“For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.”
What do you think about when you think of the future? Do you think of your children or grandchildren, your health, job, or retirement? Are spiritual aspirations a part of the future for you?
Verse 21 amplifies verse 20. In verse 20 Paul stated his spiritual aspiration was to make Christ big in his body. Now he set forth the alternatives in which he would do that.
Here is a man who did not have much future, although he was confident that he was going to be released from prison. Paul was looking at his options. He had two basic options: What would he do with his life if he lived or if he died? In this verse Paul answered that question for himself. He wanted his body to be a showcase in either option.
“for to me, to live is Christ”
“To me” indicates Paul’s personal testimony. He was not speaking for anyone else—not Peter or John. He was saying, “I will define what life and death are to me.” Note that both verbs (“is”) are in italics. That means that they were supplied by the translators. Here then is the literal idea: “To live . . . Christ.” Or to put it in a formula, “To live = Christ.” To live equals Christ. Living for Christ was his ambition. As long as Paul continued to live, he would live for the purpose of glorifying Christ.
It is also true that the dynamic that produces a spiritual life is Christ Himself—”When Christ who is our life” (Colossians 3:4). Christ our life. The Christian life is Christ moving into believers, invading them so that His life is lived through them. This is far more than imitating Jesus. That would be too difficult with a sinful heart. “Christ lives in me” (Galatians 2:20). He is more willing to live His life through us than we are willing to allow Him.
“Always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body” (2 Corinthians 4:10). We need to think of our body as an exhibit to demonstrate Jesus. There are automobile exhibitions where they reveal the latest models. These cars are presented in their most appealing context. The believer is to present Christ in the most appealing setting: “To reveal His Son in me” (Galatians 1:16).
For Paul, the Christian life was not a hobby; it was his very life.
For Paul, the Christian life was not a hobby; it was his very life. This is what should be normal Christian living. With most of us, our Christian life is subnormal.
What would you put in place of “Christ”? For me to live is [. . . what? . . .]. Some might insert, “My wife—I worship the ground she walks on.” Others may say, “My children—I will sacrifice anything for them.” Yet others might say, “My job. I love my work. I love business.” Why not place Christ in the center of our lives?