“For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” – Philippians 1:21 (NASB)
Let’s consider again a verse familiar to many. The Apostle Paul, summed up his life in Jesus Christ; Christ was his reason for being. Back in the Old Testament, King Solomon wrote in Ecclesiastes “The day of one’s death is better than the day of one’s birth.” Life was so meaningless to him, he expressed it in this way. However, we who by faith believe in Jesus can say this because we have the hope of heaven, a hope of rejoicing. This joy is what Paul was expressing; joy and wonderful hope. What is it that can make death joyful? It’s the prospect of heaven. We who know and love the Lord Jesus Christ have a promised eternal dwelling place the Bible calls heaven. Heaven is uniquely God’s home. And though He is everywhere at all times, the very unique place of His abode, is heaven. God our Father is there, Jesus our Savior is now there, saints of Old Testament and New Testament times are there, our name is there, our inheritance is there, our reward is there, our treasure is there, our citizenship is there. Heaven is our home, and we’re only sojourners in this life.
“For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” – Philippians 1:21 (NASB)
It’s a very short verse for today with two statements by the Apostle Paul. Paul declares that this was his way of thinking – the center of his convictions. Paul’s main purpose in living was to glorify Christ. Christ was the essence of his life. That’s the meaning of the first statement: “to live is Christ.” There is nothing lost to those whose lives are fully dedicated to serve their Lord Jesus Christ and there will be much to gain. Perhaps in the days ahead we might look at more fully at this attitude. Paul’s second statement, again very personal, was: “to die is gain.” This might cause some to pause for a moment. But Paul was not morose, not clinically depressed. He had endured many physically difficulties and suffered for Christ and likely experienced periods of being emotionally down. Even so, Paul never lost his will to live – it was for Christ, remember? Not suicidal or suffering PTSD from his beatings and shipwrecks and imprisonments. Paul anticipated his death would actually relieve him and let him focus totally on glorifying God. That was the gain. He looked to gain fulfillment of God’s promises. Promises God made for all who believe.
“In him we live and move and have our being; – Acts 17:28a (ESV)
For the second time the Apostle Paul in traveling in Asia Minor preaching the Gospel. He is in Athens waiting for Timothy and Silas to join him. Our verse today is a very small part of the speech that the apostle Paul gave on Mars Hill* in Athens, Greece. Recorded in Acts 17. Some Athenians who enjoyed spending “their time in nothing other than tell or hearing something new (v. 21)” invited Paul to explain what he was teaching. Paul took the opportunity to tell them about the one true God. We worship the true God about whom the apostle Paul was speaking. What He said about God is true for us today. Our God has given us life when we were born and He gives us life every day. We don’t live on our own. And we even live by the strength that God gives us to live the moments through each day. As we keep this promise in the top of our minds, we also develop and appreciation of His involvement in our lives, God’s presence with us become more precious. For it is in Him that we have our being.
*Mars Hill is the Roman name for a hill in Athens, Greece, called the Hill of Ares or the Areopagus
More about Paul’s talk on Mars Hill.
“For we are the temple of the living God; just as God said, “I will dwell in them and walk among them; And I will be their God, and they shall be My people.” 2 Corinthians 6:16 (NASB)
Many of the promises which were given by God to His people Israel and recorded in the Old Testament are also used by the writers of the New Testament. Today’s promise was given first to the Hebrew people who were decedents of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Even though we may not particularly belong to this race of people, the promises were also given to all who believe and have asked Jesus to be their Savior. Our verse today is an occasion in the New Testament where that promise is claimed by Paul the apostle in his letter to the Corinthian Christians. We are part of God’s family and he has adopted us as his children. Paul knew that the verse, which was given by God first in Leviticus and then again through the prophets Jeremiah and Ezekiel, was for all who believed. Yes friends, as a believer in Jesus this promise is given to you. We can rejoice knowing that God lives with us and walks among us and that He alone is our God. Today, let’s embrace the truth that we are His people and joyfully live in this promise no matter what circumstances we face.
“For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s.” – Romans 14:7-8 (ESV)
Life and death are serious matters. What we believe while living now has a profound impact on what will happens after we die. For whom do we live? For ourselves or for others or for our desires? We’re told to reward ourselves, to focus on improving ourselves, and learning how to love ourselves first. Many may follow that but it is not the focus God has or wants us to have. God promises individual accountability to Him in every area and experience of our life—this is paramount. Each Christian person in both life and death is known and seen by the Lord. Christians are saved by grace through faith and spiritually we are accountable to the Lord first. The focus of life is never to be oneself—everything we do should be done to please our sovereign Lord. Paul, in writing to Roman believers, addresses the conflicts of one’s conscience. Some were exercising liberty while others observed certain limitations. A stronger believer may have freedom for some activities while the weaker believer abided by rules of conscience that restricted their activity. Whatever, we decide based on what we know pleases God.
