THAT I MAY KNOW HIM!
“That I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings!” [Phil 3:10]
Before, then, anyone can experimentally enter into these words, “That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection,” he must experimentally pass through something of the same process as the Apostle; EVERYTHING MUST BE TAKEN AWAY FROM HIM IN WHICH HE ONCE FONDLY TRUSTED, every false hope must be demolished, and all creature good felt to be vanity and emptiness. These things must be wrought experimentally by a divine power in his soul; and their effect will be to bring him down into the dust and ashes of self-abasement.
And when the sinner is brought thus to sink down before God into all the felt ruin of the creature, it is the work of the blessed Spirit to take of the things of Christ, and reveal them to his heart and conscience, and so fill him with love to the Lord of life and glory. Then everything else, as well as every other object of hope or desire, will sink in his esteem as dross and dung in comparison with the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus his Lord.
“That I might known him.” But did not the apostle know him? Whoever possessed a tongue to speak forth greater or more blessed things concerning the riches of Christ’s glorious Person, atoning blood, justifying righteousness, and finished salvation, than the great apostle of the Gentiles? Were these things with him mere doctrines and theories, and had he not in his soul an experimental acquaintance with the Lord Jesus? Had he not received the secret communications of Christ’s dying love into his heart? Yes, surely. It was the very manifestation of these heavenly realities which brought him to desire more of them, and more intensely and ardently to seek them.
In order, therefore, to have the same desires after the knowledge of Christ which the apostle had, there must be the same teachings by the blessed Spirit in our heart which were given to him. For unless the same experimental knowledge of Christ is imparted in a measure to us, Jesus will be to us but as “a root out of a dry ground;” there will be “no form nor comeliness” in him, nor any “beauty that we should desire him.”
When, therefore, Paul said, “That I may know him,” he was brought to that point where God brings all his people, to feel thoroughly convinced in their consciences that no man has any spiritual knowledge of Jesus except by the special revelation of the Spirit; as he himself declares, “No man can say that Jesus is the Lord but by the Holy Ghost.”
Before, then, any person can say feelingly, “That I may know him,” he must be brought to this point—that he never can know Christ by any creature ability, or by any exercise of the human intellect; that he never can receive such knowledge from man, whether it be from his own or from any other person’s instruction. In order therefore that he may feel his utter inability to bring this knowledge into his heart, he must lie under the burden of this truth, “No man knoweth the Son but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him.”
Thus these two things are absolutely necessary to be wrought with power into a man’s experience, before he can enter into the spiritual meaning of the text; first, a deep sense in his heart and conscience of the utter inability of the creature spiritually and experimentally to know a precious Christ; and secondly, that it is the work and office of the Holy Ghost inwardly to reveal the Person, blood, righteousness, grace, and love of Jesus.
And thus, the deeper the soul sinks in the knowledge of its ignorance, the higher it will rise in the knowledge of the Person and work of Christ; and the more the eye is anointed with eye-salve to perceive the ruin and misery of the creature, the more the soul will be brought to see that the glorious mysteries of salvation can only be realized by the special manifestations of the Holy Comforter, whose office it is to lead the child of God into all truth. The desire, then, of the apostle was to know Christ, and to have an experimental acquaintance with everything belonging to and springing out of Christ.
In desiring to “know him,” the soul desires to know everything connected with him, and which springs out of him. It desires, for instance, to know the virtue of his atoning blood, which is derived solely from the union of the manhood with the Godhead in one glorious Person; for if Christ had not been God as well as man, there would have been no virtue in the bloodshed upon the cross to atone for sin. But when the soul is brought to enter into the glorious mystery of an incarnate God, and the heart is drawn out to this Lord of life and glory as the centre and the object of its love and worship, then it is taught to feel the preciousness, and set a due value on the effects of Christ’s atoning blood, and know it to be, as the Apostle says, “the blood of God.” “Feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood,” (Acts 20:28).
As long as a man lies dead in nature’s darkness, he does not know, neither has he any desire to know anything of this fountain opened for sin and uncleanness. He has never groaned under, nor felt the burden of sin; he has not smarted under the bite of that adder whose sting is unto death, and which causes a living conscience to bleed at well nigh every pore. In order therefore that he may be taught to set a right value upon the nature and efficacy of Christ’s atoning blood, a man must be made spiritually to feel the greatness of his iniquity. Men talk of the blood of Jesus Christ as though any one could understand the glory of that mystery; but the blood of Jesus Christ is only to be known experimentally by the application of it to the guilty conscience.
It is not for the whole-hearted, for those who are settled on their lees, and are at ease in Zion, who never groaned under the burden of sin, to know the balm of Jesus’ blood. The blood of the Lamb is not applied to any but to the sin-sick, broken, and contrite heart. And whenever the spirit is broken, and taught to feel the burden of sin, sooner or later it is brought experimentally to taste the preciousness of the blood of sprinkling. And while the heart is thus opened by the Holy Ghost to feel its power, there will arise panting desires after a deeper acquaintance with its atoning efficacy and its cleansing power to purge the conscience from all its sin, guilt, and filth.