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.
Yes, and I will continue to rejoice, 19for I know that through your prayers and the help given by 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. 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.
Hey all, going to take my first stab at this: my apologies ahead of time if I screw this up.
Initial Impressions: taking it bits and pieces
Okay, so I won’t bore you with the literal meaning of the passage except to put in context what Paul was referring to when he said, “Yes, and I will rejoice,” when he was talking about how the Gospel was being preached, no matter the means and said for that he was rejoicing. To take this and also other places where Paul says that we are to follow his example, Paul’s reaction to rejoice when Christ is being preached – even to go so far to say this I will rejoice because Christ was preached, is being preached and is going to be preached is a worthy example and thing to aim to do every day.
Another thing to note about the passage is and then, through his rejoicing that it “will turn out for [his] deliverance”, as it was in the Acts passage (16:9–34) studied the week before.
I think a clear example of the next part about praise leading to 1) deliverance and 2) provision is the passage that we just studied at the last BBS about the Acts account of Paul’s first visit to Rome. It’s interesting, coming from that point of view, to see here Paul identify an outcome rejoicing to provision. it’s from this that I can be certain that Paul clearly saw the earthquake as also an opportunity provided to witness (*nudge, nudge* “preach the Gospel”: the reason for Paul’s rejoicing in the first place).
Later in the Week: more thematic
For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.
When everything is said and done, this passage is the context of the verse for the semester and thus it would be helpful to look at what that verse means. The verse upon first examination seems quite paradoxical. Lets take it apart. What does it mean to live in Christ? To die is gain?
To live is Christ
What does it mean to live in Christ? Verse 22 offers some answers. “If I am to go one living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me” implies that to live in Christ is to have this. We explored on Friday what this means, to be fruitful (verses 9–11). In a nutshell it summarizes the vibrant Christian life as that which has love that increases in insight and discernment in approving what is excellent, pure and blameless, a.k.a. what is of God, and thus being able to produce fruit in order to glorify and praise God. Amen. This notion is repeated again in v. 20, the verse preceding v. 21, the memory verse. In v. 20 Paul writes that he hopes and expects to not be ashamed of Christ [who lives in him]. Thus for us to live in Christ, where to live is Christ, is to say that we are to not be ashamed to exalt Christ in our bodies by doing what he commands is (i.e., loving one another) either in life or death, “now as always.”
To die is gain
So what does it mean when it says, “To die is gain?” The meaning of this notion Paul does not explicitly state until v. 23, where he says to die means that he will be with Christ. It is with this frame of reference, the sense of a high reality and purpose that Paul is able to take something like death that is usually feared and turn it into something to look forward to. This is another thing that we should adapt from Paul’s values in addition to his trust in God and to his first priority not being yourself, as seen in the “jail break” episode in Acts.
Concluding thoughts: is one better than the other?
At times I do find myself wishing that the second coming would arrive or at least my journey homeward would be sped up. Obviously I find myself wishing the opposite at other times, frequently immediately after wishing the rapture would arrive sooner as I consider the terrible judgment the Lord will finally release upon his wayward children. I find myself having this tension as well and I think it to be instructive to, as Paul did, choose to stay and teach.
Funnily enough, today’s (Sunday) sermon was about the importance teaching in being a Christian. I think that this concurrence is enough to convince me of what my decision should be as well. That is not to say that one is better than another, per se, simply that we still have responsibilities to others to teach and instruct others in the body in keeping with the unity and fellowship of the body.
May the Lord be exalted, Amen.