Philippians: How God Calls Us to Live – Knowing Him: A Call to Intimacy

In Philippians 3, Paul speaks of the worth of Christ and how knowing Him is the apex of human existence: “that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death” (v10).[1]

The original word (ginōskō) means to learn, to know, to come to know, to get a knowledge of, to perceive, to feel, to understand, to become acquainted with. It’s much more than an intellectual head knowledge; it’s a personal experiential knowledge. In a spiritual sense, to know Christ conveys the idea of a closely shared life with Him.

In Philippians 3, Paul relates his personal journey of how God brought him from emptiness to fullness, from religion to reality, and literally from self to Christ. He says, “Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ” (v8). Paul is saying that the all-surpassing reality in life is knowing Christ Jesus our Lord.

What does it mean to know Him? Let’s consider a few things from chapter three.

To know Him means you have His joy. “Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord” (v1). This is a common thread throughout the letter to the Philippians. He is the source of our joy. While life is like a wild roller coaster ride with its ups and downs, we get our joy from Him.

To know Him means our glory is in Him alone. He says, “For we are the circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh” (v3).

Be on guard. There are “dogs” who are evil, and all they care about is the appearance of things; they don’t think Christ is enough, and so seek glory in other things. But we have been redeemed from that way of living. We worship through the Spirit and we find all our glory in Christ alone – nothing more, nothing less, nothing else but Christ and His cross!

To know Him means we evaluate everything in light of Him. So often, like Paul, we try to get approval from our family heritage, from great deeds we’ve done, or from the honor we have received from others. Of himself Paul says, “of the tribe of Benjamin … a Pharisee … a persecutor of the church … as to righteousness under the law, blameless” (vv5-6). But he concludes by saying that it’s nothing. It’s less than nothing – it’s loss. It’s actually damage. The things he thought were profitable in living for God were only losses, and in comparison to Christ, they were worthless rubbish. These are not the things that bring true intimacy with Christ.

To know Him means you are found in Him. “And be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own … but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith” (v9). Being found in Him is a phrase used to describe what God has done in placing us into His family.

It is granted to us by God when we put faith in Christ. He makes us righteous, not through self-effort but through the person and work of Christ. This is living in the fullness that God has changed us and made us righteous in Christ. It doesn’t mean we don’t fail, or make mistakes, or sin, but it does mean that regardless of what we do or don’t do, we are secure in Him, without fear of rejection, abandonment or disapproval. It means our identity is in Him.

To know Him means we have become infused with His power. “That I may know him and the power of his resurrection” (v10). The divine power at work in miraculously raising Christ from the dead is the exact same power at work in us so that we can do the things God wants us to do for Him. So often we try to live life in our own strength, to solve our problems alone, to overcome our fears and anxieties with human means. We try to conquer our battles with human strength. The power for us to grow in faith comes from God. The power for us to encourage one another comes from God. The power for us to love one another comes from God. The power for us to be united in the gospel comes alone from God.

To know Him means you are a partaker of His sufferings. Paul continued, “and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death” (v10). Our Lord is rejected and despised in our world, and any link or association with Him will bring a certain degree of suffering. For some, it will be more than others. While it is never easy, we should count it a privilege to suffer for the sake of His name. This is the privilege of sharing and partnering with Christ in His sufferings. Each of us in some way or another has suffered because of our link with His name. The more we do, the more we will know Him in true partnership. One day, the suffering will give way to glory.

Lastly, to know Him means we press on toward Him. Paul put a big X through his past life in Adam. His (and our) present identity is in Christ. Then he looked to the future. We are destined for big things! This is why in verses 12 and 14 he says, “I press on.” This is the athlete, straining every muscle to reach the finish line. The goal is Christ, and because Christ “has made me His own” (v12), I want to run well for Him. May each of us seek above all other things to know Him!

[1] All Scripture quotations in this article are from the ESV.