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Philippians 1:22-26

22. But if I live in the flesh, this is the fruit of my labour: yet what I shall choose I wot not.

22. Quodsi vivere in carne operae pretium mihi est, etiam quid eligam ignoro. 8181     “Or encore que viure en chair me fust proufitable, ie ne scay lequel ie doy eslire, ou, Or si viure en chair me est proufitable, et que c’est qu’ie doy eslire, ie ne scay rien;” — “But although to live in the flesh would not be profitable to me, I know not what I ought to choose; or, But if to live in the flesh is profitable to me, and that it is what I ought to choose, I know not.”

23. For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better:

23. Coarctor enim ex duobus cupiens dissolvi et esse cum Christo: multo enim hoc melius.

24. Nevertheless to abide in the flesh is more needful for you.

24. Manere vero in carne, magis necessarium propter vos.

25. And having this confidence, I know that I shall abide and continue with you all for your furtherance and joy of faith;

25. Atque hoc confisus novi, quod manebo et permanebo cum omnibus vobis, in vestrum profectum et gaudium fidei,

26. That your rejoicing may be more abundant in Jesus Christ for me by my coming to you again.

26. Ut gloriatio vestra exsuperet in Christo Iesu de me, per meum rursus adventum ad vos.

 

22 But if to live in the flesh. As persons in despair feel in perplexity as to whether they ought to prolong their life any farther in miseries, or to terminate their troubles by death, so Paul, on the other hand, says that he is, in a spirit of contentment, so well prepared for death or for life, because the condition of believers, both in the one case and in the other, is blessed, so that he is at a loss which to choose. If it is worth while; that is, “If I have reason to believe that there will be greater advantage from my life than from my death, I do not see which of them I ought to prefer.” To live in the flesh, is an expression which he has made use of in contempt, from comparing it with a better life.

23 For I am in a strait Paul did not desire to live with any other object in view than that of promoting the glory of Christ, and doing good to the brethren. Hence he does not reckon that he has any other advantage from living than the welfare of the brethren. But so far as concerns himself personally, it were, he acknowledges, better for him to die soon, because he would be with Christ. By his choice, however, he shews what ardent love glowed in his breast. There is nothing said here as to earthly advantages, but as to spiritual benefit, which is on good grounds supremely desirable in the view of the pious. Paul, however, as if forgetful of himself, does not merely hold himself undetermined, lest he should be swayed by a regard to his own benefit rather than that of the Philippians, but at length concludes that a regard to them preponderates in his mind. And assuredly this is in reality to live and die to Christ, when, with indifference as to ourselves, we allow ourselves to be carried and borne away withersoever Christ calls us.

Having a desire to be set free and to be with Christ These two things must be read in connection. For death of itself will never be desired, because such a desire is at variance with natural feeling, but is desired for some particular reason, or with a view to some other end. Persons in despair have recourse to it from having become weary of life; believers, on the other hand, willingly hasten forward to it, because it is a deliverance from the bondage of sin, and an introduction into the kingdom of heaven. What Paul now says is this; “I desire to die, because I will, by this means, come into immediate connection with Christ.” In the mean time, believers do not cease to regard death with horror, but when they turn their eyes to that life which follows death, they easily overcome all dread by means of that consolation. Unquestionably, every one that believes in Christ ought to be so courageous as to lift up his head on mention being made of death, delighted to have intimation of his redemption. (Luke 21:28.) From this we see how many are Christians only in name, since the greater part, on hearing mention made of death, are not merely alarmed, but are rendered almost lifeless through fear, as though they had never heard a single word respecting Christ. O the worth and value of a good conscience! Now faith is the foundation of a good conscience; nay more, it is itself goodness of conscience.

To be set free This form of expression is to be observed. Profane persons speak of death as the destruction of man, as if he altogether perished. Paul here reminds us, that death is the separation of the soul from the body. And this he expresses more fully immediately afterwards, explaining as to what condition awaits believers after death — that of dwelling with Christ We are with Christ even in this life, inasmuch as the kingdom of God is within us, (Luke 17:21,) and Christ dwells in us by faith, (Ephesians 3:17,) and has promised that he will be with us even unto the end of the world, (Matthew 28:20,) but that presence we enjoy only in hope. Hence as to our feeling, we are said to be at present at a distance from him. See 2 Corinthians 5:6. This passage is of use for setting aside the mad fancy of those who dream that souls sleep when separated from the body, for Paul openly declares that we enjoy Christ’s presence on being set free from the body.

25 And having this confidence. Some, reckoning it an inconsistent thing that the Apostle 8282     “Vn tel sainct Apostre;” — “So holy an Apostle.” should acknowledge himself to have been disappointed of his expectation, are of opinion that he was afterwards freed from bonds, and went over many countries of the world. Their fears, however, as to this are groundless, for the saints are accustomed to regulate their expectations according to the word of God, so as not to promise themselves more than God has promised. Thus, when they have a sure token of God’s will, they in that case place their reliance also upon a sure persuasion, which admits of no hesitation. Of this nature is a persuasion respecting a perpetual remission of sins, respecting the aid of the Spirit for the grace of final perseverance, (as it is called,) and respecting the resurrection of the flesh. Of this nature, also, was the assurance of the Prophets respecting their prophecies. As to other things, they expect nothing except conditionally, and hence they subject all events to the providence of God, who, they allow, sees more distinctly than they. To remain, means here, to stay for a little while: to continue, means, to remain for a long time.

26 That your glorying. The expression which he employs, ἐν ἐμόι, I have rendered de me (as to me,) because the preposition is made use of twice, but in different senses. No one assuredly will deny that I have faithfully brought out Paul’s mind. The rendering given by some — per Christum, (through Christ,) I do not approve of. For in Christ is employed in place of Secundum Christum, (According to Christ,) or Christiane, (Christianly,) to intimate that it was a holy kind of glorying. For otherwise we are commanded to glory in God alone. (1 Corinthians 1:31.) Hence malevolent persons might meet Paul with the objection, How is it allowable for the Philippians to glory as to thee? He anticipates this calumny by saying that they will do this according to Christ — glorying in a servant of Christ, with a view to the glory of his Lord, and that with an eye to the doctrine rather than to the individual, and in opposition to the false apostles, just as David, by comparing himself with hypocrites, boasts of his righteousness. (Psalm 7:8.)


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