In Paul’s letter to the Philippians, Paul is seeking to bless and encourage the Philippian church. He has encouraged and wants his friends in Philippi to be bold (1:14), receive joy in the faith (v. 25), and live a life worthy of the gospel (v. 27).
So, how is Paul encouraging the Philippians (and us) in this passage (v. 18b-26)? Paul is showing the Philippians, and us, what is worth living for. Paul gives himself as a prime example.
So, what is worth living for? I mean, what is ultimately worth living for? And, what do you live for?
Let’s look at Philippians 1:18b-20 and see what we should live for:
“Yes, and I will rejoice [because Christ is proclaimed],  for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this [the present situation] will turn out for my deliverance,  as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death.”
What is Paul saying here? Paul is saying that he rejoices in the midst of the struggles and trials of life because he expects to magnify Christ through them. So, we see we too must…
Magnify Christ in all of life (v. 18b-20)
First, it is important that we ask, “What was Paul going through? What was the situation he was facing and how did he magnify, honor, glorify God in the midst of it?”
Paul was in prison (1:7, 13) and it seems since he was in prison the question of death was on the table (v. 21, 23). Since Paul was in prison he must have had many physical concerns. Paul was suffering. His situation was not easy. Paul acknowledges that he needs help. He knew he needed the Philippian’s prayers and “the help of the Spirit” (v. 19). Paul knew he would need to “not be ashamed,” he knew he would need to have “full courage.” Paul was aware of the difficulties that awaited him but he was very sure that he would be able to be faithful (v. 20).
Paul believed the truth of Matthew 10:
“You will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved… And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell… So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 10:22, 28, 32-33).
What Paul did
Even in suffering, Paul’s concern was not his own welfare. Paul cared about Christ being honored (v. 20) and the church receiving joy in the faith (v. 25). So, Paul boldly shared the gospel with the Roman guards and he encouraged others to also be bold. And Paul served and encouraged others. Actually, he wanted to depart and be with Christ, that’s what he wanted to do, but he said it is better, even “necessary” that he remain so he could be a means of joy and encouragement for his friends in Philippi. That’s why Paul wrote the letter to the Philippians in the first place. Paul modeled what it means to look not only to our own interests but also to the interests of others (2:4).
“Paul’s deepest hopes for his own immediate future turn neither on the bliss of immediately gaining heaven’s portals nor on returning to a fulfilling ministry and escaping the pangs of death, but on what is best for his converts. Often we are tempted to evaluate alternatives by thinking through what seems best for us. How often do we raise as a first principle what is best for the church?”
So, what did Paul do? Paul sought to live his life—through thick and thin—to magnify and honor Christ and encourage the saints.
What about us?
We, like Paul, should seek to magnify Christ in all we do. Yet, this is very hard. How can we?
Let’s look at Philippians 1:21-26 and see how we can live for Christ:
“For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.  If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose [between life and death] I cannot tell.  I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better.  But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account.  Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith,  so that in me you may have ample cause to glory in Christ Jesus, because of my coming to you again.”
What is Paul saying here? Paul is saying that he rejoices in the midst of the struggles and trials of life because he is motivated by the majesty of Christ. So, we too must…
Be motivated by the majesty of Christ (v. 21-26)
If we are to be motivated it is important that we understand how. So, first, how was Paul motivated by the majesty of Christ?
Paul saw Christ as so awesome, so majestic, so worth it, that he would give up all for Him, live for Him, die for Him. Paul cared about Christ. Paul saw Christ’s glory in an amazing way and it radically changed him.
If Paul lived, who would he live for? Christ! Paul said, “If I am to live in the flesh that means fruitful labor for me” (v. 22). Paul said, “to live is Christ.” That’s what life was about for Paul. Paul even said that he wasn’t sure which he would choose, life or death? Paul said, he desired “to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better” (v. 23). How is departing, dying, “far better”? Because he would get to be with Christ! Everything, for Paul, is about Christ (see also 2 Corinthians 5:1-10, 14-15).
What is our motivation?
