This special meditation has been prepared by PRC home missionary, Rev. Aud Spriensma.
Meditation on Philippians 1:21
Living or Dying in Christ
“For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.”
A short Scripture text means a short meditation, right? No, it does not, especially for ministers. The less notes I take in the pulpit, the longer the sermon is. In our text, we need to understand what it means for the Apostle Paul when he states, “to live is Christ.” Second, how we learn to live for Christ, Third, we need to know why “to die is gain.” Should we wish for death?
The Apostle Paul wrote these verses to the believers in Philippi. They were concerned for him. Paul was a prisoner in Rome, waiting for his trial before Caesar. This trial could end with the Apostle facing death. In Paul’s absence, there were some who were preaching Christ out of envy and strife, and therefore they were adding affliction to Paul’s prison life. Paul wrote to comfort those saints who were concerned about his welfare. He said that all that was really important was that Christ was being preached. Paul was only concerned that his Savior was exalted and the gospel extended. Paul’s greatest concern in either life or death was magnifying Christ, his Master (vs. 20). Paul informs the Philippians that he is not afraid to die. He would be with Christ.
When the Apostle said so emphatically, “to me” placing this word at the very beginning of the sentence, he is giving a profound personal testimony. At the same time, he was drawing a contrast between the preachers who are proclaiming Christ out of selfish ambition. Paul was not self-centered, but Christ-centered. “For me to live is Christ.” Is this true of your life? Paul was concerned with the honor and glory of his wonderful Redeemer.
Paul was speaking of his life lived from day to day, continuous living on earth as a child of God. He could have spoken of the continuous hardships that he had faced. He experienced a thorn in his flesh that he had prayed might be removed. He had been beaten, stoned, and left for dead. He had been in prison both in Philippi and now in Rome. Oh, how he had suffered for the sake of the gospel. But he did not speak about those things. He spoke about Christ! Christ was the center of his whole life. Christ was everything. This was not just his preaching to others. Paul himself relied upon Christ for the whole of his salvation. He would boast in nothing but Christ crucified.
What is it to live in Christ? It is to derive one’s strength from Christ (Phil. 4:13), to have the mind, the humble disposition of Christ (Phil. 2:5-11), to know Christ with the knowledge of Christian experience (Phil. 3:8), to be covered with Christ’s righteousness (Phil. 3:9), to rejoice in Christ (Phil. 3:1; 4;4), to live not for self but for His glory (II Cor. 5:14,15), to rest one’s faith on Christ and to love Him in return for His love (Gal. 2:20).
How is this life possible? Not in ourselves. We would live for pleasure, sin, earthly things. Paul had been trying to by his own works to be right with God. It was only by Christ taking ahold of him on the Damascus Road. It was by the Spirit of Christ giving him a new heart and working conversion and faith. Paul was turned around from a physical life that leads to death to a new life lived for Jesus Christ.
Can you make this personal confession, “For me to live is Christ”? Do you and I live this confession with our daily lives: in our marriage, being a parent, in the workplace, the friends that we have, in our recreation, what we think, what we desire, and everything that we do? May God work in us and give us the grace to live in Christ.
Then “to die is gain.” This seems so strange, for death is loss. It is the loss of earthly relationships, family, friends, earthly things, and even our earthly bodies for a while. We know from Rom. 6:23 that death is God’s punishment for sin. But my friend, the sting of death has been taken away ( I Cor. 15:55). Christ bore all the punishment for our sins in our place. Death now becomes a servant to take us as pilgrims and strangers to a far better land. Dying physically meant gain for Paul. It meant that he would be with Christ (see vs. 23), “at home with the Lord” (II Cor. 5:8). Death is the gateway to a clearer knowledge, more wholehearted perfect service, more exuberant joy, and a closer walk. No more sin or temptation, no more sickness, pain, trial, sorrow, affliction.
Death is gain! I will be with Christ. I will be like Christ. All the blessings of Christ will more abundantly be poured out. What do you live for? Is the glory and honor of Christ’s name more important to you, or is comfort and ease of life? Paul’s life was so wrapped up in Christ and the gospel that he wanted nothing more than to see the gospel advance, even if it meant that others sought to add to his affliction. When life’s circumstances get difficult, it is easy to become focused on self. May we say, “For me to live is Christ, to die is gain.”
“Jesus is all the world to me, My life, my joy, my all; He is my strength from day to day, Without him I would fall. Jesus is all the world to me, I want no better friend; I trust him now, I’ll trust him when life’s fleeting days shall end. Beautiful life with such a friend; Beautiful life that has no end,; Eternal life, eternal joy, He’s my friend.”
Rev. Audred Spriensma (Wife: Alva)
Ordained: January 1981
Pastorates: Atwood, MI CRC - 1981; Bethany, S.Holland, IL CRC - 1984; Grandville, MI - 1992; Missionary to the Philippines - 2002; Kalamazoo, MI - 2007; Byron Center, MI - 2010; Home missionary (Byron Center PRC), 2017Website: www.prca.org/missions/domestic
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