The Meaninglessness of Resurrection Without Death


Philippians 3:10-11

I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.


This one is a “rememberizer.”

There are places in Scripture, passages and even single verses, that capture the essence of the whole Bible. They distill thousands of words into a sentence or two, and, in doing so, they capture essence and purpose and even passion. This is one of those texts. I reprint it below in the particular version in which I rememberized it”

“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).

It does not begin with “I should,” or “I ought to,” or “I need,” or “I wish,” or “I think.” It says, “I want,” which lands us in the realm of longing and desire and deep will.

Note also it does not say I want to know “about” Christ. This is not mere knowing for knowledge’s sake. This is the knowing of deep personal relationship, the knowing of deep calling to deep.

So what does this entail? It can’t mean whatever we want it to mean. In the last chapter Paul gave us the resplendent vision of the mind of Christ. Remember the \/ pattern? Paul makes very clear in the next several words exactly what it mean to know Christ: (1) knowing the power of his resurrection; (2) sharing in the fellowship of his sufferings; (3) becoming like him in his death; and (4) the resurrection of the body at the end of the age and life, life, and more life for all the ages to come.

We are all a big yes to numbers 1 and 4. Numbers 2 and 3 can be another story. We mistakenly think of resurrection as numbers 1 and 4 and of the cross as numbers 2 and 3. The cross is the whole thing. The cross is the movement of death and resurrection. We do not get one without the other. There is no knowing Jesus apart from the cross, which means there is no knowing Jesus apart from the grand movement of death and resurrection. What does resurrection even mean apart from death?

Let me repeat, there is no knowing the power of his resurrection without sharing in the fellowship of his suffering and becoming like him in his death. To borrow Thomas à Kempis’s phrase, this is the “royal way of the holy cross.”

One more thing. Participating in his sufferings and becoming like him in his death is not a grit-your-teeth-and-bear-it kind of experience. It is the journey of learning to love like God loves. In fact, this is the core essence of discipleship to Jesus: the way of the cross, the way of the great love.


Abba Father, we thank you for your Son, Jesus, who is himself the perfect embodiment of the love of God. We want to know this love, which is to say we want to know him. Lead us in this way of the cross, this path of death and resurrection, all the days of our lives. We pray in Jesus’ name, amen.


  1. Have you ever thought of the cross as both death and resurrection? Does this make sense to you?
  2. How are you growing in your understanding of sharing in the fellowship of his sufferings? What does this mean to you?
  3. “I want to know Christ.” On a scale of 1 to 10 (with 10 being the highest value), where do you scale yourself?

For the Awakening,
J.D. Walt

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Comments and Discussion

One Response

  1. I have no problem understanding the cross as an instrument of death. The resurrection part presents more of a challenge. I realize there’s no Easter without Good Friday. I think that I’m growing in understanding that to share in the sufferings of Christ is to embrace the love of Christ for the unsaved. This requires that we place the needs of others above ourselves. If I had to gauge myself on how far I’ve progressed on this process, I would say maybe 2 or 3 at best. No sane person would ever think that sanctification could be easy or painless.

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