12 January 2010

Verse-by-verse through Philippians (3:7-3:11)

There is a question that man has asked for thousands of years. Cultures have been shaped by it. Wars have been fought over it. This nation was attacked 8 years ago because of it. “What happens when we die?” It’s a question that we will never see the answer to in this life. We can read about it. But in order to see what happens when we die, what do we have to do? We have to die. You could ask any number of people right here in this country. You could ask any number of people right here in this city. And you would get all kinds of answers. You could talk to a Catholic, who would tell you that if you have any unconfessed sins you will have to spend time in Purgatory before you will be “good enough” to go to Heaven. You could then cross the street and talk to a Jehovah's Witness who would say that there will be 144,000 “anointed” of God who will go to Heaven, and that everybody else will wind up on “Paradise Earth” and that anybody else will just be **POOF** wiped out. Then you could go a little further down the street and find a Mormon who will tell you that if you were a good enough Mormon that you will continue “progressing” and eventually you will become a “God” yourself. You could talk to a Hindu who would tell you that if you lived a good enough life, and if you did enough good things that your soul would return to earth in another body, in a higher class. But if you didn’t do enough then you would come back as a fly or something.

And then, on the other end of the spectrum, you can talk to an Atheist who will tell you that when we die, we get put in a box, stuck in the ground, and that’s it. That once this life is over, there is nothing else. So with all these competing ideas out there, how do we know that what we have is the truth? That is not really an unfair question to ask. When we share the gospel with someone and they ask us, “Why should I believe that?” What are we gonna say? “Well, because I believe it!” We’re not going to delve into all the evidence for the resurrection of Christ, but let’s look at one real quick. There are over 300 OT prophecies that were fulfilled by Christ. Now, someone could say, “So what, they invented a person that just happened to do all those things.” Ooooo......kay. But you're talking about a man who did these things in front of thousands and thousands of people. If Jesus was not who He said He was—and who we say He was—it would have been very hard for Him to continue that charade with so many witnesses. And then we have the crucifixion. I don’t care how bad I want someone to believe something—I would not go through what He went through—for a lie.

And then we have the resurrection. He didn’t just get up, talk to a couple of His disciples, and skedaddle out of town. He stuck around for 40 days. We read a little of 1st Corinthians 15 last week, let’s look at it again. 1st Corinthians 15:3-8For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve. After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep. After that He was seen by James, then by all the apostles. Then last of all He was seen by me also, as by one born out of due time. So yeah, He didn’t exactly keep it a secret. So then the next question is, “OK. He came back from the dead. It’s happened before. What makes this so special?” I'm glad you asked! Because that’s what we’re going to find out today.

The resurrection of Christ was unlike any other “resurrection” that we read about in Scripture. Elijah raised a young man from the dead, and Elisha did the same. Ezekiel commanded dead bones to get up and walk. Jesus raised at least 3 or 4 people from the dead. But all those people had one thing in common. One thing that separates Christ’s resurrection from these others. And we will see it in a moment.

Philippians 3:7-11But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, 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.

Verse 10. ...that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death... Paul takes and lumps the first nine verses together, puts a big set of parentheses around them and says, “The purpose of all that—is this.” The reason we don’t put confidence in the flesh. The reason that he lost all things. the reason that he counts all the things he lost to be rubbish—was that he 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. What is that difference between Christ’s resurrection and the other resurrections? Those other people died again. Jesus rose from the grave, was seen by more than 500 people, and ascended directly to the right hand of the Father.
But the resurrection isn't simply a happy ending to a potential tragedy. It wasn’t simply the climax to a gripping story. Look at what Paul says in verse 10that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection. The power of His resurrection. The resurrection of Jesus Christ was the most important event in the history of all humanity. And we’re gonna see why. The first thing it did was it proved He was the Son of God. Listen to what Paul says in Romans 1:3-4Jesus Christ our Lord, who was born of the seed of David according to the flesh, and declared to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead. That word “declared” (όριζω, horizo) means “appointed, determined, marked out.” We actually get the word horizon from the Greek. Don’t misunderstand. It’s not that he became the Son of God because of the resurrection. It was the resurrection that proved He was the Son of God.

And not only the Son of God, but the Son of God with what? Power. What power? Power to grant life. John 1:12But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name. Revelation 1:18“I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore. Amen. And I have the keys of Hades and of Death.” Jesus has this power, this dominion, this authority, because of His resurrection from the dead. Acts 17:30-31“Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead.” God raised Jesus from the dead. Jesus now has the right to judge the world. Philippians 2:9Therefore God also has highly exalted Him—“super-exalted” Him—and has given Him—what?—the name that is above every name….every knee will bow, every tongue confess… And what proves this? His resurrection from the dead. Ephesians 1:18-21—Paul prayed that the people might see what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come. The power of His resurrection.

So what does it mean for us? Now that Christ has been declared to be the one with power to judge and to give life, what does it mean for us? 1st Corinthians 15:20But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. Firstfruits were an OT picture of the resurrection. They would have their 10-acre plot of land, they would plant one acre, and then a couple weeks later plant the other nine. When that first acre was ready, it would be harvested and given to the service of God. And that would guarantee the whole harvest. Deuteronomy 26:1-2“And it shall be, when you come into the land which YHVH your God is giving you as an inheritance, and you possess it and dwell in it, that you shall take some of the first of all the produce of the ground, which you shall bring from your land that YHVH your God is giving you, and put it in a basket and go to the place where YHVH your God chooses to make His name abide.” Keil and Delitzsch:
"This refers to the practical confession which was made by the presentation of the first-fruits. The fruit was the tangible proof that they were in possession of the land, and the presentation of the first of this fruit was the confession that they were indebted to the Lord for the land."

