That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable to his death;
The participle "being made" is present, and implies a process that is going on and will continue through life — not an act like justification, simultaneous with the exercise of faith. "Made conformable" means being cast in the same form, being brought into such a community and likeness that one sketch, outline, shape, will represent both.
I. THIS SHAPING IN THE FORM OF CHRIST'S DEATH IS ONE OF THE CHRISTIAN'S EARNEST ENDEAVOURS AND MOST CHERISHED OBJECTS. No advantage in life, nothing that tempts ordinary men can attract Him in comparison of this. Here is a text for us to try ourselves by. What is the shape that we must be like. Christ's death was a death unto sin. "In that He died He died unto sin." The suffering of the previous verse is a different thing from this, yet it co-exists with this in the spiritual life. Fellowship with Christ's sufferings is the endless conflict of the believer's course, ever wearing and wearying Him. Conformity to Christ's death is the deep calm of indifference to sin with all its allurements, ever setting in together with and over against the conflict. The two are in different portions of His being. The conflict with sin is carried on at the surface, and also very much beneath the surface — even in the region where the two wills, the old and the new, are ever struggling and wrestling for the mastery; and sometimes its more terrible paroxysms seem to penetrate, and shake, and threaten to carry away the whole man: but there is an inner depth, in which the peace which passeth understanding has its hold and reign: and there, in that centre of his being, is this death to sin going on. As Christ died to sin, passed out from the penalty and imputation of sin, He had no more to do with it. So each of the brethren who are being made like Him are losing part and interest in sin, weaned from its power, alienated from its motives and objects; the distance ever widening between it and them; the breach becoming ever more and more irreconcilable.
II. THE METHOD BY WHICH THIS IS BROUGHT ABOUT.
1. Not by any mere strong action of the will — any acquired philosophical indifference to sin and temptation. Sin is too strong for any resolve.
2. No; in our Christian life, Christ is first and midst and last: and no mere moral strength or determination can be reckoned on as accessory to Him in his great work. This being conformed to Christ's death is brought in, is carried on, is completed, by faith. When I first see Christ linked to me by the bonds of God's everlasting covenant, then faith begins its work within me; then, the first utter dislike to sin, as sin, is bred in my heart.
3. But faith in what? In Christ's death, in its atoning efficacy and its necessity. Then alone does sin appear in its proper hatefulness when I see that this was what helped to nail Him there; when I enter into my Redeemer's woe and understand what it was that caused it. I become knit to Him and weaned from it — crucified with Him, so that though the motions towards it are yet felt in my body, yet I have no disposition in its favour.
III. LET US FOLLOW OUT THIS CONFORMITY INTO SOME OF ITS ATTENDANT CIRCUMSTANCES.
1. We have seen it in its total severance from sin and sinners. But where were they meantime? Did they rest quiet? Did they allow this ever lasting protest against the pollution, the selfishness, the hatefulness of sin before God, to be lifted up in peace? Ah no: there they were beneath His cross, scoffing at Him and aggravating His death pangs. And so it will be with us. Sin and the devil will not let us alone in its various stages. The nearer we approach in like ness to Him, the more will His enemies treat us as they treated Him. No longer by the scourge, and the crown of thorns, and the cross — but by mockery and scorn, by coldness and alienation, which in our present state of ripened social order are weapons as powerful as any outward persecution was then.
2. He died to all human ambition. Whatever projects His followers may have formed for Him were defeated by it. Just so thy fondly cherished hopes of earthly distinction must be laid down at the foot of His cross; thou must be content, so far as they are concerned, to be stripped and nailed to the cross of shame, and made a spectacle to men.
3. All self-righteousness is nailed to the cross, His was the only meritorious death. If I am being conformed to it I am nothing; nothing as ground of hope, or as cause of fear.
4. Nor should we entirely dismiss such a theme without one look onwards. "If we be dead with Christ, we shall also live with Him." The Christian should never end with Calvary, nor with the mortification of the body, nor with deadness to sin; but ever carry his thoughts onward to that blessed consummation, to which these are the entrance and necessary conditions.
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;