Paul’s statement of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ leads us to understand that there is no better option. This statement could be made with authority and confidence because of his experience. Paul’s knowledge was intellectual and rational, but it was more. His knowledge of Christ was experimental, meaning he spoke of His relationship (experience) with a person – The Person. And such knowledge was superior to any other that may compete.
I remember being attracted to a young lady in college with whom I was casually acquainted. During one summer we both traveled in a small group representing our Bible college to various churches around the country. After spending ten weeks driving 13,000 exhausting miles in a van and experiencing common stresses, pressures and joys of such an itinerary, my knowledge of this young woman was much deeper than before. There was no question – I thought she was the best… so I asked her to be my wife.
It is of this kind of knowledge that the Psalmist invited: “O taste and see that the Lord is good!” It is a knowledge that goes beyond intelligence to the level of experience – relationship. Wuest describes Paul’s knowledge as “the knowledge he gained through the experience of intimate companionship and communion with Him.” Yet Paul never seemed complacent with his knowledge of Christ and always craved more interaction.
Now the apostle is not speaking of the surpassing worth of knowledge in general. He speaks of a very specific knowledge. There are many arenas of knowledge, but one specifically is infinitely superior to them all – the knowledge of Christ Jesus. Much is wrapped up in that name contingent upon His essence, His person, and His work from creation to redemption to regeneration. Who is Jesus Christ? He is, as Paul would affirm, the infinite, personal, loving Creator, Redeemer, Reconciler, and Intercessor. So, as Motyer explains, “the bare mention of Christ has been filled out over the years of experience of him, so that it is now the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.”
The last two words are telling. It was to this supreme Person that this well-educated, highly successful, driven man had wholly resigned himself. Much as Thomas, kneeling at the feet of the risen Jesus Christ cried out: “My Lord and my God!” it was an unequivocal recognition of and surrender to – it was absolute devotion. Nothing else mattered if it did not have something to do with Christ. It is through this surpassing specific knowledge – of Jesus Christ my Lord – that you and I acquire the perfections of Christ.