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”To Live Is Christ; To Die, Gain!


(Philippians 1:21-26)

Introduction: Last week we saw Paul’s attitude towards the Gospel.


His main concern in life was that the message of Christ and of His
kingdom would go forth by whatever lawful means possible, even if
it was through the preaching of men who had sinful motives. We
also saw that because the progress of the Gospel was what the heart
of the apostle was beating for, that Paul was content in whatever
circumstances he was in, if and only if the Gospel would continue
to be advanced by them. Paul was in prison, and was content to
remain there if Christ was exalted by it. Paul’s life was totally
hidden in Christ, not merely as a refuge from the coming wrath of
God, but in that his own desires and aspirations in life were
completely swallowed up by his love and devotion to Christ. He was
no longer concerned for his own things, but for those of his
Sovereign Lord. That is why he was confident that he would not be
put to shame in anything, but could say with absolute assurance,
”BUT THAT WITH ALL BOLDNESS, CHRIST SHALL EVEN NOW, AS ALWAYS, BE
EXALTED IN MY BODY, WHETHER BY LIFE OR BY DEATH.” To live or to
die did not matter to Paul, as long as Christ was exalted.
Continuing in this thought, Paul now reveals his heart on the
matter more fully. His purpose for even existing is summarized in
this section by the first sentence, ”FOR TO ME, TO LIVE IS CHRIST,
AND TO DIE IS GAIN.” Why did Paul have within himself the desire
to see Christ glorified by his life or by his death, and why didn’t
he simply live his life for his own ends? It was because Christ
was the reason for which he lived. There was no question in Paul’s
mind whatsoever as to his priority in life. It was not his
interests versus Christ’s; it was not his priorities versus those
of his Lord, but it was Christ’s first and only Christ’s. If he
was to be granted more days in this life to live, then he would
live them for Christ and Christ alone. And if he was to die, then
as a faithful servant of the risen Lord, he would go to be with Him
forever. And what this text is teaching us this morning is this,

The Christian’s life is so united with his Lord’s, that to


live is to live for Christ alone, and to die is to experience
the fullest fellowship with Him.

I. First I Want You to See that for the Christian, Christ Is


Everything in Life.
A. Paul’s Purpose in His Life Was that He Might Truly Be the
Servant of Christ. ”TO LIVE IS CHRIST.”
1 . I don’t think that anyone would deny that Paul is an
example to us of the right heart and motives in the
Christian life.
a. Paul’s example was not perfect. Paul sinned as the
rest of mankind, continually in word, thought and deed.
b. But yet, Paul did not hesitate to commend himself
to his readers as an example. ”BE IMITATORS OF
ME,” Paul said to the church at Corinth, but only
”AS I ALSO AM OF CHRIST” ( 1 Cor. 11 :1 ).
c. We are not to imitate Paul for any other reason
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than that he himself sought to be like Him. And


whenever we see Christ-like qualities in any of our
brethren, we are bound to imitate them.
d. And this especially applies to what the apostle
models for us this morning.

2. Paul was in prison and was debating within himself


whether it would be better to live on in the flesh or
to die and to be with Christ.
a. Paul was in literal torment about this decision.
ti) We are not told that the apostle actually had
this choice to make.
tii) Rather, we are to understand that both were
very real possibilities, and Paul is not sure
which he would choose if the choice were up to
him.

b. If he remained in the body, then this would mean


fruitful labor for him.
ti) God had blessed his labors in the past among
the Gentiles, and he had every reason to
believe that God would continue to use him in
the future.
tii) Paul did not believe in bearing sparse fruit,
but abundant. Like our farmers around us, he
wanted to see as much fruit being yielded by
his life and labors as possible.

c. If he remained then he would be able to continue to


minister to the church at Philippi. which ministry
they needed. ”YET TO REMAIN ON IN THE FLESH IS
MORE NECESSARY FOR YOUR SAKE.”
ti) Paul always put the concerns of the churches
ahead of his own needs. In his second epistle
to the church at Corinth, he wrote, ”APART
FROM SUCH EXTERNAL THINGS [those things which
he suffered in his body for the Gospel1 THERE
IS THE DAILY PRESSURE UPON ME OF CONCERN FOR
ALL THE CHURCHES. WHO IS WEAK WITHOUT MY
BEING WEAK? WHO IS LEAD INTO SIN WITHOUT MY
INTENSE CONCERN?” ( 2 Cor. 11 : 28-291.
tii) He loved them so much that they were
constantly on his heart.
tiii) When they were weak, he bore their weakness
with them. When they were lead into sin, he
was deeply concerned for their welfare.
tiv) Paul wanted them to continue to progress in
their growth in the likeness of Christ, for
stagnation is a sign of deep spiritual
problems, possibly even spiritual death.
tv) As long as they were healthy, they would
continue to grow and bear fruit.

