For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.
For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. Paul, having expressed in the close of the preceding verse his supreme resolve that Christ should be magnified in his body, whether it be by life or by death, here describes the life he was determined to live, and the death which he was certain to realize. The subject of these words is - An ideal life blooming into a happy death. Here is -
I. AN IDEAL LIFE. "For to me to live is Christ." An utterance this terse and pithy, carrying the divinest idea of life. The meaning may be thus expressed: living, I shall live Christ. I shall live as he lived, with the same master purpose and inspiration. In relation to this life two remarks may be made.
1. It is sadly rare. Indeed, it is rare to live at all; living and existing are widely different conditions of being. All who breathe, sleep, eat, drink, follow out their animal instincts, exist; but none but those who have some dominant purpose that fires their passions and concentrates their faculties, live. To live means earnestness in some pursuit or other; the pursuit may be political, martial, mercantile, literary, artistic, or religious, and all who are earnest in their quest may be said to live. But this kind of life is rare. Millions exist on this earth for seventy years, and do not in this sense live one day; whereas those who have lived earnestly have become grey and old in a single night. The martyr, the night previous to his execution, lives years in a few hours. The thoughtless thousands who bowed to the image that Nebuchadnezzar had set up, existed; the three Hebrew youths lived an age the night before they were thrown into the fiery furnace. Saul of Tarsus lived the three days and three nights after he was divinely smitten with the conviction of sin, while he lay still and sightless. Indeed, to be earnest in anything is to live. If you take a census of those who exist on the earth, you have only to count the numbers that breathe, and they are legion; but if you take the census of those who live, you must count the souls that are really in earnest, and they are in a terrible minority. But whilst it is rare for men to live at all, it is far rarer for men to live to Christ, to live the ideal life, the life in which all bodily impulses are governed by the intellect, and all the intellectual faculties governed by the conscience, and all the powers of the conscience ruled by the will of God. To live as Christ lived is to become incarnations of him. This was the life that Paul determined to live, and with this deter-ruination he brought all the rivulets issuing from the heart-ocean of his being into the majestic stream of a Christly philanthropy and devotion. Alas! again, how rare this life! If the masses of men who are really in earnest, and who therefore live, were to express their belief. he they would say, "For us to live is wealth, power, science;" - no more. Christ is no more to them than any of the gods of Olympus.
2. It is manifestly imperative. It is urged on every man by the authority of reason, conscience, and the gospel.
II. AN IDEAL LIFE BLOOMING INTO A HAPPY DEATH. "To die is gain." To whom? To the man whose life is Christly. It is not gain to those who live to sensual enjoyments and worldly interests. No; by it they lose all that makes tolerable the existence. But to the Christly man it is "gain " on two accounts.
1. On account of what it takes away. Physical afflictions, secular anxieties, mental imperfections, moral depravities, spiritual temptations; in one word, all that pains the body, deludes the judgment, saddens the heart, and deadens the conscience.
2. On account of what it bestows. Perfection in his being, character, friendships, worship, enjoyments. Death is indeed then "gain." Shall the Christ-living man dread it? Shall the diseased man dread the hour in which he leaves his couch of suffering and weakness, and goes forth into the green fields of nature with vigorous limbs and buoyant health? Shall the exile dread the hour when the bark that bears him from the scenes of long banishment shall touch his native shores? Shall the prisoner under the sentence of death dread the hour, promised by the clemency of his sovereign, when his fetters shall be struck off, and his dungeon door be opened, and he shall go forth to family and friends again? Sooner may this be than a Christ-living man dread death.
CONCLUSION. How often preachers exhort their hearers to prepare for death, urging sometimes with marvellous animal vehemence most utilitarian considerations! Let them cease this work, and urge them to prepare to live Christ: right living ensures happy dying. The ideal life lived out will bloom and fructify into a blessed immortality. - D.T.
Parallel VersesKJV: For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.