“For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. ” – Philippians 1:21 (NASB)
“Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 3 12 (NASB)
We hope in earnest that each of us can affirm the statement Paul made in the first of our chosen verses today. Our world believes and practices that to die is a loosing thing. It is for all those who die without believing in the person and words of Jesus Christ. To die without having believed is to die without eternal life with God. It is to die and end up in a state of separation from God. That is the final and permanent death. Paul the Apostle proclaimed that He lived in Christ and dying was a benefit he yearned for. But he also cautioned that he had not yet obtained that which is gain. He says he will “press on” which is a Greek word used of a sprinter, and Paul is referring to aggressive, energetic action. Paul pursued sanctification with all his might, straining every spiritual muscle to win the prize. “Lay hold” means “to make one’s own possession.” Christ chose Paul and us for the ultimate purpose of conforming us to His glorious image (Romans 8:29), and that is the very goal Paul pursued to attain.
“Let your mercy come to me, that I may live; for your law is my delight.” – Psalm 119:77 (ESV)
The biblical meaning of mercy is exceedingly rich and complicated, in fact several Hebrew and Greek words are needed to understand the depth of this attribute. There are many synonyms used in our various Bible translations to express the dimensions of meaning involved. Our favorites might be “lovingkindness,” and “steadfast love.” Well-known in the concept of mercy is the compassionate nature to forgive an offender or adversary and to help or spare him in his sorry plight. Many other words in the Bible describe the character of our Lord. Perhaps we can say God’s mercy is the foremost attribute revealed. In revealing Himself to Moses, the Lord declared His great mercy (Exod. 34:6–7). The prophets likewise take great pains to remind Israel of this facet of God’s divine love. Micah 7:18 in particular provides a challenging statement: “Who is a God like you, pardoning iniquity and passing over transgression for the remnant of his inheritance? He does not retain his anger forever, because he delights in steadfast love.” The Lord our God is not merely merciful, but delights in the opportunity to grant mercy. God’s very nature is to show continual and everlasting mercy without limit.
“I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me. I do not nullify the grace of God…” Galatians 2:20 (NASB)
The Apostle Paul made this statement, “I do not nullify the grace of God…” in a confrontation with those who wanted to compel new Gentile Christians to follow the Jewish Law. Paul argued that if righteousness and salvation were possible through obeying the law, then Christ died for no purpose. Being ‘good enough’ will never save anyone. We are declared righteous by what Christ did for us on the cross. Once was a young boy who was on a raft in the middle of a deep lake with his father. His father was diving off the raft to move it to shore, on one dive, the boy lost his balance and fell into the water. In a panic he tried to swim up but couldn’t. He was too far under water to reach the surface. As the boy went down a second time his father grabbed his arm and pulled him up and back onto the raft. There was nothing the boy could’ve done in that circumstance to avoid drowning. His salvation depended fully on his father. The boy added nothing – he didn’t nullify what his father’s did. That is the same with the grace from God that saves us.
“For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”” – Romans 1:16-17 (ESV)
These are words of testimony from the Apostle Paul in his letter to the believers living in Rome. He wanted to preach and teach in Rome. These two verses form the thesis of the entire letter—the gospel of Jesus Christ—which Paul unfolds and clarifies in the following chapters. The apostle was not reluctant to preach the gospel, for he loved that good news. Our promise is that the righteousness from God is ours and is available to everyone who in faith believe. There is no distinction in God’s family. The push in our world today to identify each other by race or by any other classification is purely a human method of manipulation and it is not of God. We are promised and declared righteous in Christ by believing in His word. That is how we live, believing in why He came to earth. That’s the gospel Paul was not ashamed to preach. He suffered imprisonment, was chased out and had to be smuggled out of cities. He was laughed at, called a fool and even stoned nearly or to death. Because of God’s promise let’s also be eager to proclaim our faith in the Gospel.
Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” – John 11:25-26 (ESV)
This passage records Jesus’ lesson on life, death, and resurrection. Lazarus, a friend died and was in the tomb for four days. Jesus hearing Lazarus was near death delayed going to Bethany. By the time He and is disciples arrive it is too late – at least according to Martha first and Mary later. Their home was now a house of mourning. Jesus missed his opportunity to save Lazarus from this death. Both Mary and Martha tell Jesus that their brother would not have died if Jesus had been there. Jesus promises that Lazarus will rise again. Martha agrees believing Jesus is talking about eventual resurrection of all believers. Jesus states that He is Himself The Resurrection and The Life. “Do you believe this?” He asks Martha. Yes, she confirms her faith that Jesus is the Christ. These awesome promises are for us⸺Now!. They cause immense joy to erupt within our hearts and banish all fear of death. We who believe in Christ, physical death is only temporary, we are alive spiritually in Christ. This is the promise of eternal life that is ours after our bodies die. And, we are promised new bodies like unto Christ’s resurrection body.