To Live is Christ and to Die is Gain

February 4, 2018 Speaker: Brett Herren Series: Philippians - To Live is Christ and to Die is Gain

Scripture: Philippians 1:19–1:26

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"19 for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance, 20 as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. 21 For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. 22 If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. 23 I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. 24 But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account. 25 Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith, 26 so that in me you may have ample cause to glory in Christ Jesus, because of my coming to you again."

Philippians 1:18-26

 

The Chief End of Man

This morning in our passage, Paul is talking about the most important goal of his life. So before we dive into the details, let’s make sure we are clear- What is the most important purpose of your life, and of mine? The Westminster Catechism was written in 1646 and 1647 by a group of English and Scottish theologians and laymen, and its purpose was to systematically and faithfully teach the Christian faith, in accordance with Holy Scripture. Question 1 is “What is the chief end of man?” And the answer is  “To glorify God and enjoy Him forever.” The Bible agrees with this, cover to cover - it’s all about the glory of God.

 [Psa 19:1 ESV] ...The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.

The heavens and the earth are for His Glory! Our universe likely contains more than 100 billion galaxies, and each of those galaxies may have more than 100 billion stars. Why all those gigantic stars and huge universe? The purpose of the universe is to show the glory of God! What about man? What is the purpose of people?

[Isa 43:6-7 ESV] 6 ... bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the end of the earth, 7 everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory…

He created us for his glory! And He saved us, because He loves us, and thus reveals His glory:

[Eph 1:11-12 ESV] 11 In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, 12 so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory.

 I hope you don’t feel upset with God, that He has created the entire universe and saved men and women for His glory. I hope you don’t think He is selfish because He absolutely is not. Displaying His glory is how He can best love us also. We will enjoy His glory forever - like a feast of  joy - and be made glorious ourselves to some degree like Him!

[2Co 3:18 ESV] 18 And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another…

[1Jo 3:2 ESV] 2 Beloved, we are God's children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.

The most important thing in the universe, the point of the universe, is the display of the greatness and glory of God! And so, the most important thing we should do with our lives, is glorify God! But how do we glorify God? Does this mean singing worship songs about God? Is there more to it than that? The Westminster Shorter Catechism poses this question when it asks, “What is the chief end of man?” And again, it answers it, “To glorify God and enjoy Him forever.” Our enjoyment of God, our desire for Him, is the way we glorify Him! Paul describes this perfectly for us in today’s passage. Let’s look closely at it.

Honoring Christ

[Phl 1] 18 What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice. Yes, and I will rejoice, 19 for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance,

This will turn out for my deliverance

Do you remember what has happened to Paul? He has been unjustly accused and imprisoned in Rome, and is currently awaiting trial before Caesar, who will decide whether Paul lives or dies. So Paul is saying that he knows that all this trouble, and the trial before Caesar will turn out for his deliverance. 

Deliverance from being Ashamed

Do you see that word “deliverance” at the end of verse 19? What does he mean by, “deliverance”? Does he mean that he knows he will be delivered at the trial? No, Paul does not mean specifically deliverance at the trial. How do we know? I see two reasons.

First, the word translated “deliverance” really means “salvation”. Paul is saying that these events will turn out for his “salvation”, meaning they will contribute to the overall saving work of Christ in Paul’s life.

Second, look at the next verse, verse 20 with me and Paul will explain, “as it is (more precisely translated:  according to) my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed,…” Stop there - see the thought? Verse 20 continued, “but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death.” That word honored is “Megaluno.”  Do you hear “Mega?” It means to esteem highly or to show as great. Christ will be shown as great, honored, glorified, in Paul’s living and dying, and thus Paul will not be at all ashamed. 

Salvation is salvation from dishonoring Christ

This is just amazing! Do you see how Paul thinks? Paul’s focus is not mainly on his circumstances and deliverance from imprisonment. It is on honoring Christ.  This puts a mirror up to our lives. Do we think like Paul thinks? There is shame and loss for not honoring Christ. 

Shame and Loss for not honoring Christ

The Bible says this in many places.

[1Jo 2:28 ESV] 28 And now, little children, abide in him, so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming.

[2Jo 1:8 ESV] 8 Watch yourselves, so that you may not lose what we have worked for, but may win a full reward.

Living our lives to honor Christ will win for us a full reward with no shame! And God is loving us this morning by helping us to see that honoring Christ is the most important thing. 

Through your prayers and the Holy Spirit

Ok, so God is loving us, teaching us this morning through Paul’s words that we should remember what is most important and what to focus our lives on. But, how? Let’s go back and pick up the part of verse 19 we skipped over, "for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance." Do you remember Jesus’ words after crucifiction, after His 40 days of resurrection appearances, right before He ascended to heaven?

(Mat 28:20) “I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Paul remembers those words because the Spirit of Jesus is with Paul in prison. And Paul understands the main goal of the Spirit of Jesus in His life is not deliverance from prison but a life that glorifies God. This again is a mirror on our lives. If we don’t think right about this, we will not understand God’s work in our lives or how we should pray for one another.

To Die is Gain

So we have seen that Paul’s life was focused on honoring Christ above all by how he lives and dies. So how specifically does Paul go about honoring Christ in his living and dying? Let’s begin with dying, and we will come back to living. Look at verses 20 and 21, "as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain." Did you see the word “for” there?

