Jesus’ death and resurrection massively changed the equation of life and death for his followers. For everyone in Christ Jesus, no longer does “death = loss”. In Christ, “Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” (1 Cor 15:54–55). At the cross, Jesus “destroyed the one who has the power of death, that is the devil, and delivered all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery” (Heb 2:14–15). Our freedom from fear of death and our victory in Jesus’ resurrection are fundamental to our hope as Christians.
This glorious truth surely on Paul’s mind when he wrote in Philippians 1:21, “to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” These words have been a mixture of promise and inspiration for countless generations of Christians. We aspire to be like the missionary ideal: convinced that death is gain, we are ready to give anything and everything (even our life!) to bring the gospel of Jesus to a people who have never heard the good news. This verse challenges and inspires us.
Yet, as we look at this verse in context, we see that it’s even more challenging than we thought. For Paul, “to live is Christ and to die is gain” redefines not just death but life. Because “to live is Christ,” Paul finds joy even though he is momentarily denied the “better” (to depart and be with Christ) for the sake of the necessary (to remain with the Philippians for their progress and joy in the faith). In other words, since death is gain, Paul is able to joyfully live for Christ by denying his own desires and serving the good of the Philippian saints.
This Sunday, we’ll unpack this truth from the text of Philippians 1:18–26. Join us this Sunday as we rejoice together in the truth that Jesus died to bring us to God so that we could live to bring others to Jesus. I pray that we will be challenged to ask ourselves: “I am willing to die for Christ, but am I willing to live for others?”