An exceedingly remarkable example of a single resurrection, consisting of selected saints alone, has already occurred. “And the tombs were opened, and many of the bodies of the saints that had fallen asleep” - not all - “were raised; and coming forth out of the tombs they entered into the holy city and appeared unto many” (Matt. 27: 52).


It is exactly such a resurrection of selected saints, yet to come, of which Paul stresses the emphasis of his whole soul.  All that he once valued he says he cast overboard as so much dead cargo:- “I do count them but dung”; and why? “if by any means” - if possible (Meyer); if anyhow (Eadie) - “I may attain” - the word ‘attain’ here means to arrive at the end of a journey - “unto THE OUT RESURRECTION, OUT FROM AMONG THE DEAD” (Phil. 3: 11); that is, not the resurrection of the dead, but a resurrection out from the dead, leaving the rest sleeping in their graves. That Paul is speaking of bodily resurrection is clear from the closing verse of this chapter: “We wait for a Saviour who shall fashion anew the body of our humiliation, that it may be conformed to the body of His glory  Professor T. Croskery puts it - “It is not a part in the general resurrection; it is not spiritual resurrection, for that was already past (in the experience of the Apostle): it is a part of the resurrection of the just, the resurrection of life It must be the First Resurrection, for only that resurrection leaves dead still in the tombs; “the rest of the dead lived not until the thousand years were finished” (Rev. 20: 5); and so it is the First Resurrection which here rises before Paul as the mighty goal of a mighty effort.


Never was Paul so anxious to impress uncertainty on the Church as he is here, touching the first resurrection: he piles phrase on phrase implying extreme difficulty of achievement.  “Not that I have already obtained” - that is, attained to the standard qualifying for the prize - the word means to win a prize (as in 1 Cor. 9: 24): “but forgetting the things which are. behind” - the failures, the disappointments, the follies - “I press on” - toward the maturity required for the reaping sickle of the First Resurrection: “or am already made perfect” - I am in hot pursuit ‑ “if so be that I may apprehend that for which also I was apprehended by Christ Jesus. Brethren, I count not myself yet to have apprehended.” It is a statement crammed with deliberate uncertainty: “‘if by any means’” is used when an end is proposed, but failure is presumed to be possible” (Alford). “The Apostle states not a positive assurance, but a modest hope” (Lightfoot). So high was Paul’s inspired conception of the standard required by God, that most of all in the Apostolic Church he disowned all self-confidence, though more abundant in labours, in sufferings, in confessions than they all; for the clearer our spiritual vision, the more sharply distinct is the distance of the goal.  Let us ponder Bishop Lightfoot's paraphrase:‑ “Be not mistaken.  I hold the language of hope, not of assurance.  I have not reached the goal: I am not yet made perfect. But I press forward in the race, eager to grasp the prize, for as much as Christ also has grasped me. My brothers, let other men count their security.  Such is not my language.  I do not consider that I have the prize already in my grasp.  This, and this only, is my rule.  Forgetting the landmarks already passed, and straining every nerve and muscle in the onward race, I press forward ever towards the goal that I may win the prize.” Paul is now in prison; and the nearer he is to martyrdom, the keener is his pursuit of the prize. - and the closer to it, for all martyrs are crowned (Rev. 20: 4).


Now the Apostle reveals the profound yet simple truth explaining the uncertainty:‑  namely, the out-resurrection is not a gift in grace, but a Prize to be won by devotion and sanctity.  Nothing could be clearer than the Apostle’s words.  First, the renunciation - “I count all things but dung”: next, the aim - “if by any means I may attain unto the select resurrection from among the dead”: finally, the reason - “I press on toward the goal for THE PRIZE of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” Morally and practically, a gift and a Prize are worlds asunder: if a gift has to be won, it is not a gift, but a prize; and if a prize is received without effort, it is not a prize, but a gift.  Here is the solution of the whole problem, and of words of Paul which have puzzled thousands.  Unlike simple salvation, the select resurrection is a Prize, not a gift: “I press on for the prize", he says.  For obtaining simple salvation Paul has just stated that all works he had jettisoned for ever overboard, for God’s salvation is a pure gift - the righteousness of Another given out of hand; but so from this truth producing carelessness in Paul, or the conviction that works after faith are of little account either for time or for eternity, by a counter-truth Paul's master - passion now is to attain to the Select Resurrection as the prize.  I press on to seize the prize, to attain which Christ seized me: it is Christ’s wish that I should win the prize: it is ‘our heavenward calling’ “ (Lightfoot), for God is invoking us all so to run that we shall break up with the first through the shattered tombs.  A prize is never won except at the goal: the runner who, at any point of the track, calculates that he has out-distanced all competitors; or gets out of the running tracks; or lingers to look back in satisfaction at the ground covered; or runs with anything but intense concentration - loses the race.  “Seest thou,” says Chrysostom, “that even here they crown the most honoured of the athletes, not on the race-course below, but the king calls them up and crowns them there  “I press on,” cries Paul, “toward the prize of our high calling” - the heavenward, upward, Godward call - “in Christ Jesus


Paul finally presents us with a priceless cluster of truths that shine out like stars. First, our resolve: “Let us therefore, as many as be perfect (full‑grown, mature) be thus minded.” That is, of Paul’s mind: not doubting or denying that there is such a prize; not foolishly scorning the doctrine of reward; not despairing of ourselves, or ruling ourselves out as competitors; not absorbed in discussion as to who shall win the prize, or wondering how near, or how far we are ourselves; not reposing on past victories, or resting on past laurels, or crushed and hopeless over past failures; but making the supreme effort of our lives to attain. “There is a difference between the perfect and the perfected; the perfect are ready for the race; the perfected are close upon the prize” (Bengel). All the mightiest of mankind have been men of one idea, for concentration is the secret of power; and they are the mightiest saints who have no less an aim than a perfected holiness, the topstone of which is a bursting upward from the tomb.


Now follows a golden promise. “And if in anything” - in any detail of this truth - “ye are otherwise minded” - if you think that the prize is for all believers without effort, or that there is no prize, or that the first resurrection is not the prize, or that it is not worth a life’s devotion, or that you have, by effort. already secured it - “even this” - always assuming a single eye for God's truth - “shall God reveal unto you”: “the verb indicates an immediate disclosing to the human spirit by the Spirit of God” (Lange). To differ from Paul is, of course, to confess oneself in error: nevertheless, Paul says, walk with me so far as you can see your path; where you fail to agree with me, or with one another, ask God. “Paul teaches, but God enlightens” (Chrysostom).  This meets the inevitable challenge, foreseen by Paul all down the ages:-  Paul, your doctrine of the Prize will plunge the Church into chaos, and sharply sunder the babes from the adult.  This is the answer.  Seek the best you know, and God will give you a still better best: be perfect in devotion, and a passionate runner, and God is pledged to show us what is “the hope of your calling” (Eph. 4: 4).  Seek God about it, and “even this” the most golden ideal that ever hovered before human vision - “shall God reveal unto you: only whereunto we have already attained, by that same rule let us walk  For Paul himself the crowning fact remains:-  “This ONE THING I do”; it remains the master-passion of my life.


 - D. M. PANTON.