“I desire to have a richer and more complete knowledge of Christ, and the power by which He was raised from the grave; to share in His sufferings and have my nature continuously transformed through His life and His death, in the hope that I may attain the reward of life from among the dead.” (paraphrased)
“That I may know Him” is Paul’s heart cry for greater knowledge via intimate communication with Christ. Comprehending Jesus begins by being born again and serving Him throughout one’s life. During his thirty years of strenuous ministry, Paul learns the meaning of suffering for Jesus’ sake (Acts 9:16). Although Paul probably anticipates a violent death at the hands of his enemies, he is not a fatalist who yearns for more incarcerations, shipwrecks and snakebites. Paul bears in his body the sufferings of the Lord, that the life of Jesus may manifest in his own life (II Cor. 4:10). Paul considers himself buried and resurrected with Him (Col. 2:12-13). He has been willingly “crucified with Christ” and never regrets his decision (Gal. 2:20).
To “know Him” involves becoming better acquainted with His nature, character and plan of salvation. To understand, through experiential knowledge, the dynamics of His resurrection power must be our desire as well. But to know and experience Jesus fully, we must enter into “the fellowship pf His sufferings.” When Jesus calls His disciples to the crucified life, “many walk no more with Him” (John 6:66). Although Christians in America are seldom beaten, stoned or martyred for their faith, strong identification with Christ often brings reproach.
Paul shows the knowledge of Christ does not rest upon religious position or education (vv. 3-7). To “know Him” is a term that bespeaks spiritual sincerity, picturing one who expresses the heartfelt desire for a deeper and more complete fellowship with our Lord. Every day we prove the depth of our relationship with Him by the company we keep, the jokes we tell and the things we view.
The term “conformed” implies more than just identifying with Jesus. It carries the idea that His qualities must permeate us, resulting in radical inward transformation. Paul has in mind conformity to the same spirit of submission and obedience Christ exemplifies. Although he is facing death, Paul seeks to be like his Lord by exhibiting a selfless life.
Conforming to Christ’s death includes the process of sanctification, for eternal rewards are promised exclusively to those who lead a holy life (Hebrews 12:14). Only by conforming to His death can we obtain everlasting life. It is this joyful expectation that motivates Paul, even while incarcerated. With courage and consistency, he perseveres toward the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus (v. 14).
The phrase “if by any means” does not imply Paul has doubts about his own resurrection, but rather reflects his uncertainty concerning the outcome of his impending trial. This clause indicates Paul is determined, despite reproach and humiliation, to reach the goal of a more comprehensive understanding of Jesus Christ.
“That I may attain” is also a phrase that requires further explanation. Paul does not doubt he will one day reach heaven, but merely states his disparity between the promise of heaven and the reality of physically being there. He knows there is only a short interval between aspiration and attainment.
For Paul and hundreds of thousands of believers across the centuries, heaven is reached through martyrdom. In these two verses, Paul points out what an honor and a privilege it is to know Jesus, and if need be, to literally conform to His death. Since the hope of heaven is an intimate part of the plan of salvation, we must keep an eye on heaven as we endure suffering for the cause of Christ.
EXPECTATION – STUDY QUESTIONS
1. In verse 10, Paul, either directly or indirectly, refers to:
A. conformity to Christ’s death
B. the fellowship of His sufferings
C. the power of His resurrection
D. the Incarnation
E. A, B and C
2. Being conformable to Christ’s death includes:
B. identification with Christ
D. seeking Christ’s characteristics
E. all of the above
3. The power of Christ’s resurrection is best exemplified by:
A. the stone being moved away the tomb (Matthew 28:2)
B. the amazement of the women (Mark 16:8-9)
C. His words to the penitent thief on the cross (Luke 23:43)
D. what He said to doubting Thomas (John 20:27-29)
E. the fact that He is alive today
EXPECTATION – REFLECTION
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS FOR COUPLES
1. Paul’s heart cry is “to know Him” more completely. In what ways do you and your spouse pro-actively seek to know Jesus more intimately?
2. Paul looks forward to being in the company of the resurrected saints in heaven (v. 11). Discuss with your mate aspects of heaven that are the most interesting to you.
3. Discuss with your sweetheart your degree of willingness to conform your life to the character of Christ. List areas of needed improvement.
ESSAY QUESTIONS FOR INDIVIDUALS:
1. Paul’s heart cry is “to know Him” more completely. List ways you pro-actively seek to know Jesus more intimately.
2. Paul looks forward to being in the company of the resurrected saints in heaven (v. 11). List aspects of heaven that are the most interesting to you.
3. Write a paragraph concerning your degree of willingness to conform your life to the character of Christ. List areas of needed improvement.