3. And convinced that the Philippians had need of him, he


was confident that the Lord would allow him to continue
with them for their ”PROGRESS AND JOY IN THE FAITH.”
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a. Paul was willing to have his departure delayed that


he might continue to help the sheep of Christ.
b. If Christ was well pleased with what his life was
being used for, then he was content to remain.
c. It was for Christ’s approbation that Paul always
1abored.
B. The Lord Calls You this Morning to Live for Christ Alone.
1 . To be a Christian means that you have died to yourself
in order to follow Christ. ”I HAVE BEEN CRUCIFIED WITH
CHRIST; mn IT IS NO LONGER I WHO LIVE, BUT CHRIST
LIVES IN ME; mn THE LIFE WHICH I NOW LIVE IN THE FLESH
I LIVE BY FAITH IN THE SON OF a n , WHO L o v m ME, mn
DELIVERED HIMSELF UP FOR ME” (Gal. 2 : 2 0 ) .
a. We often say that we have picked up the cross to follow
Christ, but do we even understand what this means?
b. It means that our lives are no longer our own. When
we came to Christ and embraced Him by faith, and
turned from our sins, we actually abandoned
ownership of ourselves.
c. It is like selling something that you own. Once it
is sold, it is no longer under your ownership but
belongs to another, and that person can then do
whatever he wants with what is now his.
d. In the same way, you are no longer the authority of
your own life, but Christ has the sovereignty.
e. It is like entering the military where you willingly
subject yourself to the authority of your superior
officer. His will has the supremacy over yours.

2. And now you are to live as those who have given


yourselves entirely to His service.
a. You are to live for Him as though you had been
raised from the dead for that very purpose.
ti) ”THEREFORE DO NOT LET SIN REIGN IN YOUR MORTAL
BODY THAT YOU SHOULD OBEY ITS LUSTS, AND DO
NOT GO ON PRESENTING THE MEMBERS OF YOUR BODY
TO SIN AS INSTRUMENTS OF UNRIGHTEOUSNESS; BUT
PRESENT YOURSELVES TO GOD AS THOSE ALIVE FROM
THE DEAD, AND YOUR MEMBERS AS INSTRUMENTS OF
RIGHTEOUSNESS TO GOD” (Rom. 6:12-13).
tii) One who is dead has no interests in this life,
but is dead to his own things.
tiii) Having been brought to life by Him, you are to
serve Him alone on this earth.

b. Therefore, you are not to concern yourselves with


your own things, but with those of Christ.
ti) Have you made plans for your life which have
left Christ out of the picture?
tii) When you set goals for yourself, are the
concerns of Christ at the head of the list?
tiii) Are you doing what pleases you and telling
yourself at the same time that this is God’s
will, when you really know that it isn’t?
tiv) Did you really die to your own desires when
you came to Christ, or are you very much
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alive and at the helm of your own ship?