Our motivation is often success, beauty, fun, etc. But it should be Christ. He alone is worthy. Yet, it is so easy to get distracted. Of course, success, beauty, fun are not bad. But they are not ultimate. They can’t and won’t fulfill. We shouldn’t live for those things. Only Jesus is worthy.
“In the logic of the gospel, there are no alternatives to Christ. Every other option is no option at all. When everything considered valuable in life is seen to be nothing in comparison to the glory of Christ, you learn rather well that Christ alone is worth living for. Christ alone is worthy of an entire life’s affections and devotions.”
What does understanding the majesty of Christ lead to?
For John G. Paton, it meant to live is Christ, and to die is gain. Paton who was a missionary to the South Sea Islands (where Fiji water comes from) was told, “You will be eaten by Cannibals!” Paton responded:
“Mr. Dickson, you are advanced in years now, and your own prospect is soon to be laid in the grave, there to be eaten by worms; I confess to you, that if I can but live and die serving and honoring the Lord Jesus, it will make no difference to me whether I am eaten by Cannibals or by worms; and in the Great Day my Resurrection body will rise as fair as yours in the likeness of our risen Redeemer.”
We must know, as Paul did, that “There is a greater day coming, a greater reward coming, a greater life coming, and the purpose of life while we are alive is to walk in a manner worthy of the gospel, which hold the promise of life everlasting.” We will be more alive than we are now! We shall have life and peace beyond what we can imagine. We shall be at perfect peace with God and see Jesus!
Death is “far better” for us too!
Paul encouraged the Philippians (and us!) to live a life worthy of the gospel and in verses 18b-26 he gives us an inward look of how he hopes to live a worthy life: treasure Christ. Christ was Paul’s controlling core. Paul loved Christ and so he lived for Christ.
God is calling us to also love Christ with all we are and live for Him with all we have.
So, what do you live for? What motivating, explosive force, is at the core of your life? What propels you to do what you do?
And notice, if we get it wrong here, we will carry out all sorts of destructive actions.
What is at your core?
Can you say your life is motivated by the majesty of Christ? Can you truly say, “To live is Christ, to die is gain”?
A few questions
1. Paul said, “To live is Christ, and to die is gain.” What do you think about that? Should you be able to say that as well?
2. What’s at the motivational core of your life?
3. How will you stay on track through the temptations and struggles of life?
4. Do you currently feel purpose in living for Jesus Christ?
5. How was Paul impacted by having Christ at his motivational core? How would you be impacted with Christ at the motivational core of your life?
6. What about Christ is so majestic and beautiful and awesome that makes Him worthy of first place in your heart and life?
7. How will you keep Christ at the motivational core of you life with all the other things that fight for that place?
8. Read 2 Corinthians 5:1-10, 14-15 and pray that you would be motivated to live for Christ because of the majesty of Christ.
 This is very hard for us to understand in our current society and situation. It “can only strike us as strange in the modern church if we have allowed the comforts of our present physical existence to usurp the place of Christ in our lives as our chief priority” (Frank Thielman, Philippians: The NIV Application Commentary, 83.
 Carson in Basics for Believers, 30.
 “In the context, ‘to live is Christ’ surely means that for Paul to keep on living here means ministry, Christ-centered ministry, Christ-empowered ministry, Christ’s presence in his ministry” (Carson, Basics for Believers, 29).
 Matt Chandler, To Live Is Christ, To Die Is Gain, 36.
 As quoted by Carson in Basics for Believers, 31.
 Matt Chandler, To Live Is Christ, To Die Is Gain, 37.
 I concur with what C.S. Lewis says in The Last Battle,
“We can most truly say that they all lived happily ever after. But for them it was only the beginning of the real story. All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read: which goes on forever: in which every chapter is better than the one before” (C.S. Lewis, The Last Battle (New York: NY: Harper Collins, 2002), 228).
I believe we, upon arrival to the new Eden, will exclaim with Lewis’ Unicorn: “I have come home at last! This is my real country! I belong here. This is the land I have been looking for all my life, though I never knew it to now. The reason why we loved the old Narnia [“old creation”] is that it sometimes looked a little like this” (Ibid., 213).
