That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable to his death;
1. A man may have a competent and very extensive acquaintance with the whole doctrine of the Christian religion, and yet if he has not an experimental knowledge of Christ it is all vain as to salvation.
2. In the previous verse the apostle deals with his gain in point of justification, here in point of sanctification.
I. WHAT THIS EXPERIMENTAL KNOWLEDGE IS. An inward and spiritual feeling of what we hear and believe, concerning Christ and His truths, whereby answerable impressions are made on our souls (Psalm 34:8; John 4:42).
1. The Scripture says of Christ that He is the way to the Father (John 14:6). Now the man who has tried many other ways and finds no access, at length comes by Christ and finds communion with God. This is experimental knowledge (Romans 5:1-2).
2. Christ's blood purges the conscience, etc. (Hebrews 9). The experimental Christian knows that sin defiles the conscience and unfits him to serve God. At length he looks to God in Christ and throws his guilt into the sea of Christ's blood; then the sting is taken from the conscience and the soul is enabled to serve God as a son with a father.
3. Christ is fully satisfying to the soul (Psalm 83:25; Habakkuk 3:17-18). We all know this by report, the Christian knows it by experience. Sometimes in the midst of all his enjoyment he says, "These are not my portion," and when deprived of these he can encourage himself in God (1 Samuel 30:6; 1 Samuel 1:18).
4. Christ helps His people to bear afflictions and keeps them from sinking under them. The Christian sometimes tries to bear his burden alone and finds it too heavy for him. Then he goes to Christ and lays it on the great burden-bearer and is helped (Psalm 28:7; Isaiah 43:2; 2 Corinthians 8:9-10).
5. Christ is made unto us wisdom (1 Corinthians 1:20). When the Christian leans to his own understanding he mistakes his way at noonday, but when he gives himself up to be led by Christ as a blind man, he is conducted in a way he knew not, and blesses the Lord who has given him counsel.
6. Christ is made unto us sanctification (1 Corinthians 1:30), Apart from Christ the Christian wrestles in vain and his graces lie dead; but when he renews the actings of faith in Christ, and flings down self-confidence, he becomes more than conqueror.
II. CONFIRMATION OF THE POINT. Consider —
1. The Scripture testimonies concerning this.
(1) To learn religion in all the power and parts of it is to learn Christ (Ephesians 4:20-24).
(2) There needs no more to be known, for this comprehends all (1 Corinthians 2:2).
(3) It is the sum and substance of a believer's life (Philippians 1:21). Yea, eternal life itself (John 17:3).
2. All true religion is our likeness to God. This is impossible without Christ, for He is the only channel of those influences which makes us partakers of the Divine nature (2 Corinthians 4:6).
3. Whatever religion a man seems to have that does not come and is maintained in this way, is but nature varnished over: for "he that honoureth not the Son," etc.
III. THE MEANS. Faith closing with Christ.
1. Belief that Christ is such a one as He is held out in the gospel to be. It is the want of this that mars this knowledge (Isaiah 53:1).
2. Closure with Christ, to the very end that the soul may so know Him.
3. Union with Christ, so making way for this knowledge which is the happy result of union.
1. Religion is not a matter of mere speculation to satisfy curiosity, but a matter of practice. An unexperimental professor is like a foolish sick man who entertains those about him with fine discourses of the nature of medicines, but in the meantime is dying for the want of application of them.
2. The sweet of religion lies in the experience of it (Psalm 63:5; Psalm 19:11). Religion would not be the burden it is if we would by experience carry it beyond dry, sapless notions.
3. All the profit of religion lies in the experience of it (Matthew 7:22). Painted fire will never burn, and the sight of water will never wash.
4. The experimental Christian is the only one whose religion will bring him to heaven, which is experimental religion perfected.
(T. Boston, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death;