Resurrection & Suffering
Philippians 3:10 That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death;
We continue our study in the epistle of Paul to the Philippians. As I read this text, my mind keeps wondering on how will I be explaining it? In the previous verses we find that Paul wants to know more about Christ. We have already noted that the knowledge Paul wants was experiential knowledge. To be more intimate with the Lord that is what we should aim for. Aside from intimate knowledge about the Lord, Paul also wants to know 3 more things, namely:
I. The Power of the Resurrection
A. The meaning of power here is force, specially, miraculous power, ability, strength. It is the word from which we get the English word “dynamite”. But the idea in Greek is not dynamite but “dynamo” – a power that is always resident.
B. When I think of power I imagine the power of the atomic bomb and other weapons of mass destruction which can kill millions and obliterate cities.
C. In my honest opinion, one of the greatest powers in the world is resurrection. Resurrection has the power to give life to the dead, while weapons of mass destruction have only the power to destroy. Resurrection breaks the power of the grave. We can victoriously say now “O death where is thy sting? O grave where is thy victory? 1 Cor. 15:55.
D. Resurrection guarantees that everyone will rise too, the righteous to eternal life, the wicked to everlasting punishment.
E. Resurrection sets Christianity apart from other faith. We have a risen saviour while others have not. It is where Christianity stands or falls, and is the center of the gospel itself (Rom. 4:24-25, 10:9; 1 Cor. 15:1-4).
F. Paul teaches us the importance of this event, for if Jesus did not literally rise from the dead, then the entire Christian faith is vain (v. 14) and ineffective (v. 17). Also, preaching is valueless (v. 14), Christian testimony is false (v. 15), no sins have been forgiven (v. 17), and believers have perished without any Christian hope (vs. 18). Apart from this event, Christians are the most miserable of all people (v. 19). Paul even tells that without the resurrection “let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die” (v. 32).
G. I would say that the power of resurrection that Paul wants to know is the newness of life from the risen Christ as mentioned in Rom. 6:4, 2 Cor. 5:17, Eph. 2:4,6. Only God can give life and this power is within us through the indwelling Holy Spirit.
Illustration 1: Changed lives
When the apostles saw the risen Christ, they became brave and bold in their testimony that they are not afraid of anything anymore even death. Their life was renewed from being cowardice to being courageous. The power that brought Jesus up from the grave is the power now residing in believers.
Illustration 2: A Sign for Unbelievers
Well over three hundred verses are concerned with the subject of Jesus’ resurrection in the New Testament. We are told that this event is a sign for unbelievers (Mt. 12:38-40); Jn. 20:24-29) as well as the answer for the believer’s doubt (Lk. 24:38-43). It serves as the guarantee that Jesus’ teachings are true (Acts 2:22-24; 1 Cor. 15:12-20) and is the center of the gospel itself (Rom. 4:24-25, 10:9; 1 Cor. 15:1-4). Further, the resurrection is the impetus for evangelism (Mt. 28:18-20; Acts 10:39-43), the key indication of the believer’s daily power to live the Christian life (Rom. 6:4-14, 8:9-11; Phil. 3:10) and the reason for the total commitment of our lives (Rom. 7:4; 1 Cor. 15:57-58). The resurrection even addresses the fear of death (Jn. 11:25; 1 Cor. 15:54-58; Heb. 2:14-15) and is related to the second coming of Jesus (Acts 1:11; Rev. 1:7). Lastly, this event is a model of the Christian’s resurrection from the dead (Acts 4:2; 1 Cor. 6:14; 1 Thess. 4:13-18) and provides a foretaste of heaven for the believer (Phil. 3:20-21; 1 Peter 1:3-5).
Source: Immortality – The Other Side of Death by Gary R. Habermas & J. P. Moreland, Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1992, p. 245
II. The Fellowship of His sufferings:
A. Fellowship is partnership or communion
1. Sharing in Christ’s suffering is the lot or portion of every Christian. This is not partnership with the sufferings of Christ upon the cross. Some people think or want to share the suffering of Christ on the cross as if they could contribute to Christ’s atoning work. It’s not scriptural, don’t even think about it. Only Jesus Christ was qualified to die our sins.
2. This is partnership in his sufferings while he walked on earth. He experienced poverty, hunger, thirst, temptation; He was criticized for being with sinners. He suffered religious persecution, rejection, humiliation, physical abuse, etc.
3. Since Christ experienced the hardships and difficulties we are now having, He is able to comfort suffering Christians because he has already passed that way. After all He was called “a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief” (Isa. 53:3). He is also called God of all comfort in 2 Cor. 1:3.
Not many of us are called to suffer seriously for Christ. Few of us will die for Christ. Most of Christians nowadays would not even leave their “comfort zone”. Very few would go to mission fields which would deprive them of all the ease and luxury they are now enjoying. I heard about a pastor who tells his church, he wants to go on mission to London or Paris if not New York, and he wants to bring his family with him. His request of course was rejected.
Illustration: Called to Suffer
Some believers are very surprised when they are called to suffer. They thought they would do some great thing for God, but all God permits them to do is to suffer. Just suppose you could speak with those who have gone to be with the Lord; everyone has a different story, yet everyone has a tale of suffering. One was persecuted by family and friends…another was inflicted with pain and disease, neglected by the world…another was bereaved of children…another had all these afflictions. But you will notice that though the water was deep, they all have reached the other side. Not one of them
blames God for the road He led them; ‘Salvation’ is their only cry. Are there an of you, dear children, murmuring at your lot? Do not sin against God. This is the way God leads all His redeemed ones.
Source: Robert Murray McCheyne
III. Being made conformable unto his death
A. The word conformable means “to render like” in other words to take the same form as his death. This means two things:
1. Paul wants his old sinful self to be crucified with Christ (Rom. 6:6, Gal. 2:20, 5:24).
2. Paul is ready to die every day together with Christ (1 Cor. 15:31). He writes “always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus” (2 Cor. 4:10-11). B. To be conformed to His death means not only bearing the external hardships but inwardly also the crucifixion of our own selves and the mortification of the deeds of the body (Rom. 8:13).
The basis upon which we can be conformed to His death is the fact that we all as Christians died with Christ on the cross. When He died on the cross we died with Him and so we were set free from sin. His death was applied to us when we first trusted in Christ. We died in Him on the cross so that He can live with us.
Knowing Christ intimately includes the knowing the power of His resurrection, which is for me the newness of life in Him. We must have fellowship also with His sufferings and be conformed to His death. Are you willing to know Christ more? You should. It’s the best thing in life