That I May Know Him
© C. O. Bishop 2/16/2018
We have been studying through Philippians together: When we last met, we ended on Philippians 3:9, where Paul concluded his statements as to having lost the things that were once important to him, but having found himself “In Christ.”
9 And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith:
Now Paul, having found himself “in Him”—in Christ—was positionally perfect. His standing with God was made forever secure. But his condition—his state—could change drastically, just as our state, or condition, changes when we sin. This difference, between the two concepts, “Position” (Where I am, and Who I am, in Christ), and “Condition” (How I am doing, and What I am doing) has been the source of much bad teaching, and misunderstanding in the church, for centuries. Paul’s old condition, from human perspective, was quite admirable. Lots of great credentials and accomplishments. But his old Position (still in his sins…still “In Adam”) was terrible—he was headed for destruction!
When he embraced the redemption provided at the Cross, he lost his social standing, and his accomplishments were no longer respected. He lost them because of the Cross, but gained something new at the Cross, at the same moment. He gained a new Position. He is now no longer “in Adam”…he is “in Christ.” This is in keeping with 1st Corinthians 15:22 And all his own efforts do not add to that position, nor does a failure on his part detract from that position. His works can only affect his condition, not his position.
Paul said that he counted all those things as garbage! Why? Because they could not enhance his position at all, and possibly could prove a snare to him, in terms of the practical outworking of his relationship with God. He said that those things have been willingly set aside: why? So that he could focus on growing in an experiential knowledge of Christ
That I may Know Him
10 That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death;
“That I may know Him?” What can he mean by this? Didn’t he already know Jesus? He met Him on the road to Damascus… he was commissioned by Jesus for service. How could he not know Him?
The word Paul chose to use, here (Greek “gnonai”, from “gnosko”), means to have experiential knowledge—not merely acquaintance, or knowing a fact, or even figuring something out. I may “know” something because of careful reasoning. I may “know” something as a fact about which I have been told. I may even “know” a person because I have met them once. I sometimes tell people about famous violinmakers that I happen to have met. I could say, “I know him.” But I have to qualify that remark, by saying, “He wouldn’t remember me. I only met him once.”
To know someone in an ongoing relationship which is growing in depth and closeness is the kind of continuing knowledge Paul sought. And all the things he once took pride in would detract from that relationship if they had any affect at all. If he set them all aside in terms of value or importance, they could have no negative effect. But if he clung to any of them as being “vital to his identity”, they would surely detract from his identity in Christ, as a distraction, if nothing else.
This can be true in our own lives as well: If it really is central to my self-view that I am part of some trade (a welder, in my case, or a violin maker, or a teacher or pastor), or that I belong to some political party, or a particular church, or even a particular nationality, or ethnic group… then how central is my relationship with Christ? To the degree that “something else” is central to “who I am”, Jesus has been dethroned in my life.
What do we call it when “something else” has taken the place of God in my life? The fact is, this constitutes idolatry. Perhaps Paul avoided using that word in order to underscore the relational issues, but we do tend to elevate such minutia to ridiculous levels of importance. We have our little “in” groups of people who drive a certain kind of car, drink a certain kind of beverage, follow a particular sport, or a specific team within that sport, or who are alumni of a specific school. Our society promotes this kind of thing, and says we ought to have “pride” in the school we attend, etc. We even argue over which kind of shoes to wear. Proverbs states that pride is the root of contention. And if it ruins human relationships, how much more would it limit our relationship with a holy God? We need to think clearly about what is important to us, and why…and, to what extent.
Grammatically, Paul applied that same word for knowledge to the whole list he enumerated: To Know Christ, and (to know) the power of His resurrection, and (to know) the fellowship of his suffering, being made conformable to his death.
To experientially know the power of the resurrection in my life is to see the new life in Christ take hold and transform me from the inside out. I began “knowing” that power the day I first trusted in Christ as my savior. But it is an ongoing transformation, and I want to see it increasing continually. We are to live “as those alive from among the dead.” We can’t have our old perspective on life anymore. We have been resurrected with Christ.
To experientially know the fellowship of His suffering: fellowship means “sharing in”—“partnership”. How can we be partners in the suffering of Christ? He did say that we are to take up our cross and follow him. That we are to count our own life as a thing of the past, and join him in his passion for the lost world. Do we personally share in having nails driven through our flesh? No, not as a rule. But we can at least recognize that His suffering was for a purpose, a testimony, etc., and we can join him in in enduring whatever is set before us as a way to demonstrate his Love and faithfulness to others. I think that would at least be a start. Jesus poured himself out to meet the need of a lost world. We can pour ourselves out daily to serve, as He gives us opportunity.
What does it mean to “be made conformable to His death?” Over in Hebrews 12:4, Paul commented to the believers that “ye have not yet resisted unto [the shedding of] blood, striving against sin.” In their particular case, the suffering for Christ had taken no serious turn, though it certainly had, in the lives of the many believers who had been tortured and killed for their faith. Could they have borne such a burden? Perhaps not, because these are the same believers he rebuked for having backslidden into babyhood, in Hebrews 5:12.
