|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
1:21-26 Death is a great loss to a carnal, worldly man, for he loses all his earthly comforts and all his hopes; but to a true believer it is gain, for it is the end of all his weakness and misery. It delivers him from all the evils of life, and brings him to possess the chief good. The apostle's difficulty was not between living in this world and living in heaven; between these two there is no comparison; but between serving Christ in this world and enjoying him in another. Not between two evil things, but between two good things; living to Christ and being with him. See the power of faith and of Divine grace; it can make us willing to die. In this world we are compassed with sin; but when with Christ, we shall escape sin and temptation, sorrow and death, for ever. But those who have most reason to desire to depart, should be willing to remain in the world as long as God has any work for them to do. And the more unexpected mercies are before they come, the more of God will be seen in them.
Verse 22. - But if I live in the flesh, this is the fruit of my labor: yet what I shall choose I wot not; or perhaps, as Meyer, "I make not known." St. Paul wavers between his own personal longing for rest in Paradise with Christ, and the thought that the continuance of his life on earth might conduce to the spreading of the gospel. The grammar of the Greek sentence aptly represents the apostle's hesitation. The construction is almost hopelessly confused. Perhaps the interpretation of the R.V. is the simplest: "But if to live in the flesh, - if this is the fruit of my work, then what shall choose I wot not." Thus καρπός is parallel with κέρδος (Ver. 21); τὸ ζῇν ἐν σαρκι is also a gain, a fruit; the genitive is one of apposition; the work itself is the fruit. St. Paul, says Bengel, regards his work as fruit, others seek fruit from their work. Bishop Lightfoot proposes another rendering, "But what if my living in the flesh will bear fruit, etc.? In fact what to choose I know not." Surely, says Bengel, the Christian's lot is excellent; he can hesitate only in the choice of blessings; disappointed he cannot be.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
But if I live in the flesh,.... To be in the flesh sometimes signifies to be in a state of nature and unregeneracy, and to live in and after the flesh, to live according to the dictates of corrupt nature; but here it signifies living in the body, or the life which is in the flesh, as the Syriac version renders the phrase here, and as the apostle expresses it in Galatians 2:20, and the sense is, if I should live any longer in the body, and be continued for some time in this world:
this is the fruit of my labour; or "I have fruit in my works", as the above version renders it:
yet what I shall choose I wot not, or "know not"; whether life or death; since my life will be for the honour and glory of Christ, and though a toilsome and laborious one, yet useful and fruitful: by his "labour", he means his ministerial work and service; the ministry is a work, a good and honourable work, and a laborious one. Christ's faithful ministers are labourers; they labour in the word and doctrine, both in studying and preaching it; and such a labourer was the apostle, who by the grace of God laboured more abundantly than others; the "fruit" of which was the conversion of many sinners, the edification, comfort, and establishment of the saints, their fruitfulness in grace and works, the spread of the Gospel far and near, the enlargement of the kingdom of Christ, and the weakening of Satan's kingdom, and the glorifying of Christ in his person, offices, and great salvation; all which was a strong and swaying argument with him, to desire to live longer in the body, and made it on the one hand so difficult with him what to choose: for as a certain Jew (b) says,
"the righteous man desires to live to do the will of God while he lives;
but not with that view, he adds,
"to increase the reward of the soul in the world to come.
(b) Kimchi in Psal. vi. 5.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
22. Rather as Greek, "But if to live in the flesh (if), this (I say, the continuance in life which I am undervaluing) be the fruit of my labor (that is, be the condition in which the fruit of my ministerial labor is involved), then what I shall choose I know not (I cannot determine with myself, if the choice were given me, both alternatives being great goods alike)." So Alford and Ellicott. Bengel takes it as English Version, which the Greek will bear by supposing an ellipsis, "If to live in the flesh (be my portion), this (continuing to live) is the fruit of my labor," that is, this continuance in life will be the occasion of my bringing in "the fruit of labor," that is, will be the occasion of "labors" which are their own "fruit" or reward; or, this my continuing "to live" will have this "fruit," namely, "labors" for Christ. Grotius explains "the fruit of labor" as an idiom for "worthwhile"; If I live in the flesh, this is worth my while, for thus Christ's interest will be advanced, "For to me to live is Christ" (Php 1:21; compare Php 2:30; Ro 1:13). The second alternative, namely, dying, is taken up and handled, Php 2:17, "If I be offered."
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