As We Tarry Here and Long for There #3

Thursday, November 14, 2013

“For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better: nevertheless to abide in the flesh is more needful for you” (Philippians 1:23,24 KJV).

Before we go on to the next world, we must tarry in this one….

Let us read today’s Scripture within its context: “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. But if I live in the flesh, this is the fruit of my labour: yet what I shall choose I wot not. For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better: nevertheless to abide in the flesh is more needful for you.

Obviously, Paul, in prison in Rome, was initially uncertain which one—his living or his dying—was what he wanted. It was a very complex set of choices, and to an extent, we find ourselves in such a dilemma even today.

The Apostle had been caught up into the third heaven many years earlier (2 Corinthians 12:1-7), and he knew the “gain” that awaited him after physical death. It truly was “far better” “to be with Christ.” Nevertheless, he knew that his earthly life was the only way he could continue ministering to the saints at Philippi (his audience). He acknowledged that if he died, he could no longer serve them. Yet, if he stayed on earth and preached Christianity, an “illegal religion” in the eyes of Rome, his imprisonment was certain (“the fruit of his labour;” Philippians 1:22).

Paul had hoped to be released from prison, and perhaps he did get to see these saints again in Philippi: “And having this confidence, I know that I shall abide and continue with you all for your furtherance and joy of faith; that your rejoicing may be more abundant in Jesus Christ for me by my coming to you again” (verses 25,26). Surely, even if Paul never did return to Philippi, he had made up his mind. He preferred to stay alive on earth, for the benefit of these saints….