Pressing On To Win The Prize
By R. E. Neighbour
The Apostle Paul wanted to attain to something to which all saints will not attain. "If by any means I may attain unto the resurrection from the dead" (Phil. 3:11), he wrote. Paul wanted to attain unto the ekanastasis eknekron, which, literally translated, is the out-resurrection, out of the dead. This is a statement which, as far as we know, is never found elsewhere in Scripture.
He certainly did not want to attain unto the resurrection out of the dead, for of that resurrection he was positively assured. In fact, the resurrection out of the dead ones is not an attainment at all. It is for all believers whether they seek after it or not. Seeking to attain the resurrection is sheer folly, because it is assured by God's unerring promise.
Job could say without any misgivings, "I know...though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God" (Job 19:26). So do we know that the Lord will "descend from Heaven with a shout...and the dead in Christ shall rise first" (1 Thes. 4:16). Paul knew this as well as Job knew it, and as well as we also know it. What then? Simply this, Paul could not have in mind a resurrection from the dead which he knew was his by God's unswerving promise.
In order to grasp the full meaning of this striking expression we need to study several things with caution.
We must tarry a while and consider the word "attain." In many Scriptures we find this desire of "attainment," or parallels, expressed in various ways. May we give you a few of them?
1 Corinthians 9:24-27: "One receiveth the prize." "So run, that ye may obtain." "I therefore so run...so fight I." "Lest...I myself shall be a castaway."
2 Corinthians 5:9: "We labor that...we may be accepted by Him." "We must all appear." "That every one may receive the things done in his body."
1 Corinthians 3:10-15: "Take heed how he buildeth." "Every man's work shall be made manifest." "Saved; yet so as by fire."
Colossians 3:24: "Of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance." "For ye serve the Lord Christ."
2 Timothy 4:5-8: "Watch thou...endure afflictions...work." "I have fought a good fight." "Henceforth there is laid up for me." "And not to me only, but unto all them also that love His appearing."
Hebrews 3:12, 14; 4:1: "Take heed, brethren, lest...." "We are made partakers of Christ if...." "Let us therefore fear, lest...."
2 Peter 1:5, 10-11: "Giving all diligence, add...." "Make your calling and election sure." "For so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly."
Revelation 3:5: "He that overcometh...shall...."
The Scriptures above, and many others, show us there is a place for each believer to have an ambition to attain something more than those things which lie in the realm of pure grace. Mark also that all the eight Scriptures, listed above, express things which are ours by attainment, and all look beyond to the day of the resurrection of saints, and the rewards then to be meted out at the judgment seat of Christ.
We must tarry a while at the word, "out-resurrection." In order to grasp the deeper gripping of this word, or rather of this combination of two words, let us observe some other expressions in this same portion of Scripture:
(1) In Philippians 3:11 we have our first unfolding of the gravity of the words: "If by any means I might attain unto the out-resurrection out of the dead." The stress should be upon the first clause: "If by any means I might attain." Paul counted all things but loss for Christ, yes, he had suffered the loss of all things, and suffered them gladly.
Then he had specified his ambition to know Christ, and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being made conformable to His death – all of this is included in the words, "If by any means." Thus there was no length to which Paul was not willingly ready to go that he might attain the out-resurrection.
(2) In Philippians 3:12 Paul said, "Not as though I had already attained." There was no certainty in Paul's mind, no assurance that he had attained. He knew whom he had believed. He knew he was saved, and that he would be caught up into the air at Christ's coming. He knew that he had eternal life, and that he would inherit with all saints in light. However, he did not know, and neither do any of us know what allotment shall be ours at the judgment seat of Christ. He knew that God would render a right judgment of each believer's works, yet he said, "Not that I have attained."
(3) In Philippians 3:12 Paul continues, "I follow after, that I may apprehend." Paul was like the hart longing after the water brooks. Alas, alas, how few Christians have any such a yearning, let alone any such a "following after!” God forgive indolent Christians of their folly!
We can now understand many things in Paul's related sufferings for Christ, and many things in his faithful continuance in labors and travels abundant, that may have seemed strange before to us. May we be frank with our readers, we too are pressing on and on and oh – if it may be that we may attain to ekanastasis company. We grant that if Paul could boast of no such an attainment, we a thousand times less could so boast. Yet we may follow after, that we may attain.
(4) In Philippians 3:13 we have the great consummation of Paul's great ambition in the expression: "This one thing I do." This expression shows not merely a desire on the Apostle's part to obtain the out-resurrection, but it shows that it was, with Paul, a supreme desire. To attain the out-resurrection was with him the "one thing" which he sought. To it everything else was subservient.
No matter where he was, or what he did, this alone was vital. This alone was paramount. The world and all of its present allurements was nothing to him. He cared neither for popular approval or passing applause. He sought Christ first and last and all the time. Everything else he thrust behind him, everything else he forgot.
(5) In Philippians 3:14 there is still an added word: "I press." Paul was, as a runner, stretching every nerve. He saw but one goal, one attainment, and toward that he pressed his way. Nothing else mattered so far as he was concerned. Others might push and press for honor or for fame or for wisdom or for wealth. He pressed for something which lay ahead of him.
How many are spending all their energies on mere trifles, for the things that are for a day? How many set their affections on the things down here? They lay up treasures upon the earth. They look on the things which are seen. They love the world and the things that are in the world. Not so with this mighty, flaming evangelist. Repressed for the things that lay beyond, the things that live, that endure, that outlast the ages and outshine the sun!
We must study the word ekanastasis in the light of the other words which surround it. Paul first tells us, "If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection out of the dead." Then he says, "That I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus." Next he says, "Reaching forth unto those things which are before." Again he speaks of pressing toward the "mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus."
All these things had to do with Christ's Second Coming, and with our standing before the judgment seat of Christ. All of them were God-given possibilities for all saints. All of them are gracious, yet none of them are by grace. That is, these specific things all lay in the realm of rewards. They were to be given only to the ones who "attained" them, who pressed for them, who said, "This one thing I do."
Rewards depend on the faith we hold, the deeds we do, the life we live, the obedience we render. The resurrection of all saints is "by grace," and is in-dissolubly linked to our salvation from sin.
This out-resurrection is quite different. It is something to be attained; therefore it is something for which we must strive and press with the spirit of, "This one thing I do." Why should the Lord not separate the faithful saints from that host of saints who lived for the things of this world? As long as there is a just God in Heaven, He will not be unfaithful or unrighteous to forget the work and labor of love which the valiant have shown toward His Name. Our God could never permit an equality, a "like reward," an equal inheritance among the spiritual and the carnal believers in the ages to come.
Let us count all things as loss as we press on to know Him and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, that we also may attain. Let us also say in all sincerity, "This one thing I do."
– Reprinted from an early issue of Herald of His Coming. Originally printed in The Gospel Herald.