Paul’s Dilema

For Paul, to die is gain, and that is how Christ will be honored in Paul’s death.  Why is dying gain for Paul? Because at death, he will get more of Christ. Listen to Paul as he considers the 2 options of living and dying in verse 23, "I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better." Paul is hard pressed between the 2 options - he wants them both. This is not a man in pain or old age saying he would like to die. This is a man who is saying, “I want to stay and serve the church, but boy, it would be far better to depart now and be with Christ” Do you feel how that honors Christ? Paul is locked in prison, and awaiting trial, at which he may be executed. And he is concerned about being delivered - not from execution - but being delivered from the shame of not honoring Christ.

Look again at verse 20, “as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death.” Paul has full courage. What circumstances cut down your courage and make you feel you are losing life? How is your courage, your confidence, that whatever troubles God allows in your life He brings to give you more of Himself? Listen to the same attitude about Paul’s thorn in the flesh.

[2Co 12:9-10 ESV] 9 ...Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 For the sake of Christ, then, I am content(well pleased) with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

 Are you well pleased (same as full courage) with the weaknesses God has brought to your life?

To Live is Christ

Let’s move on to how Paul honors Christ in the other option - living. Look at verse 22-26 again, "If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith, so that in me you may have ample cause to glory in Christ Jesus, because of my coming to you again." Paul desires to depart and be with Christ, for he says, that is far better. But he knows that to remain alive is more necessary for the Christians in Philippi. He knows that his life, his faith, his teaching, bring about their progress and joy in the faith. And he knows that his returning to them will cause them to glory in Christ Jesus. Therefore, being convinced of this, Paul knows that he will remain and continue with the Philippians, rather than departing to be with Christ.

Paul honors Christ in living

For Paul, being alive means laboring to serve others, for their progress and joy in the faith. The center of life for Paul is laboring for others’ faith. No one who met Paul had any doubt what his life was about. And this honors Christ. So, when you hold up the mirror of this Word to your life, how does it look? Does everyone that gets to know you soon find out that Christ is your life? Does your life center on working for the faith of others? Who in your life are you loving by earnestly working to see their faith grow?Your life will honor Christ in two ways:  growing the faith of Christians and bringing those outside of Christ to faith.

Conclusion

Paul is locked in a Roman prison awaiting trial before Caesar at which he may be executed. And his prayer request, his earnest desire for the Spirit of Jesus within him, it to have full courage so that Christ will be honored in his life, whether he lives or dies. He sees clearly what is great and most important in life - honoring Christ! Allow me to end with a story from Christianity Today about Polycarp from 156 AD.

Polycarp was an old man, at least 86 (see part 10), and probably the last surviving person to have known an apostle, having been a disciple of St. John. And there the chief of the police, Herod, and his father, Nicetas, met him and transferred him to their carriage, and tried to persuade him, as they sat beside him, saying, "What harm is there to say 'Lord Caesar,' and to offer incense and all that sort of thing, and to save yourself?" 

At first he did not answer them. But when they persisted, he said, "I am not going to do what you advise me." Then when they failed to persuade him, they uttered dire threats and made him get out with such speed that in dismounting from the carriage he bruised his shin. But without turning around, as though nothing had happened, he proceeded swiftly, and was led into the arena, there being such a tumult in the arena that no one could be heard.

And when finally he was brought up, there was a great tumult on hearing that Polycarp had been arrested. Therefore, when he was brought before him, the proconsul asked him if he were Polycarp. And when he confessed that he was, he tried to persuade him to deny [the faith], saying, "Have respect to your age"—and other things that customarily follow this, such as, "Swear by the fortune of Caesar; change your mind; say, 'Away with the atheists!'"

But Polycarp looked with earnest face at the whole crowd of lawless heathen in the arena, and motioned to them with his hand. Then, groaning and looking up to heaven, he said, "Away with the atheists!" But the proconsul was insistent and said: "Take the oath, and I shall release you. Curse Christ."

Polycarp said: "Eighty-six years I have served him, and he never did me any wrong. How can I blaspheme my King who saved me?"

But the proconsul said: "I have wild beasts. I shall throw you to them, if you do not change your mind."

But he said: "Call them. For repentance from the better to the worse is not permitted us; but it is noble to change from what is evil to what is righteous."

And again [he said] to him, "I shall have you consumed with fire, if you despise the wild beasts, unless you change your mind."

But Polycarp said: "The fire you threaten burns but an hour and is quenched after a little; for you do not know the fire of the coming judgment and everlasting punishment that is laid up for the impious. But why do you delay? Come, do what you will."

Polycarp’s Final Prayer

"Lord God Almighty, Father of thy beloved and blessed Servant Jesus Christ, through whom we have received full knowledge of thee, 'the God of angels and powers and all creation' and of the whole race of the righteous who live in thy presence: I bless thee, because thou hast deemed me worthy of this day and hour, to take my part in the number of the martyrs, in the cup of thy Christ, for 'resurrection to eternal life' of soul and body in the immortality of the Holy Spirit; among whom may I be received in thy presence this day as a rich and acceptable sacrifice, just as thou hast prepared and revealed beforehand and fulfilled, thou that art the true God without any falsehood. 3For this and for everything I praise thee, I bless thee, I glorify thee, through the eternal and heavenly High Priest, Jesus Christ, thy beloved Servant, through whom be glory to thee with him and Holy Spirit both now and unto the ages to come. Amen."

 

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