The object of the apostle's life—that for which he sacrificed everything: country, kindred, honor, comfort, liberty, and life itself, was, that he might know Christ. Observe that this is not Paul's prayer as an unconverted man, that he may know Christ, and so be saved. This is the desire of one who has been saved, who enjoys the full conviction that his sins are pardoned, and that he is in Christ. It is only the regenerated and saved man who can feel the desire, "That I may know Him."
PASS BY THAT CROWD OF OUTER-COURT WORSHIPPERS WHO ARE CONTENT TO LIVE WITHOUT KNOWING CHRIST. I do not mean the ungodly and profane; I mean children of God: the visible saints. “That I may know Him," has not stirred their hearts. How many brethren we know, who are content to know Christ's historic life! They read the evangelists and they are charmed with the perfect beauty of the Savior's history. They know all the incidents of His life, from His manger to His cross; but they do not know HIM. They are as men who have read "Caesar's Commentaries," but who have never seen Caesar. They know the life of Christ, but not Christ the Life; they admire His way among men, but they see not Himself as The Way.
Others there are who know Christ's doctrine, and prize it too, but they know not Him. Beloved, it does seem to me when I begin to know a man's teaching, that the next thing is the desire to know his person. Surely if you know the doctrine of Jesus, if you have so been with Christ as to sit at His feet and hear what He has to say, you must, I hope, have had some longings to know Him—to know His person; and if you have, you will have had to pass by multitudes of followers of Jesus who rest satisfied with His words, but forget that He is Himself "THE WORD."
I do want, beloved, that you and I should "know HIM." I love His precepts, but I love HIM better. As the source is ever more valuable than the stream, so is Christ ever better than the best words of His lips, or the best deeds of His hand. I want to know Him. Yes, beloved, we must get farther than Immanuel's achievements, however glorious; we must come to "know Him." I want to know the man who thus gave Himself for me. I want to behold the Lamb once slain for me. I want to rest upon the bosom which covers the heart which was pierced with the spear. The apostle Paul did not say "I have heard of Him, on whom I have believed," but "I know whom I have believed."
There are many who can only say they half think they know Christ; they do not quite believe in Him, but they do not disbelieve in Him; they halt between two opinions. Ah, dear hearer, that is a very dangerous place to stand in. The border-land is the devil's hunting ground. Undecided souls are fair game for the great fowler. God give you once for all the true decision by which through grace you shall know Him. Do not be satisfied with thinking you know Him; hoping you know Him, but know Him.
To begin with - we know a person when we recognize him. You know the Queen. Well, I do. I recollect seeing her, and if I were to see any quantity of ladies, I think I should know which was the Queen and which was not. You may say honestly that you know her to that extent. Beloved, every Christian must in this sense know Christ. But this knowledge of recognition is comparatively a low attainment, one of the lowest rounds of the ladder of light.
In the second place, a believer knows Christ, to a higher degree when he knows Him by acquaintance with what He does. They tell me He is a refiner, that He has washed me in His precious blood, and to that extent I know Him. They tell me that He hath covered me with a garment of righteousness, and to that extent I know Him. They tell me that He breaks fetters, He has set my soul at liberty, and therefore I know Him. They tell me that He is a king and that He hath subdued my enemies beneath His feet, and I know Him in that character. They tell me He is a shepherd: I know Him for I am His sheep. So, Christian, this is a second and higher step to know Christ, because you have experienced in your own soul that He is just what God has revealed Him to be.
But we know a man in a better sense than this when we are on speaking terms with him. But, dear friends, you may be on speaking terms with a man, but you may not know much of him for all that. As I might say that I know a man merely because I meet him every day, and ask him for what I want, and understand that he is kind and generous; but how shallow is such an acquaintance, for I do not know his private character.
But you are said to know a person better still when he invites you to his house. Ah, but you may go into a man's house as a constant visitor, and yet you may not know him—that is to say, not in the highest sense. You speak to the man's wife and say, "Your husband is a marvellously charming man; what a cheerful, joyful, spirited man he is; he never seems to have any depressions of spirit, and experiences no changes whatever." She shakes her head, and she says, "Ah! you do not know him, you do not know him as I do;" because she sees him at all times and at all hours; she can read the very heart of the man.
Even the spouse may not know her husband. The most loving wife who ever entered into the cares of her husband, must have discovered that there is a something which separates his experience from her powers of comprehension. Luther's wife, Catherine, was of all women the wife for Luther; but there were times in Luther's gigantic tribulations, when he must leave Kate behind. There were extraordinary times within him; times both of ecstatic joy, when like a great angel, he stretched his mighty wings, and flew right up to heaven, and of awful misery, when he seemed to sink down to the very depths of hell; and in either case, no other heart could keep pace with him.
Having taken you so far, let us SIT DOWN A FEW MINUTES AND CONSIDER WHAT SORT OF KNOWLEDGE THIS KNOWLEDGE OF CHRIST IS — "That I may know him." It must be a personal knowledge on our part. I cannot know Christ through another person's brains. I cannot love Him with another man's heart, and I cannot see Him with another man's eyes. I am so afraid of living in a second-hand religion. God forbid that I should get a biographical experience. Lord save us from having borrowed communion. No, I must know Him myself. O God, let me not be deceived in this. I must know Him without fancy or proxy; I must know Him on mine own account.
What sort of knowledge we must have. It must be an intelligent knowledge—I must know Him. I must know His natures, Divine and human. I must know His offices—I must know His attributes—I must know His works—I must know His shame—I must know His glory; for I do not know Him if it be merely a subject of passion and not of intellect. Then I must have an affectionate knowledge of Him; and, indeed, if I do know Him at all, I must love Him.
I wish I had time to urge and press you, believers, onward to seek to know him. Paul, you see, gave up everything for this—you will be seeking what is worth having. There can be no mistake about this. If Paul will renounce all, there must be a reward which is worthy of the sacrifice. If you have any fears, if you seek Christ and find Him, they will be removed.
A sight of Christ, brethren, will keep you from despondency, and doubts, and despair. A man is known by his company; and if you have become acquainted with Christ, and know Him, you will be sure to reflect His light.
And you who do not know Him, and have not loved Him, I pray you, breathe this prayer with me, "Lord, be merciful to me a sinner." O sinner, He is a gentle Christ; He is a loving Savior, and they that seek Him early shall find Him. May you seek and find Him, for His name's sake. Amen.
Excerpted from the sermon titled “Do you know Him?” (Philippians 3:10) by CH Spurgeon dated 31 January 1864. You are encouraged to read the full text of the sermon from https://www.spurgeon.org/resource-library/sermons/do-you-know-him/#flipbook/