c. You are to labor and bring forth fruit for the


glory of God and His Christ alone.
ti) Everything you do, even in the most mundane
things in life, are to be done for the glory
of God. ”WHETHER, THEN, YOU EAT OR DRINK OR
WHATEVER YOU DO, DO ALL TO THE GLORY OF GOD”
(1 Cor. 10:31).
tii) When you go to work during the week, you
should do it with all your might as unto the
Lord. ”SLAVES, BE OBEDIENT TO THOSE WHO ARE
YOUR MASTERS, ACCORDING TO THE FLESH, WITH
FEAR AND TREMBLING, IN THE SINCERITY OF YOUR
HEART, AS TO CHRIST; NOT BY WAY OF EYESERVICE,
AS MENPLEASERS, BUT AS SLAVES OF CHRIST, DOING
THE WILL OF GOD FROM THE HEART. WITH GOOD
WILL RENDER SERVICE, AS TO THE LORD, AND NOT
TO MEN, KNOWING THAT WHATEVER GOOD THING EACH
ONE DOES, THIS HE WILL RECEIVE BACK FROM THE
LORD, WHETHER SLAVE OR FREE” (Eph. 6:5-8).
tiii) Those of you who are employers, know that God
has ordained the work of your employees as the
means to provide for their families, and so
pay them a decent wage so that that end will
be accomplished. ”BEHOLD, THE PAY OF THE
LABORERS WHO MOWED YOUR FIELDS, AND WHICH HAS
BEEN WITHHELD BY YOU, CRIES OUT AGAINST YOU;
AND THE OUTCRY OF THOSE WHO DID THE HARVESTING
HAS REACHED THE EARS OF THE LORD OF SABAOTH”
(James 5 : 4 ) .
t iv) Husbands, you are to love your wives for
Christ’s sake. You are not to be driven to
love her only when you feel like it, but
because it is what your Lord commands you,
”HUSBANDS, LOVE YOUR WIVES, JUST AS CHRIST
ALSO LOVED THE CHURCH AND GAVE HIMSELF UP FOR
HER” (Eph. 5 : 2 5 ) .
tV) Wives, you are to be submissive to your
husbands not only when they are respectable,
but even when they are not, for God’s glory,
”WIVES, BE SUBJECT TO YOUR OWN HUSBANDS, AS TO
THE LORD. FOR THE HUSBAND IS THE HEAD OF THE
WIFE, AS CHRIST ALSO IS THE HEAD OF THE
CHURCH, HE HIMSELF BEING THE SAVIOR OF THE
BODY” (5:22-23).
tvi 1 And children, you are to honor and to obey
your parents, not only because they give you
food, clothing, shelter, protection and love,
but because this is what the Lord commands you
to do for His glory, ”CHILDREN, OBEY YOUR
PARENTS IN THE LORD, FOR THIS IS RIGHT. HONOR
YOUR FATHER AND YOUR MOTHER (WHICH IS THE
FIRST COMMANDMENT WITH A PROMISE), THAT IT MAY
BE WELL WITH YOU, AND THAT YOU MAY LIVE LONG
ON THE EARTH” (Eph. 6:1-3).
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tviil You are to honor and obey them always, not


because the world calls this day ”Mother’s
Day,” but because that is what your Lord
commands you.
tviiil In short, everything you do must be because
you believe it to tend most to the glory of
God.
tixl If you are doing anything which cannot be
subsumed under His glory, then you must
seriously consider putting an end to it. It
is worthless in the sight of God.

11. Secondly, I Want You Know and Be Convinced that for the
Christian to Depart from this World Is Not a Loss, but a
Tremendous Gain.
A. Far from Viewing Death as His Greatest Enemy, Paul Actually
Longed for It.
1 . When Paul was reasoning in his mind about these things,
he didn’t know which to choose.
a. He was halting between two opinions, but not the
choice of one which was good and one which was
sinful, but between two goods.
b. To remain meant fruitful labor for him, but to
depart meant direct fellowship with Christ.
c. It is like the choice that a loving wife would have
to face if she were called to go and be with her
husband who was far away, and had to leave her
beloved children at home (Wilson 31-32).
d. She would be torn between her desire to be with
both of them, and so it was with Paul.

2. Paul was hard-pressed by these two considerations,


because he realized that to die and to be with Christ
was better.
a. Far from being an inferior state, it was far superior.
ti) Paul here stacks up the modifiers.
tiil To depart and to be with Christ is not only
better, it is much better.
tiiil It is not only much better, but it is very
much better .
t ivl Paul could not have believed in some sort of
soul-sleep, for then his choice would be
obvious: he would remain and continue to
store up treasure in heaven while he lived.
tVl But he knew that to be absent from the body
was to be present with the Lord (2 Cor. 5:8l.
tvi l As our Shorter Catechism #37 says, ”THE SOULS OF
BELIEVERS ARE AT THEIR DEATH MADE PERFECT IN
HOLINESS, AND DO IMMEDIATELY PASS INTO GLORY; AND
THEIR BODIES, BEING STILL UNITED TO CHRIST, DO REST
IN THEIR GRAVES, TILL THE RESURRECTION.”
tviil To leave this world and to be with Christ was
very much better than to remain in it.

