Fighting for Joy, Growing in Humility, Knowing Christ and the Peace that Passes Understanding: A Study of Philippians: Fighting for Joy, Growing in Humility, Knowing Christ and the Peace that Passes Understanding: A Study of Philippians (33): Knowing the Power of Christ’s Resurrection

Sermon by J. Ligon Duncan on March 23, 2008

Philippians 3:1-11

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The Lord’s Day
March 23, 2008


Philippians 3:1-11


Fighting for Joy, Growing in Humility, Knowing
Christ


and the Peace that Passes Understanding:A Study
of Philippians


“Knowing the Power of Christ’s Resurrection”


Dr. J. Ligon
Duncan III

Amen. If you have your bibles,
let me invite you to turn with me to Philippians chapter 3. We’ve been looking
at this great letter of the apostle to the Philippians for many weeks now, and
we have been especially concentrating on the center part of the letter, which
runs all the way from chapter 1:27 to chapter 2:30. In that central section, the
Apostle Paul has been repeatedly exhorting us to live like Christians. He uses
different language. Sometimes he tells us to remember that we are citizens of a
different kingdom. Sometimes he tells us to live life worthy or fitting the
gospel. Sometimes he exhorts us to have this attitude in ourselves which was in
Christ Jesus. But over and over he is calling us to live out the grace of the
gospel in the Christian life; to be different from the world around us; to be
like Christ; to emulate Christ. In this great section of the book he has
actually pointed us to Jesus Christ in Philippians 2:5-11 and shown the example
of Christ as the pattern for all Christians and how it is that we can live not
seeking our own interests, but putting the interests and the concerns of others
ahead of our own.

And then, in Philippians
2:18-30, he gave us human fleshly personal examples of two godly men, Timothy
and Epaphroditus, who had lived out what it means to be willing to risk your
life for the sake of the gospel and to put the interests of other people ahead
of your own.

And now as we come to
Philippians 3:1-11, we are coming to the final doctrinal portion, the final
teaching portion of the book. Really beginning in verse 12 to the end of the
book, Paul is going to be zeroing in and making exhortations and applications
with an explicit pastoral, practical concern.

But here, especially in verses
7-11, Paul is virtually summarizing the heart of his gospel teaching. Teachers
for many, many hundreds of years have identified this as a culminating point in
the Apostle Paul’s doctrinal teaching in this book. So it’s a very important
passage. But understand that even this doctrinal section is set in the context
of practical concern. What’s the very first thing that he is going to ask
these Philippians to do in verse one? He’s going to ask them to rejoice in the
Lord.

What’s so extraordinary about
this is–these are people who were persecuted, they’re marginalized, and they’re
poor. And their hero, the church planter, missionary, apostle that they love,
who was their pastor, who planted their church, and whom they are supporting
even out of their poverty to go to the ends of the earth with the gospel, he’s
prison. So he’s in prison, they’re persecuted, they’re marginalized, and they’re
poor. And the Apostle Paul’s exhortation to them is, “rejoice in the Lord.”

Now, the Apostle Paul has to
explain to them how it is that in their circumstance they’re going to be able to
rejoice in the Lord. And that’s exactly what he does in verses 1-11.

By the way, I want you to
notice that the Apostle Paul’s message is the exact opposite from the health
and wealth gospel.
The Apostle Paul says the gospel has come to the
Philippians, the grace of God has renovated their lives, the Holy Spirit has
come down, and they are manifesting all sorts of extraordinary gifts of the Holy
Spirit. They are living life in the spirit. They are new creations. They are
part of this kingdom that will never end that God is building up, and therefore,
not they’re healthy, wealthy, constantly happy, never facing
problems.

As a result of all that
happening to them, what has happened? They’re poorer, they’re more persecuted,
they’re more marginalized, they’re more isolated; they’re surrounded by
suffering and hardships on all sides
. What’s his word to them?–Rejoice
anyway
.

It’s the exact opposite from
the health and wealth gospel, which basically says, embrace Christ and
everything gets easy. Embrace Christ and you get a fat wallet. Embrace Christ
and you never have a health crisis again. Embrace Christ and the cancer goes
away.

In reality, it’s embrace
Christ, the joy of the Holy Spirit will flood your life, and your sufferings and
your persecutions and your hardships and your trials and even your poverty won’t
go away. In fact, sometimes it will increase. But you’ll be able to rejoice in
the Lord anyway, and not only in spite of it, but through it, and even because
of it. Because the power of the gospel, the power of the resurrected life of the
Lord Jesus Christ which is in you will shine through and be magnified in all of
that. So the Apostle Paul is going to have to explain to the Philippians why it
is they are supposed to be rejoicing when he is in prison and they’re persecuted
and marginalized and poor. And that’s what he’s going to do in this passage.

