Philippians: Live (Or Die) for Christ

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”. 🙂

Philippians: Christ is Preached

Sorry it has taken me so long to continue this study.  My computer was on the fritz for a while.  Should be good now. 🙂 Today we pick up in verse 12.

“Now I want you to know, brethren, that my circumstances have turned out for the greater progress of the gospel, so that my imprisonment in the cause of Christ has become well known throughout the whole praetorian guard and to everyone else, and that most of the brethren, trusting in the Lord because of my imprisonment, have far more courage to speak the word of God without fear.  Some, to be sure, are preaching Christ even from envy and strife, but some also from good will; the latter do it out of love, knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel; the former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition rather than from pure motives, thinking to cause me distress in my imprisonment. What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed; and in this I rejoice.

Yes, and I will rejoice, for I know that this will turn out for my deliverance through your prayers and the provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, according to my earnest expectation and hope, that I will not be put to shame in anything, but that with all boldness, Christ will even now, as always, be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death” (Phil. 1:12-20 NASB).

Looking at verse 12, we find that Paul is convinced that everything that has happened to him so far (his imprisonment) has happened to further spread the Gospel.  And he is perfectly ok with this.  Everyone around him is aware that Paul has been imprisoned because of his work for Christ.

First of all, He talks about the “whole praetorian guard”.  Just in case you aren’t aware what the Praetorian guard was, it was a group of Roman guards that were used as bodyguards for the Roman emperors.  Paul, being in prison in Rome, was chained to a guard morning and night and the guard was traded out in shifts.  Talk about a captive audience for Paul!  The Roman guard couldn’t help but hear Paul speak about Christ.

Second, Paul speaks about the brethren who have heard about Paul’s plight and are actually encouraged by the boldness by which Paul preaches, even while in prison (verse 14).  News of Paul’s imprisonment would have spread quickly among the churches.  Such news could have been devastating to them knowing that one of their main evangelists was captured.  However, because of Paul’s attitude of courage and boldness, the other churches were encouraged to continue to spread the word in spite of the dangers.  We, too, can be encouraged by Paul even today as we reach out into a hostile world and share the good news of the gospel.

The word of Christ was being preached, but it seems that not all who were preaching were motivated for the same reasons.  There were some who were actually preaching out of wrong motives.  Paul says they were teaching out of jealousy and rivalry.  Jealous of who?  Well, Paul had gotten quite a bit of renown in his travels.  There would be people who would have wanted some of that glory for themselves, just as the teachers of religious law wanted when Jesus was getting His fame just a few years earlier.

But they do all their deeds to be noticed by men; for they broaden their phylacteries and lengthen the tassels of their garments. They love the place of honor at banquets and the chief seats in the synagogues, and respectful greetings in the market places, and being called Rabbi by men” (Matt. 23:5-7 NASB).  

So, what are some right motives for spreading the gospel? 1 Thessalonians 2:3-4 says For our exhortation does not come from error or impurity or by way of deceit; but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not as pleasing men, but God who examines our hearts.”  We are to please God.  Not men.  There were some in Philippi who were spreading the gospel with pure motives.  Some of them were preaching because they loved Paul and desired to continue his work as in verse 16.

Regardless of motive, Paul states that the point is that Christ is being preached.  It didn’t matter WHY people were preaching, it only mattered that more and more people were hearing the good news.  This reminds me of a time when the disciples approached Jesus about some people who were not Jesus’ disciples but were doing things in Jesus’ name:

“John said to Him, ‘Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in Your name, and we tried to prevent him because he was not following us.’  But Jesus said, ‘Do not hinder him, for there is no one who will perform a miracle in My name, and be able soon afterward to speak evil of Me.  For he who is not against us is for us.’.” (Mark 9:38-40 NASB)

At the end of our section here, we see Paul doing something that few tend to do in prison: he is rejoicing!  Why would he do something like that?  Well, for one thing, Paul rejoices in the fact that Christ is being preached even though (and because of) Paul being imprisoned.  He is glad that all his work has not been in vain and that it continues to bear fruit.  Paul is also rejoicing because he is confident that he will be delivered one way or another from his imprisonment.  And that no matter what happens, Christ will be glorified in Paul.

As we end our study today, here are some questions to ponder:

  1. In view of our study, what do you believe are some “pure” motives for spreading the gospel?
  2. Can you think of any other “impure” motives, besides selfish ambition and jealousy, that may foul up our good intentions for spreading the gospel?
  3. Paul is rejoicing even while in prison.  Taking a sneak peek at Philippians 4:4, how do you think it is possible to “Rejoice always”?

Thank you for reading today and I hope you will join me next time, we will discuss the question “Is it better to live or die?” Have a blessed day!