THE PRIZE OF THE HIGH CALLING
The Out-Resurrection And The Word ‘ If.’
[My sincere thanks to Mr. HAIRE (Coleraine) for his help in acquiring permission to use this part of the author’s published work.]
"Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the proving
[assurance] of things not seen ... And without faith it is impossible to be
well-pleasing unto him [God]: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that
he is [becometh] a rewarder of
them that seek after him ... By faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed
to go out unto a place WHICH HE WAS LATER TO RECEIVE FOR AN INHERITANCE;
and he went out, not knowing whither he went. By faith he became a sojourner in the land of
By faith Abraham, being tried, offered up Isaac: yea, he that had gladly received the promises was offering up his only begotten son; even he to whom it was said, In Isaac shall thy seed be called: accounting that God is able to raise up, even from the dead; from whence he did also in a parable receive him back. ... By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter; choosing rather TO BE EVIL ENTREATED WITH THE PEOPLE OF GOD, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season; accounting the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt; FOR HE LOOKED UNTO THE RECOMPENSE OF REWARD ... And what shall I more say? For the time will fail me if I tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson and the prophets: who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mounts of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, from weakness were made strong, waxed mighty in war, turned to flight armies of aliens. Women received their dead by a resurrection: AND OTHERS WERE BEATEN TO DEATH, NOT ACCEPTING THEIR DELIVERANCE; THAT THEY MIGHT OBTAIN A BETTER RESURRECTION: and others had trial of mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment: they were stoned, they were sawn asunder, they were tempted they were slain with the sword: they went about in sheepskins, in goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, evil entreated (of whom the world was not worthy), wandering in deserts and mountains and caves, and the holes of the earth. AND THESE ALL, HAVING HAD WITNESS BOURNE TO THEM THROUGH THEIR FAITH, RECEIVED NOT THE PROMISE, God, having provided some better thing CONCERNING US, THAT APART FROM US THEY SHOULD NOT BE MADE PERFECT.
Therefore let us also, seeing we are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, despising shame, and hath sat down at the right hand of the throne of God." (Heb. 11: 1, 6, 8, 13, 17-19, 24-26, 32- 12: 2.) R. V.
It is impossible to have fellowship with the sufferings of Christ, and still not be made conformable unto His death. This conformity to His death leads on to the conformity of His resurrection, the apostle's goal, 'if by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead'.
The doctrine of the identification of the believer, with the death and resurrection of the Saviour, is entirely a matter of grace, but there is an identification with His death and its shame and sufferings that is voluntary and experimental and is moreover the necessary prelude to attaining the resurrection of the dead. It is obvious therefore that not only must the conformity unto the death of Christ be something beyond the doctrinal identification of the believer with His death and resurrection, it is also equally obvious that the resurrection which was the object of the apostle's aim, a resurrection concerning which he entertained doubt, cannot possibly be the resurrection which is the blessed and certain hope of every believer.
The 'out-resurrection' and the word ‘if’
Resurrection is not only a blessed hope, it is inescapable. The unjust, as well as the just, they that have done good, and they that have done evil, those who form the body of Christ, and those who stand before the great white throne, each and every son of Adam, Jew and Gentile, saved and lost, must be raised from the dead. The fact that the apostle could preface his reference to resurrection in Philippians 3:11 with an 'if', after having expressed his complete surrender to the grace of God in Christ, is of itself an indication that something exceptional is before us.
'If by any means I might attain unto'. No ambiguity attaches to the original here, the Revised Version makes but one alteration, the exchange of 'may' for 'might'. The simple way of 'putting the condition' is attained by using the particle ei, as in Philippians 1:22. In the passage before us, ei is combined with the adverb pos 'how', and so means 'if somehow'. The word eipos occurs but four times in the New Testament and in every case the contingency is very real and the possibility of failure is stressed. The passages are:-
'If by any means they might attain to Phenice' (Acts 27:12).
'If by any means now at length, I might have a prosperous journey' (Rom. 1: 10).
'If by any means I may provoke to emulation' (Rom. 11:14).
'If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection' (Phil. 3:11).
grafting in of the Gentile, as a wild olive, failed to provoke
The experiences of the apostle recorded in Acts 27 must have left an indelible impression upon his mind, and as he pressed the words 'if by any means I might attain unto the resurrection' he knew, by actual experience, that there was the possibility of failing to arrive just as surely as the venture to attain unto Phenice met with disaster. Moreover, in the verse following he emphasizes the fact that he had not 'already attained', but that he 'followed after', still further adding 'brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended'. Contingency is the very atmosphere of the context. Now it is certain that Paul could have entertained no doubt concerning his standing in grace, or of his acceptance in the Beloved; his hope, like an anchor, was sure, and if he used words that expressed contingency and uncertainty, then it is morally certain that he was not speaking of the hope of the believer. In verse 14 he reveals that his uncertainty was related to a 'prize', and this attitude of mind he has already exhibited in relation to the same theme in 1 Corinthians 9:24 to 10: 13.
