That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable to his death;
The death of Christ is presented to us in three different lights.
1. As the noblest expression of Divine love for man; as the infinitely meritorious price of our redemption; as the only safe ground of a trembling sinner's hope.
2. As the strongest and most endearing motive to holiness of life — "constraining us."
3. As a suitable pattern for imitation, which is the meaning here.
I. LET US ANALYSE THIS EMINENTLY DISTINGUISHING FEATURE OF CHRISTIAN ATTAINMENT. There is conformity —
1. To the principles involved in the Saviour's death. It was not merely an affecting and mysterious historical event. It represents the principles which lie at the foundation of God's moral character and government, and are most vitally connected with man's hopes as a guilty and helpless being.
(1) These principles are —
(a) That Jehovah is a just and holy Being, and that evil cannot dwell with Him.
(b) That the Divine administration implies the punishment of sin as well as the reward of righteousness.
(c) That the moral law of God is a transcript of His own character, and as such, must be vindicated in all its honours and claims.
(d) That God has an unalterable right to the obedience of His creatures.
(e) That satisfaction must he given to the demands of the perfect law before transgressors can be admitted to mercy.
(f) That without shedding of blood is no remission of sins.
(2) To these principles the mind of the believer must and will be conformed.
(a) He acquiesces in them as essential and worthy of God.
(b) He looks on man as a guilty being and on God as a righteous judge.
(c) He adores and admires the holiness as well as the love of Jehovah.
(d) He contemplates with delight at the foot of the Cross the harmony of the Divine attributes.
(e) And in opposition to the infidel who derides the scheme, the Socinian who extracts from it all its value, the Pharisee who seeks to achieve a salvation for himself, he exclaims, "God forbid" (Galatians 6:16; 1 Corinthians 2:2).
2. In the motives which prompted to it.
(1) Love to God and man; the former because God s honour required vindication; the latter because man needed mercy. This love, of course, passeth knowledge, and in a sense cannot be imitated; but still in the experience of its benefits we may be conformed to it and cherish a corresponding feeling towards God and man, by giving to our Creator and Redeemer the highest place in our affections and service, and by devoting ourselves to the welfare of mankind.
(2) A holy desire to glorify God in the destruction of sin and the advancement of universal holiness. We are conformed to this when the Divine glory is the end of all our actions, and when we wage war against sin.
3. In the ends for which He died.
(1) As a witness for truth; and we must conform ourselves to this by acknowledging the reality and Divine original of truth thus attested.
(2) To expiate the guilt of sin: to conform to this we must repent, believe, and accept His salvation fully, and seek the salvation of others.
4. In the temper and spirit of His death. He suffered —
(1) Voluntarily and cheerfully — do we suffer willingly?
(2) With patience and resignation — are we stubborn?
(3) With meek benevolence — are we revengeful?
(4) In the exercise of lively faith — do we give way to despair?
II. We shall DEDUCE FROM THE SUBJECT THOSE ILLUSTRATIONS OF THE SCHEME OF PRACTICAL CHRISTIANITY IT IS FITTED TO UNFOLD. We have an illustration of —
1. The practical character of the doctrine of the atonement. Having for one of its main objects deliverance from the power of sin and the promotion of universal holiness, it is fitted to cherish a love of practical godliness.
2. The inseparable connection between faith and holiness. Without faith, the principles and motives which most powerfully prompt to holiness could not gain access to the mind: without holiness, there can be no genuine faith, for the graces of holiness are its effects and fruits.
3. The subject enters deeply into the essentials of Christian experience and life. Religion does not consist in the use of means; the ordinances of religion are only the means of leading the soul to God and holiness, of being conformable to Christ's death.
(R. Burns, 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;