As we read in Philippians we see that Paul lived to share the gospel. That’s what he was all about. Even when he was imprisoned for sharing the gospel he said, “It’s okay. It actually worked out quite well because I was able to tell the prison guards about Jesus.”
Paul lived to share the gospel. But what made him live like this? He hadn’t always lived for the gospel so what changed him? And what perhaps needs to change in our own lives so that we will live to share the gospel of Christ?
As I was preparing to write this I struggled because this portion of Philippians (1:12-18, 27-30) seems irrelevant. It seems disconnected from our everyday life. So, I was trying to think of some angle that I could share to make it relevant and I was struggling to do so. I was thinking that if I were talking about procrastination, lust, or something else then that would be relevant.
As I continued to think about it, however, I realized the problem is not with the passage. The problem is with us, with me. The passage doesn’t seem relevant because we don’t share the concern that Paul had, and that the Bible has. We, I am afraid, our deficient in our devotion to the gospel.
Sharing the gospel and our…
This first point comes from my own mouth and mind and not directly from Philippians. However, upon reflection, I think it is important that we consider our potential deficiency.What is our deficiency? Or, what would make this passage seem irrelevant?
I fear we (myself included!) get used to the gospel. It ceases to amaze us. We take it for granted. Paul’s letter to the Philippians was likely written 30 years after his conversion but we see that he is still amazed by the gospel of Jesus Christ. Paul says, “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Phil. 1:21) and later on he says everything is rubbish compared to Christ (3:8).
Our deficiency is our deficient view of the gospel. We esteem it of low worth. Until that deficiency changes we won’t delight in sharing the gospel and we won’t carry out our duty of sharing the gospel. So, briefly, what is the gospel?
Philippians 2 talks about Jesus, who though He was in the form of God, made Himself nothing and humbled Himself to die for us, even by death on a cross. 2 Corinthians 8:9 reminds us of the wonder of the gospel: our Lord Jesus Christ, though He was rich, became poor, so that we by His poverty might become rich. This is the good news of the “great exchange.” Jesus, God in flesh, took our filthy sinful stains upon Himself on the tree; and He gave us His beautiful robes of righteousness.
The apostle Paul understood that and that’s why he said everything—everything!—is rubbish compared to Christ. We too need to understand that. It makes sense logically but often times it hasn’t worked itself into the nooks and crannies of our lives.
So, we see the need of cultivating a heart of worship, a heart that is amazed by the gospel. As John Piper has said,
“No one will be able to rise to the magnificence of the missionary cause who does not feel the magnificence of Christ. There will be no big world vision without a big God. There will be no passion to draw others into our worship where there is no passion for worship.”
It is when we taste and see that a restaurant is good that we tell others about it. It is the same with the gospel. We need to “taste” that it is good. We need to know understand that the LORD “has done gloriously.” Look at Isaiah 12:1-5:
“I will give thanks to you, O LORD, for though you were angry with me, your anger turned away, that you might comfort me. Behold, God is my salvation… Give thanks to the LORD, call upon his name, make known his deeds among the peoples, proclaim that his name is exalted. Sing praises to the LORD, for he has done gloriously; let this be made known in all the earth.”
It when we taste the God’s goodness that we say, “Let this be known in all the earth!”
Sharing the gospel and our…
Our Devotion (Phil. 1:12-18)
In a letter such as this, it would have been customary for Paul to explain how he was doing. It would have been natural to discuss his physical conditions. I expect Paul to say something like:
“I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, especially for the gift you gave me. That was really helpful. However, as you know I am in jail for preaching the gospel and I am fresh out of funds. I don’t have a lot of food and my sneakers are worn out. It’d be great to get some help. I am also very tired as my bed is very uncomfortable and the blanket they gave me is terrible. The guards also keep me up late. They like to play cards and their cursing is terrible…”
However, Paul says nothing like that. Actually, we’re not even really told about his physical well-being, let alone the state of his sneakers.
Yet, imagine how difficult it must have been for Paul. One commentator has said, “For a traveling apostle to be put in prison must have seemed like a concert pianist having his hands tied behind his back.” Yet, Paul was not complaining.
