Adapted from a sermon by Barnabas Chong—Singapore
In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul urges God’s elect to “all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (Eph 4:13). What is the knowledge of the Son of God? How can we, as God’s elect, mature into the stature of the fullness of Christ?
To have the stature of Christ, we must know Him and what He has done, and continues to do, for us. As Jesus said in His prayer, the gift He came to give was eternal life, so that we may know the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom He sent (Jn 17:3). The concept of eternity is difficult enough to understand, let alone understanding what it means to receive eternal life. Hence, the Gospel of John links eternal life to knowing Jesus. But what is it specifically that John is telling us we should know about Jesus, in order to gain and embrace our eternal life?
KNOW JESUS AS OUR SAVIOR
We must know and believe that Jesus is our Savior and giver of redemptive grace. This is the fundamental tenet of our Christian faith. Beyond knowing this fact, we need to accept it as a promise. Paul writes:
That I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if by any means I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. (Phil 3:10–11)
Eternal life is resurrection from death and, in relation to our knowledge of Jesus, it is understood in two parts.
Power of Resurrection
First, we need to know the power of Jesus’ resurrection. Jesus did not resurrect simply to impress future generations of Christians with His supernatural abilities. We must seek to understand what this power actually means for us, as the elect of God today. Paul elaborates:
But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you. (Rom 8:11)
The resurrection of Jesus can been seen as a telescope and a mirror. It is a prophecy and reflection of the core and common Christian hope, that one day we will rise from our mortality, as Jesus did, and gain new life with God. This verse also tells us that Jesus rose from the dead by the power of the Holy Spirit. Likewise, this is the same power that will raise us up. If the same Holy Spirit dwells in us today, it means we, too, are bound for that final and glorious resurrection. Conversely, without the Holy Spirit in us, we will not receive eternal life on the last day. This is a key reason why we emphasize that every believer must receive the Holy Spirit.
Moreover, once we believe in Christ, are baptized, and receive the Holy Spirit, we should constantly and carefully prepare ourselves for that final day when we will rise again, as Christ did. Elder James tells us:
Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. (Jas 4:7–8)
Submitting to God is both a momentous, life-changing occasion, and a lifelong journey that improves with practice. We should thoughtfully and sincerely begin in submission, and continue in the same spirit. In order to put to death the deeds of the flesh, we must rely on God. By submitting to God, we are submitting to all the teachings of the Holy Bible.
Take anger, for instance. It is one thing to understand that anger is bad, but it is another to accept that our anger is our responsibility. We cannot lay the blame on others and accuse them of inciting our wrath. If we do so, then we have not submitted to God. Though weak and prone to sin, those who truly gives themselves to God know that He has the power to strengthen them—as long as they wholeheartedly rely on Him.
Another piece of practical advice we should heed is when Jesus says, “Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Mt 26:41). First, we need to watch, which means we have the intent to overcome our weakness. Second, we need to pray—to rely on God. It is a very simple, but effective, action. Many a time, we pray, but we are not vigilant in our thoughts and our actions. If these do not align with the Bible, then our prayers will have little effect on our weaknesses.
Fellowship of Christ’s Sufferings
Second, we need to know the Lord Jesus through the fellowship of His sufferings. Christians suffer as all men do, but we suffer differently. We suffer with Jesus Christ. This seems very different from the messages of peace and blessings that we hear. Not many will preach that we must have fellowship with Christ in suffering, and, at the end, be conformed to His death. It does not sit well with us, and we start asking: Does it really need to be like that? The reality is that Christians need to suffer as Christ suffered. Hence, whenever we undergo trials, persecution and sorrow, we need to have this deeper understanding of our fellowship with Christ. As Paul writes:
For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. (Rom 5:6–9)
Have we ever pondered why Paul describes the love of God in this way? Paul’s description demonstrates his mature understanding; he does not simply say, "God loves me." Instead, he invites us to think: Why would this Man die for us while we were still sinners? How should we respond?
God has called us to swim against the currents of the world, to stand defiant and rooted against society’s waves of conformity. We have been promised persecution. But that is just one half of the promise. Above all, we have also been promised a family and a faith to hold on to during these persecutions. Today, this family is the True Jesus Church. To know Jesus is to know of Him through the love, service and ministry of the church—to be a living member of this great body. On one hand, Jesus’ death was a tragedy, but on the other, it was the greatest act of love since creation.
LIVE FOR CHRIST
Our sinfulness has brought us to God’s church, in the hope of salvation. Christ’s sacrifice keeps us here. And it is our duty to know that God loves us, and understand how His love manifests in our lives. Additionally, we must share this indefatigable love with those around us. We must “all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God” (Eph 4:13).
Today, we may simply thank God for loving us. How many of us have considered: Why does God love me? Am I worthy of His love? Paul even went one step further: Since God loves me so much, what should I do?
For the love of Christ compels us, because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died; and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again. (2 Cor 5:14)
Paul describes how the love of Christ compels and motivates us all. These are the indisputable truths we hold dear to our hearts. What do they tell us? That through the knowledge of the Son of God and His resurrection, we have no greater commission nor higher calling than to live for Him. We must no longer conform to the ways of the world. With the power of the Holy Spirit, we need to resolve to put to death the deeds of our body (Rom 8:13). In short, we should no longer live for ourselves, but aspire to live up to the greatness of the death and resurrection that save us. Amen.