The Knowledge of Christ

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It is one thing for a perishing man to be saved by another, but it is something further for him to know the one who saved him; so also it is one thing for a perishing sinner to be saved by Christ, and another thing to go on to know Christ when saved.
This comes out in a very striking manner in Phil. 3 The writer is the Apostle Paul. As Saul of Tarsus previous to his conversion, he had distinguished himself among his fellows by his persistent hatred of the name of Jesus, and determined persecution of those who followed Him. In Acts 26:9-119I verily thought with myself, that I ought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth. 10Which thing I also did in Jerusalem: and many of the saints did I shut up in prison, having received authority from the chief priests; and when they were put to death, I gave my voice against them. 11And I punished them oft in every synagogue, and compelled them to blaspheme; and being exceedingly mad against them, I persecuted them even unto strange cities. (Acts 26:9‑11), when defending himself in the presence of Porcius Festus and King Agrippa, referring to his former manner of life, he says: "I verily thought with myself, that I ought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth. Which thing I also did in Jerusalem: and many of the saints did I shut up in prison, having received authority from the chief priests; and when they were put to death, I gave my voice against them. And I punished them oft in every synagogue, and compelled them to blaspheme; and being exceedingly mad against them, I persecuted them even unto strange cities."
Again, in Gal. 1:13, 1413For ye have heard of my conversation in time past in the Jews' religion, how that beyond measure I persecuted the church of God, and wasted it: 14And profited in the Jews' religion above many my equals in mine own nation, being more exceedingly zealous of the traditions of my fathers. (Galatians 1:13‑14): "For ye have heard of my conversation" (manner of life) "in time past in the Jews' religion, how that beyond measure I persecuted the church of God, and wasted it: and profited in the Jews' religion above many my equals in mine own nation, being more exceedingly zealous of the traditions of my fathers."
And again, in 1 Tim. 1:1313Who was before a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious: but I obtained mercy, because I did it ignorantly in unbelief. (1 Timothy 1:13): "Who was before a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious: but I obtained mercy, because I did it ignorantly in unbelief."
And one more example in Acts 22:19, 2019And I said, Lord, they know that I imprisoned and beat in every synagogue them that believed on thee: 20And when the blood of thy martyr Stephen was shed, I also was standing by, and consenting unto his death, and kept the raiment of them that slew him. (Acts 22:19‑20), where he repeats what he had confessed to the Lord, saying: "Lord, they know that I imprisoned and beat in every synagogue them that believed on Thee: and when the blood of Thy martyr Stephen was shed, I also was standing by, and consenting unto his death, and kept the raiment of them that slew him."
Now this course that Saul pursued was not that of an ignorant and infidel sinner showing out the natural enmity of his heart against God and His people, but of a learned, religious man, zealous in doing God service, but whose heart was not one whit better (John 16:22They shall put you out of the synagogues: yea, the time cometh, that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service. (John 16:2)). He was a man of good position, enjoying high privileges, and punctilious in his outward observance of the law of God; but instead of these things producing true subjection and love to God while leading in the profession of service to Him, he was using them to his own profit (Gal. 1:1414And profited in the Jews' religion above many my equals in mine own nation, being more exceedingly zealous of the traditions of my fathers. (Galatians 1:14)), and had become Satan's stoutest champion in seeking to overthrow the truth.
