Application of the Resurrection
Scripture: Philippians 3:10–11
Application of the ResurrectionPhilippians 3:10-11
Sunday, April 20, 2003 • Resurection Sunday
Pastor Randy Smith
They were 12 ordinary men. One was a former Zealot. Another had been a tax collector. At least four, possibly seven were fishermen. The others, most likely, were involved in insignificant trades. None of them were noted for astute theological greatness or profound leadership or natural talents or intellectual abilities. None walked in the esteemed religious circles of the day. They were 12 ordinary men. But these 12 ordinary men were personally selected by one unordinary Man, the Man, Christ Jesus. He called them to be His Apostles.
In just a few years these 12 ordinary men were thrust into the community eye. They were in a place of prominence that they never could have imagined. They witnessed this new movement turning the world upside-down. Alongside their Master, they observed breathtaking miracles, confronted religious leaders and gained a tremendous following. From town to town they listened to their Master speak about His kingdom that had arrived, a kingdom in which they were promised to be pillars.
They personally walked by His side as Jesus made His triumphant entry into the heart Jerusalem. They were prepared to ride His coattails into greatness. The future surely did look bright!
But then everything changed. Within just a few days, the same crowd that cheered, "Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord" (Mk. 11:9), were jeering, "Crucify, crucify Him" (Lk. 23:21). The glorious plan seemed shipwrecked. Almost instantly, Jesus was tried as a criminal, flogged and nailed to the cross. To the Roman, the cross was reserved for the vilest offender. To the Jew, the cross was reserved for those accursed by God. Then, after six hours of intense suffering and humiliation, the inconceivable took place. The One who proclaimed to be King and Savior of the world was dead. Their hopes had ended and their dreams were shattered. Persecution now forced this cowardly band of disciples into hiding. No doubt they felt rejected and mislead. No doubt they thought everything was finished.
But three days later they witnessed the unimaginable. The stone had rolled away, the body was gone and the angel proclaimed, "He is not here, for He has risen" (Mt. 26:8).
The resurrection of Jesus transformed the disciples. They infiltrated different regions of the world boldly proclaiming their risen Savior and the forgiveness of sins offered in His Name. They willingly faced martyrdom and the Resurrection itself became the cornerstone of their message (Ac. 4:33).
Like the original 12, the resurrected Jesus transformed another key figure in Christian history. The Apostle Paul, formally known as Saul was intent on eradicating the Christian faith. This high ranking and devout Jewish leader made it his ambition to stamp out the new faith through imprisonment, torture and, if necessary, murder.
But one day as he was persecuting the Christians, the Scriptures report, "A light from heaven flashed around him; and he fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, 'Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?' And he said, 'Who are You, Lord?' And He said, 'I am Jesus whom you are persecuting, but get up and enter the city, and it will be told you what you must do'" (Ac. 9:3-6).
Only the appearance of the resurrected Christ can account for the radical conversion of Paul. He was instantly transformed from a persecutor to a proselytizer. He traded his position as a Pharisee for poverty, prison and rejection. He was committed to a life of suffering for the gospel, eventually culminated in his own martyrdom (2 Tim. 4:6-7).
The Resurrection transformed the Apostle Paul. It dominated his teachings. It was the heart of his gospel (1 Cor. 15:3-9). As a matter of fact, Paul viewed the Resurrection as the lynchpin for the entire faith. Without the Resurrection, there is no faith, no salvation and no hope. In other words, discredit the Resurrection and discredit Christianity. The faith stands or falls on the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Along these lines Paul said, "If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, your faith also is vain. Moreover we are even found to be false witnesses of God, because we testified against God that He raised Christ, whom He did not raise, if in fact the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied" (1 Cor. 15:14-19).
I read this week about devout followers of Buddha rejoicing about the discovery of his bone. A discovery that revealed a bone from Jesus would be tragic. Other religions record the death of their founder. Christianity records the Resurrection of its Founder. Every other religious leader is still in the grave. Jesus conquered the grave and is alive!
For many Christians this glorious Resurrection is viewed as a past event as it demonstrated the power of God and the victory of Jesus over sin, Satan and death. These are true, but for Paul the Resurrection also manifested a present reality of hope. For Paul, the Resurrection brought application for the here and now.
