Lessons from the Book of Philippians
Greetings precious people, I do hope that you are doing well today and enjoying the goodness of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. In today’s article we will continue our study in the Book of Philippians. In our last study we saw how the Apostle Paul compared all of his attempts at making himself righteous (right with God) to garbage and dung. True righteousness comes only through faith in Jesus Christ. It is the gift of God, not of works that you or I can do. Self-righteousness (all our own attempts to make ourselves righteous) is not acceptable to God; they are as the Bible says, “like filthy rags” in God’s sight. It must be understood that any of our attempts at making ourselves righteous is a rejection of God’s way of making us right with Him. God’s way of making us righteous is through faith in Jesus Christ and the finished work of Calvary.
Now in Philippians 3:8-11 we read Paul telling us his hearts desire, “That I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.”
If I had to give what I thought were the two greatest desires of the Apostles Paul’s life, I would say without hesitation it was to know Jesus Christ and to make Him known to the rest of the world. This was his passion in life and I must say I don’t think there is any greater passion to have.
Concerning making Christ known to the world, listen to what Paul wrote to the Christians at Corinth. In 1 Corinthians 2:1-5, “And I, brethren, when I came to you, did not come with excellence of speech or of wisdom declaring to you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. I was with you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.”
Paul was a very learned and highly educated man and being in the city of Corinth, he was among some of the greatest educators and philosophers of the day. Yet his message never diverted from Jesus Christ and Him crucified. Paul had come to know that Jesus Christ was not only what the people needed but also that in Him alone was true wisdom. In 1 Corinthians 1:21-25 Paul writes, “For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. For Jews request a sign, and Greeks seek after wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.” And in 1 Corinthians 2:6-8, “However, we speak wisdom among those who are mature, yet not the wisdom of this age, nor of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the ages for our glory, which none of the rulers of this age knew; for had they known, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.”
Paul’s desire to make Christ known to the world was so great that he was willing to endure hardships greater than you and I will ever have to experience. Listen as Paul gives a brief synopsis of the sufferings he experienced as he tried to travel around the known world to make Christ known. In 2 Corinthians 11:23-28, “I am more: in labors more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequently, in deaths often. From the Jews five times I received forty stripes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods; once I was stoned; three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been in the deep; in journeys often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils of my own countrymen, in perils of the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; in weariness and toil, in sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness-- besides the other things, what comes upon me daily: my deep concern for all the churches.”
Just half of what Paul suffered would have caused the best of us to give up and quit, but not Paul. The suffering of hardships was the very thing that kept Paul going like he did. Two things happened in the midst of the suffering. First it confirmed Jesus’ words to him of what would happen as he obeyed the Lord. In Acts 9:16, we read what God said to Paul only a few days after came to know Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior, “For I will show him how many things he must suffer for My name's sake."
The second thing that the suffering did for Paul was enable him to “know” Jesus Christ in a deeper way that is only possible through suffering. When Paul writes, “That I may know Him (Jesus)” he wasn’t only expressing a desire to know Jesus in an intellectual sense rather in an experiential sense. In the Greek language of which the New Testament is written, there are a number of different words used for the word “know”. The word that is used by Paul in our text is ginosko, which is to know by experience.
It is important to know various truths intellectually but it is not until those truths are put to the test and experienced that we “really” know them to be so. Its like when we say “I know that I know that I know”. A person can be told that they are loved but it is not until they experience the act of love that they really know that they are loved.
As Paul went through the various hardships in making Jesus known to the world, he would experience Jesus in the midst of his suffering. Two occasions stand out as an example of this in the Bible. Acts 23:10-11, “Now when there arose a great dissension, the commander, fearing lest Paul might be pulled to pieces by them, commanded the soldiers to go down and take him by force from among them, and bring him into the barracks. But the following night the Lord (Jesus) stood by him and said, "Be of good cheer, Paul; for as you have testified for Me in Jerusalem, so you must also bear witness at Rome." And also in 2 Timothy 4:16-17, “At my first defense no one stood with me, but all forsook me. May it not be charged against them. But the Lord stood with me and strengthened me, so that the message might be preached fully through me, and that all the Gentiles might hear.”
It was only through these experiences that Paul would be able to realize his hearts desire of “that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death.”
It is interesting how really knowing Christ and making Him known to the world are tied together by suffering. One cannot really know Christ without suffering and one cannot make Christ known without going through suffering, that of suffering persecution. The more you really know Christ the more you want to make Him known to others. It is ironic that suffering is the result of one and the cause of the other.
Now that you know this, how anxious are you to say, like Paul, that you really want to get to know Jesus Christ better and make Him known to those around you? I ask this not to discourage you rather to inform you as well as challenge you in your pursuit of knowing Jesus Christ, really knowing Him. There is no greater fulfillment in life than to know Jesus Christ and to make Him known. I encourage you today to make the decision today to get to know Jesus more than you have ever known Him before.
Next time we will take a break in our study of the Book of Philippians and focus on the real reason for the season. Until then may the Lord richly bless you beloved.
If you have any questions, comments, or prayer requests you can contact me at: Calvary Chapel of Alpine, P.O. Box 1528, Alpine, Ca. 91903 or call 619-445-2589, or e-mail email@example.com or visit our web site to read all previous articles at www.calvarychapel.org/alpine/index.htm
Drew Macintyre is pastor of Calvary Chapel of Alpine