For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.
I. THE PROPER SCOPE AND CHARACTER OF ALL TRULY CHRISTIAN LIFE.
1. Such life is never aimless; but how many people could give no rational answer to the question, What are you living for?
2. Its aim, however, does not lie within the circle of the seen and temporary. While not indifferent to the claims of the present world, its ambition pitches higher.
3. Its end and substance is Christ.
4. A life is possible which, while in a sense Christ, Shall not be such in the full and proper sense of the term. St. Paul has just spoken of Christians who were insincere and contentious. So now there are men whose life is Christ, predominately, it may be, but not wholly.
II. WHAT CHRISTIAN DEATH IS, AND HOW IT OUGHT TO BE REGARDED.
1. It is Christian death of which he speaks, yet we cannot but be struck with an assumption he makes concerning death in general — living, only not in the flesh. "All live unto God."
2. The life out of the flesh which Christians live is a higher and more advanced life than that of the present. Not that there is anything essentially evil or degrading in the flesh; but death will, to those who love Christ, obviously be so far gain that it will clear away a throng of hindrances to the free consecration of the soul to God.
3. The pre eminence is defined as being with Christ.
(1) Believers are already with Him, "joined to Him," etc., but in important respects we are at present not with Him. He is beyond the reach of our sense.
(2) Death raises the saint to be with Him immediately, although we shall be nearer after the resurrection.
4. St. Paul does not measure this preeminence of Christian death over Christian life. He is content with a general statement of its exceeding superiority; it is "much more than much better."
III. CHRISTIAN LIFE AND DEATH REGARDED AS AN ALTERNATIVE.
1. Ordinarily, even Christians recoil from death, partly for want of an adequate faith, partly from physical shrinking.
2. Within limits this desire for life is not blameworthy. Such a sense of future blessedness as should spoil earth for us is nowhere encouraged in Scripture; it would be incompatible with our duty to God and man, and in many cases it is desirable for others that we should stay.
3. But whether life be more or less desirable, it should be spent under the assurance that death is gain, i.e., if life be Christ, otherwise we have no reason to expect that death would bring any advantage.
4. Granting this, however, if the will of God ordains life, it is an unspeakable grace to live and not die. It is service for the blessed Master, the fruit of which is so ample that we can afford to wait for everlasting life. Be death ever so desirable, it is our own fault if the happiness of life does not more than counterbalance the trial of it. Other things being equal, the more life, the more heaven.Conclusion:
1. How startling a contrast the current life of man forms with this lofty ideal.
2. When this august profession is more than a profession, how rare is the type of character which answers to the apostolic model.
3. Yet this same life is the only secure, rational, and happy life to live.
(J. D. Geden, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.