Paul had met the living Lord Jesus on the Damascus road (Acts 9:1-9). He knew Christ's presence and had suffered many things because he followed Jesus (2 Corinthians 11:23-29). Paul had prayed that believers in Ephesus would know Jesus better (Ephesians 1:17); and yet he now says that he personally wants to 'know Christ'. Of course, as with every relationship, there is so much more we might learn about the other person. Even long-time married couples still learn about each other's character, likes and dislikes, years after the wedding. That is even truer as we get to know the infinite and eternal God.
Saying, ‘I want to know Christ ...’ does not mean that Paul has no previous relationship: rather, it is a passionate heart-cry of hunger to go on wanting to know more of Him. Paul had many experiences of Christ's power, but he wants more. Likewise, he has suffered for Christ but is hungry to suffer more, and even to die for His sake (Philippians 1:29). These are very strong emotions inspired by the Holy Spirit, propelling Paul's walk with the Lord to the ultimate depth of identification with Him in this life as well as in the life to come (Colossians 1:24).
Although Paul expects to be released from prison to continue His walk with the Lord and service to the churches, it is his heart’s proximity to the heart of Jesus Christ which matters to him. To stay alive or to die is ‘win-win’ to the apostle (Philippians 1:19-26). If he is ‘to depart and be with Christ’ that would be wonderful to him. If he is to stay until the Lord’s return, that is wonderful too. In both circumstances he fully expects to be raised to new life when Jesus returns as King and Judge (John 5:28-30). Paul does not know if or how he may die, but he is confident that death is not the end.
In the fast and furious world of target-driven business and virtual relationships, many are hungry for real friendship and intimacy. Too often God Himself is squeezed out as our search for meaning is easily focussed on people who will give us time to be ourselves. Alas, many of those relationships reach frustration point as greater self-revelation brings increased vulnerability and disappointment. But there is no disappointment in getting to know Jesus better, and in allowing Him to see every part of our lives. On the contrary, Christians who have no hunger to know the Lord better are in an extremely dangerous place. They are potential prey for Satan - the stronger they feel in themselves, the more vulnerable they are. So Christian, dare to be totally open with Jesus; dare to search the Scriptures daily to discover more of His character (Acts 17:11); and dare to risk all so that you might know His power. That is the sort of Christian your colleagues hope they might see; and so does Jesus.
© Dr Paul Adams