To Die or To Live


“Perhaps because of the positive overtones… we somehow missed the signals that Paul was under a stressful situation. He was in a prison. Life as a prisoner was, not surprisingly, bad. It was harsh enough that he thought he might die (but he wanted to die exalting Christ)….”

This is my fourth and last guest block article on “Paul and Stress:”

To Die or To Live

PS: My apology to anyone who has received notification one way or another last week. This is the same article, but since it is hosted on a different site, I need to make a reference here on my site so that it can be searchable in the future.

“Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that what has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel.  As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ.  And because of my chains, most of the brothers and sisters have become confident in the Lord and dare all the more to proclaim the gospel without fear.  It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill.  The latter do so out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel.  The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains.  But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice. Yes, and I will continue to rejoice,  for I know that through your prayers and God’s provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance.  I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death.  For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.  If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know!  I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far;  but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body.  Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith,  so that through my being with you again your boasting in Christ Jesus will abound on account of me.  Whatever happens, as citizens of heaven live in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in the one Spirit, striving together with one accord for the faith of the gospel  without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you. This is a sign to them that they will be destroyed, but that you will be saved–and that by God.  For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him,  since you are going through the same struggle you saw I had, and now hear that I still have. (Philippians 1:12-30)


To Die or To Live — 2 Comments

  1. David,
    Appreciated that you pointed out what was going on with Paul at that time (see the 2nd and 3rd paragraphs). Indeed “we somehow missed the signals that Paul was under a stressful situation. He was in a prison. Life as a prisoner was, not surprisingly, bad. It was harsh enough that he thought he might die” as you wrote.

    Thus, the key that helps us to understand what Paul wanted to say to the recipients (original intent) is the context including historical context (background) and literary context of his letter.

    Then we, as you put it, “Realizing the level of disappointment and/or distress that Paul was experiencing would be helpful for us to appreciate Paul’s encouragement and his urging to rejoice.” Apostle Paul had experienced so much hardship, trials and difficulties (physically, mentally and spiritually) throughout his service to the Lord. Remarkably his letter is full of joy and hope. Paul assured that God’s grace was sufficient for him. Likewise God’s grace is sufficient for us if we can trust in Christ and rely on Him.

    • Yes, not over-glorifying any human being, I would still say Paul is amazing. And once we are used to seeing historical background, even little thing like this will bring a new sense of understanding of his saying.

      I am sure we have all sung one version or another of “Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say rejoice.” and we clapped and smiled or laughed. It is totally fine to sing it that way, but just realizing that it was said by a prisoner with thought of possible death really gives a different feel of his teaching / encouragement.

      God Bless!

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