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Christ Exalted in Life and in Death

Sometimes we are faced with needing to make a decision between two alternatives which are both desirable. The outcome is always going to be good, whatever happens! This was true of the Apostle Paul when he wrote to the Philippian church saying “for me to live is Christ and to die is gain” {Philippians 1.21}. The wonderful reality about the decision of whether to live in Christ or to die in Christ is that it is a choice which we don’t make!  It depends upon the  unfathomable, wisdom of our God who has perfectly determined the length of all of our lives.

Paul was not defined by his personal history as a ‘Hebrew of hebrews’, nor by his Roman citizenship, nor by his present circumstances as a prisoner, but by his relationship to Christ. His own life was completely bound up in the Lord {Galatians 2:20}. What about your life? How would you complete the short sentence “For me to live is…..”. Apart from a life in Christ every other way of living is ultimately empty. As the preacher says in Ecclesiastes 12:8 “Vanity of vanities,… “all is vanity!”. The only satisfaction in this life (and the next) is to be found only in Christ. He is the Way, and the Truth, and the Life; no one comes to the Father but through Him.

Paul knew that departing this life to be with Christ is very much better than living here as part of this groaning Creation. However he was motivated by His love for Christ to desire to remain for the sake of God’s people; here in this letter particularly the church in Philippi. He saw that there was fruitful labour in which he was to engage so that the believers there would progress in their joy in the faith. The apostle Paul understood the necessity of his remaining on this earth for a time, not so that he could fulfil his own personal goals, but so that he could exalt Christ by serving the work of the gospel.

Paul knew that his death would be gain, not because he was looking for a way of escape from the trials he continued to face, and not primarily so that he could enjoy being in the presence of Christ, but mainly so that Christ would be exalted in his death. His martyrdom would further fuel the proclamation of the gospel.  He would no longer continue to sin. His death would be the crowning service for His Lord and would confirm the covenant promises of God to save a people from their sins. The death of God’s children is precious in His sight, because the sting of death has been removed by Christ and therefore death becomes the entry into eternal peace and joyful rest with Christ. That is why when we grieve over the loss of those brothers and sisters whom we love, we do so not as those who have no hope, but as those for whom “to live is Christ”.

Phil 1.18-26 Christ Exalted in Life and in Death – sermon outline