Notice two things here. The fruit was the tangible, visible proof that God had given them possession of the land. What was the tangible, visible proof that God had given power over the grave to Christ? The resurrection. And if the presentation of the first of this fruit was the confession that they were indebted to the Lord for the land, what does that say about our salvation if Christ is the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep? That we are indebted to the Lord for our salvation. John Gill once said of 1st Corinthians 15:20,
"The firstfruits sanctified the rest of the harvest, represented the whole [harvest], gave right to the ingathering of [the harvest], and ensured [the harvest]; Christ by lying in the grave, and rising out of it, sanctified it for his people, and in his resurrection represented them; they rose with him, and in him; and their resurrection is secured by his; because he lives, they shall live also…Christ, in rising from the dead, is only the firstfruits of the saints; of such as are the fruits of his death and of his grace, who have the fruits of his Spirit in them, and are filled with the fruits of righteousness by him; just as he is the firstborn from the dead, with respect to the many brethren, whom he stands in the relation of a firstborn."
We’ll talk about firstborn next time. The fact that Christ has risen from the grave guarantees that all who know Him will also rise to be with God. The power of His resurrection. 1st Peter 1:3-9 (NASB)Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ; and though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, obtaining as the outcome of your faith—the salvation of your souls.

Christ is the firstfruits of the resurrection. He is the guarantee. If we believe in that guarantee and put our faith in that guarantee, what will be the outcome of that faith? That is the power of His resurrection. Now we see why it was so easy for Paul to count everything he ever knew, everything he ever did, and everything he ever owned as rubbish. The riches of the world, the friendship of the world, the praise and adoration of men.......or Christ. Which would you rather have?

That I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings. Boy, we don’t like that word, do we? Sufferings? We’re supposed to be comfortable, aren't we? This is the third time Paul uses the word “fellowship”—κοινωνία (koinonia)—in Philippians. But here he doesn’t use it to describe getting together and having coffee and donuts. When we were in chapter 2, when we were looking at Christ coming to earth and walking the earth as a man, what was the point that Paul was trying to get across? Philippians 2:3-5 (NASB)Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus. Christ did not consider clinging to any rights He had just so He could avoid suffering. He willingly submitted Himself to the Father’s will, knowing that the will of the Father was that the Son should suffer for us. Isaiah 53:9-10He had done no violence, nor was any deceit in His mouth. Yet it pleased YHVH to bruise Him; He has put Him to grief.

Acts 2:23-24“Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a Man attested by God to you by miracles, wonders, and signs which God did through Him in your midst, as you yourselves also know—Him, being delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God, you have taken by lawless hands, have crucified, and put to death.” Jesus was delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God. He knew He was going to suffer. Yet He knew that He must suffer for a little while in order to be super-exalted and to make us righteous in His Father’s eyes. What kind of love is that! He set aside His glory, set aside His rights, set aside any claims He could have made—in order to become our Savior. Hebrews 2:10It was fitting for Him, for whom are all things and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings. Now, time-out. If Jesus was already God, and if God is perfect—how could Jesus be “made” perfect? I'm glad you asked. Even though you didn't. But you should have. He was "made perfect" through suffering. Because if He was not made flesh, He could not have died. If He did not die, He could not have been raised up from the dead. I mean think about it. If you aren't dead, how can you be raised form the dead? And what did His death accomplish? It was proof that He had been given all power and authority over death. Now, He suffered through various trials. His obedience and suffering resulted in His super-exaltation. Hebrews 2:17-18He had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted.

Do we go through various trials? What are we commanded to do when we go through trials? James 1:2My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials. But I don’t want to. I don’t want to have trials. But trials are a good thing. No, they're not fun. I'll never say trials are easy. But they do have a purpose—if they are from Christ. Why? James 1:3-4Knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. How long will a fellow be a boxer if he doesn’t learn how to take a punch? Not very long. If he doesn’t want to get hit any more he’ll probably take up something a little safer. How long will someone follow Christ if they don’t learn how to take a punch? Which is why so many people fall away. “This was supposed to make my life easier, and all I have had is one trial after another.” So many people that pray a little prayer and ask Jesus into their heart, when the tough times come—and they will come—all of a sudden, where are they? They go back to their old ways, their old habits and they forget about Christ. But 50 years down the road, they’ll look back on that little prayer and when they asked Jesus in their heart and they’ll swear up and down that “Oh yeah, I'm saved!”

The one who knows Christ knows what it means to endure suffering. They know that persecutions will come. Jesus said so. John 16:33“In this world you will suffer persecution.” But if we know the fellowship of His sufferings, we can sympathize with Him because He sympathizes with us. And we can face those trials and those battles and say, “My Lord went through so much more for me. How could I ever turn my back on Him? My faith is not in myself, or my circumstances. My faith is in my Lord.” That’s why we are to be ready to comfort others. That’s why we are to not look out for our own interests only, but also for the interests of others. We are the body of the church, Christ is the head. 1st Corinthians 12:26 says that if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it. When we hear that another Christian is going through a terrible ordeal, do we sit back and say, “Well, good! Serves them right!” No. If another Christian is doing well, do we say, “Well, that’s just not fair!” No. Romans 12:15Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.

There will be times when we stand on the mountaintop. There will be times when we crawl through the valley. But that’s why our life in Christ is called a “walk” and not a “run” or a “sprint” and certainly not a “jump.” We don’t just take one long leap and wind up at our destination. We walk. Literally, one step at a time. Sometimes it’s an uphill climb. Sometimes it’s level ground. I could come up with all kinds of platitudes to describe it. In short, we know the power of His resurrection. But we also know the fellowship of His sufferings.

Jesus Christ is Lord.
Amen.

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