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

Philippians 3:9–11   |   Sunday, July 5, 2015   |   Code: 2015-07-05am-MR

It has been less than 10 days since the United States Supreme Court issued its ruling. Violating the bounds of its constitutional authority, the highest court in our land bypassed the state legislatures and mandated all 50 states to fundamentally redefine one of the foundational building blocks of civilized society.


We spoke last Lord’s Day about the commentary of Romans chapter 1 on these events: that the institutionalized celebration of homosexuality is itself evidence of the Lord’s wrath already exercised upon our nation. And I exhorted you that the great need of this hour is for the Church of Jesus Christ to be firmly rooted and grounded in the Gospel. Because that very society into which we are sent is tenaciously committed to eradicating the practice of biblical Christianity in the public square—tenaciously committed to inventing ways of getting you to compromise your commitment to the Lord Jesus Christ and His Word.


Like I said, it’s been less than 10 days, and there have already been calls for the removal of all Bible-believing chaplains from the military. One man, the president of the inaptly named ‘Military Religious Freedom Foundation,’ wrote the following: “As long as these . . . chaplains insist on accepting a government paycheck from . . . the American taxpayers, while nurturing and maintaining the state of antagonism between their religion and the sexual/gender identities of servicemembers, then they don’t belong in the military. At this stage, the only honorable thing that these losers can do is to fold up their uniforms, turn in their papers, and get . . . out of the American military chaplaincy. If they are unwilling or too cowardly to do so, then the Department of Defense must expeditiously cleanse itself of the intolerant filth that insists on lingering in the ranks of our armed forces.” In other words, “Celebrate homosexuality against the dictates of your conscience and your religion, or get out of the military.”


Other articles came out calling for the end of tax exemptions for religious institutions. In an article that appeared on Time Magazine’s website, New York Times columnist Mark Oppenheimer wrote, “The Supreme Court's ruling on gay marriage makes it clearer than ever that the government shouldn’t be subsidizing religion and non-profits.” Another writer was even more direct, publishing an article whose argument is in its title: “Does your church ban gay marriage? Then it should start paying taxes.” In other words, in the case of those who actually want to practice their Christianity by remaining faithful to what Scripture says, churches should be stripped of their non-profit status and be forced to pay income and property taxes, and Christians should no longer receive tax exemptions for their giving to those churches.


And in a startling survey conducted by the Barna group, when asked whether religious institutions and clergy should be forced to perform same-sex marriages against their beliefs, as many one in five Americans said yes. When you limit the sample to Americans under 40, that number goes up to one in four.


Now, none of this is a surprise to us. All of this simply illustrates what we’ve known for a long time, and what the Lord Himself promised: John 16:33: “In this world you will have tribulation.” But we finish the verse. Christ promises us tribulation in this world. But then He says, “Take courage; I have overcome the world.” And so we are not fearful. We do not shrink back in the face of a hostile world. As Hebrews 12:3 says, we “consider Jesus, who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, [and] so we [do] not grow weary and lose heart.” We remember, Psalm 2, that the Lord who sits in the heavens laughs, and scoffs at those who would take counsel against Him, saying, “I have installed My King.” King Jesus continues to rule over all.


But the sovereignty of our King does not mean that the pressures and temptations to compromise our loyalty to Christ will not be real. They will be very real, and it seems, at least for some of us, they will be very costly. And so we need to be strengthened, friends. We need to be equipped to withstand those temptations to compromise—equipped to remain faithful to Christ and His Word, no matter what the cost to ourselves.


And to that end, we looked last week to the example of the Apostle Paul in Philippians chapter 3. We saw, in Paul’s spiritual autobiography, the picture of the true Christian and of true and genuine saving faith. We saw a man who lost everything he had for the sake of Jesus Christ. Remember: in coming to Christ, Paul didn’t just abandon all confidence in himself and in his religious credentials to achieve righteousness before God. He also lost all the privileges in life that he would have enjoyed if he didn’t follow Jesus. He was disowned and disinherited by his family. He traded his vocation as a revered 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. Here was a man who had everything that the world prizes and esteems violently taken away from him. And he says, “I count it all as refuse! It’s 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 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 because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ! It is the experimental knowledge of Christ—this living, dynamic, personal, intimate, day-by-day communion with his Savior—that is the reason he could lose everything and count it gain.


