The Surpassing Value of Knowing Christ, Part 2 (Mike Riccardi)

Philippians 3:9–11   |   Sunday, October 27, 2013   |   Code: 2013-10-27-MR



Well here we are, over a week after the close of the Strange Fire Conference. I know that many of you volunteered to serve at the conference, and I can tell you that it made Phil and me very proud to walk through campus and see our beloved GraceLifers serving our guests in the way you all did. I trust that you’ve recovered well from those long hours of service, and hope that in between the end of the conference and now you’ve been able to listen to at least some of the sessions from the conference. The teaching presented at the conference, as well as in follow-up sermons both from Pastor John in the main service and from Pastor Phil here in GraceLife, has been extremely beneficial in explaining from Scripture why we believe that the miraculous gifts of the Spirit—like tongues, prophecy, and healing—have ceased with the close of the Apostolic age. The Lord is no longer giving revelation, in order to magnify the sufficiency of the divine revelation that is preserved for us in the inspired, infallible, and inerrant Scriptures.


I especially enjoyed Phil’s sermon last week, which he gave a title as only Phil Johnson can give; he called it: “Is That Voice in my Head Really the Holy Spirit?” I thought it was really practical and helpful in explaining why we shouldn’t expect that God subjectively leads us through audible whispers of His voice; why we shouldn’t interpret every gut-feeling or impression that we have as evidence of the Holy Spirit speaking to us; and why we shouldn’t say things like, “God told me such-and-such” without providing a chapter and a verse. Justin Peters, one of the speakers who was here for the conference, is famous in the evangelical subculture for saying, “If you want to hear God speak, read your Bible. If you want to hear God speak audibly, read your Bible out loud.”


We need that message, because it’s that kind of attitude and esteem for the Scriptures that affords God’s written revelation its due reverence. Often, those who insist that God still guides His people by speaking subjective, private revelation object to our position on the grounds that it is their desire to have a living relationship with a living God. And the implication is that such a dynamic relationship can’t be enjoyed by limiting our contact with Him through a single book like the Bible. But do you see how such a view denigrates the sufficiency and the value of Scripture? “We want a living relationship with a living God.” Well what does that imply? That the Bible is dead? And yet Scripture itself says that “the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword,” Hebrews 4:12. If our desire is to have a living relationship with the living God, we go to Him through His living Word!  And I trust that the conference has been faithful to underscore that truth in your own hearts and minds.


And yet, there is a danger for us cessationists—a danger that we need to arouse all our faculties to vigilantly guard against. And that danger is not at all brought on by any fault of the theology that says the miraculous gifts have ceased and that the written Word of God is entirely sufficient for the lives of God’s people. Rather, this danger is brought on by the tendency of the human heart to swing the pendulum. Out of a good desire to conclusively repudiate error, we can sometimes overcorrect and wind up embracing a different error on the opposite side of the spectrum. And that error is to go about living our Christian life as if our relationship with Christ was purely cerebral. It’s the error that substitutes knowledge about Christ for true, personal knowledge of Christ. It’s the error of being satisfied with merely having good theology, and a sound intellectual knowledge of the content of the Scriptures, rather than going to the Scriptures and studying sound theology in order to see, and know, and admire, and walk with Jesus.


You see, the Charismatics fail to treat the Scriptures as living and active by seeking vital and intimate personal communion with God apart from His written Word. But if we’re not careful, we can fail to treat the Scriptures as living and active by not seeking that vital and intimate communion at all—by treating the knowledge of Christ as if it were merely intellectual. But for all our desire to exalt the primacy and supremacy and sufficiency of Scripture, and for all our desire to decry the excesses of mysticism and subjectivism, we cannot forget, dear friends, that the heart of the Christian life is a living, dynamic, personal relationship with Jesus Christ. It is the experience of true, living fellowship with Him through His Word, through prayer, through fellowship with other believes, and through all the circumstances of life that is the backbone of what it means to follow Jesus.


The Puritans, who as we’ve learned last week were outspoken cessationists, were just as outspoken about what they called the experimental knowledge of Christ—the experience of delightful communion with God through His Word. One writer defined communion with God as “the mutual exchange of spiritual benefits between God and His people based on the bond between them in Christ” (Beeke, A Puritan Theology, 102). That is so much different than simply amassing knowledge about a character of history by reading second and third-hand sources. It is the first-hand, mutual communication of love between two living persons, and the joy that springs from such a relationship. You might be able to discuss the fine points of hypostatic union, or give expository outlines of the Minor Prophets from memory. But if the knowledge of the content of Scripture and of sound theology doesn’t propel you into worshipful communion with the Triune God, you’re missing the point. In his classic work, Communion with God, John Owen writes, “What am I the better if I can dispute that Christ is God, but have no sense or sweetness in my heart from hence that he is a God in covenant with my soul?” (Works, 2:272).


