That I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. (Philippians 3:10-11)
This living relationship we have with God through faith in Jesus the Messiah (and through His faithfulness) is all about knowing the Lord Jesus, the power of His resurrection — and the “fellowship of His sufferings.”
Knowing the Lord Jesus? Sure. Though it is greater and more wonderful than we can imagine, it is something we can embrace with joyful anticipation. Likewise, knowing the power of His resurrection. That’s an easy Yes. But knowing the “fellowship of His sufferings” and being “conformed to His death”? Well, we need a little time to think about that one, don’t you. For Paul, however, it is a quick and ready Yes. It is part of knowing Jesus intimately, and Paul is glad to give up everything else for that.
Paul glories in the resurrection of the Lord Jesus and what that means for our own future resurrection (see 1 Corinthians 15, where he teaches at length about that). And his prayer for believers is that God would give us Holy Spirit revelation that we may know “what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 1:19-20). This is the same power by which God “is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us” (Ephesians 3:20).
Paul definitely wants to know Jesus in the power of His resurrection, but just as much, he wants to know Jesus in the partnership of His sufferings. He is not, of course, referring to participation in the passion of the cross and the work of atonement Jesus did for us there — that work is already full and complete! No, he is talking about being persecuted for proclaiming the Lord Jesus as God’s Anointed King.
This is not theoretical with Paul but a reality that he has experienced often since he first came to know Jesus as Lord and Messiah. Though he does not do so here, he could easily have recited a litany of the persecutions, imprisonments, lashings, beatings, stonings and other perils he has endured for the sake of the gospel (see 2 Corinthians 11:23-33). And of course, he writes this present letter from under house arrest in Rome. Yet he rejoices — there is always joy! — and he wants the believers at Philippi to rejoice as well, even as they too are experiencing persecution. As he observed earlier, “For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake, having the same conflict which you saw in me and now hear is in me” (Philippians 1:29-30).
The fellowship of Jesus sufferings, in a very real sense, has to do with emptying ourselves, pouring ourselves out and becoming servants for the sake of others. Just as Messiah emptied and poured Himself out for our sakes, taking the form of a servant. Paul still bears that in mind as he continues his letter. Just as Jesus became obedient even to the point of death on the cross, Paul is ready and willing to be “conformed” to His death — which seems to be the likely outcome of the course he is on — “if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.” This if statement is not an expression of any doubt, and “attain” does not mean that he must somehow earn or deserve resurrection from the dead; the Greek word simply means to “arrive.”
The simple truth about resurrection is that there must first be a death. Paul has died to himself and the only thing that matters to him now is knowing Jesus. Departing this life holds no fear for him because he fully expects that he will be raised from the dead when King Jesus comes again. Does it matter then how he dies, whether as a martyr or by some other means? Not to Paul, it doesn’t. Either way, the end result is the same — resurrection from the dead! And there is no shame in suffering for the sake of the One who suffered for us.
- Have you experienced personal, intimate relationship with the Lord Jesus?
- Have you experienced the power of His resurrection in your life?
- Is it worth everything you are, everything you have — even your own life?
There is Always Joy: Paul’s Letter to the Jesus Believers at Philippi
Bite-Size Studies Through the Book of Philippians
by Jeff Doles
5.5 x 8.5 in., 138 pages, paperback
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Also available in Kindle, epub and PDF.