Philippians 3:10-11 Part 3

Philippians 3:7-11

7But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. 8Yet 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 9and 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; 10that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, 11if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.

At our last two meetings, we thoroughly examined what the Word of God has to say on the subject of resurrection. Now in Philippians 3:10-11, Paul continues explaining his hope of attaining to this resurrection through the fellowship of Christ’s sufferings and conformation to His death. What does Paul mean by this? Indeed, we know that Paul did suffer greatly, and was finally martyred for his proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Jesus foretold how Paul would suffer (Jesus speaking to Ananias)…
Acts 9:15-16

15But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen vessel of Mine to bear My name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel. 16For I will show him how many things he must suffer for My name’s sake.”

In his second letter to the church at Corinth, Paul lists for us some of the things he suffered for the sake of the Gospel…
2 Corinthians 11:24-28

24From the Jews five times I received forty stripes minus one [traditionally 39 to show “mercy”]. 25Three times I was beaten with rods; once I was stoned; three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been in the deep; 26in journeys often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils of my own countrymen, in perils of the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; 27in weariness and toil, in sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness— 28besides the other things, what comes upon me daily: my deep concern for all the churches.

Of course, Paul is only one of millions who have suffered and died for the sake of the Gospel. Indeed, before his encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus, Saul of Tarsus was one of those persecuting the church. The persecution from unbelievers of those who proclaim the deity of Jesus began with Jesus own suffering in His trials and on the cross, and has continued throughout the history of the church. Yet, time and again, we see those who suffer persecution for the Gospel doing so willingly, and even joyfully…
Acts 5:40-42

40And they [the Sanhedrin] agreed with him [Gamaliel], and when they had called for the apostles and beaten them, they commanded that they should not speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. 41So they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name. 42And daily in the temple, and in every house, they did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ.

Jesus Himself commands us to face persecution in this manner…
Matthew 5:10-12

10Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.11Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. 12Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Many of us have memorized the famous exhortation of James, the brother of Jesus, who was himself – according to Foxe’s Book of Martyrs– beaten to death at the age of 94…
James 1:2-4

2My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, 3knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. 4But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.

But why should the church of Jesus Christ suffer so? Paul and Peter give us a clue…
Romans 8:14-17

14For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. 15For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father.” 16The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together.

1 Peter 4:12-17
12Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; 13but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy. 14If you are reproached for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. On their part He is blasphemed, but on your part He is glorified. 15But let none of you suffer as a murderer, a thief, an evildoer, or as a busybody in other people’s matters. 16Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in this matter.
17For the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God? 18Now
“If the righteous one is scarcely saved,
Where will the ungodly and the sinner appear?”[Proverbs 11:31]
19Therefore let those who suffer according to the will of God commit their souls to Him in doing good, as to a faithful Creator.

In this passage, we see that the God’s purpose in the suffering of His elect is twofold. The first is that God will be glorified. Once again, we see Jesus’ own suffering as the primary example…
Luke 23:44-47
44Now it was about the sixth hour, and there was darkness over all the earth until the ninth hour. 45Then the sun was darkened, and the veil of the temple was torn in two. 46And when Jesus had cried out with a loud voice, He said, “Father, ‘into Your hands I commit My spirit.’ ”[Psalm 31:5] Having said this, He breathed His last.
47So when the centurion saw what had happened, he glorified God, saying, “Certainly this was a righteous Man!”
Aside – What a beautiful testimony. In Jesus’ dying words, He quoted Scripture. The Bible is silent regarding the story of this centurion. Is it possible that this man went on to be a follower of Jesus? But I digress…
 
The point is that the suffering of the believers is a powerful witness to the lost. God is glorified when unbelievers come to Christ through the testimony of the suffering of His saints. Consider how God was glorified by the testimony of the first Christian martyr – Stephen – as he was being stoned to death for blasphemy by his own people…
Acts 7:51-60
51“You stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears! You always resist the Holy Spirit; as your fathers did, so do you. 52Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who foretold the coming of the Just One, of whom you now have become the betrayers and murderers, 53who have received the law by the direction of angels and have not kept it.”
54When they heard these things they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed at him with their teeth. 55But he, being full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God, 56and said, “Look! I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!”
57Then they cried out with a loud voice, stopped their ears, and ran at him with one accord; 58and they cast him out of the city and stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their clothes at the feet of a young man named Saul. 59And they stoned Stephen as he was calling on God and saying, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” 60Then he knelt down and cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not charge them with this sin.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep.
Like Jesus, Stephen was concerned for the salvation of his persecutors, praying for God to forgive them even as he gave up his own life at their hands. Who knows how many came to belief in the Gospel due to this testimony. We know of one, for sure – the young man Saul who witnessed this murder and consented to it, but later became the great evangelist – Paul – who suffered and died himself for the sake of the Gospel.
 