Let’s ask God’s help before we
read his word.

Heavenly father, this is Your Word. And we know it is more necessary to us
than the daily bread, the daily food that we eat for man does not live by bread
alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God. So, our Heavenly
Father, we pray that you would feed us this day with what we need most–Your
Word, Your Truth, Your promises, Your gospel. This we ask in Jesus’ name, amen.

Hear God’s word in Philippians
3 beginning in verse 1:

“Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things to you is
no trouble to me and is safe for you. Look out for the dogs, look out for the
evildoers, look out for those who mutilate the flesh. For we are the real
circumcision, who worship by the spirit of god and glory in Christ Jesus and put
no confidence in the flesh–though I myself have reason for confidence in the
flesh also. If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I
have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe
of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a
persecutor of the church; as to righteousness, under the law, blameless. But
whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count
everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my
Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as
rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a
righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through
faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith–that I may
know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings,
becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the
resurrection from the dead.”

Amen. And thus ends this
reading of God’s holy, inspired, and inerrant Word. May He write its eternal
truth upon all our hearts.

We live in important and
serious times. If you are a business man or, heaven forbid, if you are some sort
of a broker or financial planner, you have been on a roller coaster ride in the
last couple of weeks especially. One economist that I heard speaking on Friday
said we are teetering on the brink of the abyss. And Bear Stearns has been
sacrificed and the Federal Reserve is springing into action, and we don’t know
what the U.S. economy and the world economy is going to look like in the days
ahead. We are all holding our breath. They’re serious and important times going
on around us.

There are interesting things
going on in East Asia, aren’t there? China, Tibet, and Taiwan all tantalize us
with what the coming weeks and months may hold. There’s the war that we’ve been
watching in the Middle East and participating in for five long years now. And
then there was a major speech given just a few days ago by one of the political
candidates that some are calling the most important address on race in the
United States given since Martin Luther King’s I Have a Dream speech. All
of these things are very serious and very important, and we don’t know exactly
what the future will hold.

But the Apostle Paul tells us
in this passage that what he is about address us about is the most important
thing in all of life–more important than U.S. and world economy, more important
than wars, more important than international relations, more important than
domestic tranquility. The things that he is about to address are the most
important things in the world.

And there are three things in
particular that I want to draw your attention to from this glorious passage. In
fact, if you’d look especially at verse 8 and 10 and 11. I want to show you
three things that Paul wants us to consider.

First of all, he wants us to
think about what is more valuable than anything else in the world? Paul will
tell you that he wants you to think about that question. What is most valuable
than anything else in the world? In fact, let me put that question pointedly.
What is most valuable to you than to anything else in the world? What is more
valuable to you than anything else in the world?

Second, the Apostle Paul says
that he wants to know more than anything else Christ and the power of His
resurrection. What does that mean? What does it mean to know Christ and the
power of his resurrection? We want to consider that today.

And then, third, the Apostle
Paul wants us to understand that we will not experience the fullness of the
power of Christ’s resurrection in us until something happens that hasn’t
happened yet. And he points our attention to that in verse 11.

I. What is most valuable?

So let me draw your attention
to these three things in this very important passage in which the Apostle Paul
explains to us what is most valuable and important in life. And you’ll see what
he says in answer to that question in verse 8. “I count everything as loss
because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.” The Apostle
Paul is telling us here that to know Christ
savingly is more valuable than anything in this world.
Paul is
telling us that to know Christ savingly is more valuable than anything else in
this world.

Now, I want to say very quickly
what I mean by knowing Christ savingly. I do not mean knowing about Christ. You
can know things about Christ and not know Him savingly just as you can know
things about other human beings and yet not know them personally. You may know
things about the president. You may know things about the various political
candidates that are running for various offices across this state and nation
this year, but you may not at the same time know them personally. You can know
things about Jesus Christ and yet not know Him. You can know that He was born in
Bethlehem. You can know that He was raised in Nazareth. You can know that He
did miracles. You can know that He taught the most sublime teaching on living
life before the face of God ever heard on this planet. You can know that He died
on a tree outside of Jerusalem on a hill called Golgotha. You can know all sorts
of things about Christ without knowing Him.