Now if anyone understood this reality, it was the Apostle Paul. Because in Philippians chapter 3, Paul tells us that it is this living, dynamic, personal, intimate, day-by-day communion with Jesus Christ that is the reason why he could lose everything he had in his life, and count it gain.


You remember that in Philippians 3, verses 4 through 6, Paul lists out seven religious advantages that he had trusted in for righteousness before he met Jesus Christ. He says, “I was orthodox; I was circumcised on the eighth day. I’m an Israelite by birth; my bloodlines are pure. As a Benjamite I belonged to one of the most socially illustrious groups of Jewish society. My parents and I were Hebrews, not Hellenists; we maintained our religious traditions. My religious devotion was second to none; I was a Pharisee. My zeal for Judaism was so evident that I persecuted the church. And as to the righteousness which is in the law, I was found blameless.” And when he looked at those inherited privileges and those religious achievements, he saw them all as gains with respect to establishing his own righteousness before God. They were all pluses, written in black ink in the “Assets” column of his spiritual ledger book. Surely, if any man had a shot at achieving righteousness before God by his own efforts, it was the Apostle Paul!


But in verse 7 he says, “Whatever things were gains to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ!” When Christ appeared in a blazing glory on the road to Damascus, the light of His holiness shone across the pages of Paul’s ledger book. And in that light, every fleshly advantage that he had written in the “Assets” column had been moved to the “Liabilities” column. All of Paul’s self-righteousness that once looked like gains to him were now like the heavy cargo on a storm-tossed ship, weighing him down and threatening to drown him in the sea of eternal punishment. He counted all of his religious credentials as loss, jettisoned the cargo of his self-righteousness overboard, and trusted in the righteousness of Christ alone for his acceptance before God.


But that’s not all he lost. He goes on to say in verse 8: “More than that, I [continue to] count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ.” Paul says that he has actually suffered the loss of all things. You see, not only did he abandon all confidence in himself and in his own religious performance. He also lost all the privileges in life that he would have enjoyed if he were to continue as a respected member of Jewish society. He would have been disowned and disinherited by his family. He traded his vocation as a respected religious teacher for the blue-collar work of tentmaking. He forfeited a comfortable lifestyle with an upper-class income for a life of beatings, imprisonments, homelessness, and constant conflict.


Money, possessions, reputation, status, comfort, easy living, even family—Paul lost them all. And as the Judaizers are tempting the Philippians to submit themselves to Jewish ceremonies, the Philippians are looking at Paul and asking him, “Paul, do you miss what you had in Judaism? Do you ever wish you could have it all back?” And he says, “Not only do I not miss it, I count it all as refuse! Nothing more than the garbage that is fit only to be thrown to the wild dogs!”


How can he speak this way? What makes a man behold all the earthly glory of self-righteousness, possessions, money, property, reputation, status, comfort, ease, and ten thousand other things—and regard them as trash? Look again at verse 8: “I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ.” Paul can lose everything that this life has to offer and rejoice—He can lose everything and call it “gain”—because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ!


Do you see, why, friends that intimate, personal, day-by-day communion with Christ is something that we simply cannot afford to give up? Because that knowledge of Christ is the unique source of spiritual strength that will empower us to sever ties with all of the idols that our world tempts us to worship—to lose everything that this life has to offer us, if God should will it so—and say, “To live is Christ, and to die is gain!” To say “Jesus is worth more than a comfortable life! He is worth more than the approval of my family or the prestige of a worldly fame! He is more satisfying than all of the pleasures that money, and sex, and power, could offer me! I count them all as worthless in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord!”


But now we need to ask the question: What does Paul mean when he speaks of knowing Christ? What does that kind of experiential communion with Christ that’s worth losing everything for—what does that look like? “Paul, what does this saving knowledge of Christ consist in? And that brings us to our text this morning. Follow along as I read Philippians 3, verses 8 to 11.


More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, 9and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God [by]  faith, 10that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; 11in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.