I think it is this glorification of God through suffering that Paul refers to in…
Colossians 1:24
I now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up in my flesh what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ, for the sake of His body, which is the church,
Make no mistake. Christ’s suffering stands alone. Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross is finished. It is complete – perfectly sufficient for the purpose that Jesus meant for it… the salvation of whosoever chooses to believe and confess Jesus as Lord. Neither Paul, nor anyone else can add any power for salvation to the perfect and complete suffering of Jesus. So what does Paul mean when he says that he fills up in his own body that which was lacking in Christ’s afflictions? I believe what this means is that although Jesus’ sacrifice is complete and sufficient, still the Gospel must be preached to the unbelieving world in order to reach those for whom the sacrifice was intended with the news of hope by faith in the resurrection of Jesus. Clearly Jesus has appointed evangelists throughout time since His ascension (including Paul, of course), and continues to do so today.
 
In fact, all believers are His appointed evangelists…
Matthew 28:18-20
18And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.
Among the most effective ways that God uses to pierce the hearts of unbelievers with the Truth of His Gospel is in the suffering of His saints. Consider, for example, Paul himself. We see him guarding the clothing of those who stoned Stephen to death for his profession of faith in Jesus, and Saul the young Pharisee approving of it (Acts 8:1). Yet Stephen faced this persecution and death for the sake of Jesus’ Gospel with incredible joy, and asked God to forgive his executioners, just as Jesus directs in…
Matthew 5:43-45
43“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, 45that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.
I believe this amazing witness of Stephen’s lodged in Saul’s very soul, and was among the factors that drove Paul in evangelism. Our suffering in peace and joy for the sake of the Gospel is very powerful indeed.
 
Consider, for example the story of the Philippian jailer in Acts 16. Paul and Silas could have left the jail following the earthquake, but they knew that this would put the jailer’s life in danger. They were likely directed by God’s Spirit to remain in the jail as a witness to the jailer, who was so moved that he chose to face persecution himself for confessing Jesus, and all his household were also saved by this single witness of suffering in peace and joy (remember that Paul and Silas had even been singing before the earthquake).
 
This pattern of God’s glorification through the suffering of His saints continues. Even now, Iraq and Syria, God is using the suffering of our dear brothers and sisters at the hand of the ISIS savages to pierce with His Gospel the hearts of the very people who are killing the saints. I think of my brother Ed Figueroa, and the way he faced his bodily death in hope and joy. In this, I am convinced that Ed’s testimony will continue to bear fruit among his caregivers even as Ed himself is already with the Lord.
 
The ultimate testimony of suffering for the glorification of God is found in the nation of Israel itself. Indeed, the overarching theme of the Word of God is the story of this people, chosen by God to be used by Him to bring salvation to all mankind, bringing God His rightful glory…
Genesis 12:1-3
1Now the LORD had said to Abram:
“Get out of your country,
From your family
And from your father’s house,
To a land that I will show you.
2I will make you a great nation;
I will bless you
And make your name great;
And you shall be a blessing.
3I will bless those who bless you,
And I will curse him who curses you;
And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
Isaiah 49:3-6
3“And He said to me,
‘You are My servant, O Israel,
In whom I will be glorified.’
4Then I said, ‘I have labored in vain,
I have spent my strength for nothing and in vain;
Yet surely my just reward is with the LORD,
And my work with my God.’ ”
5“And now the LORD says,
Who formed Me from the womb to be His Servant,
To bring Jacob back to Him,
So that Israel is gathered to Him
(For I shall be glorious in the eyes of the LORD,
And My God shall be My strength),
6Indeed He says,
‘It is too small a thing that You should be My Servant
To raise up the tribes of Jacob,
And to restore the preserved ones of Israel;
I will also give You as a light to the Gentiles,
That You should be My salvation to the ends of the earth.’ ”
Yet, although God speaks throughout His Word of His love and plan of salvation for and through the nation of Israel, no people in history has suffered as Israel has. God has used, and will use this suffering for His glorification. Indeed, Israel had been so scattered and persecuted by the 19th century that many respected Bible scholars had decided that God’s prophecy of Israel’s resurrection in Ezekiel 37 must have been symbolic. How privileged we are to live in the generation that saw this prophecy literally fulfilled in 1947. The remainder of Isaiah 49 prophesies the ultimate fulfillment of God’s glorification in Israel by the coming and suffering of His chosen Servant – God the Son, Jesus Christ.
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God also allows His people to suffer, for our own growth and instruction, to draw us into full reliance upon Him and Him alone, so that we may be cleansed of our pride. The Word is full of examples of God humbling the prideful. This is the essential theme of the book of Jonah. Paul gives us another example…
2 Corinthians 12:7-10
7And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure. 8Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. 9And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
Why does God go to such lengths, even allowing suffering to cleanse us of our pride? In order to serve God, and be useful in the establishment of His kingdom in the hearts of men, we must have the heart of a humble servant. Jesus modeled this for us throughout His ministry among us, most poignantly in the washing of His disciples’ feet only hours before He suffered the deepest humiliation of all – death on the cross and separation from God the Father (John 13). He has given us the treasure of His Holy Spirit contained within the earthen vessels of our bodies formed from the dust of the Earth. We need to remember…
John 15:5
I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.
Because we are sinful and prideful by nature, sometimes God needs to bring us to our knees to remind us of this simple fact. Nevertheless, we have His promise…
2 Chronicles 7:13-14
13When I shut up heaven and there is no rain, or command the locusts to devour the land, or send pestilence among My people, 14if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.

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