What is Your Worth and What do you Live For: Part I
Philippians 1:20-21: Paul, An Aggressive Prisoner and Solider

Introduction: This two-part series: What is your Worth, What do you Live For captures the Holy Spirit’s teaching that debunks false teaching regarding self including self-image and self-esteem. What do you think when the subject of living enters the conversation? How do you answer the questions: why do you live and for what reasons? I am sure you have heard it said that I live for my spouse, my family, my job, some type of recreation or activity, the next workout, or the next ballgame.

Someone may say that my (you fill in a name) is everything to me. That answer suggests that the person is wrapped up in and devoted to the person or activity named. The named person or activity has been exalted or raised to a position of the highest regard. What motivates that desire is often not considered. Often the closeness to the person or the activity is based on what the person or activity gives to the exalter and devoter. In other words, it is what a person gets from the other person or activity that is a major factor in initiating and continuing devotion, loyalty, and allegiance.

In his letter to the Philippians, Paul answered the questions: What is your worth? What do you live for in an extraordinary way. He expressed an overwhelming desire and concern to honor God in his gospel ministry (1:7-8). In that sense he imitated Christ who came to do His Father’s will and glorify the Father (John 4:31-34; 5:19-30; 17:1-5). John repeatedly referred to Jesus’ life-dominating desire to please and glorify the Father. Christ and the apostle Paul were focused on the Triune God, for who He was and not necessarily what He gives.

Pleasing Him was the primary motivation for both Christ, perfectly, and Paul, imperfectly. Self had to step aside. For Paul, the change in motivation from self to God occurred at regeneration and increased in magnitude and intensity as he grew in Christlikeness. He desired more and more to taste God, His glory, goodness and beauty and he did (Philippians 3:7-11; Psalm 34:8)! Paul was enamored with Christ. He could not get enough of Him. Moreover, Paul did not consider this to be a burden.

The essence of Paul’s approach to life in this world is captured in several places in Scripture including Philippians 1:20-21:
v.20: 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 death or life.
v.21: For to me to live is Christ and to die is gain.

Paul was imprisoned when he wrote the letter to the Philippians. Paul, in the letter, explained his view of God’s involvement and activity in the world (1:12-18). Rome was the antithesis of all that was biblical and true. Rome, its citizens, and its mindset were ignorantly and arrogantly in competition with God. The rich were getting richer and the poor poorer. Paganism was rampant and eventually Christians were persecuted not only by fellow Jews but as atheists and enemies of the state.

Yet Paul rejoiced. From his perspective, he was a prisoner of Christ and not of Rome. As a result, the gospel was reaching unlikely folks, in particular the whole Praetorian Guard (Philippians 1:12-13). Paul was confident that God was in the problem, up to something, and up to something good then and eternally. Paul was thoroughly and completely aware of and involved in what God was doing in him, by him, and through him. Paul was an aggressive prisoner of and for Christ.

Paul focused on another problem (1:15-19). Not only was he imprisoned but some preached Christ out of envy of Paul and out of selfish ambition (1:17). They attempted to burden Paul by using God’s providence of Paul’s imprisonment thus adding to his affliction (Philippians 1:17). What follows in verse 18 is a resounding so what. Paul looked beyond the circumstances toward the God of those circumstances. God was Boss and he was not. Paul had learned that lesson well as he described in Philippians 3:3-6, 7-11. In verse 19 of chapter 1, Paul gave an insight into his approach to living. He knew the fact of God’s good control and the work and presence of the Holy Spirit. Paul knew that he would be delivered for the greater good – either to live in order to continue his work on earth or to die and be in the presence of God and eternal fellowship and worship

In verse 20, we read a remarkable and Christlike statement: Paul’s overriding concern is the exaltation of the Triune God by honoring Christ. Honoring the Triune God was Paul’s prime motivation. As mentioned above, Jesus had the overriding desire to glorify the Father (John 4:31-34; 5:19-30; 6:37-43; 17:1-5). Paul sought to keep the third commandment. His deep concern was to honor and exalt the name of God. Anything less would be profaning the name of God.

Paul gave the essence of his concern in verse 21: to live is Christ and to die is gain. Paul gave his view of living: deny self, take up one’s cross, and follow Christ. This followed the example of Christ’s exhortation to the disciples (Matthew 10:37-38; 16:24-26; Mark 8:34; Luke 9:23; 14:27; John 12:26). The cross is an instrument or tool of death. It is to be used to put self-pleasing to death. Taking up your cross means making an honest appraisal of one’s thoughts, desires, and actions and then bringing them in line with biblical truth. Paul made this plea to the Philippians in chapter 1 (v.9-11). Paul called for a life of growth and maturation which included discernment and putting on the fruit of righteousness. Becoming more like Christ was his personal goal and one goal of his gospel ministry.

