The Ultimate Prize - A Reply
On page 4 [The Leader, September 24, 2002.] the following anonymous writing is shown as printed in "Thought For The Week".
"The only thing I ever won at school for academic study was Billy Bremner's World of Football Annual. I think it was a class prize in second or third form. That was it, try as I might from then on, there was always someone else who would take the prize from me.
It seemed to me that no matter what I was going to put my hand to, I was always going to be second best. I was okay at sport, but never the best so Sports Day was always dominated by one or two really good athletes. I was okay at rugby, but there always seemed to be someone else who could play my position better then myself.
Down the years I have entered many competitions but there is always someone else who wins. Have you noticed how stupid the, questions are becoming on competitions? Years .ago questions might have gone like this: How many miles is it to the sun? or Where in the world is the tallest building? I would have had to go away and look up an encyclopaedia and then write the answer on a postcard with my name and address and send it in.
Nowadays the questions are almost insulting. Ones like: Name the place where Ken Barlow lives, is it Coronation Drive, Coronation Avenue or Coronation Street? Or, Name the famous Irish Pop Group, P3, U2 or M7? or even, Name the well known children's programme;. Red Fred, Green Gordon or Blue Peter? How stupid can you get!
What's more, they ask us to phone the answer in which costs much more than a stamp. But the beauty of an instant result is that you know within a few hours whether you have won a car or a trip to somewhere.
Last week 20, 000 people entered a quiz for two tickets for the All-Ireland Final between the Orchard County and the Kingdom. One person won the competition and got to the game while the rest helped to boost the profits of the telephone company and UTV!
The questions they ask nowadays makes it simple to enter the competition, but there is no guarantee that we will win. There can only be one winner in a race and one, or a fewat the very most, in a competition.
The New Statesman Magazine are running a competition at the present time about now you can win a prize of having your body frozen when you die so that if scientists discover the means of bringing a person back to life, then you will get the chance to be that person.
The problem with this competition is that you are depending on scientists discovering something, that, in this case, is beyond their grasp and so with the best of intentions all the winner will get as their prize, is to be frozen and left in a freezer somewhere.
So what would you say if I told you that I know of something in which we can all be guaranteed as being winners of the ultimate prize? For the New Statesman, the ultimate prize is to be brought back to life when we die - but only if the scientists discover how to do it!
When I read the Bible, I am told that the ultimate prize in this life is to live in the next life with the one who is the giver of all life - and it is guaranteed!
Jesus said: "I am the resurrection and the life, He who believes in me will live even though he dies, and whoever lives and believes In me will never die.' Do you believe this?'
Imagine winning a prize, just by believing! But that is the promise here for everyone who cares to enter. The ultimate prize for everyone, for you and for me, for the losers and the winners in this world.
Here is the prize that we can have, simply by believing in the Lord Jesus. The Ultimate Prize is ours for receiving, simply by asking. So what's stopping you from entering when you are, guaranteed to be a winner if you do?
[The R.V. (1881)translation) is quoted throughout.]
In orthodox circles today there is an ‘iniquitous silence (with which many are all too familiar) on the dark side of truth.’ There are some great subjects in the Word of God that are almost never talked about. Twenty-seven times the Apostle Paul, mentions good works as something to be practised, but you and I can attend numerous churches of the reformed faith for years and never hear good works or rewards mentioned. That is not ‘rightly dividing the word of truth.’ In many Christian gatherings today the New Testament teaching on sin, rewards, and the Millennial kingdom, is wholly ignored;* and a conviction concerning the wrath of God and judgment to come is tragically omitted. If we are to teach the Word of God, we should teach it in its entirety. The Righteous Judge must deal with sin in believers after conversion equally with sin in unbelievers.
[* The writer has visited Berthren Assemblies, Baptist Churches, Presbyterian Churches, a Methodist Church, a Pentecostal Church and a Church of Ireland : not once, in an approximate two year period, has he heard a sermon on rewards or the return of Christ to rulle this earth in righteousness and peace.]
When reading the anonymous writing above, I was given the impression of one blinded to responsibility truths; or of one wilfully seeking to confuse and deceive his readers. It appears to me, that a spirit of contempt for Christian responsibility permeates the writing.
Does he/she not know what a PRIZE is? Is it possible (for anyone) to win a prize, just by believing? "The ultimate prize," we care told, is "for everyone [who believes], for you and for me, for the losers and the winners in this world." "Here is the prize that we can have, simply by believing in the Lord Jesus. The ultimate prize is ours for receiving, simply by asking."
Over one hundred years ago Robert Govett defined a prize as: "A reward gained by some performance." But over the years, it is not unusual to find a word has lost some of its initial meaning. However, this word "prize" is defined today exactly as it was hundreds of years ago. Here are three modern dictionary definitions: -
1. In Odhams Concise English Dictionary, the word is defined as: "A reward for merit or success ; something won."
2. "A reward given as symbol of victory or superiority ; thing (to be) striven for." The Oxford School Dictionary.