And the Apostle Paul is saying
that it is more valuable anything else in this world not simply to know about
Christ, but to know Him, to know Him personally, to know Him savingly, and by
knowing Him savingly, the Apostle Paul means this: to know Christ savingly means
that you not simply know things about Him, but you know Him in your trusting
Him, in your loving Him, in your delighting in Him, in your treasuring Him, and
in your worshipping Him. To know Christ is to know Him in all His benefits and
in all His work. And therefore, if you know Christ, you know how valuable He
is.
And because you know how valuable He is, you worship Him, and you
treasure Him, and you delight in Him, and you count everything else in your life
as rubbish.

And Paul uses the word here of
the food that was leftover that was thrown to the dogs. Everything that he had
done in his life could not match the surpassing value of knowing Jesus Christ.
He stacks up all his accomplishments of the past. And so he says to you, “If you
know Christ savingly, you know that He is more valuable than anything in this
world. He’s more valuable than your money and your possessions. He’s more
valuable than your reputation or your vocation. He’s more valuable than your
family, your wife, your children, your parents. He is more valuable than
anything in this life. And all of our blessings and all of our accomplishments
stacked up cannot equal Him.” And the Apostle Paul wants us to know in verses 7
and 8 very clearly that to know Christ savingly is to know that He is more
valuable than anything else in this world.

“Whatever gain I have,” he
says, “I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ.” If you do not know the
value of Christ, if you do not know the preciousness of Christ, if you do not
know the treasure that Christ is, if your heart has not believed in Christ,
trusted on Christ, if you do not worship Christ, you do not know that He is
supremely valuable and therefore you do not know that He is your Savior. Those
who know Christ as Savior know his value. Those who know Christ as the one who
has saved us from our sins and who is our Lord know that He is the most valuable
thing in this world.

The Apostle Paul is pressing
that home on us today. It is unlikely that if you are here today in this
church, that you would have come across this threshold in dogmatic, skeptical
rejection of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ,
but it is
possible that you could have come here today embracing in theory the
resurrection of Christ without knowing the power of the resurrection
.

And the Apostle Paul, if that’s
where you are today, the Apostle Paul is addressing you by saying that to know
Christ is not merely to assent that He was perhaps was resurrected 2,000 years
ago, but it is to know Him as the most valuable thing in this world without
which everything else means nothing. And so that’s the first thing that the
apostle wants to press home to us today–that to know Christ savingly is more
valuable than anything else in this world.

II. To know Christ in the power
of His resurrection

But the second thing the
Apostle Paul draws our attention to, and you’ll see this in verse ten, is that
to know Christ savingly is to know Him in the power of His resurrection. The
Apostle Paul says, “This is what I want to do. I want
to know him and the power of His resurrection and share in His sufferings
becoming like Him in His death.” The Apostle Paul there tells us that to
know Christ and to know Christ savingly is to know him in the power of His
resurrection. The question all of us need to be asking is, “What
in the world does that mean? What does it mean to know Christ in the power of
his resurrection?”

Well, let me suggest that from
the context the Apostle Paul clearly means three things. You look at verses 8and
9 and 10, I think you’ll see exactly what he’s talking about.

First of all, the Apostle Paul
makes it clear that to know the power of Christ’s resurrection means to know
the forgiveness of sins
. By the resurrection of Jesus Christ, we are
forgiven. By the resurrection of Christ we are justified. God has raised Him
from the dead that we might be forgiven the sins and the punishment due our
sins. By Christ’s perfect life and full obedience and by His death on the cross,
God has judged and sentenced and condemned and punished all the sins of all
those in this world who believe in and trust on Jesus Christ, from every tribe,
tongue, people and nation, men and women and boys and girls. All who trust in
Him have their sins condemned and punished in Him and have His righteousness
accredited to Him. And it is the resurrection that displays this verdict of God.

Think of how the Apostle Paul
puts it in verses 8 and 9. “For His sake I have suffered the loss of all things
and count them as rubbish in order that I may gain Christ and be found in Him,
not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which
comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on
faith.”

In other words, the Apostle
Paul is saying that by the power of the resurrection he has been forgiven. When
God raised His Son from the dead, He not only pronounced that His Son was
perfect, He announced that Paul was forgiven because Paul was trusting in His
Son.

And so the Apostle Paul is
saying, “If you know the power of the resurrection, one thing you will know is
that your sins are forgiven in Jesus Christ.”

Have you ever been around a
young Christian upon whom that realization has just dawned, and they cannot get
over it because they know intensely the reality of their guilt, and they know
that their guilt deserves punishment. They know that their sin needs to be
condemned, ought to be condemned, and it has suddenly dawned on them that God
has forgiven them. He hasn’t sent them on some sort of pilgrimage in which they
self-flagellate and atone for themselves. He has freely forgiven them in Jesus
Christ, and they are ecstatic with the experience of freedom. That is the power
of resurrection.

