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Free Books » Bonar, Horatius » Light & Truth: The Lesser Epistles

Chapter 19 - Philippians 3:10, 11 - The Better Resurrection Light & Truth: The Lesser Epistles by Bonar, Horatius




The Better Resurrection.


     "That I may know Him, and the bower of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being made conformable unto His death; if by any means might attain unto the resurrection of the dead."-Philippians 3:10,11.



     Resurrection! this has been the Church's hope from the beginning. Not what men call the immortality of the soul, but resurrection-the rising up of that very thing which had fallen down. This was revealed from the first, being included in the promise regarding the woman's seed. It is no later revelation, but one which patriarchs and prophets knew and rejoiced in.

     The New Testament expands the truth, and shows us two resurrections,-unto life and death. It shows us the 'better resurrection' (Hebrew 11:35); the 'first resurrection' (Revelation 20:5); 'the resurrection from among the dead' (Philippians 3:2). Resurrection unto glory everlasting is that which is proclaimed as our hope.

     The first or better resurrection, then, is our goal or recompense; that which the apostle kept in view, and which we are also, like him, to set before us in our labours and sufferings. How are we to reach this recompense? The question here is not as to salvation. That was settled at once, on believing. He speaks of reward, or degrees of glory. Are we to be barely saved, 'so as by fire,' or to have the conqueror's reward? Are we simply to get into the kingdom, or to have an abundant entrance?

     The different steps by which the apostle was pressing on to the attainment of this reward are thus given.

     I. Knowing Him.-'That I may know Him.' The 'knowledge of the Christ' was from the beginning the great desire and ambition of the saints. It was first the knowledge of the woman's seed, then of Abraham's seed, then of David's seed; or, generally, it was the knowledge of Messiah throughout the ages that they longed for. They 'saw Messiah's day afar off, and were glad.' By 'His knowledge' it was that the Father's 'righteous servant justified many' (Isaiah 53:2). It was this knowledge that was the basis and the essence of all wisdom. The world's true philosophy (though it knew not) lay here. In the knowledge of the Messiah was contained the knowledge of the true God-of His love and grace, of His truth and righteousness, of His holiness and power, of His wisdom and greatness. No man had seen God at any time; but the only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He declared Him. Thus wrote the apostle of the 'light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.' To know Him, then, was to know God; to know His name was to know the name of God; to know His love was to know the love of God. 'He that hath seen me hath seen the Father.' And more than this, to know this Christ of God was to have pardon and peace; to know Him was to have eternal life; to know Him was to become a son of God, and an heir of the glory. How much was included in 'knowing Him!' Hence Paul's longing, which only eternity could satisfy, was, 'That I may know Him.' Hence his exulting declaration, 'Yea, doubtless, and I count all things but loss, for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord.'

     II. Knowing the power of His resurrection.-There is a twofold power here referred to. (1.) The power contained in, and flowing out from, His resurrection. For as the cross is the place of power, so also is the tomb. Resurrection is a thing of power, and the empty grave of Christ is the exhibition and pledge of that power. (2.) The power contained in the truth concerning resurrection. Resurrection truth is truth of special efficacy in awakening, in quickening, in transforming. The risen Christ is He who is possessed of all power; and the Father, in raising Him, gave proof of the greatness of His power towards Him, 'according to the working of His mighty power.' Resurrection realized by us, is one of the most powerful of all facts or truths. In realizing it, and in studying it, we receive power from it to live the life of risen men. The power of a risen Christ flows into us, as we enter more fully into its meaning.

     III. Knowing the fellowship of His sufferings.-A Christian is (in believing) brought into fellowship with Christ in His sufferings. He gets the benefit of these surety sufferings of the great Substitute, and thus he shares them. But more than this, he himself is a suffering man, called to a suffering life; and in every pang or sorrow he is made to feel his oneness with his suffering Lord. Though the sufferings of the Master were, in respect of their sin-bearing end, and object, altogether isolated and peculiar, yet, considered simply as suffering, they are shared by the disciple. Thus the Master and the disciple are identified in and by suffering. Suffering links us to the suffering One; and each grief deepens our sympathy with Him, and draws out the feeling of oneness or partnership (fellowship) with Him, as the Man of Sorrows. Have we not much to learn of this? Let each sorrow lead us straight to the Man of Sorrows; and while He tells us that in all our affliction He is afflicted, let us feel that in all His affliction we are afflicted. This sense of fellowship in suffering is quickening and sanctifying and comforting. It helps, as it were, to ripen us, to fit us for that which Paul had in view-'the resurrection from the dead.' It is a stepping stone to the exceeding and eternal weight of glory. 'If we suffer, we shall also reign with Him.'

     IV. By being conformed to His death-Paul 'died daily,' in the persecutions he endured, and was thus daily brought into the likeness of Christ's death. He 'carried about with him in his flesh the dying of the Lord Jesus.' His life was an hourly miracle; he seemed to have far more to do with death than with life. In this continual dying he was made conformable to Christ's death. All that his Master passed through he did, and 'filled up that which was behind of the afflictions of Christ;' drank the 'afterings' of His cup of sorrow (Colossians 1:24); passing through much tribulation to the kingdom.

     Thus he pressed on to the glory of the first resurrection, and reigning with Christ. These storms of earth only quickened his pace and strengthened his resolution.