I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and
the fellowship of his sufferings, becoming conformed unto
his death" (Philippians 3:10).
There are few words in his writings which reveal how
committed to the Lord Jesus this man was. The whole
context is one consummate outpouring of his heart to the
One whom he said had "apprehended" him, and he
focuses all in a brief half sentence: "That I may
The impressive thing about this expressed ambition is the
time at which it is made. Here is a man who has had a
revelation and knowledge of Jesus Christ greater than any
other man up to that time. That knowledge commenced
whence as he said, "it pleased God to reveal his Son
in me". That beginning devastated him, and sent him
into the desert to try to grasp its implications. Later
he had been "caught up into the third heaven and
shown unspeakable things, which (he said) were not
lawful to be uttered". Between, and around those two
experiences, there is evidence of an ever growing
knowledge of Christ. Here, after all that, near the end
of his life, he is crying passionately: "That I may
The very least that we can say about this is that the
Christ in view was a very great Christ indeed, who
outstrips the greatest capacity and comprehension of man.
This stands in such tremendous contrast to the limited
Christ of our recognition and apprehension! How very much
more there is in Christ than we have ever seen! But we
must break down our verse. It is divided by its main
words, and can be stated in its four phrases.
(1) The all-governing passion: "That I may know
(2) The effectual power: "The power of his
(3) The essential basis: "The fellowship of his
(4) The progressive principle: "Conformed to his
THE ALL-GOVERNING PASSION
I may know him."
little study in words is both helpful and necessary. In
the original language of the New Testament there are two
words for 'knowing' or 'knowledge' or 'to know'. They run
in numerous occasions and connections right through the
One of these words has the meaning of knowledge by
information; being told, reading, by report. It is more
the knowledge which comes by observation, study,
searching, or talk. It is rather knowledge about things,
persons, etc. The other word carries the meaning of
personal experience, intimate acquaintance; and inward
knowledge. Sometimes there is a prefix which gives the
meaning of "full knowledge" (epi). The second
of these words and meanings is that which Paul is using
and employing here: 'That I may have or gain more of the
knowledge of Him which is personal experience by personal
acquaintance, by living, firsthand relationship with
This removes everything from the realm of mere theory,
the intellect, and being told. It is the result and
effect of an act of the Holy Spirit within. That is why
Paul links with this knowledge "the power of his
resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings".
It is powerful knowledge, born of deep experience. And
this is the only true knowledge of Christ! It is
planted or wrought deep in the inner life.
THE EFFECTUAL POWER
power of his resurrection."
is a future aspect of the whole statement, that
is, the consummation in glory, we must understand
that in each of these phrases Paul is thinking of this
life. Even in the next verse, where he speaks of attaining
to the "outresurrection from among the dead",
he is thinking primarily of present spiritual and moral
out-raising. He had known something of this power
already. His conversion was such. Again and again, in
what he called "deaths oft" he had known it.
Perhaps greatest of all were his experiences in Asia and
Lystra (II Corinthians 1:9; Acts 14:19-20).
Resurrection power and life are the knowledge of
Christ. This is how we know Him, and this is available
for every believer. It is for endurance, for overcoming,
for fulfilment of ministry, for maintaining the Lord's
testimony in the world; for every need which demands it
in relation to the interests and glory of Christ. It puts
life on a supernatural basis. It is the power of His
resurrection, the greatest miracle in history.
THE ESSENTIAL BASIS
fellowship of his sufferings."
connection there are some things that we must at once set
aside. There were sufferings of Christ which we do not
share, and are not called upon to share, although
sometimes there seems to be a very fine and thin line
We do not share the atoning sufferings of Christ. There
is a whole realm of suffering which was His alone. The
work of man's redemption was His alone, for us.
When He who was without sin was made sin for us He was
alone, even God-forsaken in that eternal moment. Upon
that fact the whole truth of His unique Person hangs, and
the whole system of perfect sacrifice rests; the spotless
But when all that is accepted and established, there are
sufferings of Christ in which we have fellowship with
Him. We also, for His sake, may be despised and
rejected of men. We can be discredited, ostracised,
persecuted, mocked, tortured, and even
"killed", both in an act and "all the day
long". Paul speaks of a residue of Christ's
sufferings which he was helping to fill up for "His
body's sake which is the church". This is another,
and different, area and system of suffering. Paul looked
upon this as an honour and something in which to rejoice,
because it was for the One whom he so deeply loved. But
he also saw that this suffering with and for
Christ provided the basis for knowing Christ and the
power of His resurrection This Apostle would agree that
only those who know this fellowship truly know the
Lord. We know that! It is perfectly evident that real
usefulness in a spiritual way comes out of the winepress,
and "they that have suffered most have most to
give" There is nothing artificial about the fruit of
THE PROGRESSIVE PRINCIPLE
conformed unto his death."
important in understanding the Apostle to realise that he
was not thinking of conformity to Christ's death as the
end of all else. His real meaning was that he should
increase in the knowledge of Christ, know the power of
His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings by
becoming conformed to His death. His death - Christ's -
was behind, something at the beginning, and the spiritual
history of the believer is a working back to what
that death meant. It meant the end of the "old
man", crucifixion to the world mind and will; the
closing of the door to a whole system which was not
Christ-centered and Christ-governed.
All this had been stated and presented in Paul's earlier
letters; but it was a meaning which had to be
progressively made real and true in spiritual experience.
The meaning of Christ's death - Paul taught - was to be
the inner history of the believer, and this would work
out - progressively - in the power of His resurrection
and the fellowship of His sufferings. So that, by
being conformed to His death, he would come to the fuller
knowledge of Him and of that Divine power. It is ever so.
The all-governing passion opens the way for the
effectual, and effectuating power, by the essential
basis, through the progressive principle of conformity to
"A Witness and A Testimony", September-October,
1969, Volume 47-5.