If I could give you an analogy,
an illustration, of that–Imagine an outstanding young woman. She’s intelligent.
She has her whole future before her. She is the Salutatorian of her class. It’s
the last month of her high school. And on a particular day a tragic accident
happens. It is an accident. She is not neglectful. She is not negligent. But,
there is a terrific traffic accident in which she is involved, and in which she
is at fault with regard to the driving of her vehicle and someone dies. Well,
tragedy is added to tragedy and in their grief, the other family brings charges
against her and charges are lodged in court against her for vehicular
manslaughter. Her family realizes that her whole life may be changed and
compromised because of this particular charge. She could spend time in prison if
this sentence is rendered against her guilty. The trial goes on. The sentencing
and the deliberation of the jury goes on. The hours of jury deliberation seem
like days and weeks and months, and finally the verdict comes in, and the
verdict is, “Not Guilty”. They had been imagining their precious, intelligent,
bright daughter sitting in a jail somewhere. They had been imagining her not
able to pursue her career in medicine or law or to be a mother and a wife; to
graduate from college and to do all the things that they had dreamt of her
doing, but now all of those horrible possibilities are evaporated in the
sentence of “Not Guilty”.

The Apostle Paul is saying, “Do
you understand what has happened?–for three days Christians have watched this
grave in which the One who they thought was the Messiah of Israel was lying. And
suddenly on the third day, He was raised again from the grave, and God
pronounced “Not Guilty”. My Son is just. He has done nothing wrong. He is
perfect and therefore because he is perfect all of you have trust in Him–you are
forgiven and you receive His not guilty verdict, too.” It says if the heavenly
Father looks down and He says to us, “My Son is perfect and therefore your sins
are forgiven as you trust in Him.”

And the Apostle Paul says, “If
you have known the power of your sins and you have repented and have trusted in
Jesus Christ, then you know the power of the resurrection in the gracious
forgiveness of sins by the loving and almighty God which comes only through
faith in Jesus Christ.”

That’s not all Paul is saying.
In this whole section, Paul is talking about living the Christian life, isn’t
he? He’s not just talking about justification. He’s talking about
sanctification. He’s not just talking about our being accepted as righteous.
He’s talking about our being changed into becoming more like Jesus Christ.

And so he is also pressing home
the truth that to know the power of Christ’s resurrection is to know the power
of new life in us. Look at what he says in verse 10–“That I may know Him and the
power of His resurrection and may share His sufferings becoming like Him in his
death.”

What does that passage remind
you of–becoming like Him in his death? It might remind you of Romans chapter 6,
especially verses 3-13, one part of which reads like this: “Do you not know that
all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death.
We were buried, therefore, with Him, by baptism, into death in order that, just
as Christ was raised from the dead, by the glory of the Father, we too might
walk in newness of life.”

In other words, the Apostle
Paul is telling us there that Christ’s resurrection not only results in our
forgiveness, it also results in our lives being changed; in our being different
people; in our walking in newness to life.

And this is what the Apostle
Paul is saying when he says that he wants to know the power of Christ’s
resurrection. He wants to know the saving, changing, maturing, growing effects
of the Holy Spirit applying the power of Christ’s resurrection to his life so
that he is more and more like Christ.

But that’s not all. Notice what
else he says. He says, “That I may know him in the power of his resurrection and
may share in his sufferings.” The Apostle Paul is saying that to know the power
of Christ’s resurrection is to embrace the suffering and hardships of this world
as God’s school of Christ-likeness.

It’s really quite amazing. The
Apostle Paul is saying to himself and the Philippians and to you and me, “You
are living in a fallen world. It is filled with sin. You going to experience
trials and troubles, tribulations and hardships, sorrows and suffering.”

And the Apostle Paul is saying.
“Lord, I don’t want one of those experiences of trials and hardships that you
have brought into my life to be wasted in terms of making me more like Jesus
Christ. I want all of my sufferings to make me more and more like the Lord
Jesus Christ. I want to know the power of His resurrection at work in me even in
the most difficult trial.”

When the diagnosis of cancer
comes, when the trouble in the home comes between husband and wife, children and
parents, when difficulties in the job come, when strife comes between friends or
acquaintances or colleagues; when persecution comes; when trials or hardships of
various sorts come, the Apostle Paul is saying that to know the power of
Christ’s resurrection is to embrace the sufferings and hardships of this world
as God’s school of Christ-likeness.

He’s saying Christian, you
cannot look at the sufferings in your life apart from the power of Christ in the
gospel. God intends those sufferings to produce something. And the something
that he intends them to produce is Christ-likeness.

