I made a post on FB that said "Pondering on the power of the resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings...and how both are terribly misunderstood by so many today." Then one of my friends asked me to expand a bit on that and as I started to reply I realized that i would need a lot more space than Facebook would give me to do that...
The verse it comes from is Philippians 3:10 which says "that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death" ...
Like so many verses when you take a look at it out of it's proper context it can appear to have multiple meanings and even be a touch contradictory. A better approach would be to look at the entire book of Philippians to start with and see that Paul was called by a dream specifically to go there and help them. Paul seems to have a very personal and direct conversation with them in this letter, to me it reads less general and more specific than most of his others to the other churches. For this reason, I believe Paul is purposely sharing some deeper revelation with them than he usually shared with the other churches in his care.
When you read the first three chapters altogether you see Paul honoring basic Apostolic protocols at first but then he goes on painting a larger picture of being almost fascinated with God's Mercy, Grace and Power.. and wanting that same hunger for these folks he's writing to which of course is ultimately us today. Paul is hungry for understanding of the spiritual dynamics or dare I say the "mechanics" of how God works like He does. This highly charged love and mercy based God full of purity and truth yet interfaced with fallen humanity and as a result, it is we as humans who are changed for God never changes. The greatness of Paul's personal and private revelations kept his human intellect stimulated and challenged much more than his letters would ever reveal, I am sure.
The power of Jesus resurrection is a marvelous topic but as most of Philippians up to that point talks about the person of Jesus, we can assume Paul is trying in the person and the power as one. He understood that Jesus speaking of His own body said if they destroy the temple in three days He (Jesus) would raise it back up again (John 2:19). Paul was also aware as he wrote to the church in Rome that it was the Holy Spirit that raised Christ from the dead (Rom 8:11). Twice in Acts (2:24 and 5:30) Peter preaches giving credit to God the Father for raising Christ from the dead.
In this triune mystery lays a wealth of undiscovered glory, beauty and amazement that goes well beyond simply knowing Jesus on a personal level. This is why Paul draws a clear distinction between knowing Him and knowing the power of His resurrection. Was it the Father, the Son or The Holy Spirit that raised up Jesus? The answer is YES to all three questions and only in the confines of our fallen human mind does this not make sense. To the renewed mind of Christ it not only makes sense but anything outside of it is fallen thinking. Paul was undoubtedly engulfed mentally by these things hungering for them if for no other reason that Jesus was in it and thru it all.
The fellowship of Jesus' sufferings has been terribly misinterpreted over the centuries and the main place people miss it is with the word "His" as in "His sufferings" meaning the sufferings belong to Jesus, not to ourselves. Many mistakenly believe this is a call to suffering or that Paul craved suffering just because Jesus suffered before him and that does not line up with scripture.
To Corinth Paul writes in 2nd Cor 1:5 - For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also abounds through Christ. To Rome Paul makes his famous declaration that the sufferings of this present time aren't even worthy to be compared to the Glory which shall be revealed... (now watch these two words here).... IN US. Paul is obviously well aware that there is a level of koinonia or fellowship with Jesus that has to do with an understanding of what Jesus went thru on our behalf and that level of fellowship unlocks Glory within ourselves. This is a level of relationship that while every believer has access to, very few actually desire, pursue or attain. Paul is making it clear that he was in and wanted that very much while also leading by example for every Apostle that was to come after that one of the keys to a deep, intimate walk with jesus is an understanding and even an embracing of the sufferings Christ endured.
I personally believe Jesus truly desired the suffering on our behalf. In the recent TV mini Series The Bible and later in the Movie Son Of God, one of my favorite scenes is when Jesus is embracing his own cross with a passion.. even a supernatural affection... while everyone else was dazed, confused, scared or upset.. Jesus was in complete control of His mind and He knew that He was only hours away from saving you and I. In fact, Hebrews (likely written later by Paul) the writer says it was for the Joy set before Him that he endured the cross. Under the intense and inhumane suffering that very few humans will ever understand there was the Holy Spirit who was/is in fact the very Spirit of Jesus Himself and in Gal 5 we read one of the Spirit's attributes is Joy. That Joy was alive in Him.
In a very real way while his body was tortured to the point of multiple convulsions, involuntary spasms, blood loss because of cuts, scrapes and the flogging, and pain signals from those things along with countless punches, kicks and bruises were bombarding his human brain... there was an unquenchable Joy deep within Him. He had modeled Peace at the troubles sea.. He had modeled Patience as for three years he was merciful with those He called and dialoged with... This was His time to model His Love for us which is why He said greater love has no man than He lay down His life for his friend. This was Jesus laying down His own life and Paul knew that all too well. It was this revelation running it's full course that allowed the Apostle to embrace the trip to Rome and ultimately lay his head willfully on the executioner's block.. but before that could happen, first came the desire to know not only the person of Jesus... but the Power of Jesus ,, and the Sufferings of Jesus.
Truly this is the call of the Holy Spirit of Jesus to us today as well. We are invited by all of Heaven and indeed by God Himself to freshly discover not only the person of Jesus whom many reading this have become so familiar with.. but to discover afresh His majestic power and His beautiful sufferings because within both are new realms of understanding, revelation, experience and ultimately more of Him coming alive IN US...
Holy Spirit, I ask you to touch and mold readers today... bring them face to face with yourself so that they can have the courage to come face to face with themselves and deal with the stuff you want them to deal with. Empower every reader with the courage to step up and into whatever you have called them to do so that your Kingdom may be advanced and so that the relationship with you that you so selflessly paid for with your own blood and body.. can be deepened... in your sweet name I ask...
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