Following Christ

THE Apostle Paul expressed the hope concerning Christ, that he might “know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death.” (Phil. 3:10) It was the sacrificing Christ that Paul wanted to know; and in order to know him he was glad to devote his entire life to that end. The knowledge the apostle was seeking was more than to merely know about Christ’s sacrifice. He wanted to experience what Jesus experienced as he sacrificed his life. He wanted to know the sacrificing Christ experimentally and in the only way he could thus know him, and that was by sharing in his sacrificial death.

This is why Paul speaks of desiring to know “the fellowship of his [Christ’s] suffering,” and why he wanted to be “made conformable unto his death.” These were not idle words on the part of Paul. They reveal the real motivation of his life as a follower of the Master, that force which impelled him forward in the pathway of sacrifice from the very day the Lord revealed himself to him on the Damascus road until be reached the Roman prison from which he was writing, and which would continue to drive him forward in the course of sacrifice until he had finished his earthly course.

In all the many years of his wholehearted course Paul had permitted nothing to stand in the way of his knowing Christ through being a partner in his suffering and death. No sacrifice was too great, no suffering too painful, no journey too long, no task too arduous, “if by any means” he might attain. Like Jesus, the interests of his flesh were not considered in determining what course to take. The will to sacrifice, to die, as Jesus did—that he might know him—was the dominating factor in Paul’s life.

We see this by noting some of the experiences through which Paul passed. When journeying from Macedonia to Jerusalem the ship on which he and his little company were traveling put in at Troas, and remained there for seven days. They contacted the ecclesia in this place, and had doubtless enjoyed seven blessed days of spiritual feasting together. But on the evening of what appears to be the seventh day of their sojourn, and the first day of the week, the brethren of Troas planned to come together to break bread. This apparently was one of their regular meetings, which they intended to hold even though they had probably had several extra meetings during the week.

For some reason not apparent in the account, Paul decided that it was important for him to be at that meeting. The custom of the Early Church of breaking bread on the first day of the week was in commemoration of the resurrection of Jesus. We know that there were some at Corinth who were saying that there would be no resurrection of the dead. (I Cor. 15:12) Perhaps this false doctrine had spread to Troas, and Paul saw that when the brethren were gathered to commemorate the resurrection it would be a wonderful opportunity to strengthen them in their faith of the resurrection, even as he did in his letter to the brethren at Corinth.

In any case, Paul knew that he should be at that meeting. So he “appointed” to remain, letting the ship go on to Assos, where he would walk and meet up with it the next day—a distance of many miles. Paul did not ask his companions to remain at Troas with him. They could go on in the ship, taking it easy, but he chose the hard way for himself, the sacrificing way, because the brethren at Troas needed his help. That was the time he preached all night, “till break of day.” (Acts 20:5-11) What a sermon that must have been!

If it were on the resurrection we can imagine Paul saying, with telling effect under the circumstances, “Why stand ye in jeopardy every hour” if there be no resurrection of the dead? Why do you believe that Jesus was raised from the dead, and then deny that all in him will be restored to life? Why are we baptized for the dead, if the dead are not to be raised? If there be no resurrection of the dead, then our faith is vain, we are yet in our sins; and we may as well go on with the world, eating and drinking, for tomorrow we die. These arguments, drawn out in their full telling details would certainly have been appropriate at a time when the brethren were gathered in commemoration of Jesus’ resurrection.

We can imagine the apostle at daybreak—weary in mind and body, but rejoicing in his heart; rejoicing, perhaps, that he had thwarted an attempt by the Adversary to destroy the faith of some at Troas. Gladly had he labored in travail for them, that Christ might be more fully brought into their lives. (Gal. 4:19; I Thess. 2:9; II Thess. 3:8) What mattered it that now, without an opportunity to rest, Paul had to trudge his weary way to Assos, along miles and miles of rocky, dusty roads?

Had Paul not in this event learned to know Christ just a little better by having experienced some of the joys of helping others, while at the same time realizing the weariness of body which it brought? After all, was it any more for him to do this than it was for the Master to teach the multitude and perform miracles when he was so tired that he had purposely left the crowd to seek rest? Think of Paul wending his weary way along the road to Assos, singing and making melody in his heart, with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs. Do we not almost envy him the privilege of that journey?

Dawn Bible Students Association
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