3. "Something offered or given as a reward for success, victory, etc." Heinemann English Dictionary.
I ask - ‘ How many bible teachers today, are unable to distinguish a PRIZE from a FREE GIFT?’ The writer of the above article is most certainly one. ‘How many people are ignorant of the fact that ETERNAL LIFE, is shown in the Scriptures(Rom. 6: 23) to be "the FREE GIFT of God"? ‘ Has the writer lost all sense of reasoning? Have words lost their meaning? It appears the case in this weeks article found in ‘Thought For The Week.’
In the New Testament we read of both a PRIZE and of a FREE GIFT. God expects His people to be able to distinguish between them.
The resurrection out from the dead is a PRIZE and therefore it will not be "attained,"- (that is, as the word ‘attained’ is defined, "reached or accomplished by one’s efforts.".) - by all:
"If by any means I may attain unto the resurrection [out] from the dead. Not that I have already obtained, or am already made perfect : but I press on, 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 : 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"(Phil. 3: 11-14.) See also and compare with (Rev. 20: 4-6 ; Heb. 11: 35).
Can we have this prize "simply by believing?" The Apostles Paul and John most certainly did not believe or teach so.
"Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? Even so run, that ye may attain. And every man that striveth in the games is temperate in all things. Now they do it to receive a corruptible crown ; but we an incorruptible. I therefore so run, as not uncertainly ; so fight I, as not beating the air : but I buffet by body, and bring it into bondage ; lest by any means, after that I have preached to others, I myself should be rejected."(1 Cor. 9: 24-27).
Will "everyone, the losers and the winners in this world," win an incorruptible crown? The Apostle Paul did not believe or teach so.
Christians are never taught in the New Testament to be elect unto the Millennial Kingdom. We are invited to God’s kingdom of glory.
"Ye are witnesses, and God also, how holy and righteously and unblameably we behaved ourselves toward you that believe : as ye know how we dealt with each one of you, as a father with his own children, exhorting you, and encouraging you, and testifying, to the end that ye should walk worthily of God, who calleth you into his own kingdom and glory"(1 Thess. 2: 10-12).
Could this be a description of "the prize which we can have simply by believing on the Lord Jesus?" Once again, the inspired Apostle Paul did not believe or teach so.
The prize of our calling is to be sought by EFFORT. It is a REWARD for service to Christ.
"Seek ye first his kingdom and his righteousness"(Matt. 6: 33. Cf. Matt. 5: 20 ; Luke 12: 31). "Not everyone that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven : but he that doeth the will of my Father who is in heaven" (Matt. 7: 21).
For the regenerate to be seeking eternal life [a free gift] by effort is unbelief. For the regenerate not to be seeking after the prize of the millennial kingdom [a reward], is unbelief.
Are all believers to receive this prize? Most certainly not! It is for the "accounted worthy" only.
"But they that are accounted worthy to attain to that world [age] , and the resurrection [out] from the dead, neither marry, nor are given in marriage : for neither can they die any more : for they are equal unto the angels ; and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection"(Luke 20: 35, 36).
Is this the "ultimate prize " that is guaranteed . . . just by believing!?" Jesus did not believe or teach so.
This REWARD is to be at the seventh or last trump, "when the kingdom of the world is become the kingdom of our Lord, and of his Christ."(Rev. 11: 15.)
Reward (as distinct from eternal salvation, which is through faith, against deserts) is strictly defined by WORKS. So minutely do actions tell, that "whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones a cup of cold water only, in the name of a disciple, verily I say unto you, He shall in no wise lose his reward"(Matt. 10: 42).
Whatsoever ye do, work heartily, as unto the Lord, and not unto men ; knowing that from the Lord ye shall receive the recompense of the inheritance: ye serve the Lord Christ. For he that doeth wrong shall receive again for the wrong that he hath done : and there is no respect of persons"(Col. 3: 24, 25). All who interpret this "recompense of the inheritance" as an eternal inheritance, need to improve their powers of logic and learn to distinguish a reward from a free gift.
"Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lusts of the flesh . . .Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these . . . of which I forewarn you, even as I did forewarn you, that they which practise such things SHALL NOT INHERIT THE KINGDOM OF GOD"(Gal. 5: 16-21. cf Eph. 5: 1-11. Etc.).
"As I live, saith the Lord, to me every knee shall bow, And every tongue shall confess to God. So then EACH ONE OF US SHALL GIVE ACCOUNT OF HIMSELF TO GOD"(Rom. 14: 11, 12).
"Wherefore, my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, foreasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord"(1 Cor. 15: 58).
W. H. TINDLE.