‘In nothing shall I be ashamed!… With all boldness…, Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether it be by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ — and to die, is gain!… I am in a strait between the 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!’ Philippians1:20-25.
Calvin comments: “‘Christ,’ he (Paul) says, ‘will be magnified in my body — whether by life or by death!’… If…we give ourselves up to the good pleasure of God and have in our life the same objects as Paul had, we hope…for a prosperous issue and shall no longer have occasion to fear lest any adversity befall us. For if we live and die to Him, we are His in life and death….
“Christ is to be magnified, by full confidence!… Through our fault, He is cast down and lowered…when we give way through fear…. Christ…is declared to be gain to him both in life and in death…. It is indifferent to him…whether he lives or dies. Because, having Christ, he deems both to be ‘gain.’ And assuredly, it is Christ alone Who makes us happy both in death and in life…. Let Christ be with us, and He will bless our life as well as our death — so that both will be happy and desirable for us!…
“Men in despair are perplexed as to whether to prolong their life any further in miseries, or to end their troubles by death…. Paul on the other hand says in a spirit of contentment that he is…well prepared for death or for life, because the condition of believers in both cases is blessed….. Paul…reckons that the only value of his life, is the welfare of the brethren…. For himself personally, it would be…better to die soon — because he would be with Christ…. It is not a question here of earthly advantages, but of spiritual benefit which is on good grounds supremely desirable to the godly. Paul…, as if forgetful of himself…, at length concludes that a regard for them (his earthly fellow believers) preponderates in his mind…. This is truly to live and die in Christ, when with indifference to ourselves we are carried and borne away whithersoever Christ calls us….
“‘(I have) a desire to be set free, and to be with Christ!’… ‘I desire to die, because by this means I will arrive at union with Christ!’ Believers…when they turn their eyes to that life which follows death…, easily overcome their dread (of death)…. Everyone that believes in Christ, ought to be so courageous as to lift up his head at the mention of death — joyful at this messenger of his redemption!… Paul here reminds us that death is the loosening of the soul from the body…, explaining what conditions await believers after death — that they dwell with Christ!… This passage will refute the mad fancy of those (Anabaptists) who dream that souls sleep when separated from the body. For Paul openly declares that we enjoy Christ’s presence, on being set free.”
Calvin also says in his Institutes III:9:4: “It behoves us to live and die, to the Lord!… Let us ardently long for death!… In comparison with future immortality, let us despise life!” Calvin yet further says in his Psychopannychia: “When the Apostle longs to depart and to be with Christ (Philippians 1:23), do they (the Anabaptists) think he wishes to fall asleep so as no longer to feel any desire of Christ?!…. After death, what Paul says of himself…is applicable to all believers. ‘For us to die is gain, and to be with Christ is better!” For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain!