To live is Christ, to die is gain

In the next chunk of Philippians (1:12-26), Paul faces three kinds of opposition.

(1) Opposition from outside the Christian Community (1:12-14). He is in prison for preaching the gospel.

(2) Opposition from inside the Christian Community (1:15-18a ). Some people are preaching Christ out of selfish ambition, envy, rivalry, thinking they may even be able to stir up trouble for Paul while he is in chains.

(3) Death (1:18b-26 ).The outcome of Paul’s trial is yet to be decided, so he knows death is very much a possibility for him.

And Paul’s response to all of this opposition, amidst even fellow brothers in Christ who are stirring up trouble for him, is extraordinary. He has one concern, and it is the GOSPEL. He rejoices in the gospel going out! See verses 13-14, his imprisonment has meant the whole palace guard have heard about Jesus Christ (likely about 2,000 soldiers according to William Taylor’s commentary), and other Christians in Philippi have been spurred on to preach because of Paul being in prison.

In verse 18, we see Paul’s response to the Christians who are preaching out of envy. And this is outrageous stuff. Paul declares that ‘The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice’. Once again, Paul rejoices because of the gospel going out to unbelievers. He really doesn’t seem bothered in the slightest about his own reputation; he’s in it for the fame of God’s name.

And upon facing death, he fears nothing, and more surprisingly, he even looks forward to it, knowing what is ahead. He shows that his life on this earth is all about proclaiming the good news of Jesus Christ. ‘If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labour for me’ (v22); If God preserves his life after this imprisonment, he will continue to proclaim Jesus (which is exactly what happens), but if he dies, Paul will have gained something far better (v25), Christ himself, face to face forever.

Have a think about how you can have a greater concern for the proclamation of the gospel. Even amidst the troubles you face today, how can the gospel be proclaimed despite, and even through, those troubles?


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