For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things . . . that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death. Philippians 3:8b, 10 (ESV)
Paul said that he longed to share in Christ’s sufferings so that he could become like him in his death. Paul’s goal was, as the Amplified reads, to be continually transformed [in spirit into his likeness] even his death. In fact, Paul goes on in verse eleven to say that he would do whatever it takes to attain to the resurrection of the dead; which I take him to mean a resurrection to glory like Christ’s. So, Paul was convinced that if he died like Christ died, he would be raised like Christ was raised.
Paul’s very life proved that he believed that to die like Christ would be a desirable achievement. In fact, Paul considered it an honor to die in like manner to Christ. So, how did Christ die? Christ died in humiliation, being mocked, scorned and physically tortured. Jesus died out of obedience to God and in service to his sheep (John 6:38; 10:11; Mark 10:45). Paul was willing to endure being despised and rejected by men and in the end to die a martyr’s death for the cause of his Redeemer. He was steadfastly obedient to the heavenly vision that led him to a life of bearing in his body the marks of the Lord Jesus (Acts 26:19; Galatians 6:17). And as history records it, was beheaded for his faith.
To become like Christ in his death, Paul practiced daily dying (1 Corinthians 15:31). He was willing to endure immense persecution for the sake of the elect (2 Timothy 2:10). Paul wrote to the Corinthian believers that the apostles always carried in their bodies the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus would be manifest in their mortal flesh (2 Corinthians 4:8-12). He was compelled to lay aside his passions and desires to be crucified to the world, boasting only in the cross of his Lord Jesus Christ (Galatians 5:24, 6:14). It was this commitment to the gospel that helped prepare Paul to give his life ultimately for the cause of Christ.
After we received Christ, to complete our witness of conversion, many of us participated in the ordinance of baptism. In baptism we were saying that we died with Christ, were buried with him and raised again to walk in newness of life (Romans 6:3-4, Colossians 2:12). In Paul’s day (and in many places in the world today) being baptized meant not only dying to sin and the world’s desires, but also having a willingness to die for the sake of the gospel. I wonder as we celebrate our baptismal services if we ever consider that identifying with Christ may cost us our lives in martyrdom?
Jesus told his disciples that some of them would be delivered up to death for his name’s sake, yet not a hair of their head would perish (Luke 21:16-18). The same is true for us if we identify with Christ. In fact, it is our suffering with Christ that identifies us as God’s children. Paul wrote, And if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. (Romans 8:17 ESV) Albert Barnes wrote, “They who are most like him [Christ] in the scenes of humiliation here, will be most like him in the realms of glory.”
Are you willing to become like Christ in his death that you may become like Christ in his resurrection?
Scriptures for meditation:
1 Corinthians 4:9
2 Corinthians 1:9
1 John 3:2