Part 3: To DIE is gain.
The Greek word ‘gain’ means to gain an advantage, to profit, and win. “If I die, then I win!”
Paul preferred death over life. Paul emphasized that it was his desire to die and “be with Christ” rather than to continue living, 1:21: For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. After noting that continuing to live will imply fruitful labor he expressed his inability to choose, 1:22: If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. In the next verse he made his preference very clear, namely to “depart and be with Christ,” which is “very much better.” Philippians 1:23: My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. Death for Paul was therefore positive not as an event in itself, but rather as a means to an end, “to be with Christ.” But in 1:24 practical necessity wins the day: it is “more necessary” to “remain in the flesh” for the encouragement of the Philippian believers.
I have felt this tension at times. I would like to die and be with Christ, but Christ is in control of my life and I leave the choice to him. If Christ has a plan for me to stay in this world to defend the gospel and encourage other believers, then he will protect and provide.
Note: Paul was not saying religiously motivated suicide or martyrdom are better choices. Suicide was not negative in the Greco-Roman worldview. Socrates committed suicide to show no fear of death and become ‘immortal.’ No Christian should choose martyrdom. Life and death are in the hands of Christ. When Jonathan Chau was martyred on a remote island trying to share the gospel with a hostile tribe, he knew he would die. He had a desire to share the gospel with an unreached tribe. He chose martyrdom. Was it Christ’s will? Only Christ knows the answer. “To live is Christ, and to die is gain.”
So let’s say you make your life motto “To live is Christ, to die is gain.” Does that mean you must become a missionary like Paul or Dr. Bill Wallace? No, only if Jesus calls you to do it. It means live for Christ whatever you do. It means your work place or career is your Jerusalem mission field. It means you must also look for and serve in your Judea, Samaria, and the ends of the earth mission fields.
To live is CHRIST, to die is GAIN. We only gain with Christ! We lose our sin and death and gain redemption and eternal life.
Other excellent biblical mottos:
- Philippians 4:13: I can do all things through Christ who strengths me.
- 2 Corinthians 5:7: We walk by faith and not by sight.
- Galatians 2:20: I have been crucified with Christ.