Sunday, 18 December 2016
For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. Philippians 1:21
In the preceding verse, he said, “Christ will be magnified in my body, whether by life or by death.” To now explain that thought, he gives one of the most comforting verses ever to be given by him to the saints in Christ. He begins with “For to me…” The words “to me” are emphatic. To him, it didn’t matter what others thought about this physical life. To him it was only about one thing – “…to live is Christ.” It was Christ and nothing else. This is complementary to his words of Galatians 2:20 –
“I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.”
Paul regarded his life complete and solely as that of being in Christ. This state is not that Christ is merely the source of our life (which He is, meaning our true life), nor is it that He is the main life which is in us (which is also true), but rather Paul is saying that He is (or He should be) the absolute state of our lives so that He is manifest in all we are and do. When we are seen, people should see Christ. When we speak, people should hear Christ. To live is Christ, or as the Greek literally reads, “The living is Christ.” Our lives should be lived for Christ, and to His glory, at all times. This is what Paul means in his words.
But in addition to that marvelous state, he next complements the words “by death” of the previous verse with the thought, “…and to die is gain.” Here, he is referring to the state of death rather than the occurrence of death. When we die, a new state will be realized. It is one that will make our current state pale in comparison to it, thus the word “gain” is used. Elsewhere, he speaks about the gain which is found in our deaths. In 2 Corinthians 5, he states the following –
“So we are always confident, knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord. 7 For we walk by faith, not by sight.” 2 Corinthians 5:6, 7
For those who die in Christ, there is a completely new state which we enter. If this life is to be lived as Christ, and our death is gain, then it is not just an emulation of Him, but it must be an even more intimate uniting with Him. It is that state which Paul now speaks of. And it is a state which will be even further highlighted when new bodies are given to those who are dead in Christ. This is referred to in detail in 1 Corinthians 15, but it is also alluded to in Colossians 3 –
“When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.” Colossians 3:4
Life application: Christ has risen from the dead, never to die again. He promises the same to all who die in Him. And so, let us not fear the passing of our mortal, fallen bodies. When we die, we will be in a state far more wonderful than we are now. And at some point after that, He will give us new and eternal bodies which will be more glorious still. Thank God for the sure promises which are found in Jesus Christ our Lord!
Heavenly Father, Your word tells us that You have a wonderful plan for those who are in Christ. Now, we are given the chance to emulate Him. In our passing, we are promised a state which is more intimate than mere emulation, but a new stage of intimacy with Him. And at some point, the dead in Christ will be raised to eternal life with bodies that will never wear out. There will be complete and familiar access to Your very throne through Christ our Lord. Why should we fear death? Let us stand confident in the sure and faithful promises You have made! Amen.