ease in a world where his Lord was rejected, scourged, and crucified. Jowett comments: “He was not contented to share the triumph of Olivet; he wanted to feel something of the pang and chill and loneliness of Gethsemane.”

Being conformed to His death. As mentioned before, this is usually explained as meaning that Paul wanted to live the crucified life, to die practically to sin, self, and the world. But we feel that such an interpretation robs the passage of its shocking force. It does mean that, but also much more. Paul was a passionately devoted follower of the One who died on the cross of Calvary. Not only that, he was present when the first martyr of the Christian church died; in fact, he was an accomplice in murdering him! We believe Paul was actually anxious to pour out his life in the same way. Perhaps he would have felt embarrassed to meet Stephen in heaven if he had come by any more comfortable route than martyrdom. Jowett agrees:

Many Christians are satisfied with expenditure in which there is no “shedding of blood.” They give away what they can easily spare. Their gifts are detached things, and the surrender of them necessitates no bleeding. They engage in sacrifice as long as it does not involve life; when the really vital is demanded, they are not to be found. They are prominent at all triumphant entries, and they willingly spend a little money on colorful decorations—on banners and palm branches; but when “Hurrahs” and “Hosannas” change into ominous murmurs and threats, and Calvary comes into sight, they steal away into safe seclusion.

But here is an Apostle who joyfully anticipates this supreme and critical demand. He is almost impatient at his own dribblings of blood-energy in the service of the kingdom! He is eager if need be to pour it out!

In a similar vein Hudson Taylor wrote:

There is a needs-be for us to give ourselves for the life of the world … Fruit-bearing involves cross-bearing. “Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone.” We know how the Lord Jesus became fruitful—not by bearing His cross only, but by dying on it. Do we know much of fellowship with Him in this? There are not two Christs—an easy-going Christ for easy-going Christians, and a suffering, toiling Christ for exceptional believers. There is only one Christ. Are we willing to abide in Him and so to bear fruit?

Finally, C. A. Coates says:

The knowledge of Christ in glory was the supreme desire of Paul’s heart, and this desire could never exist without producing an intense longing to reach Him in the place where He is. Hence the heart that longs after Him instinctively turns to the path by which He reached that place in glory, and earnestly desires to reach Him in that place by the very path which He trod. The heart asks, “How did He reach that glory? Was it through resurrection? And did not sufferings and death necessarily precede resurrection?” Then the heart says, “Nothing would please me so well as to reach Him in resurrection glory by the very path which took Him there.” It is the martyr spirit. Paul wanted to tread as a martyr the pathway of suffering and death, that he might reach resurrection and glory by the same path as the blessed One who had won his heart.[4]


[1] Tozer, A. W. (2015). Mornings with tozer: daily devotional readings. Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers.

[2] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2001). Philippians (pp. 238–239). Chicago: Moody Press.

[3] Garland, D. E. (2006). Philippians. In T. Longman III (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Ephesians–Philemon (Revised Edition) (Vol. 12, pp. 242–243). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[4] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (pp. 1973–1974). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

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