A man and wife relationship often begins with Courtship, which lasts for a while, after which the marriage proper follows. Altogether, these two events span many years and the two parties gradually begin to “know” each other—a knowledge that they would never attain if they weren’t daily interacting and communing in an open-hearted fashion. The relationship with our bridegroom isn’t very different. After we may have known him in a perfect understanding of the Godhead (A perfect understanding of who He is, and what He represents to us), which is eternal life, then we begin to grow in the knowledge of Him.
The Apostle Peter speaks about the attributes that make a mature believer and highlighted “Knowledge” as one of them (2 Peter 1:5). We are quick to narrow down this knowledge to “understanding mysteries” which is undoubtedly a part of it, albeit, only a part of it. Frankly, the knowledge of Jesus Christ is a progressive and inexhaustible endeavor that goes on throughout the Christian walk. As you walk with him, you attain newer knowledge of him that you weren’t acquainted with before. The question then is, why do these various stages of knowledge have to be stepwise, aren’t they just available in the word? Yes, they verily are. However, Jesus Christ our groom brings them to us one at a time, till we gain him.
I have often wondered why the great Apostle Paul, whose effort and devotion remains unmatched in the history of Christian mission, would make a statement as seen below:
Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win (gain) Christ.—Philippians 3:8
Paul during his lifetime of labor for Christ declares this ambition that leaves you wondering; why would he say he had a goal to “win” Christ despite all he had done in terms of sacrifice, denial, and commitment? Hadn’t he already won Christ? Later down the line, I discovered that this ambition was not unique to Paul but was a shared passion amongst the early church, who are our example of a perfect Church. Of particular note is Ignatius of Antioch, who was said to have succeeded Apostle Peter as the Bishop of Antioch Church. He made a similar statement while in the custody of his captors going from Syria to Rome.
In his words:
“Now I begin to be a disciple. I care for nothing, of visible or invisible things, so that I may but win Christ. Let fire and the cross, let the companies of wild beasts, let breaking of bones and tearing of limbs, let the grinding of the whole body, and all the malice of the devil, come upon me; be it so, only may I win Christ Jesus!“—Ignatius of Antioch, AD 108
You wouldn’t need to read too far before it dawns what these devout men meant by “gaining Christ”. Clearly, they indicated that gaining Christ is a victory that’s won only at the end of a Christian’s walk. They insinuate that you haven’t won Christ while you are still here on earth, fighting to attain to the first resurrection from the dead. Therefore, winning Christ becomes the true ambition of every Christian, an ambition that culminates in the voice of the Master saying “Well done, thou good and faithful servant…”
Clearly, they indicated that gaining Christ is a victory that’s won only at the end of a Christian’s walk. They insinuate that you haven’t won Christ while you are still here on earth, fighting to attain to the first resurrection from the dead.
His Knowledge Is Brought To Us In An Experiential Way.
There is no discussing around knowing a man without experiencing that man. Experiencing such individual means encountering the specific aspects of that person that you have come to know. Association does not necessarily mean Knowledge. God does not want his children to be merely associated with Him, rather to “know” Him. There might be people in your life with whom you are associated but have not experienced them in a certain way, therefore you may not say you know them in such regard. You may have heard people say: “I do not know him in that respect“. This is because they haven’t experienced that person in that particular context of interest.
Let’s consider what Paul says in the scripture earlier quoted again.
8. Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ,—Philippians 3:8-11
9. And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith:
10. That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death;
11. If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead.
A commentary on the bible verse, for the phrase “That I may Know him…” sheds a brighter light on this “knowing”: That I may indeed feel him, and have an experience of him. With this in mind, let’s read verses 8a and 10 merged—which is actually the complete sentence Paul was projecting.
“Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.“There is therefore no ‘knowledge’ unless there has been an ‘experiencing.’
In this golden chapter, Paul gave 3 key angles to the Knowledge of Christ he aspires to attain. Let us see what each is, and the relevance they hold to our Christian walk.
To Know Him……
1. In The Power Of His Resurrection
That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection—Apostle Paul
The very phenomenon of Christ being crucified and raising up again with a new Life speaks figuratively to the experience every child of God would have to partake of. Seeing that He was made sin for us, He died just as we were dead in sins (Ephesians 2:1), He then was raised up to a New Life, where he couldn’t die again and lives forever (Revelation 1:18). This is exactly how we also were dead in sins and trespasses (Ephesians 2:1), but He then quickened us (resurrected) us to a New Life (Ephesians 2:5-6). How? Through the power that worketh within us. What power? The power of His resurrection (the quickening power).
Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;)—Ephesians 2:5
The trouble is, there are many professing Christians who have not known Him in the power of His resurrection because they have not experienced “the New Life”. It is only following this experience that you may say that “I know Him In the Power of His resurrection.” Therefore, knowing him in the power of His resurrection is to experience a New Life which was formerly impossible when you were dead in sin, but is now made possible by the power of His resurrection that now works within us. It isn’t you who struggles to live that New Life experience, it is according to the power that works within you.
2. Knowing Him…In The Fellowship Of His Sufferings
There is an inheritance promised by Christ to all who will believe on Him—the fellowship of His suffering. The word fellowship infers that it is a common occurrence amongst believers—a suffering that all true believers share in common (2 Timothy 3:12). While He was in the world, He suffered as the Head of the Church but there is a need for His body to suffer as well. This is to complete His suffering.
Note: The atoning work Christ wrought through His death is a perfect work and it is complete with no addition necessary.
For by one sacrifice, He has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.—Hebrews 10:14
However, the suffering of the Head is incomplete if the Body does not suffer. Examine how Paul expresses this thought in the bible verse below:
Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh, I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of His body, that is, the church,—Colossians 1:24
Paul isn’t making a sacrilegious statement that diminishes the completion of the “atoning” work of Christ, rather He understands that the affliction of Christ will not be complete if the members of the body also do not suffer just as He did.
This is an aspect of the knowledge of Christ that we find rarely preached in the modern day Christendom. Christ, while He was yet on earth had a suffering—a suffering to which He was subjected; and knowing Him in the fellowship of His suffering is a rare gift that Christ has promised everyone who has come to believe on Him. Why is it a “gift”? Because it is a “prerequisite” to reigning with Him. Just as Christ had to suffer before He’d inherit the glory set ahead of Him, so must we! Not everyone is counted worthy to partake of this rare gift. Recall how the disciples rejoiced at this rare gift given them? (Acts 5:41)
The knowledge of Him In his suffering doesn’t necessarily speak alone to beheading and killings for His namesake, it today includes the everyday societal castigation, segregations, denial of rights and benefits, disregard and disdain, disrespect, sidelining from subordinates and friends all for no other reason than that one carries the rare Faith of our Lord Jesus Christ. At the point you begin to experience these for this particular reason, you are beginning to have “The knowledge of him in the fellowship of His suffering”. Should you hide the Faith because you do not want to be part of that fellowship of His sufferings, have no doubts about it, you may also not be able to know Him when his glory will be revealed.
We will look at the last part of the Knowledge of our Lord in the next review.
Continuation: The Knowledge of Him in His Death