I just finished reading Romans 5 about God’s great gift—becoming a member of His forever family through Christ—that He gives us by grace.
Everything about our adoption into the family of God and His declaration of us as “the righteousness of Jesus Christ” is because of who He is in spite of who we are. God proved His love for us by rejecting and judging His Son—Jesus—in our place. In doing so, God gave us the gift of His undeserved, unconditional righteousness.
From Romans 5:6 to the end of the chapter, the word “grace” and “gift” are used four times. These two terms underline God’s total work in making everyone who says “yes” to Jesus a part of His eternal family through His righteousness.
As I contemplate the writings of Paul, I also think about what he said about the “prize” and how it relates and differs from this “gift.”
At the end of Paul’s life, he summed up his life in terms of effort, discipline, and hard work that results in the “prize” or “reward” given for his efforts and suffering during his race of faith. Let’s look at 2 Corinthians 5:9-10 to understand the “reward ceremony” where believers are honored for lives well lived.
“So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.” -2 Corinthians 5:9-10
Let me say this has nothing to do with the “gift” of eternal life—that is a free gift given by faith. The “prize” has to do with living a Jesus honoring life. Scripture gives us several pictures of this as a person running with all their physical strength to win the race.
“I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” –Philippians 3:14
So what about the “prize”?
The “prize” is related to the effort we put into working out our relationship with Jesus over our lifetime that results in a Heavenly prize. This is what the Apostle Paul writes about in the verses in 2 Corinthians that we reviewed earlier. There will be a moment when Jesus will pass out “rewards” for the life well lived, the race run well, and the fight fought to the end.
Always remember “new birth” is a free “gift.” All we have to do is receive “the gift of God” to become a “child of God.”
But growing in Christ—learning to obey and walk with Him in daily obedience—results in receiving the “prize” or reward. The prize we receive is directly correlated to our obedience and work done to God the Father, through Jesus Christ who lives in us through the Holy Spirit.
Next week let’s look at what does it mean to “seek first the Kingdom of God,” and the difference between living and producing “eternal fruit” versus “temporary fruit.”