In Philippians 1:18-21, we learn Paul was able to face persecution and possible death joyfully because of the prayer of the Philippians and the supply of the Spirit. In addition, he was able to face these circumstances joyfully because he knew he would be vindicated and would gain ultimate salvation. Furthermore, his ultimate joy came from knowing that Christ would be proclaimed and the Gospel advanced even if it meant he had to die. This attitude and certain belief causes him to say, “For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.”
To Live is Christ
With Paul’s statement, “To live is Christ”, we encounter a man who had a singular focus in life, which was to glorify Christ. He lived in such a way that he saw everything he did and every circumstance he faced as a means of pointing other to Christ. He did not care if he was ridiculed, beaten, jailed, shipwrecked, or even killed because he had a singular focus, to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the Jews first and then the Gentiles.
Paul lived a life radically different than most Christians today, not because he thought it would earn him salvation, but because he desired to see Christ glorified and understood the promises of God, which is revealed in his next statement, “to die is gain.”
To Die is Gain
Paul believed death was gain because he knew he would be with his Lord and Savior, the one he proclaimed to all people. He also knew the advantage the next world held over this one. A life free from persecution, sickness, disease, and injustice awaited him. For Paul, death was gain, which allowed him to “live for Christ.”
Paul believed death was gain,which was the reason he could live for Christ. He shared his attitude with the Philippians because he wanted them to see death as gain, so they too could live for Christ. He wanted them to take up his purpose for life, which was to glorify Christ in every decision and circumstance, living as if death is victory, not caring if men could destroy their body, but ever seeking to glorify Christ in life or death.
This means Paul’s letter to the Philippians was not written just to tell them what he thought about life, it was to challenge and encourage them to think and live the same way. Likewise, the reason this text has been preserved for 2,000 years was not just so Paul could tell us what he thought about life, it was preserved because God desires we live like Paul. God desires we say with Paul, “To live is Christ, and to die is gain.”