Bible Verse Explanations and Resources


Philippians 1:23

Adam Clarke
Bible Commentary

For I am in a strait betwixt two - Viz. the dying now, and being immediately with God; or living longer to preach and spread the Gospel, and thus glorify Christ among men.

Having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ - Την επιθυμιαν εχων εις το αναλυσαι . It appears to be a metaphor taken from the commander of a vessel, in a foreign port, who feels a strong desire αναλυσαι, to set sail, and get to his own country and family; but this desire is counterbalanced by a conviction that the general interests of the voyage may be best answered by his longer stay in the port where his vessel now rides; for he is not in dock, he is not aground, but rides at anchor in the port, and may any hour weigh and be gone. Such was the condition of the apostle: he was not at home, but although he was abroad it was on his employer's business; he wishes to return, and is cleared out and ready to set sail, but he has not received his last orders from his owner, and whatever desire he may feel to be at home he will faithfully wait till his final orders arrive.

Which is far better - Πολλῳ - μαλλον κρεισσον· Multo magis melior, Vulgate; much more better. The reader will at once see that the words are very emphatic.

Albert Barnes
Notes on the Whole Bible

For I am in a strait betwixt two - Two things, each of which I desire. I earnestly long to be with Christ; and I desire to remain to be useful to the world. The word rendered “I am in a strait” - συνέχομαι sunechomai- means to be pressed on or constrained, as in a crowd; to feel oneself pressed or pent up so as not to know what to do; and it here means that he was in perplexity and doubt, and did not know what to choose. “The words of the original are very emphatic. They appear to be derived from a ship when lying at anchor, and when violent winds blow upon it that would drive it out to sea. The apostle represents himself as in a similar condition. His strong affection for them bound his heart to them - as an anchor holds a ship to its moorings and yet there was a heavenly influence bearing upon him - like the gale upon the vessel - which would bear him away to heaven.” Burder, in Ros. Alt. u. neu. Morgenland, in loc.

Having a desire to depart - To die - to leave this world for a better. People, as they are by nature, usually dread to die. Few are even made willing to die. Almost none desire to die - and even then they wish it only as the least of two evils. Pressed down by pain and sorrow; or sick and weary of the world, the mind may be worked up into a desire to be away. But this with the world is, in all cases, the result of misanthropy, or morbid feeling, or disappointed ambition, or an accumulation of many sorrows. Wetstein has adduced on this verse several most beautiful passages from the classic writers, in which people expressed a desire to depart - but all of them probably could be traced to disappointed ambition, or to mental or bodily sorrows, or to dissatisfaction with the world. It was from no such wish that Paul desired to die. It was not because he hated man - for he ardently loved him. It was not because he had been disappointed about wealth and honor - for he had sought neither. It was not because he had not been successful - for no man had been more so. It was not because he had been subjected to pains and imprisonments - for he was willing to bear them. It was not because he was old, and infirm, and a burden to the world - for, from anything that appears, he was in the vigor of life, and in the fullness of his strength. It was from a purer, higher motive than any of these - the strength of attachment which bound him to the Saviour, and which made him long to be with him.

And to be with Christ - We may remark on this expression:

(1) That this was the true reason why he wished to be away. It was his strong love to Christ; his anxious wish to be with him; his firm belief that in his presence was “fulness of joy.”

(2) Paul believed that the soul of the Christian would be immediately with the Saviour at death. It was evidently his expectation that he would at once pass to his presence, and not that he would remain in an intermediate state to some far distant period.

(3) the soul does not sleep at death. Paul expected to be with Christ, and to be conscious of the fact - to see him, and to partake of his glory.

(4) the soul of the believer is made happy at death. To be with Christ is synonymous with being in heaven - for Christ is in heaven, and is its glory. We may add:

(a) that this wish to be with Christ constitutes a marked difference between a Christian and other people. Other people may be willing to die; perhaps be desirous to die, because their sorrows are so great that they feel that they cannot be borne. But the Christian desires to depart from a different motive altogether. It is to be with Christ - and this constitutes a broad line of distinction between him and other people.

(b) A mere willingness to die, or even a desire to die, is no certain evidence of preparation for death. If this willingness or desire is caused by mere intensity of suffering; if it is produced by disgust at the world or by disappointment; if it arises from some view of fancied Elysian fields beyond the grave, it constitutes no evidence whatever of a preparation for death. I have seen not a few persons who were not professed Christians on a bed of death, and not a few willing to die, nay, not a few who wished to depart. But in the vast majority of instances it was because they were sick of life, or because their pain made them sigh for relief, or because they were so wretched that they did not care what happened - and this they and their friends construed into an evidence that they were prepared to die! In most instances this is a miserable delusion; in no case is a mere willingness to die an evidence of preparation for death.

Which is far better - Would be attended with more happiness; and would be a higher, holier state than to remain on earth. This proves also that the soul of the Christian at death is made at once happy - for a state of insensibility can in no way be said to be a better condition than to remain in this present world. The Greek phrase here - πολλῷ μᾶλλον κρεῖσσον pollō mallon kreisson- is very emphatic, and the apostle seems to labor for language which will fully convey his idea. It means, “by much more, or rather better,” and the sense is, “better beyond all expression.” Doddridge. See numerous examples illustrating the phrase in Wetstein. Paul did not mean to say that he was merely willing to die, or that he acquiesced in its necessity, but that the fact of being with Christ was a condition greatly to be preferred to remaining on earth. This is the true feeling of Christian piety; and having this feeling, death to us will have no terrors.

Matthew Henry
Concise Bible Commentary
Death is a great loss to a carnal, worldly man, for he loses all his earthly comforts and all his hopes; but to a true believer it is gain, for it is the end of all his weakness and misery. It delivers him from all the evils of life, and brings him to possess the chief good. The apostle's difficulty was not between living in this world and living in heaven; between these two there is no comparison; but between serving Christ in this world and enjoying him in another. Not between two evil things, but between two good things; living to Christ and being with him. See the power of faith and of Divine grace; it can make us willing to die. In this world we are compassed with sin; but when with Christ, we shall escape sin and temptation, sorrow and death, for ever. But those who have most reason to desire to depart, should be willing to remain in the world as long as God has any work for them to do. And the more unexpected mercies are before they come, the more of God will be seen in them.