This article first appeared as a meditation in the March 1, 2006 of the the Standard Bearer (vol.82, #11) and was written by Rev. James Slopsema.
That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection...if by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead, Philippians 3:10, 11
At one time Paul had confidence in the flesh. He was confident that he could attain eternal life on the basis of his circumcision, his pedigree (he was an Israelite, of the tribe of Benjamin), his position as a Pharisee, and his works.
However, the things that were once gain to him, he now counts as loss for Christ. Once he considered his circumcision, his pedigree, his position, and his works to be an advantage to him in the pursuit of salvation. Now he considers them to be a loss. In his pursuit of salvation he has cast them away. The only thing that matters is that he has Jesus Christ.
In fact, Paul considers all things loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Jesus Christ. All things are expendable just to know Christ. To Paul the all-important things are to win Christ, to be found in Christ Jesus so that he has the righteousness of Jesus, to know the power of Christ's resurrection, and ultimately to attain to the resurrection of the dead.
These last two concerns of Paul are the focus of this meditation.
The apostle Paul desires above all to know the power of Christ's resurrection.
The resurrection of Jesus Christ has power. The power of His resurrection is the power of salvation. It is the power to deliver us from our sins and miseries.
This is why it is so tragic that many in the church world are denying Christ's resurrection. Many view the biblical account of the resurrection as a fabrication of the disciples or a myth intended to convey that Jesus lives on in the memory of His followers. Jesus, they say, never did rise from the dead; He is still in the grave. By this denial they deny a key work of God in salvation and turn their backs on the power of salvation.
It was Paul's desire to know the power of Jesus' resurrection. He was not interested merely in knowing the facts of resurrection and its power. He wanted to know the power of Christ's resurrection personally in is own life. He wanted to experience the saving power of the resurrection as it brought him salvation. That knowledge was of all things most precious to Paul. He considered all things expendable to attain that knowledge.
Is this knowledge most precious to you?
The power of Christ's resurrection is threefold.
First, it is the proof of our justification.
Justification is the verdict of God that, even though we have sinned terribly, we are righteous before Him. It is the verdict of the Judge of heaven and earth that He sees no sin in us, and that in His judgment all that He requires of us in the way of obedience has been accomplished. This favorable verdict of God is all-important. It makes us heirs to eternal life and all the blessings of God.
The key to this justification is found in what Paul says in verse 9. There Paul expresses the desire that he be found in Christ, not having his own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness that is of God by faith. The righteousness that we can present to God through our keeping of the law is woefully inadequate to serve as a basis for a favorable verdict from God. Were we to appear before God with our own works, we would be found guilty and would be destroyed forever. In Jesus Christ, however, there is a perfect righteousness. It consists of a complete payment for sin and a perfect obedience. A favorable verdict of God depends on possessing that righteousness when we appear before God. This will happen only when we are joined to Jesus Christ by faith and thus are found by God to be in Christ. Then He accounts the perfect righteousness of Christ as ours.
This is the great reality of justification.
In Christ, God justifies sinners!
And Christ's resurrection from the dead is proof that there is this righteousness in Christ and that, therefore, if we are found in Him, we will be justified from all our sins.
This truth is stated in Romans 4:25, which speaks of Jesus Christ, "Who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification." Notice, Jesus was delivered to the cross for (on account of) our sins. God placed our sins on Jesus. This required that He suffer the torments of hell on the cross. He endured it all in perfect obedience, so that He covered all our sins, which were upon Him. He who was made guilty with our sins is now righteous before God. This righteousness demanded Jesus' resurrection to life and glory. Death and hell could no longer claim Him. And so it is that the resurrection of Jesus is the proof of a perfect righteousness, not only for Jesus but for all that are found in Him. It is the proof of our justification.
This proof is necessary in light of the enormity of our sins. The sinner who really understands his sin wonders how God can ever declare him righteous. God presents nothing less than the resurrection of Christ to convince him.
This is the power of the resurrection.
And those who know the power of the resurrection come to know and experience their own justification.
But there is more.
The resurrection of Jesus Christ is also the power of a new life.
By nature we are dead in sin. This means that we are incapable of doing anything that is truly good. We are also inclined to all wickedness. Our hearts are filled with hatred. Everything that is evil and crooked is in us. This depravity of nature places us outside the joy of God's fellowship and brings upon us His terrible wrath.
But Jesus' resurrection is the power of a new life in us. This new life consists of a life of wonderful obedience to God, a life of loving God and the neighbor. In this new life of obedience also comes a blessed life of intimate friendship with God. This new life requires a fundamental and radical transformation in the very depths of our spiritual being. We must become new creatures. The old must pass away and all things must become new. This transformation is described in the Bible as a new birth, a new creation, and also a spiritual resurrection from the dead.
The power to bring about this transformation is the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Jesus was raised by God to eternal life and to great power. In the power of His resurrection, Jesus Christ also raises up to a new life all that belong to Him.
This power and work of the risen Lord is referred to in Colossians 3:1: "If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God."
Those who know the power of Jesus' resurrection know this new life.
Finally, Jesus' resurrection is the power of our own bodily resurrection.
Those who have a new life in Jesus Christ do not lose that life when they die. They lose many things in death. They lose all things earthly—their possessions, the natural relationships that are so precious. In a few generations even the memory that people had of them is lost. But one thing they do not lose is their new life in Christ. In fact, this life is enriched as the soul is taken immediately up to the glory of heaven.
But the body is laid to the grave to be destroyed by death so that it returns to dust.
How important that body is. It is an essential part of our human nature. What would life be without the body? And so God assures those whom He finds in Christ that He will preserve the essence of their bodies in death and raise them up in the day of Christ's return. And, wonder of wonders, He will raise them up in the same manner in which He raised up Christ's body. Through this final resurrection their bodies will be made heavenly and immortal so that they can enjoy the bliss of a new creation forever in both body and soul.
The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the power of this final resurrection into glory. Through His own resurrection Jesus received power and authority to raise us in the day of His return.
In keeping with that, God presents Jesus' resurrection as a solemn pledge that He will also raise us up through Jesus Christ. Romans 8:11: "But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you."
Those who know the power of Jesus' resurrection have this pledge of God. And it gives them good hope for the future.
To know the power of Jesus' resurrection we must know Jesus.
Twice Paul speaks of knowing Jesus. First, in verse 8, he writes, "Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord." And then, in verse 10, Paul reiterates his desire to know Christ and the power of His resurrection.
Notice how knowing Christ and knowing the power of His resurrection are linked. If you will know the power of Christ's resurrection in your life, you must know Jesus Christ.
This knowledge is not just intellectual. Yes, you must know about Christ. You must know who He is and what He does as Mediator and Savior. But this knowledge must be more. It must be the knowledge of a born-again heart. Then it becomes the knowledge of faith in which you know Jesus intimately and personally as your Savior. With that knowledge you embrace Him, trust Him, and rely upon Him for all things.
Those who know Jesus know the power of His resurrection.
Do you know Jesus?
Paul considered this knowledge above all precious. He considered all things loss for this knowledge. He would and did sacrifice all things earthly to have and grow in the knowledge of Jesus Christ. His goal was to know the power of Jesus' resurrection that would one day enable him to attain unto the resurrection of the dead.
May that passion be also in our hearts, so that one day we too may attain unto the resurrection of the dead.
Rev. James Slopsema (Wife: Joan)
Ordained: September 1974
Pastorates: First, Edgerton, MN - 1974; Randolph, WI - 1982; Hope, Walker, MI - 1986; First, Grand Rapids, MI - 1995; Emeritus, July 2014Website: www.firstprchurch.org/
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