Tuesday, June 21, 2011
We’ve been looking at this passage for a little while now, and this week I want to direct you to how Paul describes and defines Christians in this passage. There are four phrases in particular, which characterize four ways that Paul talks about being a Christian: “to know,” “to gain,” “to be found,” and “power.”
I. To know Christ.
That is an incredibly intimate phrase, and it is utterly unique in all of Paul’s writings. Never again anywhere else in the New Testament do we find Paul using the phrase “knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.” In John 10, Jesus describes the difference between Him, the Good Shepherd, and those who were thieves and robbers and hirelings He said, ‘My sheep hear My voice. They know My voice, and when they hear My voice they follow Me. When the thief and the robber come, the sheep know they’re not the shepherd! But when My sheep hear My voice, they know it’s Me.’
When you turn to John 20 where John is describing the resurrection morning, and Mary going to the tomb to apply the precious myrrh and incense on Jesus’ body. But when she got there, He wasn’t there. And you remember Mary is deeply, deeply concerned about this, and she says to the ‘gardener,’ “Sir, where have they laid my Lord?” And you remember the interesting conversation. He asks her, “Why are you seeking the living among the dead?” It’s a fascinating exchange, she doesn’t realize who it is who’s speaking to her. And finally, John says, He turned to her and He said, “Mary.” And immediately she knew the voice of her Lord. And you remember the first thing she says to Him? “My Master – Rabboni.” Not just a master; my Master, my Lord. Because…why? Jesus had said, “My sheep hear My voice and they know Me.” And here she is saying, “My Master, my Lord.”
This shouldn’t surprise you; Paul met Jesus in a very different circumstance than Mary in the garden. On the road to Damascus to kill Christians, and the Lord Jesus Himself appeared to Paul, blinding him with brilliant light. And Paul, on his face, groveling in the ground, heard the Lord Jesus speak to him and say, “Saul! Saul! Why are you persecuting Me?” Saul’s first words to Jesus are, “Who are You, Lord?” The first words out of the converted Saul’s mouth is an expression that Jesus is his Lord. This is why when people were baptized in the book of Acts and in I Corinthians the adults would confess what as their vow, “Jesus is Lord:” Christians know Christ Jesus as Lord.
And how do we express the lordship of Christ? We listen to His voice. He speaks to us by His Scriptures, and His followers – those who trust in Him – hear His voice speaking to them in the Scriptures, and therefore they don’t cut and paste. We listen when there are tender words of promise and we listen when He makes us uncomfortable with His commands, because it’s the voice of the Lord speaking to us.
II. To gain Christ.
Christians know two things. That everything that they had apart from Christ and before they had Christ is nothing in comparison to having Christ; and they know they want Christ even if they can’t have all those things. As William Guthrie said in The Christian’s Great Interest, “Less will not satisfy than Jesus, but more could not be desired than Jesus
Many of the church fathers speculated that Paul was the “rich young ruler,” because this passage looks like the mirror opposite of what happens when Jesus has the conversation with the rich young ruler. The rich young ruler was so rich that when Jesus says, ‘Sell everything that you have and come follow Me,’ what does he choose? He chooses all things, not Jesus. Paul has realized that everything he thought was worth living for was rubbish compared to gaining Christ.
III. To be found in Christ.
You remember that after Adam and Eve had rebelled against God in the Garden of Eden (in Genesis 3) that when the Lord came to walk in the garden to commune with them, they hid themselves and covered themselves with fig leaves But God still found them, and they had nothing to cover themselves in their shame and sin and disobedience.
Well, here’s the Apostle Paul thinking to himself, ‘How do I want God to find me on the Last Day? With my little fig leaf: I tried to be a good person, I tried to keep the Ten Commandments, I helped the poor??’
‘No,’ Paul says, ‘I want to be found wrapped in the perfect righteousness of Jesus Christ, which I have gained not by my doing, but simply by faith.’
That’s a Christian. A Christian wants to be found in Christ and in His righteousness.
IV. To know Christ in His resurrection power.
He’s talking about the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit, and he’s saying that Christians long to see the power of the Spirit, the power of Jesus’ resurrection, at work in them…because before we knew Christ, apart from Him, we were dead in trespasses and sins. But now we are a new creation, and we are being renewed by the Holy Spirit by the power of the resurrection of Christ, and matured. Not just as forgiven people, but people in whom the power of sin is broken.
Posted by Ligon Duncan at 4:24 PM