Why is this the case? Certainly, Paul had material concerns. There are times when Paul let his material needs be known. For instance, he asks for his coat and books (2 Tim. 4:13). Paul surely had physical/material concerns but they weren’t main concern. We see Paul is concerned with the gospel and its advancement.
Paul’s good is wrapped up with the gospel. Even though he was locked up he could rejoice because it “served to advance the gospel” (Phil. 1:12). Paul made known to his guards that he was in jail for telling people about Christ. It was such a big deal that it got around to a bunch of people, “the whole imperial guard,” it says (v. 13).
“The soldiers were used, of course, to the ‘gospel’ of Caesar—the supposed ‘good news’ that a new emperor had taken the throne, bringing (so he claimed) peace and justice to the world. Now here was someone out of the blue announcing that there was a different ‘gospel’: that Jesus of Nazareth had taken the throne of the world, and was summoning every man, woman and child to bow the knee to him.”
The guards were interested in hearing Paul’s story because they probably thought Paul was crazy at first. After all, they must have thought, who worships and confesses as King and Lord a crucified Jew?!
Yet, upon further discussion with Paul, they would have seen that Paul was not a lunatic but rather quite sane. If what Paul said about Jesus was true it would make sense that he would be willing to be imprisoned for Him (the guards themselves had suffered for their own king). Further, in light of Jesus being the King and Lord, it makes sense that Paul was encouraged, even in prison.
We see also the impact that Paul’s example had on the Philippians; they were emboldened to “speak the word without fear” (v. 14). How might our boldness help others to be bolder in sharing the gospel? You never know, God may use you to stir up a revival.
Perhaps the most surprising thing we see is that Paul even rejoices when people “preach Christ from envy and rivalry” (v. 15) and “out of selfish ambition” (v. 17). So, we see Paul had a delight in the gospel that bled out into the way he thought about the sharing of the gospel. Paul was passionate about the gospel and desired it to be shared. He had written previously, in Romans, that “he was ashamed of the gospel of Christ because it was the power of God for salvation to all that believe” (Rom. 1:16). Paul continued passionately and boldly unashamed.
So, what are your aspirations? To make money? To travel? To find a new job? To be in a relationship? To do well in school? To be successful in life (however, you define success)? “None of these is inadmissible; none is to be despised. The question is whether these aspirations become so devouring that the Christian’s central aspiration is squeezed to the periphery or choked out of existence entirely.” Our central concern should be the gospel and its advancement.
Sharing the gospel and our…
Our Duty (Phil. 1:27-30)
In Philippians 1:27 Paul tells us about our duty. Paul says, “Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ.” Paul is telling us that the gospel is amazing and calls us to life change. We cannot understand and be impacted by the gospel without being changed. When we taste the sweetness of the gospel then we begin to be moved to desire to live our life in line with the gospel. We begin to strive “side by side for the faith of the gospel” (v. 27). We even begin to see it as a good thing if we suffer for the sake of Christ (v. 29).
Paul’s form of ambassadorship changed but not his purpose and duty. Paul was an ambassador in chains (Eph. 6:20). This is the case for us too. We might serve in different locations and different circumstances but we are still called to be ambassadors for Christ wherever we are. So, the specific call and circumstance might change but we are all called to share and care about the gospel.
When our devotion to the gospel of Christ is waning and deficient we need to work at cultivating a heart of worship. Because not only is the gospel a delight but we also have a duty to share and care about it. We are called to strive “side by side for the faith of the gospel” (v. 27) and notice as we stand side by side and encourage each other we can stand firm not and not be afraid of our opponents (v. 27-28).
A Few Questions:
1. What did you find encouraging and what did you find challenging about this post?
2. How is our view of the gospel sometimes deficient?
3. The gospel is the most amazing reality in the world but sometimes it may seem irrelevant. What does that say about us and our focus when that is true of us?
4. What are you tempted to care about more than the gospel? What is your “good news”?
5. Do you care about the gospel? Do you share the gospel?
6. How might your boldness help others to be bold in sharing the gospel?
7. Is it true we should have a devotion to Jesus and His gospel? Or, is it legalistic to say we must be devoted and that we have duty?
