What does it mean to be a Christian?
Perhaps no congregation was closer to the heart of Paul than the one in Philippi, but in the end, it was just a church, like our own, made up of fallible and temptable people. They were Christians to be sure, but like us all, subject to the desires that plague humanity.
In a tightly packed statement so important that Paul makes it twice in four verses in Philippians chapter three, Paul reminds his readers what they are supposed to be about.
They are to be about knowing Christ. This is more than just knowing about Christ. It is a discipleship that is so knowledgeable about Jesus that his life is seen in their lives wonderfully magnified (or, in Paul’s words, “exalted” – 2:20).
They are to know the power of Christ’s resurrection, a knowledge that reveals itself in a life as changed as Jesus’ own when he was resurrected; the kind of power that changed Saul the persecutor into Paul the proclaimer of Christ.
They are to fellowship in Christ’s sufferings. As Jesus put the needs of others above Himself, and suffered for it, we are to do the same.
They are to become like him in death. We see in Jesus’ death his faith – an unflagging trust in the plan, purpose and will of God. We see his hope. The writer of Hebrews calls it the “joy that was set before him” (12:2). His hope was beyond anything in this life, focused on the company of God in heaven.
And we see in Jesus’ death his love: love for the heavenly father, and love for mankind. To be a Christian is to exhibit this kind of love in our lives too.
Why do this? That we might “gain Christ” and “attain to the resurrection from the dead.”