Last Thing, First Love

Philippians 3:10-11

“I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead” (NIV 1984).


No truer, more poignant, or more aspirationally ambitious words have ever been spoken than these. This is our first love. To this we must return again and again and again. The whole genome of the Christian faith lives in these powerful words.

I want to know Christ. Let those words settle over you.

I want to know Christ. Let them lodge in your deepest heart.

I want to know Christ. This is our first love.

This is what it means to follow Jesus, to be a Christian. No matter how far along you are on the journey, no matter if you serve in the church vocationally or professionally—in fact, especially if you serve in the church vocationally or ­professionally—you never progress beyond this core aspiration: I want to know Christ.

In a wedding ceremony, the first act of worship is the declaration of intent by the bride and the groom. The parties are asked questions something like this these:

Do you take this man/woman to be your lawfully wedded spouse? Will you love him/her, comfort him/her, honor and keep him/her in sickness and in health, and forsaking all others keep only to him/her so long as you both shall live?

This is the kind of intent Jesus looks for in his followers.

I want to know Christ, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.

It can take time to get there, and be even more challenging to stay there, but this is the invitation. So why would we make such a declaration? Only one reason—Jesus has already made this kind of declaration toward us.

I want to know Christ.

If you are anything like me, though, I don’t tend to linger too long there. I am eager to get to the next part of the declaration.

I want to know the power of his resurrection.

If I’m honest, that’s what I’m most interested in. I want to know the resurrection power. I want to do the stuff Jesus did. I want to do great things in his name. I want to know the power of his resurrection.

But can we just pause and back up a step? We need to do more than linger with those first words. We must make camp there, and not just a temporary retreat kind of camp but a permanent camp. This is our home. First love.

I want to know Christ. Full stop.

Why is this so important? For starters, because if we ever get past it, we’ve lost it. There is no resurrection power outside of knowing Jesus. It is the fruit of the fellowship. And speaking of fellowship, watch where the text goes.

I want to know the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings.

Keeping it real here, I am not entirely sure I want to know this—the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings. You too? That’s okay. This is a marathon we are running here, not a hundred-yard dash. Let’s back up a couple of steps.

I want to know Christ, and the power of his resurrection . . .

So what if the point of the power of his resurrection is to enable us to participate in the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings? And what if within the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings is where the power of his resurrection becomes the most real and the most powerful? And what if this is where we really get to know Jesus? It gets deeper still.

. . . becoming like him in his death.

Okay, that’s a bridge too far. But isn’t this the very song Paul sings out in the second chapter of this letter—about having the same mind in us that was in Christ Jesus, who took on the nature of a slave, humbled himself, and became obedient to death, even death on a cross? Yes, Paul actually wants us to sing along with our lives.

This is moving past a declaration of intent and into something akin to vows. “For better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and health, to love and to cherish, till death us do part.” Only this is not till death do us part. Keep tracking.

I want to somehow attain to the resurrection of the dead.

While death is the end of a marriage, it looks to be the beginning of the life hid with Christ in God. The resurrection of the dead was a given for Paul. He said as much in his letter to the Corinthians. If the dead are not raised, then Christ was not raised. Permit me to ponder with you here. The resurrection of the dead was as fixed as the sun in Paul’s understanding. He wasn’t striving to attain that which was a given at the end of time. Paul believed there was an ever-­increasing sense that though he would be raised on the last day, this future reality was available even now—in life—before death. Because Jesus had attained to the resurrection of the dead, in this life, Paul believed it was somehow possible for him—and us—to attain it now. It’s why he wrote things in this letter like, “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain” (Phil. 1:21).

It gets richer. Here’s the even deeper mystery. Paul has accelerated his own death, allowing it to become subsumed in the death of Jesus, and thereby abandoning his whole life to him. Consider how he put it in Galatians, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (2:20).

And did I mention Paul wrote this letter from his retreat home overlooking the Mediterranean Ocean? No! Paul wrote this from a dank, dark prison cell. From a hopeless, joyless, and loveless place, Paul wrote what has become known as the Epistle of Joy. The one in greatest apparent need of encouragement became the greatest encourager of all time. What was his secret? For Paul there was only ever this: I want to know Christ.

To know Jesus is to know everything else.
The power of his resurrection.
The fellowship of sharing in his sufferings.
The becoming like him in his death.
The somehow to attain to the resurrection from the dead.

It seems right and good to close out this concluding word with perhaps Paul’s greatest benediction, coming on the heels of the powerful declaration of his intention.

Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. (Phil. 3:12–14)

I want to know Christ. First love.


Jesus, I belong to you. Amen. 


  1. How has this journey of First Love, through the ancient letter to the Philippians brought growth and transformation in your life? 

For the Awakening,
J.D. Walt

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Comments and Discussion

6 Responses

  1. I have experienced the power of the resurrection and it came as I was being crucified for Christ. To walk in his power is the knowledge of knowing you have no power of your own. When the child of God is dead to themselves, the resurrected Christ appears. I do not believe God fights for this position, for it belongs to him anyway. BUT we-I do not give it freely, to be used by God we must die to self and live there.

    1. I like “to walk in His power is to realize you have no power of your own”. I have and do realize that. A family member has been very chronically ill. I have seen God everywhere in walking with them through this storm. I have seen His power and feel His presence. I am trusting and depending on Him and l ow He will never leave me.

  2. As I ponder the words, “and becoming like him in his death”, I’m reminded of the words written by Peter in his first epistle: For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous , to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit. (1 Peter 3:18,19). Is this not a graphic demonstration of what happens when we truly die to self and are born from above? Yes, I want to know Jesus and become like him in all ways.

  3. It all begin with this realization: Everything I thought i knew is no longer applicable. It was the light that shown through the crack of the darkness I was in. For the first time in my life somebody had held my hands and prayed for me, not over me……I was already in a spot where just returning and doing the same ol’ same ol’–including church–was never going to be the answer…….Which turned out to be a good thing because, for me there is currently a huge disconnect from where the church was as a significant means of grace in my life, and where it currently is now. Somewhere in all the chaos, God is at work, including me.

  4. Love is believing. Beholding the Lamb of God with your heart releases amazing love that is beyond comprehension and begins an inner journey of hungering and thirsting for ever more of Christ in you the hope of glory.

  5. This is a concept, a truth that so many, maybe the majority of American Christians have not arrived at in my opinion. We, of course want to avoid suffering and pain. And it is true that wise decisions can help us avoid this, it is true that He will lead us, and that ther can be healing and prospering. But that is not doctrine essentially, the very early church did not know this. We are healed from the burden and the bondage of sin. And also prayer does change things. What about the sufferings though of many Christians over the centuries, what about the witness of matryrs? I myself (no great saint)
    have undergone many ill health problems, some chronic. Some that are not healed. Near death at time, the Lord worked through doctors, medicine, prayers from believers …and my wife’s compassioante loving care. In some of these times the pain was absolutely overwhelming and longlasting. Calling out to him, recalling scripture and finally being ministered to by a nurse in the night in a hospital that did not know who she was…an angel. She spoke a few words with me and took away my pain…!!! There was a vision that I had that was out of body to the edge of heaven…(not into heaven). The peace was overwhelming….I returned to my hospital bed. During these times (when surgery or medicine would not help) it was a particpating in Christs sufferings (not my own by any means) that I what I experienced was a compltete “letting go” and surreneder tat I was not in control …but that the Lord Jesus is Sovereign, loving Holy, omnicient, merciful. It is something I cannot forgget…but something I need to remind myself each day. No matter how big our troubles seem …or how small we are…He cares, Jesus died on the cross for each of us and rose for each of us!.

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