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Epexegetical καί and the Power of God in Pain (Phil 3:10) — Mondays with Mounce 238

Categories Mondays with Mounce

I know. καί and pain in the same title. Strange bedfellows.

I still remember a few years back when my family was going through a time of deep pain and sadness. A good friend asked me, “Bill, why are you hanging on to the edge of the pool? Just let go and sink.” A strange idea in the midst of pain, but it has stuck with me, and it was some of the best advice I have ever received. Here’s the exegesis behind it.

Paul is telling the Philippians that no matter what he had been able to (humanly) achieve, he gladly lost all of it for the sake of knowing Christ.

Fee does a wonderful job in his commentary, discussing the fuller meaning of this word for “to know,” γνῶσις. “‘Knowing Christ’ does not mean to have a head knowledge about him, but to ‘know him’ personally and relationally.... It means to know him as children and parent know each other, or wives and husbands — knowledge that has to do with personal experience and intimate relationship” (p. 318). This is Paul’s goal.

Paul continues that he has lost all these things and considers them rubbish. (The NIV insertion of a period separating these two verbs is unfortunate because Paul, in a long sentence [vv 8-10] is unpacking a single consistent argument.) Why was he willing to do this? He wants to gain Christ through a righteousness based on faith.

V 10 then begins not a new sentence (contra most translations) but the purpose of this desire: “to know Christ” (τοῦ γνῶναι αὐτὸν), using the cognate verb of the noun in v 8.

Then follows the difficult exegetical discussion. Paul says, “καί the power of his resurrection καί the participation in his sufferings,” with the final result of “attaining to the resurrection (συμμορφιζόμενος) from the dead.”

This is one of those situations in which any translator must interpret. What does καί signify? I think Fee is right when he see the καί as epexegetical, which means Paul is giving two explanations of what it means to know Christ. Undoubtedly, this is what is behind the NIV’s use of a dash and the insertion of the “yes.” “I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings.”

If the καί is epexegetical, then Fee’s arrangement of v 10 is accurate, which he sees in a A B B’ A’ construction:

so that I may know him

A both the power of his resurrection

B and participation in his sufferings

B’ being conformed to his death

A’ if somehow I might attain the resurrection from the dead

Here’s the point. Paul wasn’t a masochist; he did’t enjoy pain. However, he was completely and totally convinced that the very power that raised Christ from the dead (A) was the present guarantee of his own future resurrection (A’). Therefore, because he was so convinced of the powerful working of the Holy Spirit, it enabled him to view suffering, both his and the Philippians’, as the means of intimately knowing Christ. It is within the midst of pain and suffering for Christ that Paul truly experiences God — intimately, personally, as family.

Without the deep, theological conviction of the powerful working of the Holy Spirit, there would be no frame of reference by which a Christian could understand and experience pain. Pain would just be pain, and obedience within the context of pain would just be stoicism.

But with Paul, because he was so thoroughly convinced on the Damascus road and ever since that that the same power that raised Christ from the dead was at work in all believers, he knows that pain and suffering are the means by which we grow in our intimate, personal, joyous knowledge of our Savior, Christ Jesus. It is because we are so convinced of the power of the Spirit that we are able to agree with Paul: “But even if I am being poured out like a drink offering on the sacrifice and service coming from your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you” (2:17). It is why we are able to “rejoice in the Lord always” (4:4).

The epexegetical καί tells us that we know Christ best in the midst of suffering for him. Pain is ultimately our best teacher.

This is what my friend understood, and what I want to share with all of you. If you have truly experienced the transforming power of the Spirit who gives life to the dead, then let go of the side of the pool. Sink all the way down in the deep end of the pool. And at the bottom, you and I together will know and experience to some measure what is was for Christ to suffer. We will meet him in his pain, and he will meet us in our pain.

And we will “know” him in ways we could not before. And we will rejoice.



William D. [Bill] Mounce posts about the Greek language, exegesis, and related topics at Koinonia. He is the author of numerous works including the recent Basics of Biblical Greek Video Lectures and the bestselling Basics of Biblical Greek. He is the general editor of Mounce's Complete Expository Dictionary of the Old and New Testament Words. He served as the New Testament chair of the English Standard Version Bible translation, and is currently on the Committee for Bible Translation for the NIV.

Learn more about Bill's Greek resources at and visit his blog on spiritual growth at

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