23For I am in a strait Paul did not desire to live with any other object in view that that of promoting the glory of Christ, and doing good to the brethren. Hence he does not reckon that he has any other advantage from living than the welfare of the brethren. But so far as concerns himself personally, it were, he acknowledges, better for him to die soon, because he would be with Christ. By his choice, however, he shews what ardent love glowed in his breast. There is nothing said here as to earthly advantages, but as to spiritual benefit, which is on good grounds supremely desirable in the view of the pious. Paul, however, as if forgetful of himself, does not merely hold himself undetermined, lest he should be swayed by a regard to his own benefit rather than that of the Philippians, but at length concludes that a regard to them preponderates in his mind. And assuredly this is in reality to live and die to Christ, when, with indifference as to ourselves, we allow ourselves to be carried and borne away withersoever Christ calls us.
Having a desire to be set free and to be with Christ These two things must be read in connection. For death of itself will never be desired, because such a desire is at variance with natural feeling, but is desired for some particular reason, or with a view to some other end. Persons in despair have recourse to it from having become weary of life; believers, on the other hand, willingly hasten forward to it, because it is a deliverance from the bondage of sin, and an introduction into the kingdom of heaven. What Paul now says is this; “ desire to die, because I will, by this means, come into immediate connection with Christ.” In the mean time, believers do not cease to regard death with horror, but when they turn their eyes to that life which follows death, they easily overcome all dread by means of that consolation. Unquestionably, every one that believes in Christ ought to be so courageous as to lift up his head on mention being made of death, delighted to have intimation of his redemption. (Luk_21:28.) From this we see how many are Christians only in name, since the greater part, on hearing mention made of death, are not merely alarmed, but are rendered almost lifeless through fear, as though they had never heard a single word respecting Christ. O the worth and value of a good conscience! Now faith is the foundation of a good conscience; nay more, it is itself goodness of conscience.
To be set free This form of expression is to be observed. Profane persons speak of death as the destruction of man, as if he altogether perished. Paul here reminds us, that death is the separation of the soul from the body. And this he expresses more fully immediately afterwards, explaining as to what condition awaits believers after death — that of dwelling with Christ We are with Christ even in this life, inasmuch as the kingdom of God is within us, (Luk_17:21,) and Christ dwells in us by faith, (Eph_3:17,) and has promised that he will be with us even unto the end of the world, (Mat_28:20,) but that presence we enjoy only in hope. Hence as to our feeling, we are said to be at present at a distance from him. See 2Co_5:6. This passage is of use for setting aside the mad fancy of those who dream that souls sleep when separated from the body, for Paul openly declares that we enjoy Christ’ presence on being set free from the body.