For Paul there is no higher purpose in life on earth than to live in such a way that Christ is praised and exalted.
1:19–26 Christ is life and death is gain
Verse 19: By the “Spirit of Jesus Christ” Paul means the Spirit of the risen and ascended Christ who came to the
church on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2). Paul experienced the presence and power of the Spirit not only in his missionary
activities but now also in his imprisonment. With the Spirit’s help and the prayers of the Christians of Philippi
he is sure that his time in prison will result in his deliverance. But what kind of deliverance? In the light
of verse 20 it is probable that Paul is thinking not of release from prison but the final outcome of his life when both his
gospel and his witness to it will be vindicated by God.
Verse 20: Paul’s primary concern is for Christ to be honored. His own physical circumstances are of secondary
consideration; his one desire is to remain a faithful witness to Christ.
Verses 21–23: Death is a gain, but not because Paul finds this life a burden. On the contrary, he rejoices
in his present life because it is Christ-centered. His total ambition is to preach and commend Christ, and in this activity
he has the help of the Spirit. Death is gain because it is the gate into the actual presence of Christ. For Paul, who
had probably not seen or heard Jesus in the days of his public ministry, this meeting with Christ had a great attraction.
He is torn between his desire to remain in the flesh and his desire to be with Christ. However, for the sake of
his followers and fellow believers he sees how necessary it is to remain in the flesh and labor among them.
1:27–28 Encouragement to unity and godly living
Verse 27: Paul’s imprisonment and the threat of persecution had caused division in the church at Philippi. He appeals
for unity in their worship, fellowship and evangelism. Their lives as well as their preaching were important for a true
witness to the gospel. He exhorts them to be courageous and to strive to maintain the faith even in his absence and
in the face of opposition.
Verse 28: The courage and steadfastness of the Philippians in their serving
of Jesus by word and deed will be a sign to them that their salvation is from God himself. By seeing this commitment
to Christ and his way, their opponents will realize that they are storing up for themselves condemnation from God. (See
further 2 Thessalonians 1:4–7.)
1:29–30 Suffering is a privilege
In the primitive churches suffering through the persecution of opponents seems to have
been the inevitable lot of Christians. This was exactly what Jesus promised (Matthew 5:11; John 15: 20). However,
when Paul says that it has been granted to the Philippians to suffer for the sake of Christ he seems to suggest that it was
a special privilege given to them. They are to be engaged in the same struggle as Paul himself was in.
1. How can modern Christians honor Christ in their bodies in their daily lives?
2. Was Paul’s desire to die and be with Christ a “special case” or should all Christians have this
3. Is the goal of “one spirit and one mind” a realistic aim for the modern local church? If so, how can
it be attained?
4. In view of the usage of the plural in verses 27–28, is there such a reality as corporate holiness and Christ-likeness?