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To Remain Is Necessary


For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. But if I am to live on in the flesh, this will mean fruitful labor for me; and I do not know which to choose. But I am hard-pressed from both directions, having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better; yet to remain on in the flesh is more necessary for your sake.

—Philippians 1:21–24

Having professed his greatest desire be at home with the Lord, what made Paul so willing to forego that “very much better” hope for the benefit of others? Sibbes writes,


Holy and gracious men, that are led by the Spirit of God, can deny themselves and their own best good for the church’s benefit. They know that God hath appointed them as instruments to convey good to others; and knowing this, they labour to come to Paul’s spirit here, to desire to live, to have life in patience, and death in desire in regard of themselves; for it were much better for a good man to be in heaven, out of misery, out of this conflicting condition with the devil and devilish-minded men.

The reason is, because a good man, as soon as he is a good man, hath the spirit of love in him, and love seeketh not its own,’ 1 Cor. xiii. 5, but the good of another; and as the love of Christ and the love of God possesseth and seizeth upon the soul, so self-love decays. What is gracious love but a decay of self-love? The more self-love decays, the more we deny ourselves.

Again, God’s people have the Spirit of Christ in them, who minded not his own things, 1 Cor. x. 24. If Christ had minded his own things, where had our salvation been? Christ was content to leave heaven, and to take our nature upon him, to be Emmanuel, God with us, that we might be with God for ever in heaven. He was content, not only to leave heaven, but to be born in the womb of a virgin. He was content to stoop to the grave. He stooped as low as hell in love to us. Now, where Christ’s Spirit is, it will bring men from their altitudes and excellencies, and make them to stoop to serve the church, and account it an honour to be an instrument to do good. Christ was content to be accounted, not only a servant of God, but of the church. ’My righteous servant,’ &c., Isa. liii. 11. Those that have the Spirit of Christ have a spirit of self-denial of their own. We see the blessed angels are content to be ministering spirits for us, and it is thought to be the sin of the devil, pride, when he scorned to stoop to the keeping of man, an inferior creature to himself. The blessed angels do not scorn to attend upon a poor child, ’little ones.’ A Christian is a consecrated person, and he is none of his own. He is a sacrifice as soon as he is a Christian. He is Christ’s. He gives himself to Christ; and as he gives himself, so he gives his life and all to Christ, as Paul saith of the Corinthians, they gave themselves and their goods to him, 2 Cor. viii. 5. When a Christian gives himself to Christ, he gives all to Christ; all his labour and pains, and whatsoever he knows that Christ can serve himself of him for his church’s good and his glory. He knows that Christ is wiser than he; therefore he resigns himself to his disposal, resolving, if he live, he lives to the Lord; and if he die, he dies to the Lord, Rom. xiv. 8; that so, whether he live or die, he may be the Lord’s.

—Richard Sibbes, Christ Is Best; Or, St Paul’s Strait., Works (Banner of Truth, 2001), 1:344–345

May God give us the same motivation as we “remain on in the flesh,” serving our families, churches, and communities.

Posted 2017·08·01 by David Kjos
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Posted in: Richard Sibbes · Works of Richard Sibbes

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