Chapter 1:21-30, The Study - To Live Is Christ!
"For to me, to live is Christ"

J. Deering,



For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.

        to me
                to live
                        is Christ, and
                to die
                        is gain.


Paul's definition of life - to life is Christ, Paul equated living with Christ (life = Christ)


The dedicated life

Death of the believer
To die, for Paul, is the value of living for Christ Plus



Paul considered his whole life to be “in-Christ.” Berry says that, “Paul was so conscious of the grace that God had manifested to him that he could not conceive of life apart from Christ.” Paul’s burning desire was to “know Him, and the power of his resurrection” (3:10). Paul was “occupied” with Jesus Christ.


In the book of 2 Corinthians Paul testifies that, for the person in ministry (him self, as an apostle and a church planter/preacher), that it is participation in the revealing activity of God is the focus of life (2 Corinthians 2:14-17). He was God’s revealer of His will and Word – as are all those who minister the Word of God.


Paul is not saying simply that preachers, of course, speak the revelation of God. He is saying that the process whereby God reveals His will and word to His body is largely done through those called specifically as Pastors, and that when they speak, the very revelation of God is their product.


Paul was completely aware that it is God that he serves with his life, and that life is in-Christ. It is God who gives the grace to live, and that through Christ Jesus. Paul has no other source. How different than our experience. We, all to often, claim ourselves as the source of our life and our doings. For Paul, there is no other reason to live – but to serve the Father, through the Son, by the Holy Spirit. No other source is given any mention.


Paul is building on a framework that will climax in the Humiliation of Christ in Chapter 2.

 22  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. 23 But I am hard-pressed from both directions, having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better; 24 yet to remain on in the flesh is more necessary for your sake. 25 Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all for your progress and joy in the faith, 26 so that your proud confidence in me may abound in Christ Jesus through my coming to you again.


                I am to live on
                        in the flesh,
                                This will mean
                                        fruitful labor
                                                for me; and
I don't know which to choose.

I am hard-pressed
        from both directions,
                having the desire to depart and
                be with Christ
                        for that is very much better;


                to remain on
                in the flesh
                        is more necessary
                                for your sake.

(I am)
Convinced of this,

I know that
        I will remain and
        (I will) continue
                with you all
                for your progress and
                (for your) joy
                        in the faith,

so that

        your proud confidence
                in me
                may abound
                        in Christ Jesus
                                through my coming
                                to you


It would be good to again stress that death to Paul was not only imminent, but that death meant the ultimate conclusion to a life that was traveled with not only good results, but more importantly, good technique. Paul had lived his life according to God’s revealed plan for him. He sacrificed everything in his personal life in order to go and do as the Father’s Holy Spirit led. He yielded his self to the Father, he yielded his life to the Savior, and yielded his will to the Holy Spirit of God – continually for the duration of his believing life.


Heaven, into the presence of God, was for Paul a total reality during his life and not just “pie-in-the-sky” when his life was finished. Heaven was just as real to Paul as his everyday life – if not more so.


Knowing this should make it easier for us to understand the problem he was having in telling us which he would rather – to live or to die. That’s not a hard choice for most of us – LIFE is our normal choice. But not for Paul. Life was not the only rational choice – was Paul emotionally sick? No, for like Moses, he “considered the recompense of the reward” (Hebrews 11:26b).


Paul was like Moses, “By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to endure ill-treatment with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin, considering the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt; for he was looking to the reward” (Hebrews 11:24-26).


Paul’s choice to “live” is based on the need that exists by those he would have left behind. He does not decide on what is best for him – he decides on the basis of what is best for others (the Bride of Christ). He continues to live so that believers may have “progress, in the faith” and “Joy, in the faith.”


Verse 26 holds the key as to what Paul’s intent is in continuing in “this life.” He says that the confidence (proud he calls it – meaning that they were Proud of Paul and his accomplishments) that they have in him and his leadership and his teaching, would lead them to put their proud confidence all the much more in Christ. His intention is that they would have an abundance of confidence in Christ Jesus as the result of his choosing to “live” for their sakes, rather than “die” for his own benefit.