The 'resurrection' therefore that was the object of the apostle's desires here in Philippians 3:11, for which he suffered and was willing to endure, must be something equivalent to 'the first resurrection' of Revelation 20:4-6, or the 'better resurrection' of Hebrews 11: 35.
The words 'first' and 'better' stand visible for all to read in the passages cited, but neither the Authorized Version nor the Revised Version use any such qualifying prefix in Philippians 3:11. The Authorized Version reads:-
'If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead',
and the Revised Version reads:
'if by any means I may attain unto the resurrection from the dead':
but that is all the difference there is between the two versions. The reader will by this time be desirous of consulting the original, and to this we accordingly turn.
The Received Text reads ten exanastasin ton nekron 'the out-resurrection of or from the dead'; The Critical Texts read ten exanastasin ten ek nekron 'the out-resurrection, that which is out from the dead ones'.
In order to appreciate the intention of the apostle here it will be necessary to review the teaching of the New Testament on this question of resurrection.
sects divided the religious beliefs of
It is therefore somewhat disconcerting to read in Mark 9: 10 of the disciples that they questioned one with another 'what the rising from the dead should mean'. Are we to understand that the very disciples who had been selected to witness the transfiguration on the mountain, were not so mature in the faith as an unconverted Pharisee? Did Martha outstrip the apostles in this article of faith? Once again therefore we must turn to the actual words as recorded in the original before attempting a conclusion.
The words that troubled the disciples were those used by the Lord when He said: 'Till the Son of Man were risen from the dead' ek nekron anaste 'risen OUT FROM dead ones'. It is the presence of this word ek 'out' that caused the questioning. It was something additional to the common creed. It was this resurrection ek nekron that declared Christ 'to be the Son of God with power' (Rom. 1:4). The first to rise out from the dead was Christ, as Paul testifies in Acts 26:23: 'That Christ should suffer, and that He should be the first that should rise out from dead ones'.
We now take one further step forward and discover a reference that is nearer to the form found in Philippians 3. Tes anastaseos tes ek nekron, in Luke 20:35.
‘But they which shall be accounted worthy to obtain that world, and the resurrection, that which is out from the dead ones'.
Here it will be observed, we not only have words similar to those used in Philippians 3:11, 'accounted worthy to obtain', but a similar context. Believers can be accounted worthy to obtain that age at the out-resurrection, they may be accounted worthy to escape the dreadful things that are coming on the earth and to stand before the Son of Man, they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name: and the persecutions which they endured were a manifest token of the righteous judgments of God, that they may be counted worthy of the Kingdom of God, for which they suffered (Luke 20:35; 21:36; Acts 5:41; 2 Thess. 1:5).
The word 'obtain' in Luke 20:35 is used by the apostle in 2 Timothy 2: 10, 'that they may also obtain the salvation which is ... with eternal glory', where the context associates 'suffering' with 'reigning', and in Hebrews 11:35 'that they might obtain a better resurrection', which is an obvious parallel with the 'out-resurrection' of Philippians 3: 11.
While Paul was sure of the 'Hope' of his calling, he could not be sure of attaining unto the 'Prize' of this same calling, and associated with that prize is the special resurrection, the out-resurrection and the desire for conformity unto the death of Christ which we have been considering. In the verse following the apostle makes it very clear that this uncertainty is legitimate, and one or two added words are employed in making this fact clear.
'Not as though I had already attained' ('Not that I have already obtained', R.V.), 'either were already perfect' ('or am already made perfect', R.V.), 'but I follow after' ('but I press on, R.V.), 'if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus' ('if so be that I may apprehend that for which also I was apprehended by Christ Jesus', R.V.) (Phil. 3:12).
The Authorized Version, by repeating the word 'attain' in Philippians 3:12, gives a continuity to the apostle's argument, but as two very different words are employed, katantao in verse 11 and lambano in verse 12, the Revised Version is preferable. The change from 'attaining' to 'obtaining' moreover, reveals a change in the apostle's objective. He sought first to 'attain' to the out-resurrection and then subsequently to 'obtain' the prize. This comes out clearly when we remember that lambano, 'obtain', occurs in 1 Corinthians 9: 24, 25, 'one receiveth the prize', 'they do it to obtain a corruptible crown'.
