The full phrase is found in the following passage taken from Paul’s letter to the Philippians:
“…whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.” Philippians 3:7-11
What does it mean?
In simple terms Paul wants to be raised from the dead to eternal life. He wants to experience the resurrection. This, he says, is part of the “surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus”.
What is so powerful about Jesus Christ’s resurrection?
Resurrection is the miracle of miracles. No human knowledge or skill can make us live beyond death as incorruptible and immortal beings. The resurrection of Jesus Christ was the work of the all powerful God. Here is how the apostle Peter describes Christ’s resurrection:
“God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it.” Acts 2:24 (also see Acts 2:32, 3:15, 4:10, 10:40, 13:30 etc)
Is Christ’s resurrection powerful in our lives today?
God raised Jesus from the dead and gave him eternal life. This is a powerful hope for all of humanity; God can and will intervene to raise back to life those who are “found in him” (using Paul’s expression to describe followers of Jesus; from Philippians 3:9).
It is a powerful hope. It makes us stop and listen. We want to know what was special about Jesus Christ that made God raise him from the dead. Why was it not possible for Jesus to be held by death? Paul helps us answer these questions in his letter to the Romans. He says that Jesus:
“…was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord…” Romans 1:4
Jesus Christ dedicated his life to being like God in character. With help from his Heavenly Father he was able to achieve this completely and so was raised from death and given a God-like nature. His resurrection is powerful today because we take note of Christ’s experience and example; we want to follow in his footsteps of faith. Paul describes the symbolic act of baptism in this way:
“We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.” Romans 6:4-5
So Christ’s resurrection can have a powerful influence over us now. We are propelled to follow Christ and cultivate a spirit of holiness in our own lives.
In his first letter to the Corinthian believers Paul summarises the powerful outcomes of the resurrection of Jesus:
- We have a living King — the Lord Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:13);
- All subsequent preaching has purpose (1 Corinthians 15:14);
- Faith is not futile (1 Corinthians 15:14);
- Sin is forgiven — we are counted as righteous (1 Corinthians 15:17 with Philippians 3:9).
Please note: In these references from 1 Corinthians, Paul writes from a non-believing perspective as this was an issue in the church in Corinth — he describes what would happen if Christ hadn’t risen from the dead.
To this list we might add that God is shown to be faithful and true to his word. The resurrection of Jesus was prophesied in the Old Testament (see Psalm 16:10).
A final thought about the future…
For those who are “found in him”; experiencing the power of his resurrection will be completed at the return of the Lord Jesus Christ to the earth (see 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17). We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed (1 Corinthians 15:51).
“…in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed.” (1 Corinthians 15:52)