But in course of time Saul, breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, is furnished with letters from the high priest, and starts for Damascus in order to bring them bound to Jerusalem; and as he journeyed, the Lord met him. (Acts 9:1-8; 26:12-181And Saul, yet breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, went unto the high priest, 2And desired of him letters to Damascus to the synagogues, that if he found any of this way, whether they were men or women, he might bring them bound unto Jerusalem. 3And as he journeyed, he came near Damascus: and suddenly there shined round about him a light from heaven: 4And he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? 5And he said, Who art thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks. 6And he trembling and astonished said, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do. 7And the men which journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing a voice, but seeing no man. 8And Saul arose from the earth; and when his eyes were opened, he saw no man: but they led him by the hand, and brought him into Damascus. (Acts 9:1‑8)
12Whereupon as I went to Damascus with authority and commission from the chief priests, 13At midday, O king, I saw in the way a light from heaven, above the brightness of the sun, shining round about me and them which journeyed with me. 14And when we were all fallen to the earth, I heard a voice speaking unto me, and saying in the Hebrew tongue, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks. 15And I said, Who art thou, Lord? And he said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest. 16But rise, and stand upon thy feet: for I have appeared unto thee for this purpose, to make thee a minister and a witness both of these things which thou hast seen, and of those things in the which I will appear unto thee; 17Delivering thee from the people, and from the Gentiles, unto whom now I send thee, 18To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me. (Acts 26:12‑18)
.) A light above the brightness of the sun shone suddenly round about him, and he falls to the earth. But richly as he deserved judgment, it was as his Savior and not his judge that the Lord stopped him on his mad career, so that we find him saying in 1 Tim. 1:14-1614And the grace of our Lord was exceeding abundant with faith and love which is in Christ Jesus. 15This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief. 16Howbeit for this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show forth all longsuffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on him to life everlasting. (1 Timothy 1:14‑16): "And the grace of our Lord’s exceeding abundant with faith and love which in Christ Jesus. This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came to the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief. Howbeit for this cause I obtained mercy, it in me first Jesus Christ might show forth all kg-suffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on Him to life everlasting." from that time forth Saul of Tarsus (whose Tie is changed to Paul), forgiven and saved, with the Son of God revealed in him (Gal. 6), leads in heralding the gospel of the grace God. The devil's slave became the Lord's freedman and willing bondsman in the glad tidings.
and now in Phil. 3:4-74Though I might also have confidence in the flesh. If any other man thinketh that he hath whereof he might trust in the flesh, I more: 5Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee; 6Concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless. 7But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. (Philippians 3:4‑7) we may learn from own pen the wondrous effect produced upon soul by this mighty change: "If any other man thinketh that he hath whereof he might trust in flesh, I more: circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee; concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless. But what things were gain to me, those counted loss for Christ."
How mighty indeed the power of divine grace! He could look round upon his kinsmen after the flesh and say, "If any other man thinketh that he hath whereof he might trust in the flesh, I more." He had been circumcised the eighth day according to the original institution that God gave to Abraham; he was of the stock of Israel, the privileged earthly people that were not to be reckoned among the nations, and to whom pertained "the option, and the glory, and the covenants, and giving of the law, and the service of God, and
promises" (Rom. 9:44Who are Israelites; to whom pertaineth the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises; (Romans 9:4)); of the tribe of Benjamin, the youngest and favored son; a Hebrew of the Hebrews, ranking among the highest of his kinsmen; as touching the law, a Pharisee, the straitest sect of the Jews' religion; concerning zeal, persecuting the Church, the body and bride of Christ, the dearest object of His heart; and touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless; a man so strict in his observance of the law of God, that he walked without blame in the midst of his fellows. But then, having summed up all that he might trust in (and things too in which many around still trusted, though far beneath his standard), he gives us their true value in the presence of God (and it was there he had learned it), saying, "But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ." Note it well—"loss for Christ." Many slur it over as though it read "gave up for Christ." Such a thought apparently never entered his mind. Gave up! that was not how Paul reckoned. He counted himself a gainer, not a loser; he would have been a loner to go on with these things when he had Christ; he learned the end of the flesh, as well as the putting away of his sins by the death of Christ. To hold to what was ended there was to be a loser both here and hereafter.
These things had been a gain to him as a man in the flesh. He had profited in the Jews' religion above many his equals in his own nation (Gal. 1:1414And profited in the Jews' religion above many my equals in mine own nation, being more exceedingly zealous of the traditions of my fathers. (Galatians 1:14)); but now Christ was his Savior and his boast, and God's salvation his profit instead. "What things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ."
