For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. Phil. 1:21
This is by far one of the most profound scriptures in the Bible. Indeed, I am assured that I am not worthy to address this scripture. For in it is a spiritual man, talking inscrutable spiritual language.
Howbeit, having put my hand to the plough, I shall attempt, by God’s Spirit in me, to look into the mystery of Christ and Paul.
I shall divide this post into two parts. Part one reads:
“For to me to live is Christ…”
How much would one need to know Christ to say such words? How much would one need to have understood “Jesus Christ and him crucified” to speak thus? How much would one need to have crucified himself to this worldly life, and the lusts thereof?
In this first part we shall look briefly at two things:
- What it means to live “Christ”; and
- The Christ-like life is born out of love, not law.
The Apostle John says,
“15 Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. 17 And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever” (1 Jn. 2:15-17).
“The world” is not cars and houses. “The world” is far beyond these things. “The world” is our deep-seated carnal nature, the things that Jesus talked of in Mk. 7:21-22:
“21 … evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, 22 thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness”.
I am glad to see that pride is included here. These things are “the world” that scripture is talking about. The gospel is all about uprooting this system from our hearts.
When therefore Paul says “For me to live is Christ…” he was not talking about his preaching ministry. On the contrary, he was talking about something far beyond that. He was talking about character, the Christ-like character. He was saying he lived the Christ-like life or character.
And what, pray, is the Christ-like character?
Galatians 5:22-23 puts it forth clearly:
“22 … love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, 23 meekness, temperance”.
Whenever you hear of “Christ”, this is first and foremost what it means. The church cannot talk of any other Christ apart from the Christ who first died and was then resurrected from the dead. In the same manner, we too need to die to self and to be resurrected with Christ. To be called “Christians”, we must live the resurrection life.
Elsewhere, the Apostle Paul states:
“I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me” (Gal. 2:20).
Here again the Apostle Paul reveals an even more incredible aspect of his adherence to Christ: that it was born of love! In other words, Paul understood Christ’s love for him! In return, he surrendered his life to Christ as a reciprocation of Christ’s love for him. He did not do anything for Christ out of law, or because he had to. He did it out of love, and in total freedom.
It is a sad statement on today’s church condition that many people serve God out of law. These people do not know Christ as Paul knew him. What a challenge for us today to know Christ’s love for us!