8. What would a devotion to the gospel look like in your everyday life?
9. Why would we be devoted to the gospel of Jesus Christ? What would motivate us in that way?
 John Piper, Let the Nations be Glad (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1993), 40.
 Paul’s letter “is thoroughly transformed by the gospel” (Gordon D. Fee, Paul’s Letter to the Philippians, 106 cf. 108).
 N.T. Wright, Paul for Everyone: The Prison Letters, 89.
 “This passage shows us that when our joy is connected to the advancement of the gospel rather than to our physical condition or to the responses of other people to us, it remains firm, even when these circumstances stand against us” (Frank Thielman, The NIV Application Commentary: Philippians, 66).
 We see that “God works not merely in spite of but through adverse circumstances” (Ibid.).
 Ibid. Cf. D. A. Carson, Basics for Believers: An Exposition of Philippians, 23.
 D. A. Carson, Basics for Believers: An Exposition of Philippians, 26.
 John Stott, The Message of Philippians, 72.
In the army there is a thing called a “battle buddy,” or at least at Basic Combat Training, there is. A “battle buddy” is someone that is always around you; someone you’re always helping and receiving help from.
At Basic Training you do everything with your battle buddy, and if you don’t you get in trouble. You do pushups together, you make sure your uniform is right, you… do everything together. My first battle body could do like 170 pushups in two minutes, he was a beast. He did MMA previously. However, there was still stuff he needed help with. And there was certainly a lot he could teach me.
We all need a “battle buddy.” They drill this into new recruits heads because you can’t fight a war on your own. You have to have people cover your back. You have to have people around to help you. And this is no less the case when it comes to our lives. We have an enemy that is out to get us. We need gospel friendships to help us in the fight.
There are a lot of things that we can rally around. People can become friends because they like Pokémon or for any number of reasons. We could become friends because…
There is something that makes us friends that goes beyond hanging out and beyond Pokémon. So, what makes us friends ultimately?
The Gospel Makes Us Friends
Paul [with Timothy] writes “to all the saints in Christ Jesus…” (Phil. 1:1). Paul is writing to “the saints” and they are the ones who are his friends. The gospel makes us saints and gives us friendships that Pokémon, sports, and where we live cannot. What does it mean to be saints?
Saint means “holy one.” So how can you be a saint, a holy one, set apart from sin? Are you holy by yourself? No! We are sinful by ourselves. Left to ourselves, we are stuck in sin. We do not receive grace from God; we receive punishment. We do not receive peace from God; we receive war and wrath. Look at the verse, it says “saints in Christ Jesus.” It doesn’t say, “We’re saints in ourselves.”
We are made saints, holy, and receive peace with God through placing our faith in Jesus. Jesus was holy and never did anything wrong and yet He died in our place. The gospel is the “great exchange”: Jesus takes our sin upon Himself and dies the death we deserved and He gives us His righteousness and we get eternal life as we don’t deserve, and this all comes through faith in Jesus. That’s the gospel. And the gospel unites us. It makes us friends. Paul wrote to “the saints.”
Saints, those who believe in the gospel and treasure Jesus Christ, have something beyond this world that unites them.
Christ befriends us and because Christ befriends us we are all friends through Him. We, through Christ’s work, have God as our Father. We’re family! We all have the Holy Spirit. And the Holy Spirit connects us.
The gospel makes us friends.
And notice who Paul wrote to: people at Philippi; a lot of different people. Some of whom were not considered “cool.” Maybe Paul was a book nerd, we know he read and wrote a lot; or maybe he was into sports, he does talk quite a bit about them. Whatever the case, there were people in Philippi that he would not naturally get along with. There were Gentiles in Philippi and Paul was a Jew.
But, it was the gospel that made them friends. It is the gospel that makes us friends. So, let’s be friends because of the gospel. Jesus has shown us love and reached down to us so let’s show each other love, no matter how hard it may seem.
So, we’ve talked about what makes us friends so now let’s talk about characteristics of gospel friendships.
