Sunday, February 02, 2014

For to me to live is Christ

So here we have verse 21 of chapter 1.

Philippians 1:21 (ESV) — For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.

This is one of the more recognizable verses from Philippians, but what does it mean?  The second phrase is straightforward enough, I understand the concept that compared to the world I will inherit when I die, this world is a garbage dump.  There is no comparison and in every sense dying is gain for the Christian, but what does the first phrase mean, and what is it telling me about this life.

Let’s look at some other translations.

(ESV, NASB, NKJV, NIV)  For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.

(HCSB)  For me, living is Christ and dying is gain.   

(NET)  For to me, living is Christ and dying is gain.

(NLT)  For to me, living means living for Christ, and dying is even better.

(Expanded Bible)  [For] To me the only important thing about living [to live] is Christ, and dying would be profit for me [to die is gain/profit].

(The Voice Bible)  For my life is about the Anointed and Him alone. And my death, when that comes, will mean great gain for me.

This is an excellent verse to show the value of reading multiple versions.  The literal reading is not clear in my mind as to what Paul is attempting to say but the thought for thought translations give more clarity at the expense of giving the reader the interpretation.  As seen previously, the danger is that the verse is interpreted to mean more (or less) than what it actually does.  However I don’t think this is happening here especially considering the context of verse 20.

Philippians 1:20 (ESV) — 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 honoured in my body, whether by life or by death.

So based on these translations, it seems that the phrase “for to me to live is Christ”, means that while living on this earth, Paul’s utmost joy is in living for Christ.  Everything he does is for him and he recognizes the privilege of serving God in the here and now.  It begs the question then to me.  Is living for Christ the central purpose of my life on earth?

Here are some cross references to bring further clarity.

From later in the letter, Paul mentions unfaithful workers in contrast to the faithful Timothy.  He writes, “for they all seek their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ. (2:21)”  I get from this that as faithful workers we should always be working for the interests of Christ.

From other letter’s Paul wrote.

1 Corinthians 1:30 (ESV)  And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption,

Galatians 2:20 (ESV)  I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

Galatians 6:14 (ESV)  But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.

Colossians 3:3 (ESV)  For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.

These verses expound on our verse under examination by expressing the idea that in a very real sense our old life has died and we are now alive “in Christ”.  This takes me back to the concept of God’s sovereignty and our responsibility.  I am to make Christ my chief purpose in life, but God is the one who now lives in me to make it a reality.  How awesome is that!

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