With the time that remains I'd like to encourage you with two impressive truths that make the Resurrection a present hope in the life of a believer. In Philippians 3:10 and 11 Paul said, "that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead" (Phil. 3:10-11).
1. The Resurrection Power
First point of application: The Resurrection provides power for the believer.
Picking up the purpose clause in verse 10, Paul says, "that I may know Him" (see verse 8). I like the NIV translation: "I want to know Christ." Paul didn't only want to intellectually know "about" Christ, He wanted to know Christ. His greatest goal, even after 30 years of walking intimately with the Savior, was to know Jesus.
Yet how did Paul wish to grow in his intimacy with Jesus? I believe the next clause in verse 10 gives us a clue. "That I may know Him and the power of His resurrection." Specifically, Paul wanted to better comprehend and apply the same power that raised Christ from the grave (c.f. Eph 1:19). In a world hungry for power, Paul sought the highest form of it, and it glorified God! He wanted to see this resurrection power, this dunamis (where we get the English word dynamite), displayed in his life. He wanted to personally experience the resurrection power of the Almighty God first hand. But how?
Naturally we would conclude that Paul primarily manifested this power in the working of miracles (Ac. 19:11). After all, the great Apostle: healed many with various diseases and infirmities (Ac. 14:10; 28:8-9), cast out demons (Ac. 16:18) and even raised one man (Eutychus) from the dead (Ac. 20:10)! But as much as these miracles displayed the power of God, I don't believe this is the greatest manifestation of the resurrection power or what Paul had in mind in our text.
Another possibility would be the power of God which enables us as Christians to repent from sin and pursue a life of holiness. Obviously I am not speaking about the "good deeds" familiar among even the unregenerate members of our society. Those things only require common love and self-determination. For example, millions of unredeemed individuals will attend church this morning and not an ounce of resurrection power will be necessary! What I am speaking about is the resurrection power necessary to make: An atheist devoted to prayer, a fornicator devoted to purity, a coward devoted to evangelism, a slothful person devoted to ministry, a miser devoted to giving, or a bigot devoted to love. These and other acts of obedience give evidence of the Holy Spirit working in one's life. Yet as much as these acts glorify God and demonstrate the reality of the resurrection power, again, I believe this is not primarily what Paul had in mind.
I believe the greatest display of the resurrection power is found in the third clause of verse 10. "That I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death."
Upon hearing this for the first time we are tempted to say, "Fellowship of His sufferings? Paul, do you have any clue as to what you just said? Are you aware of the vicious treatment our Lord faced on the cross by the hands of godless men and demonic forces? Do you have any idea how Jesus accepted the sins of the world, faced the utmost of God's wrath and was forsaken by His Father?" And to that Paul might respond, "No, I cannot even fathom how much Christ suffered on our behalf. But whatever the extent, I desire to have fellowship in those sufferings." Remarkably, Paul desired fellowship, participation, koinonia with the sufferings of Christ.
You know, many people enter the Christian life thinking all their suffering will disappear. If anything, the opposite is true. Christians are not immune to the tragedies in this fallen world. As you can testify, we still undergo the death of loved ones, sickness and physical pain and strained relationships. But in addition to all this, our former spiritual father, Satan, has now become our foe. Furthermore, we are persecuted for our faith. Jesus called us "the light of the world" (Mt. 5:14), and as we can testify, we are persecuted by a world that hates the light with the same determination that put Jesus on the cross. Many if not all of us can identify with these sufferings, and it is very difficult!
Yet, the Bible teaches that such suffering is expected for the Christian. Job said, "For man is born for trouble, as sparks fly upward" (Job 5:7). Peter said, "Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you" (1 Pet. 5:12). Paul said, "Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted" (2 Tim. 3:12). Even in this epistle Paul said such suffering is necessary. "For to you it has been granted for Christ's sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake (Phil. 1:27).