Gospel Friends Are…
Thankful (Phil. 1:3-4)
Paul thanks God for his friends. That is, Paul does not take his friends for granted. He appreciates them. And we see he thanks not just them for being his friends but he knows whom it is that gave them to him, God; and so Paul thanks God for his friends.
So, we as gospel friends should be thankful for each other. We should thank God for each other. And through that, we see that we should also appreciate each other. We shouldn’t take each other for granted.
Partners (Phi. 1:5)
We see here that Paul is not just thankful for his friends but thankful for them because they are partners together. And not just partners for anything, but “partners in the gospel.” So, a huge characteristic of gospel friendships is that they care about the gospel and the gospel going forward. They don’t just have a partnership or friendship formed around Pokémon or whatever but formed around the gospel.
Later on, Paul talks about “standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel” (v. 27). Gospel friends are intentional and even “strive” together for the advance of the gospel. Our friendships are not to be shallow. They are to be about the life changing and eternal truth of the gospel.
Encouraging (Phil. 1:6)
Gospel friends have a healthy and encouraging outlook with each other that’s grounded in the gospel. Gospel friends realize that the world is fallen and we will hurt each other and sometimes friends will sadly talk behind your back but gospel friends realize that God is working on His saints. So gospel friends are realistic but hopeful.
So gospel friends don’t give up on each other… they encourage.
Faithful (Phil. 1:7)
Paul’s friends were with him and for him even through his imprisonment.
Jesus, our Savior and also our ultimate example, is reliable. He is with us through thick and thin. All other friends will finally fail but Jesus never does. However, we are called to be like Jesus. We want to be a reliable friend even when it is hard for us or unpopular.
It was popular for the Philippians to be friends with Paul and help him. It was actually likely dangerous, but they remained faithful friends. Let’s also remain reliable and faithful friends. Let’s love like Jesus loves. And be there for others, like Jesus is there for us.
Affectionate (Phil. 1:8)
Paul said, “I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus.” This verse is quite amazing. In what way does Paul “yearn,” in what way is Paul affectionate? Does his affection or love change depending on how cool, fun, or nice his friends are? No!
It says “with the affection of Christ.” What is the “the affection of Christ” and was it easily killed? Jesus’ affection took Him to the cross and He died before His affection did. He died because His affection would not. #truelove
That’s the kind of love and affection that we are called to. We are to love like Jesus. We are to die before our love does. Let’s love like that!
Caring (Phil. 1:9-11)
As friends, we are to care for each other and want what’s best for each other.
What can be hard, however, is actually knowing how to best care for each other. Paul helps us here. He shows us what it really means to care. It means that we don’t merely care about external issues. It is actually not even about being concerned with our friend’s physical wellbeing. It goes beyond that.
Being gospel friends means caring about each other’s spiritual well-being… That’s what we see in these verses. That is what is most important.
We’ve seen that the gospel makes us friends and we’ve seen some characteristics of what it means to be gospel friends. Now, let’s purpose to live as gospel friends by the power of the Holy Spirit in light of the gospel.
Gospel Friendship in Philippians
|1:5||“partnership in the gospel”|
|1:7||“partakers with me of grace”|
|1:14-19||“through your prayers’|
|1:27||“striving side by side for the faith”|
|2:22||“served with me in the gospel”|
|2:25||“my brother, and fellow worker, and fellow soldier”|
|3:17||“join in imitating me”|
|4:3||“labored side by side with me”|
|4:15||“partnership with me in giving and receiving”|
 “Paul’s friends were made up of a pretty diverse group of individuals—a former slave, a doctor, both Jews and Gentiles, etc.” (Adam Holland, Friendship Redeemed: How the Gospel Changes Friendships to Something Greater, 70-71).
 “The heart of true fellowship… is self-sacrificing conformity to a shared vision… Christian fellowship, then, is self-sacrificing conformity to the gospel. There may be overtones of warmth and intimacy, but the heart of the matter is this shared vision of what is of transcendent importance, a vision that calls forth our commitment” (D. A. Carson, Basics for Believers: An Exposition of Philippians, 16).Go