The Gift vs The Prize
One time I asked a Bible study group in the church where I ministered if they knew the difference between a "gift" and a "prize." The majority were immediately certain that they knew. I had them turn in their Bibles to Romans 6:23 where it speaks of the "gift" of God which is eternal life, and then Philippians 3:14 where we read of the "prize" of the high calling. Then I asked if they thought the two passages were referring to the same thing. They looked a little puzzled. Evidently such a thought had never occurred to most of them. Why should it? Most Christians have read the Bible so long through rose-colored glasses of traditional theology, that it is difficult for them to take the simple meaning of words and apply them correctly.
In II Timothy 2:15, Paul admonishes us to "study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth." But how does one "rightly divide" the Word of Truth? The Greek word orthotomeo means 'to cut straight' (divide), and as Paul is speaking of a good workman, he must be thinking of some work in which the workman's skill consists in cutting straight; perhaps his own trade, in which it was all important to cut the pieces straight that were afterwards to be joined together to make a tent. To "rightly divide the word of Truth" means, at least in part, to properly "cut straight," divide or distinguish between the various portions of Divine Truth that they might be fit together into one harmonious whole.
Does it make sense to call salvation, or eternal life, both a gift and a prize? Does it not make better sense to "rightly divide" the two, and by diligent study, show by many Scriptures that there is a "prize" to be won as well as a "gift" to be received? And thus instead of making God's Word contradict itself, fit each portion of truth into its proper place in the Divine scheme of things and produce one harmonious whole.
If we are to "rightly divide" the word of Truth, we must distinguish between salvation, as such, which is the gift of God, and the "high calling" which is something to be attained to. This is brought out by Paul in I Corinthians 9:24, where he uses the same Greek word translated "prize" as we find in Philippians 3:14. He shows it to be like the prize won in the games or athletic contests of the time. "Know ye not that they which run a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain." In the same chapter, Paul indicates his own apprehension of failure to obtain this prize:
"I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one beating the air: but I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection, lest that by any means when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway." (I Corinthians 9:26-27)
How different are these words than those of the Apostle which we read in II Timothy 1:12: "For I know Whom I have believed, and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him against that day."
In one instance we have apprehension and in the other certitude. Should we not "rightly divide" these Scriptures and realize that in the latter words Paul was speaking of his certainty of salvation (eternal life), whereas in the former he realizes there is something else which he had not yet attained, and which would require all the energies and devotion of his life. Hear his words: "... if by any means I may attain unto the resurrection from [out from among] the dead. Not that I have already obtained or am already made perfect: but I press on, if so be that I may lay hold on that for which also I was laid hold on by Christ Jesus. Brethren, I count not myself yet to have laid hold: but one thing I do, forgetting the things which are behind, and stretching forward to the things which are before, I press on toward the goal unto the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 3:11-14)
The prize which Paul is so eager to attain is referred to in the above passage as the "high calling." The Greek word translate "high" may also be translated "above" or "upwards." Thus the "high calling" is a summons or invitation to come up higher. This is in harmony with the statement in Hebrews 3:1: "Wherefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling." It is a call or summons to attain to the glories of heaven itself. All of us who have been saved are partakers of (associates in) this heavenly calling. But - we must "give diligence to make our calling and election sure" (II Pet. 1:10). Certainly this is not the same as the GIFT of eternal life which is now the present possession of every born again Christian. The distinction is made clear in II Timothy 1:9 where Paul speaks of God Who "saved us, and called us with a holy calling." The two ideas would not be separated by the conjunction "and" if they were one and the same. Paul, in Romans 11:29, speaks of the gifts and the callings of God, indicating that they are not the same.
NOW the picture comes into focus. Obviously, if "heaven" is a PRIZE to be won, then the GIFT of eternal life must provide only for restore life on the same plane on which it was lost - the EARTHLY! Adam was on earth, not in heaven when he forfeited deathless life. The PRIZE involves being "joint hears" with Christ and His own (heavenly) realm, to rule and reign with Him over the earth (Rom. 8:17; Rev. 5:10, 20:6). Those who fail to make this "calling" must come back to earth in the coming Kingdom age to live in deathless physical bodies. The fact that many saved ones are now in that realm called "paradise" in no way indicates that they will be a part of that coming "Heavenly Kingdom" as "co-heirs and co-rulers" with Christ. Paradise is an intermediate state of bliss for departed souls who have been saved, but it is in no way synonymous with the glories of the coming Kingdom of Christ where those who have overcome will rule and reign with Him. Resurrected life back to this earth is to be the lot of many saved ones until they have fully entered into all that as been ordained for them. Then at some future date they shall be translated into the Heavenly realms, and they will operate no longer in a physical but in a glorified body.
