Philippians 1:18 – 30
Yes, and I will continue to rejoice, 19for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will result in my deliverance. 20It is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be put to shame in any way, but that by my speaking with all boldness, Christ will be exalted now as always in my body, whether by life or by death. 21For to me, living is Christ and dying is gain. 22If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labour for me; and I do not know which I prefer. 23I am hard pressed between the two: my desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better; 24but to remain in the flesh is more necessary for you. 25Since I am convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with all of you for your progress and joy in faith, 26so that I may share abundantly in your boasting in Christ Jesus when I come to you again.
27 Only, live your life in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that, whether I come and see you or am absent and hear about you, I will know that you are standing firm in one spirit, striving side by side with one mind for the faith of the gospel, 28and are in no way intimidated by your opponents. For them this is evidence of their destruction, but of your salvation. And this is God’s doing. 29For he has graciously granted you the privilege not only of believing in Christ, but of suffering for him as well— 30since you are having the same struggle that you saw I had and now hear that I still have.
At this point, Paul is uncertain of the outcome of his case. He could be released or he could be killed. But he does know some things, that their prayers and the help of the Spirit will in some way deliver him from his present situation. Regardless of what happens, his hope is that he will not be put to shame – for Paul shame would be to deny Christ or to cease speaking about him. And he prays and hopes, that he will continue speaking boldly and through him Christ will be exalted – whether by his life or by his death. Here he shares a very personal struggle with the Philippians, his uncertainty as to whether it would be better for him to die or to go on living. He tells them that living is Christ, and would mean fruitful labor for him, but dying would be to be with Christ, and that would be great joy for him. And so, for him, living is Christ and dying is gain. He believes it necessary that he continue to serve Christ for their sake, and thus he is convinced that he will remain and they will rejoice together.
He hopes that he will find when they come together, or hear in his absence, that they have remained faithful, that they are living lives worthy of the Lord. He has heard that they also are suffering for Christ, that they have the same struggle he had and has. They and he are joined in their struggle and in their suffering. But Paul considers it a privilege to suffer for Christ, and tells them that they as well have been given the privilege not only of believing in Christ, but of suffering for him. His words are words of encouragement, yes, really! He is saying, we are all suffering, but we suffer together, and it is for a purpose; there is something to be accomplished for Christ in the struggle! They should not be intimidated, but should know that this will work out for the destruction of their opponents and will be for their salvation, as well as for the glory of God.
Rarely are we called to suffer for Christ, as Paul and these early Christians were suffering. None of us has been thrown into jail for believing in him. I wonder, would we have the sort of courage Paul had? Would my faith be so strong as to say, “Living is Christ, but dying is gain” ?