Back from vacation and ready with a new lesson. As a recap, we have studied the greetings of the Philippian letter and are now ready to get into the “meat” of the letter. Today, we are in chapter 1 verses 21-29 and we are going to address the question “which is better, to live or to die?”. You might think you have the answer, but after today’s study, you might change your mind. We’ll start with the first section of this Scripture:
“For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. But if I am to live on in the flesh, this will mean fruitful labor for me; and I do not know which to choose. But I am hard-pressed from both directions, having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better; yet to remain on in the flesh is more necessary for your sake. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all for your progress and joy in the faith, so that your proud confidence in me may abound in Christ Jesus through my coming to you again.” (Philippians 1:21-26 NASB)
Remember Paul was talking about his deliverance glorifying Christ whether by death or life (verse 18-20). In these verses, he elaborates on this topic. Paul fully expects to be delivered from prison so that he can continue to live boldly for Christ. However, he states that both life AND death have their good points.
First, “to live is Christ”. To live for Paul means that can continue living his life for Christ’s glory. He can continue to produce fruitful work for the kingdom as well as encourage the saints in the Church. How many of us measure the worth of our life by how much we are able to accomplish for God’s kingdom and His children? So, if Paul lives, he can continue to do much more good for Christ and the Philippians may be encouraged by him and have their confidence in Christ strengthened. Paul believes this to be necessary right now and is confident that he will continue living.
On the other hand, “to die is gain”. Paul says dying is much better. You might be thinking, “Well, this Paul guy must be pretty depressed to want to just die”. On the contrary, Paul is just excited about getting to join Christ in Heaven. He has earned his reward and looking forward to collecting. Paul references this in another of his letters:
“For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing” (2 Tim. 4:6-8 NASB).
In death, Paul’s deliverance from captivity is complete. To explain what I mean by that, I want to point you to the Old Testament story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego (Found in Daniel 3). Go ahead and read the whole story if you would like, it’s pretty cool. To sum up though, the 3 men were serving under King Nebuchadnezzar and he made a law that stated when music was played in the city, everyone was to bow down to and worship his statue. As followers of God, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego obviously refused. This made the king furious. He ordered his soldiers to have them thrown into a furnace filled with fire and made very, very hot. Their reply to him just before they were thrown in, was this:
“Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego replied to the king, ‘O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to give you an answer concerning this matter. If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire; and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But even if He does not, let it be known to you, O king, that we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up’.” (Daniel 3:16-18 NASB)
Their point? The same as Paul’s: No matter if we live or die, our victory is complete in God. If Paul dies, he goes to be with Christ and many will be encouraged by his boldness in his faith to the end.
I was going to continue onto the second half of our section, but I think I will save that for the next post. It deserves to have a little more focus.
Discussion question for today: Are you torn, like Paul, between living or dying? Which do you think you would prefer, and why?
Have a blessed day and hope you will join us for the next post when we discuss “living in a manner worthy of the gospel”. 🙂