In this text, Paul teaches us that a saving knowledge of Christ consists in the three phases of the Christian’s salvation. You have justification in verse 9, sanctification in verse 10, and glorification in verse 11. Now remember: he’s not bringing these up for the sole purpose of giving us a theology lesson. Paul certainly discusses the theology of these three components of salvation, and we’re going to dig into that. But we need to keep in mind that he writes this passage to show that each phase of our salvation—whether justification, sanctification, or glorification—provides a unique avenue to a deeper knowledge of and communion with Christ. And so in our time together this morning we’re going to examine the surpassing value of knowing Christ, in (a) justification, (b) sanctification, and (c) glorification.


I. Tasting Christ’s Sufficiency in Justification (v. 9)


Number one: A saving knowledge of Christ consists in tasting His sufficiency in justification. Look again at the end of verse 8: I count all things as rubbish so that “I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith” (NKJV).


In this verse, Paul contrasts two different kinds of righteousness. And really he is contrasting two systems of salvation, because the only way one can be saved is to be found righteous before God. And though Paul is contrasting Christianity with Judaism in particular, what he says about Judaism can be applied to every other religious system in the world. Our pastor has taught us well, that there are only two categories of religion in the world: (a) the religion of human achievement, where man works to achieve his own righteousness; and (b) the religion of divine accomplishment, where God accomplishes righteousness on man’s behalf and then freely gives that righteousness as a gift. The religion of divine accomplishment is Christianity. The religion of human achievement is every other religious system in the history of mankind. And we see these two religions delineated very carefully in verse 9.


First, I want to draw your attention to the source of righteousness. Paul says, “…not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith.” In the religion of human achievement, the source of righteousness is law-keeping, commandment-keeping. There is some moral and/or ritualistic standard by which man is to order his life, and if he does that successfully, he may achieve a righteousness that is acceptable to his god. He earns his righteousness by keeping a law—by doing good works—whether that’s the Law of Moses or the law of Allah, or Buddha, or the pantheon of Hindu gods, his hope is that obedience to that standard is able to provide righteousness.


But in the religion of divine accomplishment, the source of righteousness is God Himself. In Galatians 3:21, Paul says that no law has been given which is able to impart life. Because of humanity’s total depravity—because the depth of our sinfulness runs to the very core of our being—the only thing that law could do was to arouse our sinful passions and demonstrate our inability to obey as we ought. That’s why Paul says in Romans 3:20, “…by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in [God’s] sight; for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin.” Because we are sinful to the core, the standards of God’s righteousness can never free us from sin; they can only point out where we have continued to fall short of God’s standard. And so Paul doesn’t want a righteousness that is sourced in the law; no such thing could exist! Rather, he says in Romans 3:21, “But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested…even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ.” Paul says, “My old way of life in Judaism could only have provided me a righteousness sourced in the Law. But that kind of righteousness could never save. I count that kind of righteousness as rubbish, for the sake of gaining Christ. Because in Him, I have the righteousness which comes from God.”


Secondly, notice the basis of saving righteousness. In the religion of human achievement, the basis of righteousness is man’s own obedience. Paul says at the beginning of verse 9, “…not having my own righteousness….” He says, “I don’t want my own righteousness. I don’t want a righteousness that is intrinsic to me, based upon my own obedience. The righteousness that saves must be outside of me. It must be,” as the Reformers called it, “an alien righteousness.” And the religion of divine accomplishment provides an alien righteousness. Look again at the text. Paul says he wants to be found having the righteousness “which is through faith in Christ.” Now, can you follow me here? Whatever it is that you put your faith in for righteousness is the basis of your righteousness. Do you follow that? Whatever you put your faith in for righteousness is the basis of your righteousness. Paul says the true Christian trusts Christ for righteousness. He puts his faith in the alien righteousness of Christ to earn his acceptance before God.


All of us have broken God’s law. Romans 3:23 says that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. But the Lord Jesus Christ paid the penalty that the law required when He died on the cross for the sins of His people. And He not only paid the law’s penalty, but also obeyed all the positive demands of the law as well. And the good news is that when a sinner turns from his sin and puts his faith in Christ for righteousness, God treats Christ as if He lived your life and punishes Him on the cross, and then God treats you as if you lived Christ’s life and gives you eternal life. That’s 2 Corinthians 5:21: “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”


And so Paul says the basis of justification isn’t our own intrinsic righteousness that we’ve obtained by our own good works. No, the basis of our righteousness is the alien righteousness of Christ that He achieved by dying in our place to pay sin’s penalty, and by living in our place to accomplish righteousness. Judaism could only ever get Paul his own righteousness. And so he counts that righteousness as refuse so that he may be found in Christ. Because united to Him, he gains the righteousness of Christ Himself.


