1 Cor. 9:24 All run, but only one receives the prize.
Phil.3:14 I press toward the mark for the prize. (Literally: According to a mark, I press toward the prize)
One of the all-too-common accusations against the gospel of the free grace of God (salvation by grace alone through faith alone) is that it’s merely an excuse to sin. Well, apart from that being nonsense and addressed by Paul with a “God forbid!” (Rom 6:2, etc.), it is wildly and eternally dangerous should a Christian believe it.
There are two reasons for this. First, when a Christian (still having an old nature in these corruptible bodies of death) tries to live according to his flesh, he finds himself vexed and miserable. Secondly, he is forfeiting a “better resurrection.” There is a judgment for Christians. There is a prize to be won. There is a “better resurrection.” This is what we will briefly address in this note.
In the great “faith” chapter of Hebrews 11, we are told that the patriarchs and matriarchs eschewed the riches and rewards of this world for the riches and rewards of an age to come. We are told “Others were tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection.” Although the free gift of eternal life (deliverance from the curse in resurrection), the absolute cleansing of sin and its consequences, is secure in the perfect, holy, and finished work of the Son of God through his death, burial (lack of decay) and resurrection, we must consider our resurrection and how we will fare as we “run for the prize” of our calling.
The great men and women of faith didn’t suffer just to suffer. They didn’t look towards eternity and decide, “hey, I think I’ll give up everything now, just ‘cause.”
There is reason the first three chapter of Ephesians are used by Paul (and the Holy Spirit) to explain the creation of the “one new man” of this current age and the last three chapters are used to explain how we are to strive to live our lives as members of that Body. Secure in Christ forever, but striving for a prize.
Our sin in Christ is atoned. We are “perfected forever” by the one sacrifice of Christ, never to be repeated (Heb 10:10-13; etc). We rest in that love and forgiveness. But from there, we press on to win a “prize.”
This is an enormous topic, but I would encourage those who are not resting in the finished work to put your faith in the one, perfect, eternal sacrifice of the Son of God. For those who have found that place of rest, I would encourage you to “press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”
Let us strive to “walk in the newness of life.” consistent with the hope and calling of this age.
In each dispensation, there is the discovery of a calling accompanying the gift, and something to be pursued beyond the gift. The gift can never be forfeited, but that which follows may be forfeited. We live in the "present age" (see related posts) and we run for the prize of OUR calling according to the road set before us by our apostle, Paul, in the epistles for this age.