Lots of people are brought back from the dead in the Bible. Elijah did one such miracle in the OT. In Jesus’ ministry, He raised at least 3 people. In this series, we have been saying that the resurrection of Jesus is in no way an assumed or given fact, The early disciples struggled to believe that it is possible for one man to come back from the dead (and never die again). This disbelief is one of the strongest proof of the truth of the resurrection. Nobody found this coming back from the dead easy.
But how was Jesus’ resurrection different from the others who have been brought back, like Lazarus’? What was the effect of Jesus’ resurrection? More importantly for us, what is this power? How do we “obtain it”?
(A) The meaning of resurrection power: the risen Christ manifesting His present and future glory in us (Phil 3:10-11)
In this section of Phil 3, Paul speaks of “the power of His resurrection” and focuses on one aspect: He wants to “know Him” (Phil 3:10). Resurrection power is something that can be known. In fact this is Paul’s goal. What does this mean? In our day, we speak of power but we rarely associate it with knowing. We think of it as something we experience. But the OT and NT place a premium on knowing who God is. Jer 9:23-24 tell us that it’s not about how smart, wise and rich you are. The thing worth boasting in is a knowledge of the God who practices steadfast love, justice and righteousness in this earth. God in the OT tells the people that if they want to be happy or proud in something, it is this: that they are a knower of God, and knowing God results in the delight of God.
Eternal life, as explained by Jesus, is knowing God and Jesus whom God has sent (c.f. John 17:3). Paul in Phil 3 is just echoing something that the Bible has been saying all along. Yet, if we are honest, many of us want to know about Him and know about the power of His resurrection. This is not what Paul is saying! What Paul says implies an experience.Resurrection power must be experienced.
According to Paul, this power generally takes place in suffering (Phil 3:10b). Paul somehow reads his own life into Jesus’ life (Phil 3:11). Or, he is reading Jesus’ life into his life. He interprets his current life experience to what Jesus experienced. What will it do? Somehow through the suffering, Paul wants to become like Christ. You see, we can only know the same resurrection power if we’ve experienced the same kind of death. To put it in another way, you cannot know resurrection power if you’re still alive.
Paul in 2 Cor 4:16-5:4 expresses the heart of the Christian who wants to follow God here on earth but struggles with a heart, body and flesh that reminds him that he is still in a fallen world. He calls this state “groaning” and looks forward to a day when he leaves aside this earthly life and puts on the resurrection life. He is saying that we are not leaving this life only to be naked, but in fact, “what is mortal may be swallowed up by life” (2 Cor 5:4).
Resurrection power is the work of God in the life to come that reaches into our present and brings us into a union with Him. When Jesus ascended after being raised, for the first time ever, a piece of earth entered heaven. But at the same time, when Jesus was resurrected, there was a piece of heaven on earth too. Jesus joined heaven and earth.
Resurrection power is working in us now. We experience it as the effects of being born again and we also experience in the sufferings that we face. Paul prayed this same power for the Christians in the epistle to the Ephesians (c.f. Eph 1:16-20) . None of us would be comfortable with this. We understand the resurrection power that raised Jesus from the dead in the past, and also trust that it will happen in the future. But what about now? We will struggle to see. But Paul, writing in prison, writes about a present resurrection power that can be experienced in his present circumstances in the here and now.
(B) The man (and woman) experiencing resurrection power: knowing and valuing the risen Christ above all (Phil 3:7-8)
Paul reason through the worth of Christ versus everything else in Phil 3:7. Everything that is not Christ is worthless and has no value. He describes it as rubbish or “dung” Instead, he sees Christ as being one with a “surpassing worth” and seeks to gain Christ. He is speaking of seeing Jesus and all that Jesus is with such a high, inestimable worth. He would do anything to get it! What used to be meaningful and of value, he now counts as nothing.
Paul is taking steps to knowing and treasuring Jesus. He reasons through his past, present and future with Christ-centred lenses.
He is asking for more of Jesus and when he sees more of Jesus, everything else fades away. To understand everything as loss and worthless, like dung, first, you need to understand the surpassing worth of Jesus. This is not what the world in all its wisdom does! In our churches today, we speak of Christ, but perhaps we rarely speak of Him as treasure. We will do well to consider the way Paul, and the hymn writer of the hymn “Be Thou My Vision” speak of Christ:
“Be thou my vision, O Lord of my heart;
Naught be all else to me, save that thou art -
Thou my best thought, by day or by night;
Waking or sleeping, thy presence my light. “
“Riches I heed not, nor vain, empty praise;
Thou mine inheritance, now and always;
Thou and thou only first in my heart,
High King of heaven, my treasure thou art.”
Does that describe you? Would you be able to say with Paul that because you know who Jesus is, know what He is like and know what He has done that everything is worthless? Would you leave everything – the good and the sins you’ve done – in order to gain Jesus? Why does our vision of Jesus look so hazy? Why does it only last 20 mins after a good sermon, and then it disappears? It is because it is not home yet.
There will be a day when all our heart’s desire will be Christ.
(C) The means of resurrection power: through faith, in union with the risen Christ (Phil 3:9)
What does it look like to know Christ on a daily basis? What are we to intentionally seek? Paul speaks of his access to Christ as to “be found in Him”. Christians call this the doctrine of union with Christ and means that the Christian is joined to Christ.
Everything that happened to Jesus happened to me.
Everything that happens to me, happens to Jesus.
Everything that will happen to Jesus, will happen to me.
The tenses in the sentences above are important. It speaks of our past, present and future.
As a result of this access, Paul has:
“not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law” (Phil 3:9b)
“But that which comes through faith in Christ” (Phil 3:9c)
“The righteousness from God that depends on faith” (Phil 3:9c)
When we have that righteousness from Him, we are joined to Him.
The Christian life is not just about ceasing to do bad things and only good things. This is the law. The Christian life is a call to stop bad things, and stop my good things because everything about me is dead. Or, to put it in another way, it is making a pile of all of our sins and our good works, and and fleeing them both to Christ. All our desire should be Christ and anything in us that is not Christ should be put to death. What this mean is that our ambitions to be good Christian ______________ (fill in job, identity) needs to be put to death. Everything in us that is not Christ needs to be put to death. We put our self to death and trust in Jesus every day. When we do that, He credits a righteousness that is not ours, to us.
What will it look like if we all walked out saying we want more of Christ, that all we want is more of Calvary and to be raised in newness of life, that we will have His heart? That will look like the risen Christ manifesting the present and future glory of Christ in us.
This changes our prayer. We will confess our sins, and also our piety. We lay aside our best intentions and ask that He will live through us. We will seek Him living through us every single moment. What will it look like to have a heart that is dependent on His grace, that seeks all of Him and none of us?