“Life Is Christ” (Philippians 1: 21, NEB) by Carley Evans

“For to me life is Christ, and death gain; but what if my living on in the body may serve some good purpose?” The purpose of which Paul speaks is to “stand by [us] all to help [us] forward and to add joy to [our] faith.” (Philippians 1: 25) Paul would rather die and be with Christ, which “is better by far.” (Philippians 1: 24)

Paul calls us to “look to each other’s interest and not merely to [our] own.” (Philippians 2: 4) It is in Paul’s best interest to exit life to be with Christ — for to Paul “death is gain.” Instead, he knows “there is greater need for [him] to stay on in the body.” (Philippians 1: 25) He puts our interests above his own. Paul says, “Let your bearing towards one another arise out of your life in Christ Jesus. For the divine nature is His from the first; yet He does not think to snatch equality with God, but makes Himself nothing, assuming the nature of a slave.” (Philippians 2: 5 – 8)

The author of Hebrews writes of men and women of faith who die “not yet in possession of the things promised.” Instead, they “see them far ahead and hail them, and confess themselves no more than strangers or passing travellers on earth. Those who use such language show plainly that they are looking for a country of their own. If their hearts are in the country they leave, they could find opportunity to return. Instead, we find them longing for a better country — I mean the heavenly one.” (Hebrews 11: 13 – 16) For them death is gain. For us, too, death is gain. But we remain in the body so as to serve one another, build up one another, love and care for one another.

“Life Is Christ, Death Gain” (Philippians 1: 21, NEB) by Carley Evans

“For to me life is Christ, and death gain.” By far the better place to be is with God face to face. We are strangers here on earth. Like Abraham, we look “forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God.” (Hebrews 11: 10, NIV) “[We] come to Mount Zion, to the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God. [We] come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. [We] come to God, the judge of all men, to the spirits of righteous men made perfect, to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.” (Hebrews 12: 22 – 24, NIV) Here is our true home, the place we desire beyond measure. But Paul also writes that for him “life is Christ.” While in the body, Paul strives to serve the living God by serving his brothers and sisters in Christ and by reaching out to those who do not yet know Christ. Paul is “torn two ways,” writing: “what I should like is to depart and be with Christ; that is better by far; but for your sake there is greater need for me to stay on in the body.” (Philippians 1: 23 – 24, NEB) Paul asks us, “Were you not raised to life with Christ? Then aspire to the realm above, where Christ is.” (Philippians 3: 1 – 2, NEB)