Philippians 1:12-26 | To Live is Christ

Philippians 1:12-26 | To Live is Christ

12Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that what has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel. 13As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. 14And because of my chains, most of the brothers and sisters have become confident in the Lord and dare all the more to proclaim the gospel without fear.

  • Paul makes the conclusion that his suffering is advancing the gospel
  • The palace guard and others are clear that he is suffering for Christ, therefore his incarceration is exposing more people to the gospel
  • Not only this but Paul’s suffering is also encouraging others to be bolder in proclaiming the gospel.

15It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill. 16The latter do so out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. 17The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains. 18But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice.

  • We can see that Paul’s priority is for Christ to be preached, despite some doing it for false motives (envy, rivalry and selfish ambition). The fact that Christ is preached is Paul’s single focus and goal, and it calls us to adopt that goal as our own.
  • This, however, should not be used to excuse false motives, rivalry and selfishness in our Christian ministry, since those that Paul talks of cannot really be saved. How could a genuine believer preach Christ only to stir up more trouble for Paul in prison?
  • No, this is more akin to non-believers and secular organisations supporting the mission of the church in the proclamation of the gospel, even from non-faith motives.

Yes, and I will continue to rejoice, 19for I know that through your prayers and God’s provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance. 20I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death.

  • What could Paul mean by his deliverance/salvation? – deliverance from prison, his Christian salvation (becoming a Christian), or his ongoing salvation (sanctification)
  • Paul could be mimicking the words of Job from Job 13:16 “Indeed, this will turn out for my deliverance”, in that the greater purpose of both Job and Paul’s trials were not for their destruction, but for their deliverance and vindication.
  • Paul shows then, that these sufferings will add to his ‘ongoing’ salvation (sanctification), him being strengthened by the saints prayers and God’s provision of the Spirit
  • It is important for us to note that the work of sanctification and transformation is our ongoing salvation – the work is not yet complete. We are like a ruin who has been selected (saved) but is now being restored to perfection (sanctification), but it is all one process
  • This salvation process is that Paul would not be disgraced/ashamed but given sufficient courage to continually exalt Christ in his body, whether by life or death – this is his hope and eager expectation.
  • We too can and should have the same desire, that moment by moment and in every circumstance our eager expectation is that Christ would be exalted in us

21For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. 22If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! 23I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; 24but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. 25Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, 26so that through my being with you again your boasting in Christ Jesus will abound on account of me.

  • Paul has two great desires: to die and be with Christ whom is better by far, and secondly, to live and fruitfully labor for the faith of others, that their boasting in Christ might increase.
  • So his simple phrase ‘to live is Christ, to die is gain’ packs so much weight. To live means to live for Christ and his glory alone. To die means to be with Christ, the very joy and crown of our lives. This phrase becomes the central theme and focus of Paul’s letter to the Philippians.


Paul is willing to suffer for the advance of the gospel, as his top priority is for Christ to be preached. He desires to continually exalt Christ in his body, and ultimately his worldview is ‘to live is Christ, to die is gain’.

Updated 14/07/2021

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