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20It is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be put to shame in any way, but that by my speaking with all boldness, Christ will be exalted now as always in my body, whether by life or by death. 21For to me, living is Christ and dying is gain. 22If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me; and I do not know which I prefer. 23I am hard pressed between the two: my desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better;

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20. According to my earnest expectation—The Greek expresses, "expectation with uplifted head (Lu 21:28) and outstretched neck." Ro 8:19 is the only other place in the New Testament that the word occurs. Tittmann says, in both places it implies not mere expectation, but the anxious desire of an anticipated prosperous issue in afflictive circumstances. The subject of his earnest expectation which follows, answers to "my salvation" (Php 1:19).

in nothing I shall be ashamed—in nothing have reason to be ashamed of "my work for God, or His work in me" [Alford]. Or, "in nothing be disappointed in my hope, but that I may fully obtain it" [Estius]. So "ashamed" is used in Ro 9:33.

all boldness—"all" is opposed to "in nothing," as "boldness" is the opposite to "ashamed."

so now also—when "my body" is "in bonds" (Php 1:17).

Christ—not Paul, "shall be magnified."

life, or by death—Whatever be the issue, I cannot lose; I must be the gainer by the event. Paul was not omniscient; in the issue of things pertaining to themselves, the apostles underwent the same probation of faith and patience as we.

21. For—in either event (Php 1:20) I must be the gainer, "For to me," &c.

to live is Christ—whatever life, time, and strength, I have, is Christ's; Christ is the sole object for which I live (Ga 2:20).

to die is gain—not the act of dying, but as the Greek ("to have died") expresses, the state after death. Besides the glorification of Christ by my death, which is my primary object (Php 1:20), the change of state caused by death, so far from being a matter of shame (Php 1:20) or loss, as my enemies suppose, will be a positive "gain" to me.

22. Rather as Greek, "But if to live in the flesh (if), this (I say, the continuance in life which I am undervaluing) be the fruit of my labor (that is, be the condition in which the fruit of my ministerial labor is involved), then what I shall choose I know not (I cannot determine with myself, if the choice were given me, both alternatives being great goods alike)." So Alford and Ellicott. Bengel takes it as English Version, which the Greek will bear by supposing an ellipsis, "If to live in the flesh (be my portion), this (continuing to live) is the fruit of my labor," that is, this continuance in life will be the occasion of my bringing in "the fruit of labor," that is, will be the occasion of "labors" which are their own "fruit" or reward; or, this my continuing "to live" will have this "fruit," namely, "labors" for Christ. Grotius explains "the fruit of labor" as an idiom for "worthwhile"; If I live in the flesh, this is worth my while, for thus Christ's interest will be advanced, "For to me to live is Christ" (Php 1:21; compare Php 2:30; Ro 1:13). The second alternative, namely, dying, is taken up and handled, Php 2:17, "If I be offered."

23. For—The oldest manuscripts read, "But." "I know not (Php 1:22), BUT am in a strait (am perplexed) betwixt the two (namely, 'to live' and 'to die'), having the desire for departing (literally, 'to loose anchor,' 2Ti 4:6) and being with Christ; FOR (so the oldest manuscripts) it is by far better"; or as the Greek, more forcibly, "by far the more preferable"; a double comparative. This refutes the notion of the soul being dormant during its separation from the body. It also shows that, while he regarded the Lord's advent as at all times near, yet that his death before it was a very possible contingency. The partial life eternal is in the interval between death and Christ's second advent; the perfectional, at that advent [Bishop Pearson]. To depart is better than to remain in the flesh; to be with Christ is far, far better; a New Testament hope (Heb 12:24), [Bengel].