Yea doubtless, and I count all things [to be] loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but [refuse], that I may win Christ, and be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith: that I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; if by any means I might attain unto the out-resurrection from among the dead. (vv. 8-11, last part literal rendering)
It should be noted that many years of faithful witness bearing intervene be tween verse 7, which closed our last section, and verse 8, which opens this. Not only had Paul counted all things but loss for Christ when first he saw His glory on the road to Damascus, but the long arduous years since had brought in no change as to this. He still counted all things to be of no worth as compared with that which had so dazzled the vision of his soul—the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus the Lord. How different it is with many: fervent and self-sacrificing in their first love, how soon the fine gold of their devotedness becomes dimmed and their early freshness passes away! The world, which once seemed so worthless in view of the matchless glory shining in the face of the Savior, begins again to exercise attractive power when the heart has “begun to wax wanton against Christ.” It was blessedly otherwise with our apostle. Never for one moment did he go back on the great renunciation he had made when first won for that exalted Jesus whom he had ignorantly persecuted.
And so in this section of the epistle he reaffirms the faith with which he began. He still counted all that earth could offer as dross and refuse when placed alongside of Christ’s surpassing glory, which was the one great object ever before him. And this was not with him mere mystical rhapsodizing, for already had he suffered the loss of all things, even of liberty itself, as we know (though in these verses he does not refer to it), and this was all in accord with the dominant purpose of his life, that he might win Christ and be found in Him in the great consummation.
It is not that he is putting the “being found in Christ” on the ground of attainment, or as something to be earned by self-abnegation, but he is letting us into the secret of the supreme emotion of his being. It is as though he were saying, “Ever since I saw Christ in the glory of God I have considered nothing else as worth living for. He has so won my heart that nothing now counts with me but the blessedness of knowing Him, of being completely identified with Him both in life and in death, yea, and beyond death. I would not stand before God in a righteousness of my own now if I could. I desire only to be found in Him. I long only to know Him more intimately, let the suffering involved be what it may. I would even die as He died at last, if need be—any way that He may choose, that at last, whatever way may lead me to it, I shall attain to the great rapture of all saints at His coming, the glorious out-resurrection from among the dead. This for me will be the goal attained which has been for so long before my soul. For then I shall be so completely identified with Him who has won my heart to Himself, that I shall be like Him forever, and with Him through all the ages to come.”
I have sought thus to paraphrase his words in order that it may be clearly seen that there is here no element of uncertainty involved in them, as many have supposed and some have taught. He did not fear that he might miss the first resurrection through unfaithfulness or lack of watchfulness. Nor was this out-resurrection from among the dead a matter of present experience (as the verses following show), but refers to that one great event for which every instructed Christian should wait with eagerness—the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together unto Him.
To teach that the rapture is only for certain devoted saints, and that even Paul himself was haunted with the fear that he would come short of it, would be to lose entirely the sense of the rich grace of God, which is to work in us that glorious change which will make us like Him for whom we wait. The uniform teaching of the apostle is that “they that are Christ’s” shall rise “at his coming.” And in this hope the aged prisoner of the Lord faced the prospect of martyrdom in its most cruel form. It would be but the appointed means by which he should attain unto the blessedness of the first resurrection.
Nor, it seems to me, can we with propriety say that what the apostle has in mind is the power of resurrection life working in him here on earth so that he may live in the first-resurrection experience, as some have designated it. This would be dangerously near to the “death to nature” theories promulgated by earnest but misled men in the last century, and which resulted in grave departures from sobriety and scriptural order. None had more fully entered into that knowledge of “the power of his resurrection” in his human body than did the apostle, yet he puts the having part in the out-resurrection as the climax of all his years of devoted service. Everything would be incomplete without that. Nor do I know of any other place in the Word of God where the expression is used as referring to a believer’s experience. In fact, there is added here a second preposition to intensify the thought of a selective resurrection, otherwise it is the regular expression which distinguishes the first resurrection from the second, which brings up the remaining dead for judgment (Rev. 20:4-5).
That there are two resurrections1—not one general rising of saved and unsaved at one time—I take it for granted is clear to my readers, as so much has been written and orally taught upon this subject in recent years. The resurrection of the just; the resurrection of life; the first resurrection; the resurrection from, or out of, the dead—these are all terms synonymous with the one the apostle uses here.
It is with the eye and heart set upon this that the apostle can cast aside as so much impedimenta all that would cause him to glory in the flesh or give others an occasion to glory on his behalf. Like the racer stripped for the contest, he struggles ardently on with his eye upon the goal, which is for him this out-resurrection. In view of it, suffering cannot daunt him nor death terrorize him. He sees in both but an opportunity for fuller, sweeter fellowship with his Lord. He would count it all joy to drink of His cup of suffering and to share in His baptism of death—the last of course only as witness bearer, as was promised to James and John before him.
How little do most of us enter into this holy “fellowship of his sufferings!” It is to be feared that some who make greatest pretension as to fellowship in things ecclesiastical would be found sadly wanting when opportunity is given to enter into this fellowship of sorrow and of pain, in which, as in no other phase of fellowship, the soul enters into communion with Him who was on earth a Man of Sorrows and acquainted with grief.
1 If any are perplexed as to this, may I recommend C. H. Mackintosh, The Two Resurrections, and the Judgment (New York: Loizeaux, n.d.).