Finally, then, we need to understand the means by which Christ’s righteousness can be counted to be ours. And it’s very clear in this text. Paul repeats it. He says, “…not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith.” This is the foundational doctrine of the New Testament—the very heart of the Gospel. Sinners cannot be made right with God by earning their own intrinsic righteousness by keeping commandments—whether the Law of Moses or any other law. No, Paul says, Romans 3:28, “For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law.”


Why is faith so key to all of this? Well, in Romans 4:16, Paul makes a comment that exposes the logic of salvation. He says in that text, “For this reason, it [i.e., salvation] is by faith, in order that it may be in accordance with grace.” Salvation is by faith, in order that it may be in accordance with grace. Paul is teaching us that there is something inherent in the nature of faith that uniquely corresponds with the free gift of God’s sovereign grace. Paul says elsewhere that if works have any part of salvation, “grace is no longer grace” (Romans 11:6). Rather than being the ground upon which we boast, faith is “something which looks out of self, and receives the free gifts of Heaven as being what they are—pure undeserved favor. … Faith justifies, not in a way of merit, not on account of anything in itself, … but as uniting us to Christ” (Andrew Fuller).


Now that is so important, because some people want to say that faith is not just the means of our justification, but the basis of it. The ground of our righteousness is the fact that we believed, they say. And in fact, that wrong interpretation is served by poor translations of this very verse! I’ve been reading that verse from the New King James because it’s one of the few versions that translates the Greek accurately. But the NASB, which is my favorite translation, lets me down and actually uses the word basis here. The ESV isn’t much of an improvement, as it speaks of the righteousness of God that depends on faith. But—follow me, here, friends; the Gospel is at stake here. My righteousness cannot depend on my faith without that righteousness becoming my own righteousness. If my righteousness depends on my doing anything, it is no longer an alien righteousness, and it is not the righteousness of God. Faith is then made into a work, and then grace is no longer grace. If any part of justification is our doing—if we contribute to the basis of our righteousness in any way—then there is no Gospel, and we are all damned in our sins. God’s holiness is so magnificently perfect, His standard is so high, and our depravity is so pervasive, that all of our righteousness must be a free gift of His sovereign grace, because we could never earn it.


And if it wasn’t that way, we could never taste Christ’s sufficiency in justification—we could never know Jesus in the way that we do now, as He is all the ground of our righteousness. Listen carefully: If there was something we could do that could contribute to our justification, there would be something we could do that could disqualify us from it. But because your righteousness is an alien righteousness—because your salvation depends on the righteousness of another: the perfect righteousness of the Son of God Himself—you never have to fear that your justification is in jeopardy! Dear friend, if you have truly been born again, if you have been granted the gifts of repentance and faith, and if you presently abandon all hope in a righteousness of your own derived from commandment-keeping, you are justified! You can never be lost! You are as secure in your salvation as Christ is righteous!


Oh my fellow believer, do you taste the sufficiency of Christ in your justification? Can you apprehend the surpassing value of knowing Him as justifier? When you’re on your face before the Father, ashamed to be confessing that same familiar sin again, and despairing that He could ever take you back, you can cry with the hymn writer: “Upward I look and see Him there who made an end to all my sin! Behold Him, there, the Risen Lamb! My perfect, spotless righteousness! Because that sinless Savior died, my sinful soul is counted free. For God the Just is satisfied to look on Him and pardon me.” And again: “And now for me He stands / before the Father’s throne / He shows His wounded hands / and names me as His own.”


There is Jesus! Our perfect, spotless, righteousness, who ever lives to make intercession for His people (Heb 7:25)—ever pleading our case before the Father: that He lived, died, and rose again on our behalf—that He has accomplished the righteousness that we could not, and that we have been united to Him by faith. And because of the righteousness of Christ, God graciously counts us to be righteous before Him.


And friends, when our souls have taken hold of that reality, when our affections are gripped by the marvelous grace of God to us in our justification on the basis of Christ’s work, then we are enjoying communion with Christ in the sphere of our justification. It is then that we know Him, and taste His sufficiency, and experience His sweetness as our Savior, who pardons our iniquity, provides our righteousness, protects us from falling, and pleads for us before the Father.


