What Does ‘To Live is Christ’ Mean?

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What does the apostle Paul mean when he says,"to live is Christ to die is gain"?
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Paul’s letter to the church at Philippi

The apostle, Paul, is one of my favourite Bible characters. He is the author of the saying, “to live is Christ to die is gain”. Once a persecutor of Christians, his life completely changed when he met Jesus on the road to Damascus. He turned from tormenting believers to proclaiming the good news of Christ.

He travelled all around the Mediterranean Sea to start and nurture churches. On his mission journeys, he told everyone that Jesus is the promised Messiah. He spoke on grace, the Second Coming of Christ, and warned of false teachers.

From AD 49 to AD 65 Paul wrote 13 letters to these churches. His letter to the church at Philippi included personal news, encouragement, and a note of thanks.

But it also included verse 21 which I found confusing at first:

For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.

What did Paul mean by this?

To live is Christ

Paul’s passion was to honour Jesus. When he wrote “to live is Christ”, he was saying as long as he was living he would honour Jesus Christ. He would magnify Him. He told his readers to watch how he lived to see that Christ was magnificent.

Paul’s life purpose was to bring people to faith in Jesus. The fruit of his work was people believing in Christ. When this happened, Paul’s life achieved its purpose.

Paul wanted his readers to find joy in Jesus. He wanted to be the means of others finding Jesus to be their greatest joy. “To live is Christ” means to live, to be the means of other people coming to faith in Christ. Knowing Jesus is more valuable than anything else in life.

To die is gain

For Paul, to die meant he would be with Jesus. Anything that he would lose in death was nothing compared to what he would gain with Christ. Jesus was more valuable than everything he would lose in death.

Paul wrote the letter to the Philippians while he was in prison. He shared that although it was important to serve Christ in this life, he could also look forward to when he died and would be with Jesus forever.

The Message: The Bible in Contemporary Language says it this way,

Alive, I’m Christ’s messenger; dead, I’m his prize. Life versus even more life! I can’t lose.

When we are more content in Jesus than anything we have in life and anything we may lose in death, He is glorified. When everything we do in life is for Jesus, He is exalted whether by our life or by our death.

Related Post What Does ‘By Prayer and Petition’ Mean?

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