Beloved reader, how is it with you? Is Christ your Savior? If so, how are you looking upon the things that are a gain to you after the flesh? Are you clinging to them at the expense of what is due to Christ? Do you begrudge even giving them up, and retain them with a bad conscience? Is it a difficult task? If so, how far short of counting them loss! Surely if we know a Savior in glory and rightly value Him, it ought not to be so. There was no effort on Paul's part. Everything beneath the sun had been eclipsed when the light above its brightness had shone round about him. Blinded at his conversion for three days, his eyes were again opened to be fixed upon a new object, a Savior in glory who had saved him, and in whose company he was shortly destined to spend an eternity of bliss. 0 that we, like him, may be able to say in the sight of God, "What things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ."
But there is something more. In the next verse we read: "Yea doubtless, and I count all things but 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 dung, that I may win Christ."
What we have hitherto been dwelling upon was the effect pronounced upon Paul at his conversion, but he is here writing to the saints at Philippi some thirty years or so afterward. In verse 7 he speaks of having counted loss for Christ, things which were a gain to him. This was when he first knew Christ as his Savior; but now he adds, "Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss." "Yea doubtless," surely; there was no question about it, no hesitation whatever. "I count." For some thirty years he had pursued his undeviating course toward the goal that he had before him. Was he weary and full of regret on account of his self-sacrifice? No; he was occupied with Christ, and superior then, as at starting, to circumstances which, if he had allowed room for the flesh, his heart naturally would have sought after and turned back to.
And not only so, but he counts all things, not merely things which were a gain to him, but all things loss. What for? For Christ as a Savior? No, not even so merely, but more than that, Christ was his Savior still—perfectly true—and salvation in Him was doubtless his joy. But he is not satisfied with that, for he says, "Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord." Long had he known Him as his Savior; but here his heart is ravished with the Person who had saved him. This is true devotedness. Men around him might boast of the knowledge of natural things. The arts and sciences, literature, astronomy, geology (things right enough in their places), might attract many; but Paul has an object before him infinitely superior to them all. What is to be compared with the excellency of the knowledge of Christ, the chiefest among ten thousand, the altogether lovely, the fairer than the children of men? He knew who his Savior was; but here his whole soul's desire is for "the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord." He is enraptured with the Person of the Christ; he would learn Him, become more intimately acquainted with Him, know more of His excellent moral glories, enjoy still deeper and sweeter communion with Jesus, the Son of God's love; he would have Himself without a rival, alone enshrined in his soul. "Christ Jesus my Lord"—mine, as though He wholly belonged to him. Whatever others might own (and he longed that all saints should own the same), for himself he says, "My Lord."
How many thousands know Christ as their Savior, but there stop, satisfied apparently with getting all they can through His finished work, rejoicing too, it may be, to speak about salvation to others, and yet have no relish in their souls to go on and progress in the knowledge of the One who saved them! Other objects engross their minds more or less to the exclusion of Christ. They are thankful to know Him as a Savior, but shrink from saying, "Christ Jesus my Lord." He is not their all. The will is more or less active, and the world in certain aspects and the things that are in it, more or less attractive; and to own the Lordship of Christ would mean a broken will, henceforth subject to Him, and the world as a worthless thing beneath their feet; but for this they are not prepared. But, beloved Christian reader, if through these lines your soul should be more occupied with Himself who died for you, they will not have been written in vain.
And note also now in closing what the Apostle adds: "For whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ." Christ was no mere doctrine to him, but a living Person in glory that engrossed his soul and more than satisfied his heart. For the knowledge of Him he had suffered the loss of everything that the flesh values, and was enabled after 30 years' experience in the path of faith without it, to count it as so much filth, that he might win Christ, or have Christ for his gain. In this he is an example to every believer in Jesus. May God in His rich grace enable many more to sing with the heart as well as with the lip -
"Oh, fix our earnest gaze
So wholly, Lord, on Thee,
That, with Thy beauty occupied,
We elsewhere none may see."
Such knowledge of Christ, instead of leading to carelessness and license, becomes a true preservative against evil. And the more we know of Him, the more earnest will be the desire that our whole manner of life henceforth should be conformed in every detail to Him. And the more truly too we shall be enabled to say with the Apostle, "To me to live is Christ."