Commentary on Philippians 1:19-21 (To Live is Christ)

Philippians 1:19-21

“19 For I know that this will turn out for my salvation through your prayers and the provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ,
20 according to my earnest expectation and hope, that I will be ashamed in nothing, but that with all boldness, now as always, Christ will be magnified in my body, whether by life or by death.”

“salvation”  (Gr. soteria – 4991)

To save, to deliver, to free, to preserve.

In the New Testament, this word usually refers to the salvation that we have in Christ, but it can also mean to be saved or delivered in a more general sense.

“provision”  (Gr. epichoregia – 2024)

Support, bountiful supply.

Based on how Paul ties this in with verse 20, I believe he is referring to deliverance from fear, shame, timidity, etc., and that he, through the prayers of God’s people and provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, he would be able to stand strong for Jesus.

Where Paul refers to the “provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ,” because of what he says next in verse 20, I believe he has in mind that whatever he needs to stand strong, the Holy Spirit will provide in abundance. There is nothing we can do in the Christian life apart from the empowerment (enabling grace) of God’s Spirit.

This provides a great example of what to pray for when we’re praying for other Christians. We’re to pray that they would learn to walk in the power of the Holy Spirit, and not try to live the Christian life in their own power. It’s only by God’s power that we’re able to live in victory over sin and over the allurements of the world.

“Spirit of Jesus Christ”

Most certainly refers to the Holy Spirit. This exact phrase occurs only in this verse. The phrase Spirit of Christ occurs in Ro 8:9 and 1 Pe 1:11. In Ro 8:9 we see the phrases in the Spirit and Spirit of God and Spirit of Christ….an obvious reference to the Trinity of God (see also Ro 8:10-11).

“20 according to my earnest expectation and hope, that I will be ashamed in nothing, but that with all boldness, now as always, Christ will be magnified in my body, whether by life or by death.”

“earnest expectation”  (Gr. apokaradokia – 603)

Anxious and persistent expectation, intense anticipation.

Used only here and in Ro 8:19.


“Earnest expectation (603) (apokaradokia from apo = from + kara = the head + dokeo = look, watch) is only used twice in the NT but is a picturesque Greek word which literally means to watch with one’s head erect or outstretched and so to direct attention, with intense expectation and earnest watching.”

“hope”  (Gr. elpece – 1680)

Confident expectation, expectation of good, well-founded hope.

“boldness”  (Gr. parrhesia – 3954)

Freedom of speaking, unreserved speaking, speaking with fearless confidence, courage.

“as always”  (Gr. pantote – 3842)

At all times.

“magnified”  (Gr. megaluno – 3170)

To make great, to raise in status, to give dignity and honor to, to exalt.


“Be conspicuously and gloriously manifested”

It was Paul’s intense expectation and hope that in regard to Christ, he would not do or say anything that would make him ashamed, or bring about shame….but that he would always be bold in both his words and in his life, and in so doing Christ would be magnified and honored through it all.

“in my body, whether by life or by death.”

Paul was in prison, so whether it ended in his death or in his release, or whether he was to speak for Christ in court or not, it was his concern and  confident expectation that Christ would be glorified in all things and at all times. Again, this would be the result of the prayers of other Christians and the enabling grace of the Spirit of Christ. Jesus would magnify Himself as He lived His life through Paul:

“I have been crucified with Christ, and it is no longer I who live, but Christ living in me; and the life that I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me.”  (Ga 2:20)

This verse has always been a favorite of mine because of its all-encompassing nature. It covers the Christian life in whole. It challenges us to live our lives in a manner that would never dishonor the name of Christ, but that He would be seen and accurately represented in every area of our lives.

“21 For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.”

Whether Paul’s imprisonment led to his freedom or to his death, his life was all about Jesus Christ. Whether “by life or by death” (vs. 20), it was his one desire and purpose in life to please his Lord. Nothing else mattered. Life in this world meant nothing to him, except that it provided the means of serving Christ and making an eternal difference in people’s lives.

“to die is gain

Life in this world prepared Paul for the next life. What was true of Paul is true of of all Christians. Our perspective of life should be a reflection of his, for he walked with Christ as few ever have. We can have confidence in what he experienced in his relationship with Jesus, and  thus live as Paul did – in total abandonment of self and of the things of this world. 

When we leave this world, we enter into the very presence of God, where we will dwell forever and ever. This old world will be forever behind us, so what value is there in living for that which is only temporary? If we remain firm in our faith in Christ, as Paul did, we will gain that which is eternal. It’s simply not worth living for the kingdom of this world, when we have the eternal and glorious Kingdom of God to look forward to.