philippians 1:18b-30 [to live is Christ]

Written by Dave Moser

Dave Moser blogs about Christ-centered Bible study at Armchair-Theology.net.

July 1, 2011

UPDATE: You can now get the Philippians Community Commentary, enhanced with additional Bible study tools, on Kindle!

[serialposts]

Read Philippians 1:18-30 (ESV, NIV, The Message)

This passage revolves around v21 where Paul explains “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” Paul’s universal concern, whether waking or sleeping, living or dying is Christ. His death is gain to him because his great and true desire is to “be with Christ, for that is far better.” v23

What Is Christianity?

Paul’s Christianity isn’t a crutch that helps him limp through the world. Paul’s Christianity is a victory that exists here but extends far beyond this world.

His Christianity is not primarily a help to overcome temporal problems.

It helps him say, “to live is Christ.” The daily struggles diminish in importance next to the immeasurable wealth of having Christ. Paul’s hope is found not in the satisfaction of temporal deliverance but satisfaction in Christ.

His hope does not help him look contentedly back at his life when he settles onto his death bed. It helps him look forward to ages of untold joy and say, “to die is gain.” His death will be a day of celebration for him. Charles Spurgeon asked his congregation if we should weep for departed saints:

Lend me the trumpet and the drum. O hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah; why weep when the saints go to heaven; why need we lament? They are not dead, they are gone before. Stop, stop that mourning, refrain thy tears, clap your hands, clap your hands…

What! weep! weep! for heads that are crowned with coronals of heaven? Weep, weep for hands that grasp the harps of gold? What, weep for eyes that see the Redeemer? What, weep for hearts that are washed from sin, and are throbbing with eternal bliss! What, weep for men that are in the Saviour’s bosom? – No, weep for yourselves, that you are here. Weep that the mandate has not come which bids you to die. Weep that you must tarry. But weep not for them.

Charles Spurgeon

How To Live It

In the meantime, how do we properly manifest this excitement and say with Paul, “to live is Christ”? That is the focus of the second section of this passage (v27-30). Paul wants to continue fruitful ministry for the Philippians by visiting them and preaching. That’s really simple – how could it possibly help?

What does Paul mean when he admonishes the Philippians in v27 to live a life worthy of the gospel? After all, we aren’t worthy of the gospel! The cross is the ultimate indictment against us – our sin required God to die in our place.

Paul continues to say that the result of this “worthiness” will be a positive report that they are standing firm, united, not frightened in “striving side by side for the faith of the gospel.”

The life that is “worthy” of the gospel is the life that celebrates it in community with other believers and strives to extol it to the world.

Proclaiming Christ’s completed work among ourselves is the way we grow in joy and faith. By focusing on the wonderful victory of the cross as a community we see how Christ satiated God’s wrath (Rom 5:9) against our rebellion, defeated death (1 Cor 15:54), demonstrated His love for us (Rom 5:8) and gave us an example of how to love one another (John 13:34, Eph 5:22-33).

In proclaiming these truths we:

  • Reaffirm our faith resulting in more confidence that death is gain – Increase our joy resulting in more fruitfulness in this life – to live is Christ
  • Put life’s troubles in proper perspective – I desire to depart

Preach the gospel to yourself. Preach the gospel to your family. Preach the gospel to those who are not Christians. Preach the gospel to those who have been Christians for decades.

3 Comments

  1. Daniel Humphries

    I find Paul’s win/win attitude in this passage both awe inspiring and challenging… If I can stay here, great — I’ll continue with the joy of spreading the Gospel. If I go, great — I can be united with Christ. But it’s Christ either way and I’m good with that.

    I can’t help but wonder what my response would be. Given Paul’s trials, I can certainly see why he seems to favor death, but to do so is somewhat of a foreign concept to me, and, I think, to the modern, Western church.

    Do I long for heaven? Yeah, sometimes, but in a way that’s far distant from what Paul expresses here. Do I spend my days solely focused on the propagation of the Gospel? Honestly, no. It’s always in my mind that I need to do so, but I all too often let the   minutia of the day-to-day consume my attention.

    Dave, I like your closing — preach the Gospel to yourself and all those around you. I think I’m putting that on the bathroom mirror!

    Reply
  2. Sheila Seiler Lagrand

    Once we have Him, we have all we need. And there’s enough of Him for everyone.

    It’s such a beautiful message.

    Thanks for this thoughtful study of it. I especially like this suggestion:
    “Preach the gospel to those who have been Christians for decades.”

    Reply
  3. Charles Bailey

    ” Living,” Paul says, 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 was the reward of life, for to Paul the only worthwhile reward was closer fellowship with his Lord. If Chirst were to be taken out of life, for Paul there would be nothing left.

    “For me,” said Paul, “death is gain”. Death was entrance into Christ’s nearer presence. Paul thought of death not as a falling asleep but as an immediate entry into the presence of his Lord. If we believe Jesus Christ, death for us is union and reunion, union with him and reunion with those whom we have loved and lost awhile.

    From verses 27 to 30, Paul is telling the Philippians that not only should there speech reflect the gospel, but the way they live their life and their actions should reflect the gospel also.

    Who knows, maybe if we take Dave Moser’s suggestion in the very last sentence of this study, someone may have their own Damascus road experience. But it will only happen if the gospel is preached. How will they know unless they hear?

    Reply

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philippians 1:18b-30 [to live is Christ]

by Dave Moser time to read: 3 min
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