Upon closer inspection, however, we also ready that Paul is also a bit uncertain. He says as much in verse 22: “I am hard pressed between two choices,” that is, between two ways: that of living and that of dying (1:21). And then he write: “And I don’t know what I prefer” (1:22). What shall Paul choose?
In Paul’s mind, if he continues to live “in the flesh,” if he continues to live on this earth, he will continue to carry out his ministry, bearing the fruit of Christ (1:22), and, hopefully, continue to bring honor to God (1:21). That is a wonderful goal, and he hopes the Philippians will join him in this endeavor.
But if Paul departs this world and dies, if he is executed, he will also be with Christ (and that is not bad either), for the ultimate goal here is to glorify Christ, whether in life or in death (1:20). This is why dying is gain: dying is gain because it will bring Paul into a “nearer and fuller union with Christ.” Not because he wants to die, but because, even in death, he knows he will bring glory to God, for he knows that nothing can separate him from God (Romans 8:38).
That’s the logic: nothing can separate Paul (or us) from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord: whether in life or in death, we belong to Christ (Romans 14:8)! And Paul is not going to waver from this commitment! His top priority is to live Christ! His whole existence will focus on Jesus as Lord, as Savior, as King, as Messiah – as the very foundation of his life. No worldly possession, no sport, no school, no earthly ruler, no celebrity, no country, no-thing – will be able to compete with Jesus!
How may this witness cut against the grain of our society? How may it also give hope? How may we walk in the assurance of God’s peace and grace in this world and in the world to come?
Pastor Andy Kinsey