We’re going to see in these verses and the verses to come in the next couple weeks, that when we are saved, we don’t just go a little way with Christ and then say, “OK, I've done my part. I've given you these years, now I'm going back to my old life. Thanks for the ticket to Heaven, see ya there.” We never consider ourselves finished until these bodies go to sleep. And that is the point that Paul begins to make here.
Philippians 3:8-11—8 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 9 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; 10 that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, 11 if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.
Why did Jesus become flesh? So He could die. If He didn’t die, what could He not do? Rise from the dead. Hebrews 2:14—That through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil. If Christ did not die, He could not be resurrected. If we are to be resurrected, what does that mean we must do? Right, we must die. Physically, of course (unless He returns before then). But there is another death we must go through before our physical death. We must die to sin.
Verse 10. …that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection…being conformed to His death. The KJV says, being made conformable unto his death. I gotta disagree with it there. The Greek Paul uses here—he could have used another word if he meant to say, “able to be conformed.” He is saying here that if we are in Christ we will be conformed to His death. J.B Lightfoot once said,
“The agony of Gethsemane, not less than the agony of Calvary, will be reproduced however faintly in the faithful servant of Christ.”In other words, even as Jesus knew what would be involved in His death on Calvary, and agonized over—not so much the physical aspects, but the spiritual—but at the end of it all what did He say? “Not My will but Thine be done.” And when we are finally brought to that point where we take that last step and turn our lives over to Christ, we do the same thing. We agonize and we bargain, and we say, “OK, I'll give up A and B and C—just let me keep D, E, and F.” But God says, “No, I want it all!” And He will get us to the point where we finally say, “It’s Yours!”
Paul is continuing this theme of losing all to gain Christ. He has just gotten done saying that he suffered the loss of all things for what reason? End of verse 8? ...that I may gain Christ... Go back to Philippians 3:5-7. “I was circumcised according to the Law of Moses; I was a Hebrew of the Hebrews; a Pharisee of Pharisees. But those things were loss compared to knowing Christ.” He had been a slave to those things he was before. But now that he knows Christ, he has been set free from the curse of the Law—and he wants us to know that the same freedom is available for us.
The word “conformed” comes from the same word that he uses in Philippians 2:6, when he says that Jesus was being in the form of God. There’s a reason he uses this word. We are not going to die the same death that Jesus died. He’s not saying that we will die the same physical death Jesus died. We’re not all going to be nailed to a Roman cross. But the death that we die to sin will have many of the same characteristics of that death. Marvin Vincent (Vincent’s Word Studies in the New Testament) put it this way:
“The most radical conformity is thus indicated: not merely undergoing physical death like Christ, but conformity to the spirit and temper, the meekness and submissiveness of Christ; to His unselfish love and devotion, and His anguish over human sin.”That is the death Christ died—that is the death we die. Hold your place, and flip back to Romans 6. We’re going to read from this in a moment.
In Roman culture, there were two ways you got out of your slavery. One, you could buy your way out. If you saved enough money aside over the years, you could buy your freedom. The only other choice was…what? Death. But when it comes to our slavery to sin, we need to do both. A price has to be paid. And we must die. Who paid the price for our freedom? 1st Corinthians 6:20—For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit. Now, as far as the death. We must die so that we may be born again. When Jesus is talking with Nicodemus, and He says “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3). Of course, we ask the same question Nicodemus asked, “Are we supposed to go back into our mother's womb and be born?” (John 3:4). Well, was Jesus talking about a physical rebirth? NO! What kind of rebirth was He talking about? Right, spiritual. “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit” (John 3:5-6). And in order for a new birth to take place, there must be a death. John 12:24—“Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain.” Jesus died so He could be raised. We die to sin so that we can be reborn. In short, we must believe that Jesus bought us out of slavery to sin before we stop being slaves of sin.
When Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, many slaves didn’t believe it. So what did many of them do? They kept serving as slaves. Even after the Civil War ended, it took a long time for many slaves to accept their freedom. In fact, many never stopped working as slaves. If a slave who has been set free is going to stop being a slave, what is the first thing they have to do? They have to believe the fact that they are no longer a slave—they have to die to that old mindset. Then they have to stop acting like a slave. And what does that mean for us? It means we have to believe that we are no longer slaves to sin, and believe that we have been set free—and we need to start acting like it!