Yet though we suffer we do not respond in the same way as those in the world who have no hope. As Christians, we realize by faith that God's grace is sufficient (2 Cor.12:9), His comfort is more than abundant (2 Cor. 1:7) and the trials are conducted under His wise, sovereign and loving control for our good (Rom. 8:28) to produce character (Rom. 5:4), mold us into the image of His glorious Son (Rom. 8:29) and enable us to esteem His promises as our only hope (Rom. 5:5). God breaks us from our self-reliance and self-sufficiency, to be driven to our knees and to live a life of utter dependence on our heavenly Father.
You'll recall how Paul chose to "boast" in his true Apostleship in 2 Corinthians 12. Though he spoke earlier of his miracles and later of his visions, he ultimately pointed to his degree of suffering. "Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ's sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong" (2 Cor. 12:9-10)
It's only when we adopt this biblical, God-honoring view of suffering are we are able (according to Philippians) to: "be anxious for nothing" (4:6), give thanksgiving in everything (4:6), "do all things without grumbling or disputing" (2:14) and "rejoice in the Lord always" (4:4)
Now I don't know about you, but to have this biblical view about suffering and trials takes incredible, supernatural power working through our lives; this is none other than the same power that raised Christ from the grave.
2. The Resurrection Promise
The resurrection of Jesus Christ brings great power into our lives, which enables us to live as God desires and please Him in all things. Yet the resurrection of Jesus Christ also brings a great promise into our lives as well. The promise is to follow Christ, share in His sufferings and then participate in a resurrection of our own. In verse 11 Paul said, "In order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead."
In the Bible, Jesus' resurrection is referred to as the "first fruits" (1 Cor. 15:20). The metaphor is derived from the agricultural world. The first fruits were the first installment of the harvest. They were a guarantee that the remainder of the crop was to follow. Therefore Christ's bodily resurrection was only the beginning of the larger resurrection among God's children.
Though Paul was unaware as to when and how his life would end (which explains the apparent uncertainty in verse 11, especially in the NIV translation), He had the confident realization because of His union with Jesus Christ that he too would share in the same resurrection. He was figuratively "crucified with Christ" (Gal. 2:20). He died with Christ (Col. 3:3). His self was dethroned so that Christ may reign supreme in his life. And because of this union with Christ in His death, Paul knew he had a union with Christ in His resurrection. In Romans 6 he said, "For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection" (Rom. 6:5). Paul knew that his salvation was a guaranteed assurance in the immutable hands of God from beginning to end. Even in this epistle he said, "For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus" (Phil. 1:6). Paul knew that God is faithful to His promises. He knew that he would resurrect His own children in the same way, with the same power that He resurrected His own Son.
The story is told of a believer who arranged his own funeral. There were stately hymns in St. Paul's Cathedral and an impressive liturgy. But at the end of the service, he had an unusual event planned. When they said the benediction, a bugler high in the dome of St. Paul's Cathedral on one side played Taps, the universal signal that the day is over. There was a long pause. Then a bugler on the other side played Reveille, the military wake-up call. It was his way of communicating that, while we say "Good night" here, it's "Good morning" up there. Why could he do that? Because he believed in Jesus Christ, who said, "I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies" (Jn. 11:25).
So today we glory in the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. We look to the past and recall His awesome victory over the grave. We look to the present and draw from that power now manifested in the Holy Spirit for obedience as we suffer for Christ. We look to the future and eagerly anticipate that same power that will be demonstrated in our own resurrection.
With a crowd this size, it is not unreasonable to assume that some may not have trusted Jesus Christ as their Savior. I am compelled to inform you that apart from a saving relationship with Jesus Christ you stand under the condemnation of God. In John 5 Jesus said you too will rise, but to a "resurrection of judgment" (Jn. 5:29). So I urge you this morning, place your faith in Jesus Christ. Accept the fact that His death on the cross was sufficient to forgive all of your sins. Acknowledge Him as the only One who has overcome death by His powerful resurrection from the grave.
I pray all of us will share in His triumph and make it our ultimate goal to say with the Apostle Paul, "I want to know Christ." This intimate knowledge of Jesus Christ is displayed in joyful and victorious Christian obedience leading to the assurance of our own resurrection from the dead into glory, two vital applications of His resurrection power, which now works in us who believe.