Are You Living for Christ? (2) By Babatunde Olugboji
Last week we started examining Apostle Paul’s seminal statement In Philippians 1:21, ‘For to me to live is Christ and to die is gain.’
The essence of Paul’s declaration was that Christ was the center of his existence, in other words, his life revolved around nothing else but Jesus. We will conclude this mini-series this week.
To have a full understanding of Paul’s treatise, it is imperative to examine the context. The book of Philippians is a letter from Paul to the church in Philippi. In the epistle, Paul encouraged the church, advised them, gave them prescriptions of what a believer’s life should look like, among other admonition. Paul opened the epistle by greeting the church, letting them know much he yearned for them (Philippians 1:1-8).
He then spoke of his current imprisonment in Rome, while attempting to put the minds of church members at ease (Philippians 1:12–14). Even though imprisoned, Paul was fully persuaded that his suffering was clearly for a reason, and that reason was to further the message of Christ: “What has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel.” (Philippians 1: 12)
In Philippians 1:19–20, we see the contextual arrangement for Paul’s “to die is gain” statement. Up to this time, Paul had already suffered much in his missionary journeys. He was beaten, stoned, hated, and derided, shipwrecked, and now imprisoned. But Paul found joy in his afflictions because they had strengthened his faith extraordinarily and allowed him to serve as a strong witness for the gospel. Preaching and living out God’s Word was Paul’s highest goal, and these events had provided him with ample opportunities for witnessing. In Romans 12:1, Paul literally presented his body “as a living sacrifice” for God’s kingdom. Because he had trustworthily run the race set before him (Hebrew 12:1), he knew God would be honored through both his life and his death (Philippians 1:19–20).
Back to Paul’s statement, ‘to live is Christ and to die is gain.’ As believers, the totality of our whole goal is to bring glory to God, and Paul had the assurance that, even in his suffering, he was achieving the goal of living for Christ. But, as we see in the second part of the verse, Paul knew that his death would bring glory to God as well—and not only that, but it would also be the time when his faith would come to fruition, and he would live with his Savior forever (‘to die is gain’). Paul longed for the day when death would bring him face to face with Jesus (Philippians 1: 23.)
Believers feel the pull of heaven and yearn for an eternity with Christ. We are fully persuaded that heaven will be far better than our earthly life, for we will be present with our Savior in a place devoid of sin, sickness, and death (2 Corinthians 5: 8). What we lose in life we will gain in heaven. Before that time comes, our purpose on Planet Earth is to live as a light of hope in the darkness of sin and death (Matthew 5:16). We live a life of sacrifice so we may be assured, as Paul was, that even our death will glorify Christ Jesus.
Have a great week.
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