That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable to his death;
In every occurrence there are to be considered the fact — that which actually occurs — and the consequences, actual or possible — what St. Paul calls "its power." We know the fact of an occurrence when we have handled the proofs which show that it really took place; when we know how it has been described, what were its several aspects; but we know of the "power" of the fact when we can trace what its effects have been, or what they might have been or might be. It is easier to apprehend a fact than to take the measure of its consequences, its practical meaning, its power. If I throw a stone, I can ascertain the weight of the stone, the moment at which it leaves my hand, the distance of the spot at which it touches the ground. But what is hard to ascertain is the effect of the stone's passage through the air; the thousands of insects instantaneously disabled or destroyed by it; the radiation of disturbance caused by the displacement of the atmosphere, and extending, it may be, into regions which defy calculation. All of us understand more or less, at least, the general outline of the succession of recent events in Egypt; but what will be, in the course of time, their import and influence upon the condition and history of our own country and of the world, who shall say? So to apprehend a fact is one thing; it is quite another to feel its power. When then St. Paul utters his prayer he implies that already he has knowledge of the fact. St. Paul, being thus sure of the resurrection as a fact, was not embarrassed by an a priori doctrine forbidding him to ignore it. He was not like those old schoolmen whom Lord Bacon condemned, and who, instead of learning what to think about nature from the facts of nature, endeavoured to persuade themselves that the facts of nature corresponded somehow with what they already thought about it. St. Paul, then, had no need to pray, as have many in our time, that he might be assured of the fact of Christ's resurrection; what he did pray for was that he might increasingly understand its power. This power may be observed —
I. IN THE WAY IS WHICH A TRUE BELIEF IN IT ENABLES A MAN TO REALIZE HABITUALLY THE MORAL GOVERNMENT OF THE WORLD BY GOD. Our age is not one in which men believe, that whatever happens, all is overruled by a Being who is perfectly good and wise. There are circumstances in the modern world which make belief in the Divine government harder than it was for our ancestors. One is our wider outlook. Thanks to the Press, to the railway, to the telegraph, we know a great deal more of what is going on all over the world than did any previous generation of men; and one consequence is this — that human life presents itself to many minds as a much more tangled and inexplicable thing than it ever did before. The disappointments in store for the conscience which is eagerly searching for clear traces of a law of right vigorously asserting itself are so frequent and so great, that men lose heart where heart and purpose are specially needful. Now, here the certainty that Jesus Christ arose from the dead asserts what St. Paul calls its "power," for when Jesus Christ was crucified it might have seemed — it did seem — that the sun of God's justice had gone down, that while all the Vices were being feasted and crowned in Rome, all the Virtues could be crucified with impunity in Jerusalem. But when He burst forth from the grave He proclaimed to men's senses as well as to their consciences that the real law which rules the world is moral and not material, and that the sun of God's righteousness, if it is at times overclouded in human history, is sure to reappear.
II. IN THE FIRM PERSUASION IT SHOULD CREATE THAT THE CHRISTIAN CREED IS TRUE AS A WHOLE AND IN ITS SEVERAL PARTS.
1. It is a proof that the Christian creed is true. There are many truths of Christianity which do not contribute anything to prove its general truth, although they could not be denied or lost sight of without fatally impairing its integrity. Take, for example, our Lord's perpetual intercession in heaven. We believe in this because the apostles have so taught us. We do not believe in the creed as a whole, because we believe in Christ's intercession. It is otherwise with the resurrection, which is a proof that the Christian faith is true because it is the certificate of our Lord's mission from heaven, to which He Himself pointed as the warrant of His claims (John 2:19; Matthew 12:39-40; John 6:62; Matthew 17:9; Mark 9:9-10; Matthew 17:21, 23; John 10:18; Matthew 30:17-19; Mark 10:32-34; Luke 18:31-33. John 16:16; Matthew 26:31-33). The resurrection was thus constantly before Christ's mind, because it was to be the warrant of His mission. And when He did rise, He redeemed the pledge which He had given to His disciples and to the world. The first preachers of Christianity understood this. The resurrection was the proof to which they constantly pointed that our Lord was really what He claimed to be (Acts 17:18; Acts 2:22-24, 32),
2. What is the true value of this fact among the credentials of Christianity?
(1) Paley makes a great mistake when he rests the whole case of Christianity upon the fact that the resurrection was so certain to its first preachers, that they willingly gave their lives to attest it. This mistake lay not in insisting on this fact — which is, indeed, of the very first importance as an evidence of Christianity — but in insisting on it as if it stood alone, and would of itself and unsupported prove to all minds the truth of the Christian creed; the truth being that the evidences of Christianity are not one and simple, but many and complex. Their strength lies in their convergence. The fabric which its Divine Architect meant to rest upon a group of pillars cannot be safely rested, even by a man of genius, upon one.
(2) Another mistake is, that it is of no value whatever as an evidence of Christianity — Christianity is said to be recommended solely by the moral character of Christ; the supernatural incidents of His earthly life, and notably His resurrection, are treated as an embarrassing addition. This estimate of the evidential value of the resurrection is altogether opposed to the mind of our Lord and His apostles. They did not mean the resurrection to stand alone; but they assigned to it the highest place among the facts and considerations which go to show that Christianity is true: a countersign in the world of Nature to the teaching of our Lord in the court of conscience — the outward miracle assures us through the senses that the Being who is the Author of Nature is the same Being as He who speaks to conscience in the moral law, in the Sermon on the Mount, in the whole character and teaching of our Lord Jesus Christ. If we heard the inward voice of conscience alone we might doubt whether there was really anything external which warranted it; if we witnessed the outward miracle alone we might see in it a mere wonder with no moral consequence. But when the Teacher whose voice pierces, rouses, quickens the conscience is accredited by an interference with the observed course of Nature, the combined evidence is in reason overwhelming.
III. IN THE SPIRITUAL LIFE OF CHRISTIANS. Our Lord is not merely our authoritative Teacher, or Redeemer, but also, through real union with us, the Author of a new life within us. St. Paul teaches us this again and again. Sometimes he speaks of our Lord as though He were a sphere of being within which the Christian lives: (2 Corinthians 5:17); sometimes as the inhabitant of the Christian soul (Colossians 1:27). This union is not metaphor, it is a certain experience. Our Lord, then, dwells in Christians, and, as a consequence, the New Testament teaches us that the mysteries of His earthly life are reproduced, after a manner, in the Christian soul. If Christ is born supernaturally of a virgin mother, the Christian is made God's child by adoption and grace; apostles are in travail until Christ be formed in their converts. If Christ is crucified on Mount Calvary, the Christian, too, has a Calvary where he. crucified with Christ, crucifies "the flesh, with the affections and lusts." If Christ, while apostles behold, is taken up into heaven and sits at the right hand of God, the Christian in heart and mind with Him ascends, with Him continually dwells, is made to sit together with Him in heavenly places. And, in like manner, if Christ rose from the dead the third day, according to the Scriptures, the Christian also has experience of an inward resurrection. Conclusion: Of this power lodged in the Christian soul there are three characteristics.
1. Christ rose really. It was not a phantom that haunted the upper chamber, etc. And our Easter resurrection from sin will be no less real if it is His power by which we are rising (Revelation 3:1).
2. Our Lord rose to lead, for the most part, a hidden life. On the day of His resurrection He appeared five times, but rarely afterwards during the forty days. So it is with the risen life of the soul. It is not constantly flaunted before the eyes of men; it seeks retirement, solitude, and the sincerities which these ensure (Colossians 3:1-4).
3. Our Lord being raised, "dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over Him," etc. So with him who shares that risen life.
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;