This week we continued our study in the book of Philippians by focusing on Paul’s declaration, “to live is Christ, to die is gain.” When we realign our life and put Christ first, everything else falls into place. We live in a world full of distractions, and if we don’t prioritize, we could get distracted and miss the very things that matter most. Check out three practical ways to apply this week’s message followed by an in-depth study guide for this week’s passage.
THREE WAYS TO APPLY THIS WEEK’S MESSAGE:
- 1. Get plugged in to a Lifegroup and discipleship // We need godly examples in our lives so we don’t get on auto-pilot, that’s why community is so important.
- 2. Begin looking at life with the perspective of, “to live is Christ, to die is gain” // Put your relationship with Jesus first, and everything else around that. Be sure to get time in the presence of God every day.
- 3. Live free from distractions // Set aside time to search your heart and ask, “what am I living for?”
This is a fairly unique way for Paul to start off one of his epistles. Rather than discussing a theological point, he instead gives a report on his missionary activity and subsequent imprisonment. It seems that one of the main reasons for writing this letter was to provide an update to the Philippians, most likely because of their partnership with the Gospel through prayer and financial giving.
Paul penned this letter from a prison cell in Rome. The Philippian church was worried for their spiritual father and close friend. It was a time of uncertainty – what will happen to Paul? What will happen to us? Division was creeping up within the church, what if he is dead and cannot guide anymore? These concerns are emotional and personal, and they remain relevant. How do we respond to uncertainty? How do we respond when things don’t go according to plan?
Opposition Cannot Stop the Gospel (1:12-14)
Verse 12 dramatically challenges our assumptions about opposition. Paul’s imprisonment seemed like a block of the Gospel to those who desperately needed it. Instead, he informed the Philippians, his imprisonment actually advanced it!
Through his chains the very palace guard of the Roman Emperor heard the message. Furthermore, though Paul sat in jail, many other believers began to step out in increased boldness. One man was partially stopped, yet countless others stepped up in his place.
Verse 14 states that, “most…have become confident in the Lord.” When someone boldly proclaims Jesus it inspires others to do the same. Perhaps a few people will shrink back as they see the consequences that arise from boldness, but most believers will be inspired to rise up in faith.
Man’s Evil Motives Cannot Stop the Gospel (1:15-18)
Many believers stepped out in increased boldness due to Paul’s imprisonment, but not all of them did so with pure motives. Selfish ambition, envy and rivalry motivated some to preach, presumably recognizing that Paul was inaccessible and thus maximizing the opportunity to make a name for themselves.
Read 1 Corinthians 1:10-2:5 for further insight into Paul’s mindset. We need to guard our motives! We are called to minister, preach the Gospel and live as ambassadors to those who don’t know Jesus, but we need to carefully maintain the right perspective. People are saved because of the power of the Spirit, not due to our eloquence or wisdom. God does not move in power so we can build up our earthly fame.
Despite this tragic tendency, we need to keep perspective: In the end, the Kingdom will advance regardless of our motives. And because of this we can rejoice and live at peace.
To Live is Christ, To Die is Gain (1:19-26)
Paul was assured of his deliverance because of two things: The Spirit within him and the prayers of the saints. God empowers us to overcome the trials of this life, but that power is not due to our strength. Instead, He has created us to need others. We need the Spirit, and we need the Body of Christ if we want to overcome. Beware the enemy’s ploy to isolate us – both from God and from His people.
This passage highlights a fundamental message: Paul’s hope was secure, both in life and in death. Stop for a minute. Consider this radical perspective! Paul wrote these words while sitting in a jail cell, unjustly charged and awaiting his fate, yet despite his circumstances, his message was hope and assurance.
These verses reveal an emotional struggle, putting to pen an internal wrestle the apostle faced. But pay attention to his choices: on the one hand, he saw how much better it is to be with Christ, while on the other he saw the need to keep proclaiming the Gospel and strengthening the Church. Noticeably absent was my preferred option of being released from jail and living a peaceful, comfortable life.
This section is summarized in verse 21, “for me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” If we see Jesus clearly and our hope rests in heaven then this is a natural perspective. This faith causes us to maximize this life by proclaiming Jesus, while living with the assurance that death is the doorway to our inheritance, not something to fear. Why squander this opportunity to bring God glory by instead choosing cheap, temporary pleasure?
So much of our internal wrestle stems from this issue. We want to live for Christ… mostly. And, if we are being honest, a little bit for the world. Paul exposed his deep internal wrestle so that we might be challenged to follow his example. In verse 25, we read that Paul lived “convinced of this” and thus was assured and at peace.
Live Worthy of the Gospel (1:27-30)
Paul exposed his soul, his commitment to live for Christ and his assurance that far from being defeated, death itself was the ultimately victory. And now he challenges believers to carry this same perspective.
Verse 27 begins with the phrase “whatever happens.” Paul was not naïve. He recognized that he might be killed for his faith. Regardless of the outcome, he was assured of the deliverance of God for eternity, but he also wanted to assure the Philippian church that they too can overcome.
The command is to, “conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the Gospel of Christ.” The original Greek language the book was written in calls us to, “Live as citizens worthy of the Gospel…” Paul is challenging us to embrace our heavenly citizenship (see also Philippians 3:20). We are aliens and strangers in this world (1 Peter 2:11); we need to live according to our new identity (Romans 12:2). Paul recognized that he may never see the Philippians again and wanted them to succeed, even after his death, and that starts by wholeheartedly committing to live as citizens of Heaven.
One important concern was that they, “stand firm in the one Spirit, striving together as one.” This theme of unity is further developed in the next chapter. Chapter 4 verses 1-3 indicate division was an emerging problem within the church. When Jesus is central to our lives then we are free to serve others.
His other chief concern was that they stand strong in the midst of opposition, “without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you.” Suffering will come and will challenge the Church. When we live for Christ then we have no need to fear death or suffering in this life and these trials transform into a catalyst for growth. But if we live for this life, then we will shrink back when difficulties emerge.
Paul shared his journey to set an example. Yes he suffered, but he also conquered, and God invites us into this same calling.
By Drew Steadman – Adult Pastor