“For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” (Philippians 1:21 (ESV)
We come to the penultimate conclusion of our study of the life and ministry of the Apostle Paul. When I began this study, for both your and my benefit, I wrote that arguably, when a discussion is held regarding who are the greatest theologians in the history of the church, the names of Augustine, Martin Luther, John Calvin, Jonathan Edwards, John Bunyan, Carl Henry, and J. Gresham Machen, among others, are often listed. Often added to this stellar list are such recent additions including Francis Schaeffer and R. C. Sproul.
However, without a doubt the single, greatest theologian, aside from the LORD Jesus Christ, who has most benefited the church and contributed to its spiritual health, well-being and theological orthodoxy would have to be the Apostle Paul.
This is not only because, inspired by the Holy Spirit, Paul was responsible for nearly half the New Testament canon. It is also because Paul lived what he wrote and believed. He, while not perfect, was consistently consistent in his walk of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Paul said, ““For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” Notice three observations from this simple statement.
First, this was a personal declaration of truth. “For to me.” The LORD had personally impacted the apostle in his entire being. This included Paul’s intellect, emotions and will.
Second, Paul’s entire being was focused on one thing: “For to me to live is Christ.” Paul’s state or personal condition was a present and active trust in, commitment to, dependence upon and worship of Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. This was his singular focus while living in this world. Paul’s behavior was focused upon Christ.
Third, Paul’s eternal destiny was also singularly focused: “…and to die is gain.” Physical death would bring an eternal benefit and advantage. The expression suggests not just the condition of death, but also the experience of dying. Remember, Paul was under house arrest in Rome while he wrote this letter, along with Ephesians, Colossians and Philemon. The possibility of execution was real.
Dr. John Walvoord writes, “Paul’s main purpose in living was to glorify Christ. Christ was the essence of his life. Yet Paul knew that if he were martyred, Christ would be glorified through the promotion of the gospel which would result from his testimony in death. And Paul himself would benefit, for death would result in his being with Christ (v. 23).”
May our main purpose in living be to bring honor and glory to the Lord Jesus Christ. May that be the essence, heart and crux of all we are and of all we do.
Soli deo Gloria!