II. Experiencing Christ’s Fellowship in Sanctification (v. 10)


Secondly, not only does this surpassing knowledge of Christ consist in tasting Christ’s sufficiency in justification. It also consists in, number two: experiencing Christ’s fellowship in sanctification. Look with me at verse 10: “…that I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to his death.”


Now just briefly, at the outset, I want to draw your attention to fact that the necessary fruit of the justification that we just celebrated is sanctification. The necessary fruit of justification is sanctification, because God’s purpose in justifying us is that He might sanctify us. Paul says, “I want to be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own…that I may know Him.” Pastor John puts it this way. He says, “That initial saving knowledge of Christ became the basis of Paul’s lifelong pursuit of an ever deeper knowledge of his Savior” (MacArthur, 238). And that only makes sense, doesn’t it? Let’s say you were introduced to someone that you hadn’t met before—call him John—and you just found everything about this person to be absolutely delightful. He was funny, he was interesting, he was down-to-earth, he was interested in you and what you had to say as well. At the end of the night when you’re speaking with your friend who introduced you, you say, “Boy, I really enjoyed meeting John tonight! We should all hang out again some time. I’d really like to get to know Him better!”


That’s what Paul is saying. The one who has truly had his eyes opened to taste Christ’s sufficiency in justification is necessarily spurred on by Christ’s own loveliness to more earnestly seek Christ’s fellowship in sanctification. And so we learn, friends, that Justification has as its aim, not just a forensic righteousness by which we are forgiven, but also the practical righteousness whereby the justified one is progressively sanctified. God doesn’t declare us righteous to leave us in unrighteousness. He brings us to a saving knowledge of Christ in justification in order that we might know Him more deeply as we progress in sanctification.


You say, “Where does it say ‘sanctification’ in this verse?” Well, the doctrine of sanctification is wrapped up in that phrase “the power of His resurrection.” Turn with me to Romans 6. In one of the great portions of Scripture that speak of our union with Christ, Paul speaks about our union with Christ in His death and resurrection—that when He died, we died; and when He rose again, we rose again—and that that ought to affect the way we live now. He says in Romans 6 verse 4: “Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.” You see, the effect of God’s resurrection power on those of us who are united with Him in His resurrection, is that we might walk in newness of life—that we might progress in practical righteousness.


Paul ties all these concepts—the knowledge of Christ, the power of His resurrection, and how that power works in us for holiness—he ties them all together throughout his letters. In Ephesians 1:17–20, Paul prays that God will give the Ephesians a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him…so that they will know the hope of His calling, the riches of His glory, and the surpassing greatness of His power, which, he says, is in accordance with God’s strength when He raised Christ from the dead. In Ephesians 3:16–20, Paul prays that they would be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man, so that Christ may more fully dwell in our hearts through faith. And in Colossians 1:9–11, he prays that the Colossians would be increasing in the knowledge of God, strengthened with all power, he says, for the attaining of all steadfastness and patience.

And so the power of Christ’s resurrection is the sanctifying power of the Holy Spirit at work within us to equip us to walk in practical holiness. And you know something? That’s something that the Law could never do. Hebrews 7:19 says, “The law made nothing perfect.” The Law had no power to subdue sin. In Romans 7, Paul says the Law only aroused the sin that was in him! And he counts all he had ever known as loss—as refuse—because in the knowledge of Christ he found the resurrection power to walk in newness of life. He found power to overcome sin and temptation. He found power to endure trials. He found power to preach the Gospel. He found power to lay down his life in service to his brothers and sisters. And that same resurrection power is available to us, as we experience Christ’s fellowship in sanctification.


And so, so far from desiring to be holy simply for holiness’ sake, we pursue Christlikeness because there is more of Him to be known—as we become more like Him in our character, in our affections, in our thinking, in our words, and in our actions. It’s as if we can learn more and more to view and live life through Christ’s eyes, tracing His footsteps, as it were, as we follow His example of holiness. This is what it means to know God’s ways. And in knowing God’s ways through Christ, we know more of Him.