And the same is true for us today, dear friends. This personal, intimate knowledge of Christ is that 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! Fellowship with Him is worth more than the approval of my family or the prestige of worldly acceptance! The pleasure of knowing Him is infinitely more satisfying than all of the pleasures that money, and sex, and power, could ever offer me! You can take them! You can have them all! I count them all as worthless in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord!”


How will you be able to withstand the temptations to compromise that come from a society that is increasingly hostile to your commitment to Christ and His Word? By counting the knowledge of Christ as so surpassingly valuable that the value of everything the world offers you, and the value of everything the world threatens to take from you, looks like garbage in comparison to fellowship and communion with Jesus.


Now if that’s the case, we need to ask the question: What precisely 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? What does this saving knowledge of Christ consist in? And that’s the question that our text answers for us this morning. Follow along as I read Philippians 3, verses 9 to 11. And we’ll actually start again in verse 8 to get the flow of thought. Paul writes: “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 on the basis of 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. And Paul delves into some deep theology in these verses not merely to give us a theology lesson—but because our love and affection for Christ will not rise higher than our understanding of His Person and work as our Savior. The heights of our praise will not exceed the depth of our theology. And so Paul writes this passage of Scripture to show that greater understanding of each phase of our salvation provides unique avenues to 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 justification, sanctification, and glorification.


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


First of all: 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’s 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 have only ever been two religions: (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 biblical 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 across three lines.


A. The Source of Righteousness: The Law vs. God


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 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—whether that’s the Law of Moses, or the law of Mohammed, or the law of Buddha, or the pantheon of Hindu gods, or even just the law that he constructs in his own heart, whatever he thinks makes a good person.


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 Law could do was to arouse our sinful passions and demonstrate our inability to do what God commands. 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 the religion of human achievement 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.”


B. The Basis of Righteousness: My Own vs. Christ’s


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, follow me here. Whatever it is that you put your faith in for righteousness is the basis of your righteousness. Well: external to you, the Lord Jesus Christ has accomplished righteousness by His work, by His obedience. And Paul says the true Christian puts his faith Christ’s righteousness for his acceptance before God.


You see, 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 because He does that, He can legally treat you as if you lived Christ’s life, and give 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 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. The religion of human achievement 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.


C. The Means of Righteousness: Works vs. Faith


Well, the source of saving righteousness is God and not the law. The basis of that righteousness is Christ’s work, and not our own. 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.”


Now, 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 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. He says elsewhere that if works have any part of salvation, “grace is no longer grace” (Rom 11:6). Rather than being the ground upon which we boast, faith is “something which looks out[side] 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). You see, faith is not the currency by which we purchase salvation from God; like, “OK God, I’ve believed; now give me the salvation You owe me!” No! Faith is uniquely suited to grace because it is merely the outstretched arm and the empty hand that says, “I’ve got nothing! I’m bankrupt! I receive Your gift of salvation, God.”


Now that is so important, because many people think of faith 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. You ask them why they’re going to heaven, and they say, “Because I believed!” 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. 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; it speaks of the righteousness of God that “depends on” faith. Neither of those adequately represent the Greek text. The original speaks of the righteousness which is by faith, or that comes upon believing.


See, righteousness cannot depend on my faith without that righteousness becoming my righteousness. If saving 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 so when God looks at you, a sinner, He declares you righteousnot because your faith has earned you righteousness, but because Christ has earned righteousness, and He has given you that gift by the means of faith.


Now, why in the world do I go through all of that technical theology? Because unless we understand these truths with the precision with which God has revealed them to us, we could never fully and adequately taste Christ’s sufficiency in justification! We could never know Jesus in the way that we do now, as He is the ground of all our righteousness! Listen: 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 salvation 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! The Good News is not that you are as secure in your salvation as you are faithful! No! The Good News is that you are as secure in your salvation as Christ is righteous!


My fellow believer, do you taste the sufficiency of Christ in your justification?! Do you have spiritual taste-buds that light up when you meditate on the sufficiency of Christ as your righteousness? 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.”