1. How do you define your worth?
2. Biblically, is worth innate or derived?
3. How do the passages -1 Corinthians 1:30 and Philippians 1:20-21 – help you answer the question?
4. What is your response?

Philippians 1:20-21: Paul, An Aggressive Prisoner and Solider: Part II

v.20: 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 death or life.
v.21: For to me to live is Christ and to die is gain.

In this concluding part of the series: What is your worth and what do you live for, Paul clarified his and the Holy Spirit’s [position. In these two passages, Paul expressed his underlying philosophy and answer to the questions: What is your worth and what do you live for? His goal was to put Christ before himself because of an overwhelming concern for the name and cause of Christ. Therefore Paul did not live the lie. He was not God. He knew himself. He knew his worth: his origin, identity, purpose, and destiny. He had the God-given and supernatural ability to put Christ before self (2:3-5). Every believer has this capacity. In verse 21, in the original language, there is no verb is and she subject of the phrase is to live. For Paul, and more so for the Holy Spirit, to live equates with Christ: to live is Christ! Paul is teaching the profound truth that life and to live are Christ.

John in his gospel and his first letter equate Christ with life and light because he is life and light (John 1:4; 14:6; 8:12; 9:5; 14:6). For Paul light, life, and Christ were one and the same entity. More God is light (1 John 1:2, 5) and the Holy Spirit is truth (John 16:13). Light life, and truth are Intratrinitarian. Paul adds a final touch of truth: to live is Christ and to die is gain. Paul is speaking of resurrection life for the believer because of Christ’s resurrection (Roman 6:1-10; 1 Corinthians 15:12-19, 44-49).

This passage expresses the foundational truth of relationships and true worth: Christ is before self and anybody or anything. For Paul the believer, his existence on the earth is Christ and living in heaven is Christ. For Paul, living on earth or living in heaven is living in Christ, with Christ, and for Christ. No matter where he was, the goal and the object of life was the same – Christ (see 2 Corinthians 5:9, 14-15 and Galatians 2:20 for further explanation of one of Paul’s motivating factors for him and the believer). Amazing as it sounds, it is as if Paul is saying that living as a believer on this earth is like being in heaven or at least having a foretaste of it. Either way Paul was most satisfied and contented with resurrection life – its initiation here on earth and its culmination and fullness in heaven.

Please note that it is best to have Christ as the subject of both of the two clauses in verse 21. Thus, Paul declared Christ to be gain to him both in life and in death. Having Christ, or better, to be had by Christ, was for Paul gain. That mindset helps understand the remarkable words in Philippians 3:7-11. There he wrote that he counted everything as loss for the surpassing privilege of knowing Christ and the power of his resurrection. For Paul, resurrection life started at the time of regeneration.

Some have interpreted Paul’s words as indicating a difficulty. Because Christ was gain in both life and death, it was assumed that Paul was at a loss in deciding which was more desirous for him: to live or die. Some add that Paul had counted up the benefits and liabilities for both options, and upon seeing them, was at a loss to know how to choose. On the contrary, Paul’s assumed difficulty was not one at all! The concept of counting the cost in terms of liabilities and blessings doesn’t fit the context. Paul was not imprisoned as a slave of Rome but of Christ (Philippians 1:12).

Moreover, he had an active ministry in his imprisonment that he embraced as part of God’s providence (Philippians1:12-18). Paul understood life, his present life and the life to come, because he understood Christ and himself – in that order. In heaven his earthly work would be completed but there was still the joyous work of glorifying and enjoying the Triune God eternally. When he died Paul knew he was not indispensable and that God would provide for His church. That is what Paul had told the Philippians earlier (Philippians 1:12-14).

In essence and in summary, Paul taught at least two truths: Christ is life and light, and life and life is Christ. To live is Christ is patterned living such that the very essence of living and life is Christ. Philippians 1:21 is in part a commentary on John 14:6 where John wrote that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. Christ is gain in life (living) and in death (for the believer, it is living in heaven). To live is Christ at least means being in God’s presence and enjoying Him and His program. There is a growing awareness of the indwelling Holy Spirit and union with Christ and its influence in the believer’s life while he is earthbound. For Paul and the believer, the gain is worked out equally on earth and in heaven. Amazing!

1. How do you determine the essence of life?
2. Paul put Christ before himself. How was that possible? Use Galatians 2:20 to help answer the question.
3. Answer the question: is Christ worthy for you to consider Him more important than yourself? Give reasons for your answer.
4. Ponder Paul’s statement: to live is Christ and to die is gain. How does that fit with your and the world’s definition of life and worth?