Whether He Lives Or Dies, It Will Be A Blessing: Page 1 of 2 (series: Lessons on Phil.)
by John Lowe
Lesson # 6
Title: Whether He Lives Or Dies, It Will Be A Blessing
Scripture: (Philippians 1:21-23, NIV)
21 For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. 22 If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! 23 I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far;
Since Paul was in prison awaiting trial, he had to face the fact that it was quite uncertain whether he would live or die; and to him it made no difference.
“Living,” he said is, in his great phrase, “is Christ to me.” For Paul, Christ had been the beginning of life, for on that day on the Damascus road it was as if he had begun life all over again. Christ had been the continuing of life; after meeting Christ, there had never been a day when Paul had not lived in His presence, and in the frightening moments Christ had been there to bid him to be of good cheer (Acts 18:9, 10).
21 For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.
Paul’s willingness to die if necessary for Christ was not necessarily an evil alternative. In this memorable statement, which is in many respects the key verse of the epistle, he states the alternatives. “For to Paul to live is Christ.” By this he means that his life is wrapped up in Christ, in witnessing of Christ, in fellowship with Christ, in the goal to make his life a channel through which others might come to know Christ―if Christ were taken out of his life, there would be nothing left. For others, life may be different. Here’s a saying that can go along with the words of Paul. “Life for the merchant may be wealth; for the slave, toil and suffering; for the philosopher, knowledge; for the soldier, fame; for the emperor, an empire.”
But to die is not to give up Christ, but rather it is to “gain.” To die would be freedom from the chains, deliverance from self, the end of suffering, the curtain on strife, the beginning of a new life of freedom and abundance, the experience of being completely like Christ. Since Paul was in prison awaiting trial, he had to face the fact that it was quite uncertain whether he would live or die; and to him it made no difference. “Living,” he says in his great phrase, “is Christ to me.” For Paul, Christ had been the beginning of life, for on that day long ago on the Damascus road it was as if he had begun life all over again. Christ had been the continuing of life; since his Damascus road experience, there had never been a day when Paul had not lived in His presence, and in the frightening moments Christ had been there to bid him be of good cheer (Acts 18:9, 10; see note 1).
“For me,” said Paul, “to die is gain”. Death was entrance into Christ’s nearer presence. There are passages in which Paul seems to regard death as a sleep, from which all men at some future general resurrection shall be
awakened (1 Corinthians 16: 51, 52; 1 Thessalonians 4:14, 16); but at the moment when his breath was on him Paul thought of death not as a falling asleep but as an immediate entry into the presence of his Lord. If we believe in Jesus Christ, death for us is union and reunion, union with Him and reunion with those whom we have loved and lost for awhile.
Paul is certain that he will be with Christ, although he believes that he will live since he believes that the Philippians need his guidance in order to progress in the faith. Paul explains this understanding of his destiny through a series of contrasts between death and life and the results of each. Thus life is Christ, but death is gain. Living in the flesh means fruitful labor, but death is “better by far” since it is a departure to be with Christ. Life, however, is more necessary for the Philippians. It seemed in every way desirable that for their sakes his life should be continued. No one felt this more keenly than himself, though he was assured that if that life was prematurely terminated the cause of the gospel was safe in the hands of God.
The apostle viewed life as an opportunity for setting forth and manifesting Christ and this is done by carefully copying His example. It is a wonderful thing for us to have a perfect life for our example. And we cannot vary a hair-breadth from that example without injuring our lives.
The Christian’s Life and Death.
I. The Christian’s life.—
A. It is a life in Christ.—
1. Begun in regeneration.
2. Realized by faith.
3. Sustained and increased by divine knowledge.
B. It is a life for Christ.—
1. The example of Christ is its model.
2. The will of Christ is its laws.
3. The Glory of Christ is its end.
II. The Christian’s death.—
A. The Christians death is a gain by being deprived of something.
1. Deprived of the sinful body.
2. Freed from temptation.
3. Freed from his enemies.
4. Freed from suffering.
5. Freed from death.
B. The Christians death is a gain by acquiring something.―
1. Accelerated liberty to worship God.
2. The ultimate addition of the glorified body with its exalted form and powers.
3. The blessed reunion and fellowship with departed friends.
4. The presence and companionship of Christ forever.
(Note 1) (Acts 18:9, 10) “Then spake the Lord to Paul in the night by a vision, Be not afraid, but speak, and hold not thy peace: For I am with thee, and no man shall set on thee to hurt thee: for I have much people in this city. Paul was encouraged not only by the presence of the Lord, but also by His promises. Jesus assured Paul that no one would hurt him, that he would bring many sinners to the Savior, and that He would never leave him nor forsake him (see Hebrews 13:5). He made Paul a promise; “For I am with thee.” Do not let the businessmen or the politicians, the wealthy or the prominent, frighten you into silence. They cannot hurt you; they can only prove you are right. Do not be afraid of running out of anything. The reservoirs of God are inexhaustible.