And so the Apostle Paul says,
“I don’t want one iota of my suffering to be wasted on the ultimate goal of my
maturing to be more like Christ. So that to know the power of Christ’s
resurrection is to know the forgiveness of sins, is to know the Holy Spirit
working in us to become more like Christ and it is to know even our
trials as instruments of God’s grace to grow us up to be more like Jesus.”

And so the Apostle Paul says
that to know Christ savingly is to know Him in the power of his resurrection and
to know Him in the power of His resurrection is to know forgiveness; is to know
growth in grace; and it is to know being ready even to face our trials with a
view to becoming more like Jesus Christ.

III. To know Christ savingly is
to long for His power to be perfected in the day of His coming

But there’s one last thing that
the Apostle Paul has to say and you see it in verse 11. It’s rather strange,
isn’t it? I’ve been pondering this passage for a couple of weeks now. I’ve
really, really worked hard at it. Maybe you’ve had the same reaction that I do
when Paul says that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the
dead.

Now, what puzzled me about this
verse is the Apostle Paul talking about the possibility of the his attaining the
resurrection of the dead when we know that Paul himself elsewhere and Jesus and
Judiasm for at least 500 years before Jesus’ and Paul’s time had openly taught a
resurrection –a doctrine of the general resurrection. There was a belief that
all people, believers and unbelievers, were going to be raised again from the
dead.

And so I was puzzled a little
bit about the Apostle Paul talking about attaining the resurrection. Well, what
in the world does Paul mean by saying that by all means if possible he might
attain the resurrection? What Paul is saying here is that he recognizes that in
this life, despite the fact of the power of Christ’s resurrection is already at
work changing him to make him more like Jesus, that that process is never ever
going to be completed until the day of the resurrection when Jesus comes and he
is raised in a glorious, immortal body and when he lives and fellowships with
Christ forever, body and soul, in his resurrected state entirely free from sin.
And until that day he is going to have a battle with sin. Until that day he is
going to continue to have to fight the fight of faith against sin in him.

In other words, Paul is saying
that to know Christ savingly is to long for His power to be perfected in the day
of His coming; for His power to be perfected in you in the day of His coming.
Paul knows that progress in sanctification never reaches perfection in this
life, and therefore, every Christian, no matter how spiritual, no matter how
godly, always has to pray the prayer of John–“Come, Lord Jesus, come quickly”.
Paul wants to see a final end to sin in him, but he knows that to see that he’s
going to have to await the final resurrection. Only when his final resurrection
to glory comes will he see a final end to sin.

Now, it’s very important for us
to understand that the Apostle Paul, too, just like Jesus and just like the Old
Testament makes it clear that there is going to be one general resurrection, but
there are going to be to ends to that resurrection. There is going to be a
resurrection to glory and to forgiveness and perfection and newness of life and
everlasting bliss. And there is going to be a resurrection to judgment and
condemnation and everlasting punishment.

And the Apostle Paul wants us
to understand that only those who know Christ savingly will be raised to that
glory, will be raised to that fellowship, will be raised to that freedom from
sin, and the freeness of liberty and grace and a life of fellowship
.
Those who do not know Christ savingly will be raised to judgment and
condemnation.

And, my friend, if you’re here
today and you don’t know Christ savingly–you don’t know Christ savingly in the
forgiveness of your sins, you don’t know Christ savingly in that you long more
than anything else in this world to be like Him and you treasure Him more than
anything else in this world, and if you don’t know Christ savingly and the
power of His resurrection
even in your sufferings, then you are yet
awaiting the resurrection to judgment
. And the only way, the only way to
escape that judgment to come and to know the joy that the Apostle Paul is
teaching us about here is to know Christ. Not to know about Him, but to know
Him, to trust Him, to believe in Him, to accept His promises, to embrace His
gospel, to treasure Him more than life, to put all of your hope in Him, and for
all who trust in Him, there yet is a resurrection to glory and to hope and to
joy.

May god bless his Word. Let’s
pray.

Our Heavenly Father, we thank You for this word and we ask that You work it
deep into our hearts and that we would respond in faith to Your gospel. And we
ask now that You would help us to sing in faith, even as we sing that every joy
and trial comes from above because there is nothing more precious, O God, than
knowing Jesus Christ. And if our trials will help us know Him more, then, O God,
grant that we would respond to them and have victory over them in faith in the
One who loved us and
gave Himself for us. We ask this in Jesus’
name, amen
.

Now take
your hymnals in hand and turn with me to number 699, “Like a River Glorious”.

[The
congregation stands to sing.]

The
grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, be with your spirit.

© 2019 First Presbyterian Church.

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