Where does each one of us stand on the issue of life or death – for other’s sake. Do we wish to continue living, here, just to extend our lives before the uncertainties of death? Or do we wish to continue living that the body of Christ may be enriched by our presence and our gifts?


Do we wish to die in order to end our pain and suffering, or do we wish to continue in our pain and suffering in order to encourage the body of Christ?

 27 Only conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or remain absent, I will hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel; 28 in no way alarmed by your opponents—which is a sign of destruction for them, but of salvation for you, and that too, from God.


        conduct yourselves
                in a manner worthy
                        of the gospel of Christ,

so that


I come and (I) see you,
(I) remain absent,

I will hear of you
                You are standing firm
                (you are) in one spirit,
                (you are) with one mind
                (you are) striving together
                        for the faith
                                of the gospel;

                (your are) in no way alarmed
                        by your opponents
                                which is a sign of destruction for them,
                                (a sign) of salvation for you
                                        and that too, from God


I have chosen life to benefit you…. Only…


Sounds like the beginning of one of those scenes where the family has gathered at the Lawyer’s office to read the last will and testament.  “So therefore, I leave everything to you… Only…


The “just one more thing” we find so often when it seems someone is doing something nice for us.


Only, “Do lead lives worthy of the gospel of Christ; so that whether I come to see you or hear reports concerning you in my absence, I may know that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one soul, enlisted in a common struggle for the faith of the gospel, and in no way terrorized by its enemies.” (1:27-28a The New Testament in Modern English, Helen Barrett Montgomery).


That you are standing firm – upright and strong, against all forces and powers, yet standing firm only through the power of God’s Holy Spirit, that is Unified in Source of power. Standing firm as if everyone of you were in fact just one body – unified like husband and wife – One Body. Standing firm, unified as no other group, in the STRUGGLE for the FAITH of the GOSPEL. In NO way Terrorized by its enemies.


The final two statements in this verse point the way toward a truth that should not be overlooked.

    1.    The enemy should be afraid of our unified front in the gospel, and

    2.    our unity ought to be an obvious sign to us our SALVATION is indeed from God.

 29 For to you it has been granted for Christ’s sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake, 30 experiencing the same conflict which you saw in me, and now hear to be in me.


        to you
                it (to believe and suffer) has been granted
                        for Christ's sake,

(that you will be)
        experiencing the same conflict (stay/go)
                        you saw in me, and now
                        (you) hear to be in me.


Serious words now come at the close of Chapter 1.


Salvation, from God, has been granted to you for Christ’s sake – not your own. The salvation you received by believing has been given to you by the grace of God for the sake of Jesus Christ – and not just to believe, but also to suffer for His sake. We have hard the phrase “for Jesus’ name sake,” that we have forgotten what it means.


John 17:11b, “Holy Father, keep them in Your name, the name which You have given me, that they may be one even as We are.” Here John reveals the true ‘Lord’s prayer.’ In the middle of this amazing chapter Jesus states that unity is the central issue when it comes to being identified with God, His Son, and His Spirit. That unity represents who God is and what His “name” is. The “name” is the metaphor or symbol that represents who God is. When we act out of self and not of unity in Jesus, we sully God’s precious name. When we do anything that does not represent His Holiness and Grace – we act not in unity with Him, but we act out of self and conceit – we throw filth upon His name.


How far should we take this? To utter extremes, for our finite little acts of selfishness dirty the very name of our infinite God – How shameful indeed is that.

Those who follow Islam fear their arbitrary and capricious god. They would rather cut off their own hands than steal. They put each other to death over simple blaspheme and “the appearance of evil.” While this is not the teaching of the God of the Bible, it should give us pause to think of how shamefully we treat Him, His Son, and His Spirit.


But this is not the message of this verse – the message is that suffering and pain are essential parts of the Christian’s life. We cannot get to where God wants us to be without those elements that turn us God-ward away from self-ward. In the Christian’s life suffering and pain (for righteousness sake) is a privilege, and it is the hope of Paul that the Philippians in the Body of Christ might experience similar suffering and pain as his for the sake of the Name of God, the Name of the Son, and the Name of the Holy Spirit.

New American Standard Bible (NASB)

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