Romans 6:4-11—4 Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. 5 For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. 7 For he who has died has been freed from sin. 8 Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, 9 knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, dies no more. Death no longer has dominion over Him. 10 For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. 11 Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Look at the definite tone that Paul uses here. Verse 4—just as Christ…even so we also. Verse 5—we have been united in His death…we shall be united in His resurrection. Continuing with verse 6. Knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with—in other words, we die to sin—that we should no longer be slaves of sin. 7 For he who has died has been freed from sin. 8 Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him. If we died with Christ, we shall also live with Him. 9 Knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, dies no more. Death no longer has dominion over Him. 10 For the death that He died, He died to sin—how many times?—once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. 11 Likewise—in the same way, just like—Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Look at some of these phrases Paul uses:
- Death no longer has dominion over Him.
- The life He lives He lives to God.
- Likewise reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God.
- Being conformed to His death.
So even though the former slave will sometimes act like a slave, he is still free; and even though an adopted child will still act like an abused child, they are still an adopted child of their new family. Why? Because an exchange has taken place that has taken them out of one realm, one sphere, one existence—and transferred them into a new realm, a new sphere of existence. And has cut them off from their old realm, sphere of existence. The Union won the war, the Confederacy surrendered, the slaves were set free. The judge has signed the order, banged the gavel, that child now belongs to a new family.
In the case of the Christian, what is the exchange? We are adopted into the family of God. The new birth. We are removed from our old master, our old family—and we are placed under a new master and into a new family. And who is our Father? Back to Philippians. We are being conformed to His death, verse 11, if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. As long as we are still talking about the book of Romans, why not. Romans 8:29—For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. God knew us and chose us before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4). And He determined, at that very time, that He would conform the ones He chose to the image of Christ (Ephesians 1:5). Why? That Christ might be the firstborn among many brethren—those who will be resurrected. Question: Man was made in whose image? The image of God. Colossians 1:15--He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. We are created in the image of God. Who is the image of God? Christ! So, really, whose image are we created in? Christ's! In what likeness did Christ come to earth (Philippians 2:7)? It’s all fixin’ to come together, don’t worry.
Christ is the image of God. He came in the likeness of man. Hebrews 2:11—He who sanctifies and those who are being sanctified are all of one, for which reason He is not ashamed to call them brethren. So, Christ calls us brethren—brothers. According to Romans 8:29, whose image are we being conformed to? Christ's! And according to Romans 8:29, who is the firstborn of the brethren? Now, is Christ God? Yes! So, in effect, we are being re-made in what image? We are being re-conformed to the image of God! Revelation 21:5--Then He who sat on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.” What does it mean for us? This: Colossians 1:18-20—And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence. For it pleased the Father that in Him all the fullness should dwell, and by Him to reconcile all things to Himself.
…that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, verse 11, …if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. Now, this may seem like I'm splitting hairs. But it is a distinction that needs to be made. From everything I've read, this should say the resurrection from the dead rather than the resurrection of the dead. And there is a distinction. Will the dead be resurrected? Yes. Just the ones who knew Christ, or everybody? Everyone. So, if Paul was saying that he was hoping to attain the resurrection of the dead, it wouldn’t make much sense because all the dead will be resurrected. John 5:28-30—“The hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice and come forth—those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation.”
What Paul is saying is that he is hoping to attain the resurrection from the dead. And he uses a rather unique word here. Normally he would use the word ανάστασις (anastasis). But here, he uses the word εξανάστασις (exanastasis). It means, literally, a "higher-rising." This is the only place in the NT we find this word. He’s not simply saying he wants to be part of the raising up of the just and the unjust out of the grave. He wants to be part of the higher-rising of the just. All those who die will rise. Those who do not know Christ will be raised and thrown down again. Those who do know Christ will be raised and keep on rising. Make sense?
Now, the phrase if by any means. I hope I don’t sound like I know more than those who have done the work of translating. But this is one place where I just haven’t had any peace about the ways this phrase has been rendered. I'm gonna go out on a limb—and it will probably snap once I get out there—but to me, this phrase seems best rendered like this: if that is the means by which I will be able to attain to the resurrection from the dead. Because there is only one way to be included in the higher-rising from the dead. And that is by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. So I think what Paul is saying here is, in this whole section that starts in verse 8, is this:
“You know what? If it means giving up everything that I ever thought was worth anything, and if it means going through the most painful ordeals, and even if it means suffering the same way Jesus did—if that’s what I have to go through to be raised up with Him on that last day, then that’s what I'm gonna do!”And will it be worth it? I love what Paul says in Romans 8:18—For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. Don’t we love to hear stories about somebody who rises up from poverty to be a successful businessman or something? Just think. There is a story being written, right now, about how we were slaves, shackled, in prison, looking at a sentence of eternal death. But now, we have been made kings and priests of Almighty God. And for that, we suffer the loss of all things and count them as rubbish that we may win Christ.
Jesus Christ is Lord!