But if I live in the flesh, this is the fruit of my labor: yet what I shall choose I know not.…
I. CONTINUANCE. Continued life meant —
1. Continued labour. Nothing which God makes is without a work to do. "All things are full of labour." To God's moral creatures is given the sublime privilege that not blindly through the action of material laws, but consciously and by resolutions of their own, they may fulfil the end of their existence.
(1) To work, then, according to the faculties and opportunities which God has given us is our duty.
(2) Work is the law of the new life in Christ Jesus. "Son, go work."(3) The manifestation of God's life is holy, beneficent activity. Here is our example.
(4) The highest conceivable honour for God's creatures is to be "labourers together with Him."(5) As this is duty, so is it the direction in which the love of Christ constraineth us to turn our energies.
(6) But what if through illness, etc., a Christian cannot work? Then he works by the influence of his resignation and his prayers.
2. "Fruit of labour" — success in the work to which God calls him.
(1) As a rule honest, hearty labour of every kind succeeds more or less. Yet there are often failures. Shipwreck overwhelms the vessel, or fire consumes the factory, or disease enfeebles. The Christian, when calamities of this kind overtake him, recognizes in them a reminder that there is higher wealth and nobler work than that which has to do with this world.
(2) In the spiritual sphere there is always "fruit of labour," though very often neither as, nor when, nor where we look for it. All earnest effort for personal spiritual advancement succeeds, for "this is the will of God." Fruit of this kind is yielded, too, by every Christian effort to benefit others. With regard to the direct effort of Christian labour for the good of others, even where there is little or no visible fruit, still the conscientious worker has abundant ground of encouragement. Christian labourers casually learn, long after, of spiritual good done when they complained of labouring in vain. The seed may long lie inactive.
3. This, then, is what Paul sees to counterbalance the influence of the reflection "to die is gain."
1. One grand thought. Paul's wish was that by departure he should be with Christ.
2. Some Christians have held that the intermediate state is one of sleep. But our Lord's declaration to the dying thief disposes of that; and had it been Paul's view he would have counted it better to remain with Christ here.
3. To depart and be with Christ was "better by very far" than remaining in a world of ignorance, and sin, and trouble.
III. THE STRAIT BETWEEN THE TWO.
1. Of struggle between liking and a sense of duty every soul of any strength and nobleness has experience every day.
2. Paul was led to choose the less desirable personally out of love to Christ and His cause.
3. The principle on which this choice was based is that God, having a plan of life for each of His people, no one of them will pass away so long as any work remains for them to do. No Christian dies prematurely.
(R. Johnson, LL. B.)
Parallel VersesKJV: But if I live in the flesh, this is the fruit of my labour: yet what I shall choose I wot not.