And one of the principal means that this happens is through suffering for Christ’s sake. Look again at verse 10: “…that I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to his death.” In our sermon on Philippians 1:29–30, we spoke about how suffering for Christ is a mark of the Christian’s identity. Paul tells us there that it has been granted to every believer, not only to believe, but also to suffer for Christ’s sake. Jesus says, “If they persecuted Me, they’ll persecute you” (John 15:20). Why? “Because you’ll be like Me.” 2 Timothy 3:12, we should know it well by now. Paul says, “All who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” All who experience the power of His resurrection in sanctification and thus live a godly life will know the fellowship of His sufferings. And again, why? Because the darkness hates the light! Because the light of holy living exposes and indicts the sinful lifestyle of the enemies of righteousness.


Paul calls this kind of suffering “being conformed to His death” in the last part of verse 10. He says something similar in 2 Corinthians 4, verses 10 and 11. Turn there briefly. He says, we are “always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. For we who live are constantly being delivered over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.” That is amazing. When you looked at Paul, you were able to see in his body the dying of Jesus—the suffering he endured for the sake of Christ was evident in his body. The toll that it must have taken—the beatings, the stonings, being exposed to the elements in the cold with little clothing. But he says when people see that kind of suffering, they are seeing a testimony to the death of Jesus. When the world looks at Christians and sees them willing to suffer for righteousness’ sake, they can see something of Jesus’ sacrifice of Himself on the cross that they might be saved. And not only do they see the death of Jesus, Paul says that when the world sees Christians rejoicing in suffering—when they see us getting back up for more, just like the Apostles in Acts 5, who when they were beaten, it says “they kept right on preaching Jesus as the Christ!”—when the world sees that, they see the life of Jesus as well. They see the power of His resurrection put on display in an undeniable way! Oh, what a mighty testimony it is to the world when Christians rejoice in suffering for Christ’s sake!


But where does that kind of joy come from? How can we rejoice in our sufferings? The answer Paul gives in our text is that there is fellowship with Christ there! There is communion with Christ there! When we suffer for the same cause of righteousness that the Lord Jesus Himself suffered, He meets us there in that suffering! There is a unique intimacy that we have with Christ when share in His sufferings.


And we understand this even in our relationships with one another. Imagine a young Christian wife who gets pregnant for the first time. And she is thrilled, so excited to become a mom for the first time! She and her husband start thinking of names—“If it’s a boy we’ll name him after your dad and if it’s a girl we’ll name her after my mom,” and so on. They begin to think of themselves now as a family of three, rather than just the two of them. And in a few weeks she tells the relatives and they rejoice with her. And in a few more weeks she begins to show. And then, in the inscrutable wisdom of God, this young mother has a miscarriage. She loses the baby. And she is inconsolable as she mourns the loss of her baby. And she has Christian friends who come alongside her, and seek to minister to her in this deepest of pain. And she appreciates the encouragement and the godly counsel of her friends, but no matter what they say it does little to help.


But then there’s a knock at the door of her bedroom, and in walks a friend who this young wife knows to have had a miscarriage just a few years back. And as their eyes fix upon each other, welling up with tears, they embrace one another, and maybe even without a word spoken between them, a bond is forged between those two women that will last a lifetime. The fellowship and communion that is forged in the sharing of common suffering can’t be captured in words. And how much more, dear friends, in the Christian’s relationship with our Savior! Oh, the sweetness of fellowship and communion that is to be had with Christ on the desert road of suffering!


Isn’t it interesting that you don’t hear people speak about enjoying the deepest and most memorable fellowship with Jesus when everything was going well in their life? Do you ever hear that? No, you don’t. You hear people who have had to bury a child, or people who have had to battle years of cancer and chemotherapy, or people like Joni Eareckson Tada, who we heard at the conference, who has been a quadriplegic for forty-six years and who experiences chronic pain. And they all say that it is in their weakness, in their trial, in their suffering that Jesus was the sweetest to them—that they depended on Him like never before in their lives, and that He showed up and met them like they had never before experienced.


Pastor John puts it this way.  He writes, “The deepest moments of spiritual fellowship with the living Christ are at times of intense suffering; suffering drives believers to Him. They find in Him a merciful High Priest, a faithful friend who feels their pain, and a sympathetic companion who faced all the trials and temptations that they face (Heb 4:15). He is thus uniquely qualified to help them in their weaknesses and infirmities (Heb 2:17)” (MacArthur, 239).


And if that’s the case, friends, don’t sacrifice faithfulness to Christ in order to avoid suffering for His sake! And when suffering comes, don’t waste it by complaining about it or by sinking into despair. Recognize that in that suffering, you have the opportunity to see and know and enjoy the Lord Jesus in an unspeakably unique way. Count the comforts of a conflict-free life as loss for the sake of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus and the sweet fellowship of His sufferings.


