What Did Paul Want? (Easter Sermon)
Phil. 3:7-11 *10
“That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death;”
Paul had some specific goals in relation to his relationship with Christ. What are the goals of Paul?
I. He wanted the Knowledge of Christ’s Person
The words “That I may know him” does not mean “That I may become acquainted with Him.” Paul knew the Lord personally and had, since he met Him personally on the road to Damascus.
The word “know” (ginosko) means “to learn to know, come to know, get a knowledge of, to perceive, to feel.” It is an aorist active infinitive. The aorist tense is either taking a snap
shot at his attitude toward the whole of his future life or looking to know Christ better at some point of time in the future.
I believe he is taking a snap shot of a settled attitude toward his future pursuits. He had settled attitudes toward life which had settled his view of self-glory (vss. 4-8). He had set all self-glory aside to pursue this course in life, i.e., “That I may know Him.”
A.T. Robertson says, “This is Paul’s major passion, to get more knowledge of Christ by experience.”
John Gill says, “The apostle did know Christ, and that years ago; he knew whom he had believed; he knew him for himself; he knew his personal interest in him; nor did he know any but him in the business of salvation: but his knowledge of Christ, though it was very great, it was, imperfect; he knew but in part, and therefore desired to know more of Christ, of the mystery and glories of his person, of the unsearchable riches of his grace, of his great salvation, and the
benefits of it, of his love, which passes perfect knowledge, and to have a renewed and enlarged experience of communion with him.
The apostle here explains what he means by winning Christ, for the sake of which he suffered the loss of all things, and counted them but dung; it was, that he might attain to a greater knowledge of the person and grace of Christ:”
II. He wanted the Power of Christ’s Resurrection
The words “And the power of his resurrection” are a further statement of Paul’s goal. This is what Paul wants more than anything else in the world. In fact, in comparison to other things, Paul says, “...And do count them but dung, that I may win Christ” (v 8). The other things in life don’t even count. They are less than nothing. The word “power” (dunamis) means “strength, power, ability; inherent power, power residing in a thing by virtue of its nature, or which a person or thing exerts and puts forth.”
The words “of his resurrection”
identify the source of the power of the Christian life. The baptism of the Spirit on Pentecost was a resurrection gift to the church.
“This Jesus hath God raised up, whereof we all are witnesses. Therefore, being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, he hath shed forth this, which ye now see and hear.”
III. He wanted the Fellowship of Christ’s Sufferings
The words “And the fellowship of his sufferings” are included in any real commitment that is willing to “count all things but dung that I may win Christ.” The flesh suffers when it is neglected. The emotions suffer when the ideas of the natural mind are put aside. There are many hurtful things that a total commitment to the will of God will bring into the life of the believer. I must make my mind up. I must be willing to suffer those things or I will take back my commitment.
The word “fellowship” (koinonia)
means “joint participation.” This means that Christ continues to suffer in the sufferings of His saints. They are said by Paul to be “His sufferings.” I am a living stone in His temple (1Pet 2:5), I am one Spirit with Him (1Cor 6:17). He suffers when I suffer. No suffering comes to His body without it affecting Him. It is a joint participation of His sufferings.
IV. He wanted the Likeness of Christ’s Death
The words “being made conformable unto his death” describe a result. The word “conformable” (summorphoo) means, “to be conformed to, to receive the same form as.” It is a present passive participle. The present tense means “to continue to be made conformable to his death.” It was a process that had already begun and was going on.
The passive voice means that Paul was submitting to what was happening to him. The passive voice is where the subject (Paul) is acted upon. I do not have to make myself conformable to His death. If I make the kind of
commitment Paul made and for the same reasons, it will happen to me without effort. I will not have to go out and cause suffering to come to me. It will come without invitation.
It did to Christ. And the world system and religion has not changed its mind. They hated Christ then and they hate Him now. When Christ is committed to the same truths in me that He was in His earthly body, the world will desire and work to cause His death in me. It is being conformed to His death.
I want to know Him better. I realize that in knowing Him better, I will enter to the fellowship of His sufferings. I also realize that the fellowship of His sufferings could lead to death. I have not been confronted with physical death for Him in my lifetime.
Most of church history is filled with the records of martyrdom. We are living in easier times so far as physical death is concerned. But I do want to believe that there are those living today who have made the kind of commitment to
Him, that if called upon, would not hesitate to die rather than deny Him.
My problem is not dying for Him physically. My problem is dying to my own self life. To do this, my consuming desire must be “That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death;” This verse has a domino effect. I can’t have one without the other.
If I am committed, I will not be surprised when suffering comes. I will not complain at the loss of so-called friends. I will not hesitate at the rejection experienced. It was expected. I am not saying I will reach a place in my spiritual experience where it no longer hurts. Paul called it “the fellowship of His sufferings.” Suffering hurts. I will not be bitter. I cannot be bitter when I realize that the suffering I am experiencing is the “fellowship” of His sufferings.
Jesus was the fourth man in the three-man fire. He was the
invisible lion tamer in the den of lions with Daniel. The sufferings of the believer, when brought on by a commitment to the will of God, are called a “fellowship” which means “joint participation.” I am not alone.
I have a consuming desire to know Him better. Join me in this. Let’s rejoice together that He has given us this privilege.