b. Yet he was content to submit his life to the Lord’s


will, even if it meant staying a few years longer
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in the body, that is, in this world.


ti) Paul was released for a short time and later
imprisoned again.
It was in his second Roman imprisonment that
(ii)
he was executed for his faith.
(iii) But even then, his attitude was the same. He
says in 2 Timothy 4:6-8, ”FOR I AM ALREADY
BEING POURED OUT AS A DRINK OFFERING, AND THE
TIME OF MY DEPARTURE HAS COME. I HAVE FOUGHT
THE GOOD FIGHT, I HAVE FINISHED THE COURSE, I
HAVE KEPT THE FAITH; IN THE FUTURE THERE IS
LAID UP FOR ME THE CROWN OF RIGHTEOUSNESS,
WHICH THE LORD, THE RIGHTEOUS JUDGE, WILL
AWARD TO ME ON THAT DAY; AND NOT ONLY TO ME,
BUT ALSO TO ALL WHO HAVE LOVED HIS APPEARING.”
B. The Lord Is Saying to You as Well this Morning, that if You Are
in Christ, then Death Holds the Greatest Blessings that You Have
Yet Experienced and You Ought to Look Forward to It as Well.
1 . Many do not hold the same opinion as the apostle that
to depart and to be with Christ is better.
a. Generally speaking, most Christians are so afraid
of death that they will spend any amount of money
and go through any amount of medical procedures to
prolong their lives even for a few more days.
b. It is true that if our illness is treatable, and
our lives will be prolonged by treatment, that we
ought to receive it if we can.
C. But if we are only prolonging our death, we ought
not to do so.
d. Sometimes our attitude toward death is just as
fearful as the unbeliever.
e. We fear death; we don’t want to think about it; we
bury its possibility from our minds.
f. And we seek to remove those who are facing it far
from us so that we won’t have to be reminded of
what awaits us.

2. But if we really love Christ and believe His promises,


shouldn’t we have the same attitude as Paul?
a. For the Christian, the greatest object of His love
is really in heaven.
ti) When Stephen was being stoned, he gazed
steadfastly into heaven to behold the face of
his beloved Savior standing to receive him
(Acts 7:55).
(ii) David said, ”AS FOR ME, I SHALL BEHOLD THY
FACE IN RIGHTEOUSNESS; I WILL BE SATISFIED WITH
THY LIKENESS WHEN I AWAKE” (Ps. 17:151.
(iii) John Frith, a close friend and associate of
William Tyndale, when faced with a decision to
return to England where he would most
certainly die, was encouraged by knowing that
he would obtain a better resurrection.

b. The Christian continually longs for heaven because


Christ is there, and death is but the crossing over
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from this world to be with Him.

3. Christian, you are to live this life in service to your


Lord, longing for the day when you will be with Him.
a. Physical life on this earth is temporary and this
has always been God’s plan.
b. Therefore, you should be content with nothing less
than the giving of yourself fully unto Christ while
you are here.
c. And even if Christ should call you to die of some
disease, or to give your life in martyrdom, or to
simply live out your life to the extent of your
years, you should never fear the end of this life.
d. Death is but the release from this world into the
next. Death is the leaving of partial fellowship
with Christ and His Spirit, to full fellowship.
e. Death is the leaving behind of all sorrow and pain,
and entering into fullness of joy and peace.
f. Christian, do not fear death. Christ died to
overcome it, so that you might say, ”0 DEATH, WHERE
IS YOUR VICTORY? 0 DEATH, WHERE IS YOUR STING?
THE STING OF DEATH IS SIN, AND THE POWER OF SIN IS
THE LAW; BUT THANKS BE TO am, WHO GIVES us THE
VICTORY THROUGH OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST” ( 1 Cor.
15:55-57).
g. If you love Christ, you will want to be with Him.
If He is your greatest desire, then you will long
for Him. Christian serve Him with all your might,
and when His purposes are finished for you in this
life, then joyfully depart into His arms
forevermore.
h. And let this verse of Scripture be your controlling
purpose in life and in death, ”FOR TO ME, TO LIVE
IS CHRIST, AND TO DIE IS GAIN!” Amen.