Reading: Philippians 1 – 2
10I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead. 12Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. (Philippians 3:10-12)
What did it mean for Paul to know Christ? What does “becoming like him in his death” look like? Are we quite literally to get beaten, and crucified? Or is Paul speaking of something else? What was Paul pressing on to take hold of? For what purpose had Christ taken hold of Paul? While there are many ways one could answer these questions accurately, as I read the first two chapters of this letter this morning, I was struck by how Paul had already described this in detail before we arrive at Philippians 3. Here are some examples:
…filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God. (Philippians 1:11)
To know Christ, to become like Christ, is to be filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ. Paul had known a righteousness that came through the law. And as far as that goes, he was faultless. But Paul gladly gave that up in pursuit of the fruit that can only come through Jesus Christ! Fruit that comes only after we have received a righteousness that is not our own! Another example:
…for I know that through your prayers and the help given by the Spirit of Jesus Christ, what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance. I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. (Philippians 1:19-20)
Gaining Christ includes gaining the help given by the Spirit of Jesus Christ; help that brings courage to Paul in the midst of sobering persecution; help that will enable Paul to live a life that exalts Christ in life or death.
But it is in the second chapter where we discover more completely how knowing Christ is our transforming pursuit. It begins...
If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then... (Philippians 2:1, 2)
Paul is about to launch into describing what this fruit of righteousness is, that is described 1:11, with great detail. Before he does, he begins by connecting to the fact that is will come through Jesus Christ. The transformed life Paul is about to describe will come as a result of being united with Christ, because we have ourselves been comforted by His love, through the fellowship we have with His Spirit who lives in us, and because we have the tenderness and compassion of Christ shed abroad in our hearts by that same Spirit (see also Romans 5:5). What fruit does this life united with Christ produce?
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. (Philippians 2:3-4)
Humility is some of the fruit of righteousness that comes through Christ. This humility is the foundation for the love and unity described in verse 2. When we know Christ we will consider others better than ourselves. We will consider the interests of others and not just our own. Where does this come from? From having the a new kind of thinking that comes from Christ (Philippians 2:5). To become like Christ in His death is to not hold onto our rights, to make ourselves nothing as he did, and to take the nature of a servant (Philippians 2:6-8).
Christ took hold of Paul to transform Paul into the image of Christ. Paul's pursuit was to become like Christ, to take hold of the purpose of Christ in saving Paul. Christ took hold of you, Christian, to transform you into His image! This is the pursuit we are to have as Christians. This is the pursuit we are to have as Christians. And it can only happen as we are united with Him and live in fellowship with Him growing out of His tenderness and compassion in us.
Love the Gospel, Live the Gospel, Advance the Gospel,