In Philippians 1:21 it is written that, “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” In order to understand Paul’s words, we must first look at the context. A letter written by the apostle Paul to the Philippi church is found in the book of Philippians.
Paul offers the church encouragement, counsel, guidelines for the kind of life that Christians ought to live, and more in this epistle. Paul greets the congregation and expresses his yearning for them in Philippians 1:1–8.
He continues by discussing his current detention in Rome and makes an effort to allay the churchgoers’ fears (vrs 12–14). Paul is aware that his pain is being experienced for a purpose, and that purpose is to spread the gospel of Jesus.
To Live In Christ
Paul showed a great deal of understanding and yearning to glorify Jesus Christ and for other fellow believers of the faith to do the same. He said in Galatians 3:20 “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”
Paul, later on, came to understand that Christ was his whole reason for existing and living. He went on to comprehend the part that says “live is Christ” was in service to the church to glorify the Lord.
Then in Philippians 1:22 and 24, he tells fellow believers, “If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labour for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! But it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body.”
This mainly helps us to understand that To Live Is Christ is not for us only but for others around us.
To Die Is Gain
Paul had already endured a great deal of hardship in his mission for the cause of Christ when he spoke about the gain in death. Paul was beaten, stoned, humiliated, and left for dead, and at this time in Philippians, he was being held captive.
However, “Paul found joy in his afflictions, because they had strengthened his faith exponentially and allowed him to serve as a strong witness for Christ.” We can see that “to die is gain” is also glorifying Christ for His sake.
As Christians, we should understand that, death is not a loss but gain because it is where our body is resting eternally in Christ. 2 Corinthians 5:6-8 says, “Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord. For we live by faith, not by sight. We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord.” Until that time comes, we are to shine our light into the world for the sake of Christ Jesus and to say with our lives “to live is Christ and to die is gain.”