Is it possible then, that the issue in becoming “conformable to His death” may have to do with becoming committed enough that, if called upon, he could follow Jesus in death? Maybe. That would be some serious growth, as a believer. But that is exactly what eventually happened to Paul. And, yes, he was ready!
11 If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead.
What is he saying? Does he mean that the way to be resurrected is to do all the things he just listed? Why then, would he say, in Romans 6, that as many as have been baptized into Christ have been baptized into his death, and his resurrection? (By the way, that baptism is not in reference to water, either.) Why would he say in Ephesians 2:6 that I have already been raised up with Christ (resurrection) and have already been seated with him in the heavenlies…in fact, that I am there, now? (Not only already resurrected, but already ascended!)
So, we can be sure that he is not saying one is to earn the resurrection from the dead. In fact, he did not say “earn”—he said “attain.” The Greek word is “katantiso”, meaning “arrive”. It is only used 13 times in the New Testament, and in all but two cases it is translated “come to”, in the sense of “arrival”. So, in what sense could Paul question his “arrival” at the resurrection? According to his comment in Ephesians 2:6, he is already there. So he cannot fail to be resurrected. Some commentators suggest that he only wants to live to see the rapture. In that case the next sentence would make absolutely no sense, as he said he “isn’t there yet”. That would be a silly statement, as the rapture, obviously, still hasn’t happened. Incidentally, the word in verse 12 for “attained” comes from yet another Greek root: “elabon”, which comes from “lambano” which is usually (133 times) translated “received,” meaning to “take for oneself.” So, whatever Paul is talking about, it is something to be received, not earned, and it is not something that everyone receives at the same time. It is individual in nature, and something at which to “arrive.”
So, there have been a variety of possibilities suggested, each having some problems. But what if the issue is only that he wants to live out the reality of the resurrection in his own life? That he wants to live like one risen out from among the dead (the Greek word, here, for “Resurrection” is “ex-anastasin”—resurrection from out of”…and this is the only time in the New Testament where this specific word is used.)
What if the real issue is that he wants to live in such a way that Christ’s new life will be the only thing other people see? That would be something to “attain to”, wouldn’t it? Something worth striving toward? If that is what he means, then all the following comments make plain sense, too. And, as it happens, we have another admonition from Paul that says exactly that—Romans 6:13 says that we are to live “as those alive from the dead”. I believe Paul was “leading by example, and saying that that was his goal as well.
12 Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus.
13 Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before,
14 I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.
The Greek word translated “apprehend”, here. Is “katalambano.” It is translated several ways, but it seems to mean, in general, to “seize something, with the purpose of making it one’s own”. So, Paul knows that he himself has been “seized upon” by Jesus, and made the “personal property of Christ.” He, in turn, wants to “seize” the relationship with Christ, and make it a living reality in his life, so that Jesus is all people will see in him. And he concludes that he, personally, has chosen to “press toward the goal!”
Paul says that his whole goal is to draw close enough to Jesus that nothing else is visible in his life. Have you ever heard a plane coming, overhead, but when you looked up, it turned out that they were so close to being lined up with the sun, that all you could see was the sun? You could still hear the plane, so you knew it was there, but all you could see was the sun, until the plane moved to a position further out of line with the sun.
If your life is so “lined up with” the Son of God, that when people look at you, He is all they see, you are “apprehending” that for which Christ died to provide. Follow after! Press on, toward the mark of the high calling of God in Christ.
Paul clearly says that he has not arrived at that point in his life, but that it is his goal to continually strive toward it. And there is a reward for the striving; a prize. God knows the heart…He will reward the striving, the consistent attempt to “get out of the way” and allow the resurrected Christ to live through us.
Examples to Follow
Paul goes on to say that we are to follow his example. This is good leadership. “Follow me!” is something you can only say from “out in front.” Paul was definitely out in front. In this passage and other similar passages, he says “follow me as I follow Christ” or “be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.” (1st Corinthians 11:1) Paul was leading by example. He could literally say, “Do as I do!”
15 Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded: and if in any thing ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you.
16 Nevertheless, whereto we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us mind the same thing.
The word for “rule” here, is “kanoni”—a standard; not a law. This is not a suggestion that we need to set up “rules to live by”. The “standard” that Paul had just erected was that he personally sought to follow Jesus closely, hoping to “arrive” at a level where only Jesus would be visible in his life. That is the standard…the living reality of Christ.
We have the same example for us to follow, then. We are not left to wonder how we should live. We have a written command, and a living example. Paul says we can look around us, and take note of those among us who follow his example, and imitate what we see in their lives. And, we are to learn to set such an example ourselves.
17 Brethren, be followers together of me, and mark them which walk so as ye have us for an ensample.
We are not to follow blindly: we are to read our Bibles, then compare what we see with what the Bible says, and, as our leaders, pastors, teachers and fellow believers follow the example of Christ, we can also follow their living example.
Lord Jesus, open our eyes to see you in the believers’ lives around us. Help us to learn to walk by faith, but to see the reality every day, in the lives of the men and women of God around us.