So why did Paul run? Was he earning his salvation? No way! That’s not scriptural. But why did he run, then? And what about those who don’t run so hard? Are they doomed to hell forever and ever? No. Again, we don’t earn our salvation. That is a gift of God.
But we also need to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling (Php 2:12). So on the one hand, we are saved by grace through faith, and on the other, we work out our salvation with fear and trembling. We run the race that’s set before us so that we may attain to the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. Which is it?
How if the elect are the ones who (for the most part), not having seen, yet believe? Those who weed out all the competing plants so that the seed which is the Word of God may have their whole hearts in which to grow to its full stature; those who train with diligence and run with purpose; those who seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness? That is to say, what if the elect are those who earnestly desire to be the elect and to draw ever closer to Him in love and obedience? Now that is something to fight for, aspire to, yearn and seek after. To be with Him in the coming age, possibly serving Him in seeking out those who, still wandering, have yet to return to the fold and the Father’s arms.
And it would certainly explain Paul’s eagerness to run that race. In Colossians 1, Paul ends the chapter with “We proclaim Him, admonishing every person and teaching every person in all wisdom, so that we may present every person mature in Christ Jesus. I labor for this, striving with His strength, that works powerfully in me.” I was thinking about this on my way home from work a couple of weeks ago, and that was what started this whole train of thought. It is apparently possible to reach maturity in Christ in this life. Otherwise, wouldn’t Paul have known it? It is beneficial to reach maturity in Christ in this life. If that wasn’t the case, why would Paul work so hard to help others achieve this end?
Now I’m guessing that we will never stop growing and becoming more like Jesus. He is infinite, after all. But there seems to be a point at which we can be said to be mature in Him, and that point is accessible to us in this life. Shouldn’t we go for it?
Brothers, I do not consider myself to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and reaching forward to what is ahead, I pursue as my goal the prize promised by God’s heavenly call in Christ Jesus. (Php 3:13-14 HCSB)