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 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! To know Him as our Great High Priest 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 surpassingly valuable 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 James—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 James 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 spiritual taste buds enlivened 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, justification has as its aim, not just a legal 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.” In Romans 6, 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 he says that that ought to affect the way we live now. Romans 6:4: “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 Christ in His resurrection, is that we might walk in newness of life, in a resurrected life. 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 sanctified nothing. The Law had no power to subdue sin. In Romans 7, Paul says the Law only aroused the sin that was in him! But in the Gospel—in the surpassingly valuable knowledge of Christ—we find the resurrection power to walk in newness of life. We find power to overcome sin and temptation. We find power to endure trials. We find power to preach the Gospel. We find power to lay down our lives in service to our brothers and sisters in the church. Knowing Christ in His resurrection power is to experience Christ’s fellowship in sanctification.


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.” There is a directly proportional relationship between (a) experiencing the sanctifying power of Christ’s resurrection, and (b) suffering for Christ’s sake. Paul says that plainly in 2 Timothy 3:12: “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. Why? Because the darkness hates the light. Because the light of holy living exposes and indicts the sinful lifestyle of the enemies of righteousness. And just as they hated Jesus and persecuted Him, they’ll hate and persecute His followers (John 15:20), because the disciple will become like the teacher, and the slave like his master (Matt 10:25). Friends, are you like your Master?! Are you living godly in Christ Jesus? If you are, then you will know something of the fellowship of Christ’s sufferings.


And: this fellowship with Christ in His sufferings—this is something that Paul longs to know! That’s a secret that we want to learn, isn’t it? We want to learn how we can be strengthened to suffer for Christ’s sake, no matter what the world takes from us. What gives Paul his strength to faithfully endure the desert road of suffering? The answer he gives is that there is fellowship with Christ on that road! There is communion with Christ on that road! Dear friends, 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 camaraderie—a unique intimacy with Christ that we can experience when we 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 child. 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 just 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, then, in the Christian’s relationship with our Savior! How much more is that true in our relationship with Christ! The sweetness of fellowship and communion to be had with Him when we share in His sufferings is beyond words to describe.


And if that’s the case, friends, don’t sacrifice faithfulness to Christ in order to avoid suffering for His sake! Suffering for the cause of Christ, for the truthfulness of His Word, and for the righteousness that He calls us to—that is coming! The political events of the last two weeks have made that abundantly clear! So when that persecution comes, don’t let it tempt you to forsake your faithfulness! Don’t let it sink you 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! Friends, it is worth enduring all manner of hostility and unpleasant circumstances if we get to know Jesus more intimately because of them—if we get to see more of Him in ways we wouldn’t otherwise know! 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, to 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.”


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.” And 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.” 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 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 will it be paradise? “…His face forever to behold.” The surpassing value of knowing Christ comes to its consummation—communion with God is experienced in its fullness—when we finally enjoy Christ’s presence in glorification.


In verse 11 of Philippians 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, “‘If perhaps’? 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, Philippians 1:6. “So what’s he saying then?” He’s expressing a humble incredulity—the same humble disbelief that Job was expressing—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 sin and 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 with all my sin since I’ve been a believer—even with all the sin I’ve committed since I sat here in the house of God this morning!—how could I ever hope to be there?” And of course the answer is: Only by grace. Only on the ground of the righteousness of another.




Dear friend, do you know Christ? Have you apprehended the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus? 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 with a righteousness not your own?


Are you experiencing Christ’s fellowship in sanctification? Can you, with 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; and 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?


And do you savor 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 here and now? Does the eager anticipation of finally seeing His face cause you to pursue the communion you may have with Him now through His sufficient Word?

Oh, what a wealth of treasure exists in the personal, intimate, experimental knowledge of Christ! It is this surpassingly valuable knowledge of Christ that will strengthen you to endure everything that Satan, the world, and the flesh will throw at you. It is this surpassingly valuable knowledge of Christ that will strengthen you to lose everything this life can offer, and cry, “Gain!” Lay hold of this surpassingly valuable knowledge, Grace Church. Be much in communion with your Savior. He is your life.