III. Enjoying Christ’s Presence in Glorification (v. 11)


And finally, we come, just briefly, the third sphere of knowledge in which we experience personal, intimate communion with Jesus. A saving knowledge of Christ consists not only in tasting Christ’s sufficiency in justification, and not only in experiencing Christ’s fellowship in sanctification, but also, number three: in enjoying Christ’s presence in glorification. Look with me at verse 11: “…in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.” This juxtaposition of suffering and glorification in verses 10 and 11 reminds me of Romans 8:16 and 17. There, Paul writes, “The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him.”


That is what it’s all about, friends. That is the consummation of all of our faith, all of our worship, all of our suffering for Christ’s sake, all of our prayer, all of our fellowship with one another—everything that we base our lives on in this life finds its ultimate fulfillment and consummation in seeing the face of Jesus in a body, and in a world free from the corruption of sin. When our bodies are raised imperishable, freed from the curse of sin, we will enjoy unhindered, face-to-face communion with Christ. That is what will make heaven heaven.


In Psalm 17:15, David says, “As for me, I shall behold Your face in righteousness; I will be satisfied with Your likeness when I awake.” In Job 19, verses 25 to 27, Job says, “As for me, I know that my Redeemer lives, And at the last He will take His stand on the earth. Even after my skin is destroyed, Yet from my flesh I shall see God; Whom I myself shall behold, And whom my eyes will see and not another. My heart faints within me!” Job can barely stand to think that he will see God in his resurrection body! And David again, in Psalm 27:13 – “I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of Yahweh in the land of the living.”


And the hymn writers understand this today as well: “I will glory in my Redeemer / who waits for me at gates of gold. / And when He calls me, it will be paradise…” why? Why will it be paradise? “…His face forever to behold.” And again, “When I stand in glory / I will see His face / There I’ll serve my King forever / in that holy place!”


In verse 11 of Philippians chapter 3, that phrase that the NAS translates as “in order that” is literally, “if perhaps.” I love that. “If perhaps I may attain to the resurrection of the dead.” You say, “Did Paul have doubts about his salvation?” Not in a million years. This was the same man that said that nothing can separate us from the love of Christ (Rom 8:39), who said, in this same letter that God who begins a good work in the believer will bring it forth to completion on the day of Christ (Phil 1:6). “What’s he saying then?” He’s expressing a humble incredulity, that “How could I, Paul, the chief of sinners (1 Tim 1:15), the least of all the apostles, the one who persecuted the church of God (1 Cor 15:9), the one who was so confident in myself and my own filthy rags to take me to heaven—how could I, the very least of all the saints (Eph 3:8), take part in the ultimate triumph of God over death?” And that ought to be the cry of your heart as well. “Me? Unhindered, face-to-face communion with the Lord Jesus? A body free from sin and corruption? A world free from pain and sickness and disease and sadness? How could I, with all my unrighteousness, all my sin—even all my sin as a believer—how could I ever hope to be there?” And of course the answer is: Only by grace. Only by grace.




Dear friend, do you know Christ? Have you apprehended, from the depths of your soul, the surpassing value of knowing Christ?


Have you tasted Christ’s sufficiency in justification?  Can you, along with the Apostle Paul, gladly abandon all your grounds for self-righteousness—all claims to righteousness based on your good works—so that you may gain Christ and be found in Him?


Have you experienced Christ’s fellowship in sanctification? Can you, along with the Apostle Paul face the loss of everything in your life—whether that be money, possessions, prestige, social status, an easy, conflict-free life; even family, if the Lord should will it so; even life itself, if the Lord should will it so—can you experience all that loss and call it gain because of the surpassing value of the fellowship of Christ’s sufferings?


Have you savored the unspeakable delight that will be yours when you will enjoy Christ’s presence in glorification? Has your heart been enraptured with the thought of finally seeing Christ face-to-face, unhindered by sin? Is that what makes heaven heaven for you? And does the joy and the hope of that day cause you to worship Christ in the here and now—to treasure the communion you may have with Him through His sufficient Word?


Oh dear friends, what a wealth of treasure exists in the personal, intimate, experimental knowledge of Christ. Be much in communion with Him. Apart from Him you can do nothing. But as you abide in Him—just as the branches abide in the vine—the sanctifying power of the Holy Spirit works continually in you, so that, as Paul has admonished, you might conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the Gospel.