We have seen from three different Scriptures that the PRIZE is a high calling, a holy calling and a heavenly calling. Let us examine these thoughts a little further. We know that the word "high" indicates that which is lofty or elevated. Thus, in type, the high calling would b e symbolized by the top or summit of a mountain which rises above the ground level. Moses, on the top of Mount Sinai, would typify the high calling. The word "high" also means 'difficult to comprehend', 'of great price', or 'greater price than usual'. Thus the "high calling" is not for easy going, indulgent Christians. A price must be paid! Paul knew well the price: a total renunciation of the things of the world. Hear his words: "Howbeit, what things were gain to me, these have I counted loss for Christ. Yea verily, and I count all things loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for Whom I suffered the loss of all things and do count them but refuse, that I may gain Christ . . . that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His suffering, becoming conformed unto His death; if by any means I may attain unto the resurrection from [out from among] the dead." (Philippians 3:7-11).
Paul is referring to the "first resurrection" of those who will "reign with Him" (Rev. 20:6).
The word "high" also means 'elevated in rank, condition or office'. Those who attain unto the high calling are to receive positions of authority and rank far above those who enter the earthly kingdom. As a matter of fact they are to rule over the earthly kingdom. "Blessed and holy is he that has part in the first resurrection: on such the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years." (Revelation 20:6)
Of the Apostles, Jesus said, "Ye shall sit on twelve thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel" (Matt. 19:28). According to Revelation 5:10, those to be made priests and kings shall reign on (over) the earth. Paul says in I Corinthians 6:2-3, "Do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world? Know ye not that we shall judge angels?" Thus those of the "high calling" are elevated even above angels!
The calling is not only high, it is also holy (II Tim. 1:9), "follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord"(Heb. 12:14. Holiness means separation in spirit from the things of the world. The Israelites, delivered from Egypt and on their way to Canaan, typify the Christians of this age who have been delivered from the pollution of this world and are on their way to the Heavenly Kingdom. Numerous and detailed laws did God give the Israelites to teach them holiness (separation)from that which defiles and makes "unclean." Most of these laws are found in Leviticus, where repeatedly did God say, "Ye shall be holy, for I am holy" (Lev. 11:44 and etc.). "I am the Lord your God, which have separated you from other people" (Lev. 20:24). All these things happened unto them for examples (types); and they are written for our admonition (I Cor. 10:11). "Wherefore, come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing, and I WILL RECEIVE YOU" (II Cor. 6:17). "But as He which has called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation: because it is written, Be ye holy, for I am holy" (I Pet. 1:15). The church which is to become the bride of Christ is to be presented to Him a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing; "but that it should be holy and without blemish" (Eph. 5:27). Certainly most Christians have not yet attained to this kind of holiness!
The calling is also a "heavenly" calling. "Wherefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling" (Heb. 3:1). The PRIZE of the high calling is Heaven itself; or we might say the Heavenly Kingdom" or realm which is being prepared for those who love Him with all of their hearts and souls, and who are being perfected [editor's note: completed] into His likeness. Since "flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God" (I Cor. 15:20), it becomes evident that those who enter therein are to be clothed with bodies commensurate with the Heavenly realm. Paul says, "For our citizenship is in heaven; whence also we wait for a Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall fashion anew the body of our humiliation, that it may be conformed to the body of His Glory" (Philippians 3:20-21).
We read in I Corinthians 15:40 that there are celestial (heavenly) bodies, and bodies terrestrial (earthly), and that the two differ in glory. Paul also uses the terms "natural" bodies are for the earth, and "spiritual" bodies are for the heavens. The New Testament repeatedly speaks of this entrance into the Heavenly realm as being "glorified," or entering into "glory." "If so be that we suffer with Him, that we may be glorified with Him" (Rom. 8:17). This, of course, indicates an adornment and beautification far surpassing that of the earthly glory. It is that "glory" with which Christ Himself was adorned after the resurrection and transformation of His earthly body. "Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into His glory?" (Lk. 24:26). Those who are to be glorified with Him are to become like Him.
"Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it is not yet manifest what we shall be. We know that, when He shall be manifested, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is" (I John 3:2). Surely, it staggers our imagination to realize just how high, holy and heavenly this calling is!
Though this prize is something to be attained to, we must not harbor the idea that it is something achieved through our own effort or merit alone. It is "Christ in you, the hope of glory. (Col. 1:27). It is the power of His Spirit dwelling within that enables one to overcome the world, even as He overcame the world and entered into glory. HE now lives to make intercession for us (Rom. 8:26-27). Only those who have allowed the Lord, by His Spirit, to do a perfect (complete) work in them (Phil. 1:6) can hope to be "joint heirs with Christ" (Rom. 8:17) in His own (heavenly) realm. How many have been lulled into the lethargy and slumber of the "foolish virgins" because the Word was not "rightly divided" to them; and they thought all there was to do was to believe, be baptized, and live a fairly respectable life, and a mansion in Heaven was awaiting them.
"For many are called but few are chosen" (Matt. 22:14). I used to think that this meant only a few would be saved the rest eternally lost. I now realize that many saved ones are called to "His kingdom and glory," (I Thess. 2:12) but few give diligence to ". . . make their calling and election sure . . ." (II Pet. 1:10). Shall we not "rightly divide" the Word of truth? We need to live in the joy and assurance of our salvation, but we also need to press on toward the "prize of the high calling." "Where He saith, Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light" (Eph. 5:14).