It is moreover evident from the apostle's language, that one who 'obtained' the prize, could be considered as 'perfect'. Here the Greek reading teteleiomai 'I have been perfected' anticipates the triumphant teteleka 'I have finished' of 2 Timothy 4:7, where once again we have the race course, the conflict, and the crown.
The reader will recognize that in both of these Greek words, there is the common root tel which means that the 'end' has been reached, the race run. Telos 'end' (Phil. 3:19), gives us teleo 'to reach an end, or finish' (2 Tim. 4:7); and so teleioo 'to make perfect' (Phil. 3:12); and teleios 'perfect' (Phil. 3:15).
The apostle said 'I follow after', and what he sought for was that he might 'lay hold of' that for which he had been 'laid hold of' by Christ. The apostle's 'confidence' in chapter 1 and his 'diffidence' in chapter 3 show the two aspects of truth that present a perfect whole, two aspects which are expressed in Ephesians by the words 'the HOPE of His calling' and in Philippians by the words 'the PRIZE of the high calling'.
The prize of, the high calling of God in Christ Jesus
The figure of a race, a conflict with a crown or prize at the end, is used by the apostle in more places than one. If this 'prize' is something for which we have been apprehended by Christ, then if for no other reason than to please Him, we should get to know what it is and how it may be obtained.
It is right for every believer to sing:
'Not for weight of glory, not for crown or palm,
Enter we the army, raise the warrior's psalm,
But for love that claimeth lives for Whom He died',
but it is also right for every believer to believe what God has said regarding 'the prize' that is attached to our 'high calling', as it is right that we should understand the high calling itself.
When one has perceived the riches of grace that characterize the calling of the Mystery, there is a temptation which is very strong, to put out the hand to save the ark of God, and to deny the possibility of 'reward' in the Prison Epistles, lest by so doing the character of grace should be impaired. While sympathising with this regard for grace, we must nevertheless resist it, for we must have a higher regard for 'truth' of which grace is a part, and truth demands that we shall allow a rightful place in the dispensation of the mystery to the undiluted meaning of 'race' with its 'crown', 'prize' and 'reward'.
- C. H. WELCH.
NEVER TOO OLD
It is not good for the race to believe that a man’s best days are over sixty. It tends to break down man’s energy and prevent him from utilising the best that is within him: the best that has come from years of experience and work.
There are figures to show that the greatest productivity of man’s life lies in the decade between his sixtieth and seventieth year. The method adopted to learn the actual facts relating to man’s period was as follows:
Some four hundred names of the most noted men of all times, from all lines of activity, were chosen. There were statesmen, painters, warriors, poets, and writers of fiction, history, and other prose workers. Opposite to the name of each man was indicated his greatest work or achievement. This list was then submitted to critics to learn their opinion of the greatest work of the man submitted. The names of their greatest works were accepted, or altered, until the list was one that could be finally accepted. After this was done the date at which the work was produced was placed after the name, and so the age was ascertained at which the individual was at his best. The list was then arranged according to decades.
It was found that the decade of years between sixty and seventy contained 35 per cent. of the world’s greatest achievements. Between the ages of seventy and eighty 23 per cent. of the achievements fell, and in the years after the eightieth 6 per cent.
In other words, 64 per cent. of the great things of the world have been accomplished by men who had passed their sixtieth year, the greatest percentage, 35 per cent., being in the sixth decade.
The figures for the other periods of life are interesting. Between the fiftieth and the sixtieth years are found 25 per cent., between forty and fifty 10 per cent. These all totalled together leave the almost negligible quantity of 1 per cent. to be attributed to the period below the age of forty.
But, taken as a whole, the figures prove conclusively that the period of the greatest achievement in a man’s life comes not when he is in his youth, but only with the years of mature manhood.
It is indeed very remarkable to find thus recorded, that only 1 per cent. of the world’s greatest achievements were accomplished before the age of forty, while 64 per cent. were done after the age of 60, and 6 per cent. after even 80 years. But how does this apply to the spiritual life? Surely in much the same way, for as years advance there is, or should be, growth in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, and the spiritual senses, by reason of use, should be exercised to the clearer discernment of good and evil.
W. F. Jhonston, of
- The Friend’s Witness
and sorrow," the psalmist said,
Was the gift of the fourscore years;
And he almost envied the sleeping dead,
Escaped from the vale of tears.
But the psalmist’s heart was overwrought,
And his harp was out of tune,
For the fourscore years to me have brought
Sweet restful days like June.
And so I sing of the beautiful years,
Each one with his goodness crown’d;
And better far than by foolish fears
Were its months and its seasons found.
So now with my fourscore years I wait*
Till I hear the higher call, [*Heb. 11: 39]
And I pass within through the pearly gate
To the heaven that crowns them all.
- Elizabeth Jane Long.