That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable to his death;
I. AN EXPERIMENTAL KNOWLEDGE OF CHRIST IS SO GREAT A BLESSING THAT WE SHOULD COUNT ALL THINGS BUT LOSS TO GET IT. It is sometimes expressed by taste. Sight is the knowledge of faith, taste that of experience (1 Peter 2:3; Psalm 34:8). When we taste His goodness or feel His power we have an experimental knowledge of Christ. Many know how to talk about Him but feel nothing. Men speak of His salvation from day to day, but have not the effects of it. When we find within ourselves the fruits of His sufferings, the comfort of His promises, the likeness of His death, the power of His resurrection, then we know Christ experimentally. The benefits it confers show its value. Experience —
1. Gives us a more intimate knowledge of things. While we know them by hearsay we know them only by guess and imagination, but when we know them by experience we know them in truth. He that reads about the sweetness of honey may guess at it, but he that tastes it knows what it is (Colossians 1:6). A man who has travelled through a country knows it better than he who knows it only by a map.
2. Gives greater confirmation of the truth. A man needs no reason to convince him that fire is hot who has been scorched, or that weather is cold who feels it in his fingers. So when the promises of God are verified we see that there is more than letters and syllables (Psalm 18:30; 1 Corinthians 1:6; 1 Thessalonians 1:5).
3. Gives greater excitement to the love of Christ and His ways. The more we feel the necessity of Christ and know His usefulness in binding up our broken hearts, the more we shall love Him as our Saviour (1 John 4:19). We may know the truth of the gospel by other means, but we cannot know that it belongs to us by any other means.
4. Engages us more to zeal and diligence in the heavenly life, which reports and exhortations often fail to do.
(1) Because when, e.g., we have experience of the power of Christ's resurrection it begets a new life within which inclines us to heavenly things — there is a principle to work with (Galatians 5:25).
(2) When this life is gratified with the rewards of obedience, such as peace and comfort, it is an argument above all others to press for more. The Cauls when they had once tasted the Italian grape must get into the country where it grew. The spies were sent to bring the clusters of Canaan into the wilderness to animate the Israelites to put in for the good land. So God gives us the Spirit not only as an earnest (1 Corinthians 1:22) to show us how sure, but as first fruits to show us how good (Romans 8:23).
(3) When this life is obstructed by folly and sin, you find more of Christ's displeasure in your inward man (Ephesians 4:30) than can possibly be represented to your outward condition.
1. It is a dangerous temptation when the gospel comes in word only (1 Corinthians 4:20). It must follow either that you settle in a cold form (2 Timothy 3:5) or into an open denying of Christ and the excellency of His religion.
2. If you have not this knowledge how will you be able to carry on this spiritual life with any delight, seriousness, or success? (1 John 5:3-10).
3. Without it you can have no assurance of your own interest (Romans 4:4-5; 1 John 4:17).
4. Without it you will neither honour Christianity nor propagate it.
(1) By word (Psalm 34:8). A report of a report at second or third hand is no valid testimony. None can speak with such confidence as those who feel what they speak (2 Corinthians 1:4).
(2) By work (2 Thessalonians 1:11-12; 1 Thessalonians 1:4-7).
1. A sound belief of the doctrines of the gospel (1 John 5:10; 1 Thessalonians 2:13). We cannot feel the power of the truth till we receive it.
2. Serious meditation and consideration (Psalm 45:1; Acts 16:14).
3. Close application. Things work not upon us at a distance (Job 5:27). Conclusion:
1. Look for experience rather in the way of sanctification than of comfort. The one is not so necessary as the other, and the Spirit may cease to comfort that He may sanctify.
2. Look to the thing end not to the measure or degree
(T. Manton, 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;