When Paul says these seven simple words, “For to me to live is Christ…” (Php. 1:21), what does he mean? What did he see in his spirit? What was he seeing with his inner eyes? What was his vision of Christ.
We know that man cannot be holy. Holiness is a distinctiveness of God. It makes God distinct from man. Yet Paul says, “For to me to live is Christ…” (Php. 1:21) This living of his human life on this earth is somehow so intimately one with the Spirit that he could say “For to me to live is Christ…” Realize Paul has joined himself with the Lord and became one spirit with Him. “But the one who joins himself to the Lord is one spirit with Him.” (1 Cor. 6:17) Through the expression of the Spirit of reality that lives inside of Paul, Christ has made him a son of God in life and nature. Paul becomes the expression of Christ Himself on this earth. He has become a member of Christ’s body, fully saturated by Christ Himself. That is why when he was sailing to Rome as a prisoner to stand before Caesar, and they encountered this violent wind called Euraquilo (Acts 27:14) and they were being violently storm-tossed, he stood among the men in the boat and said, “Yet now I urge you to keep up your courage, for there will be no loss of life among you, but only the ship. For this very night an angel of God to whom I belong and whom I serve stood before me, saying, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul; you must stand before Caesar; and behold, God has granted you all those who are sailing with you.’ Therefore, keep up your courage, men, for I believe God that it will turn out exactly as I have been told.” (Acts 27:22-25) Realize this is a man who has become one with Christ. His living on this earth was an expression of Christ.
“When they had been brought safely through, then we found out that the island was called Malta. The natives showed us extraordinary kindness; for because of the rain that had set in and because of the cold, they kindled a fire and received us all. But when Paul had gathered a bundle of sticks and laid them on the fire, a viper came out because of the heat and fastened itself on his hand. When the natives saw the creature hanging from his hand, they began saying to one another, ‘Undoubtedly this man is a murderer, and though he has been saved from the sea, justice has not allowed him to live.’ However he shook the creature off into the fire and suffered no harm. But they were expecting that he was about to swell up or suddenly fall down dead. But after they had waited a long time and had seen nothing unusual happen to him, they changed their minds and began to say that he was a god.” (Acts 28:1-6) Realize that Christ had worked Himself into Paul to such an extent that human problems that were contrary to God’s plans no longer affected him. He simply shook off the attacks of Satan as Christ was living in him.
How did Paul become this way? Realize he never met Jesus before His resurrection. In fact, he was persecuting the Christians when he met the resurrected Christ. He was the instigator that persecuted Stephen. He was there when Stephen was stoned.
“But being full of the Holy Spirit, he [Stephen] gazed intently into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God; and he said, ‘Behold, I see the heavens opened up and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.’ But they cried out with a loud voice, and covered their ears and rushed at him with one impulse. When they had driven him out of the city, they began stoning him; and the witnesses laid aside their robes at the feet of a young man named Saul. They went on stoning Stephen as he called on the Lord and said, ‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!’ Then falling on his knees, he cried out with a loud voice, ‘Lord, do not hold this sin against them!’ Having said this, he fell sleep.” (Acts 7:55-60)
The people placed their robes at the feet of Saul as they stoned Stephen. However, Stephen eyes were on the Lord. His inner eyes were open by the Spirit dwelling in him so he saw Jesus standing at the right hand of God. As opposed to the picture of Christ sitting (Mat. 26:64; Mark 14:62; Luke 22:69; Eph. 1:20; 2:8; Col. 3:1; Heb. 1:13; 8:1; 10:12; 12:2), here Jesus is standing, active and concerned in carrying out God’s economy, in caring for Stephen. As they stoned Stephen, he said, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!” reflecting what Jesus said at his crucifixion, “Father, into your hands I commit my Spirit.” (Luke 23:46) Then as a last line, realize, Stephen or Christ living in Stephen (for they are one Spirit), was worried about those stoning him, and said, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them!” with his last breathe. As he was dying, he was more worried about the people stoning him. Realize in Stephen, Christ has transformed him into the same image as Himself (2 Cor. 3:18). Jesus had pleaded for His accusers also. “But Jesus was saying, ‘Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.’” (Luke 23:34) This is Christ, propagated in His body, of which Stephen was a member. This is Christ expressed in His body the church. This is Christ magnified in Stephen’s body. “According to my earnest expectation and hope that in nothing I will be put to shame, but with all boldness, as always, even now Christ will be magnified in my body, whether through life or through death. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” (Php. 1:20-21 – Recovery Version) Stephen was a testimony of Christ living within him. Saul (Paul) witnessed this. “And Saul approved of his killing…” (Acts 8:1)
That is why when Saul was on the way to Damascus, when Jesus appeared to him saying, “’Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?’ And he said, ‘Who are You, Lord’ And He said, ‘I am Jesus who you are persecuting.’” (Acts 9:4-5), Saul saw what he was doing in persecuting Stephen was to Christ Himself. He saw Christ living within the expression of Stephen, whom he persecuted. He saw Christ within all the members of Christ’s body whom he had persecuted. Realize Saul was spiritually blinded and could not see the reality of the Spirit expressing Christ. Only when Christ appeared to his spirit, when the Spirit Himself witnesses with his spirit (Rom. 8:16), could Paul see. “I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear, But now my eyes see You.” (Job 42:5)
That is why, “The Holy Spirit rightly spoke through Isaiah the prophet to you fathers, saying, ‘Go to the people and say, “You will keep on hearing, but will not understand; and you will keep on seeing, but will not perceive; for the heart of this people has become dull, and with their ears they scarcely hear, and they have closed their eyes; otherwise they might see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart and return, and I would heal them.’” (Acts 28:25-27) On bended knees, I urge us all to ask God to open our eyes so we could see Him so He could express through us as His body. That Christ would be magnified in your body. That for you to live is Christ…
When Paul shook off the viper that fastened of him, even the unbelievers saw that somehow God was one with him and “…began to say that he was a god.” (Acts 28:6) Realize this is the propagation of the sons of God. Christ was the firstborn of many brothers. As the last Adam, by releasing the life-giving Spirit (1 Cor. 15:45) into the believers, He propagated Himself into man. He placed the divine life into us, being born into us so God is propagated and the reality of Christ is growing in us, maturing in His many sons. That is why we are His body. He is the Head, expressing His will, His person, and His life through the body. We serve as channels of the very expression of who He is.
That is how God makes us holy. “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” (1 Pet. 1:16)
God is love…And we are the expressed part of who He is…
“For to me, to live is Christ…” (Php. 1:21)