But if I live in the flesh, this is the fruit of my labor: yet what I shall choose I know not.…
As an overfondness for life is a mean, effeminate passion that exposes us to the basest impressions, and renders us insensible to every honourable purpose, so a contempt of death has been esteemed one of the principal ingredients in a great character. From the views of heathen morality it is difficult to understand why he who had no sure prospect of another life should be over prodigal of this; but when we behold a man raised above the world by a just sense of immortality we cannot but applaud the example as an honour to human nature, and a glorious instance of the power of the gospel. Notice —
I. THE REASONS THAT INCLINED PAUL TO DESIRE TO DEPART — "To be with Christ."
1. This signifies that state of happiness revealed by our Lord in His promise to His disciples that where He was they should be also.
2. What the nature and degree of it is the Scripture has nowhere informed us; and, indeed, in our present state exact notions of it are impossible.
3. It is enough to know that to be with Christ is to be partakers of His glory. This is two-fold.
(1) Real but imperfect immediately upon death.
(2) Complete after the resurrection.
II. THE MOTIVES THAT RECONCILED HIM TO A LONGER STAY.
1. He had not only a certain prospect of happiness in another life, but uncommon reasons to be weary of this.
2. But persecuted and discouraged as he was and would still be, his charity for the souls of men, and his zeal for his Master, prevailed with him to defer his own felicity. He was moved with compassion to the errors of a deluded world, and affected with the concern of a father for the happiness of his converts.
III. THE SUBMISSION HE EXPRESSES TO THE WISDOM AND APPOINTMENT OF GOD. He did not presume to make his own choice. He knew (ver. 25) that God had determined he should abide, and therefore he cheerfully acquiesces in the Divine will, and is as eager to promote the glory of God in one world as to partake of it in another. Application:
1. The prospect of being with Christ is as much ours as it was his.
2. This prospect is a powerful support against death, and a great encouragement to duty.
3. The prospect, however, of being of use to Christ here should beget a willingness to postpone our departure that Christ's will may be done.
(J. Rogers, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: But if I live in the flesh, this is the fruit of my labour: yet what I shall choose I wot not.