For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.
The language is like a great river which, flowing through some country, bends first from the one side and then from the other, and then comes back into its straight course. There is a triple movement of thought and feeling.
1. There is the absorbing devotion which this man has to Christ.
2. Then comes in the bend of the stream; a rock on the margin sends the waters away in another direction. He thinks about others.
3. Then comes the third feeling when he apprehends it to be his duty to stop and work.
I. The first attitude of the apostle's mind. Here we get THE GRAND, NOBLE SIMPLICITY AND UNITY OR CONTINUITY OF LIFE AND DEATH to a devout man thinking about himself.
1. Look at the noble theory of life. In all senses in which you can use the words, Christ is this man's life.
(1) The secret of its origin, its source, and basis.
(2) Its goal and aim.
(3) Its law and pattern. My life, if it be in Christ, rosy become a chain of golden deeds; if I be out of Christ, it is but a heap of unconnected links.
2. Wheresoever life is thus simple and of a piece, death will be gain, continuous and increasing.
(1) The direction is the same; he passes the points and gets on to the other line without a shock.
(2) The life is simply lifted out of the common atmosphere and plunged, as it were, into an oxygen jar, and it blazes out the more brightly for the change.
II. The second bend or reach. THE HESITATION WHICH ARISES FROM THE CONTEMPLATION OF LIFE AS A FIELD FOR WORK. The broken language of the original expresses the broken waters of the river as it takes the turn. "I am in a strait," like a man hedged up between two walls, not knowing how to turn. Paul was the subject of two counter attractions, that of death and that of life.
1. Notice how be talks about the former. "I desire to depart," weigh an anchor or lift the pegs of a tent. To be with Christ that is the attraction. He draws us, and we run after Him. This is no morbid, sentimental desire for death arising out of hatred with life.
2. Then think of that reason for living which overbears the wish for death. "There is work to be done, and so I feel that life tugs at me." How different to many men's clinging to life, because of the judgment after death.
III. Notice THE BEAUTIFUL CALM SOLUTION OF THE QUESTION — not an equipoise of hesitation, something pulling two different ways, and so the rest of equal forces acting. "I KNOW THAT I SHALL ABIDE AND CONTINUE WITH YOU ALL" — a calm taking what God wills about the matter. Stick to your tasks, and in God's time you will have rest and reward. Conclusion: Here are two theories of life for you. "To live is Christ, and to die is gain." "To live is self, and to die is loss and despair." Which?
(A. Maclaren, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.