As he waits for his trial, knowing fully that the likely verdict will be death, he believes that his situation will result in his deliverance; either way. He believes that even should he die, that he will not be “ashamed” and that he will have the courage to exalt Christ in his body. You can see the connection he makes between “ashamed” on the one hand and “courage” on the other. If he is sentenced to die, he will walk to the execution with his head held high as one who is looking forward to being with Christ.
Then comes that famous verse, verse 21: For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.
Just look at what troubles him; he is having a hard time deciding which is better; life or death. If he lives on in the body, he will have much work to do for the cause of Christ, but he is to die in the body, he will be with Christ. What a choice! He would rather be with Christ and away from this life, and yet he seems to think that maybe it would be better for everyone else if he remains alive a while longer so that he may continue to mentor them in the faith.
Let’s think about this, pray about this and reflect. For Paul; it was very real. What was his primary concern? It was to continue the glorious work of Christ here on earth so that many would come to salvation. Paul was 100% motivated by God’s purpose. How does this strike you?
How does this strike me? To be honest about it, it’s a little embarrassing. How often do I think I need a “break”? How often do I hesitate because I don’t want to tick anybody off, or because I don’t want to look foolish…? Could I look death square in the eye and not blink? I pray for God’s courage in these trials when they come.
Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in the one Spirit, striving together as one for the faith of the gospel without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you. This is a sign to them that they will be destroyed, but that you will be saved—and that by God. For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for him, since you are going through the same struggle you saw I had, and now hear that I still have.
Paul winds up the first chapter of this letter with an appeal to stand firm in unity, come what may. You might notice that this is a common New Testament theme, important as it is for all of us to heed. He urges the people to conduct themselves in a way that is “worthy of the gospel”, an interesting way to approach the subject. The rest of the letter will show what this “worthiness” looks like.