In Philippians 3:13, 14 Paul says, “Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, … I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” Paul’s prayer is, “That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; if by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead” (Phil. 3:10, 11). Paul is very much engaged in pressing toward “the prize of the high calling of God.”
Today many “born again Christians” confidently boast that they are “saved” and going to “heaven.” How does this compare with the Apostle Paul’s description of himself as a runner using all his energy to pass the finish line? The idea of unconditional acceptance of sinners by God not only before they accept Christ, but afterward as well, no matter what their sins may be, has serious dangers. It is born largely of modern psychology rather than a sound Biblical basis. Such a concept lowers the standards for which Christians should be striving in their efforts to follow in the footsteps of their Lord.
Peter preached the same high standard, as did Jesus. Peter said, “Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust” (2 Pet. 1:4). This indeed is a “high calling” because it speaks of becoming “partakers of the divine nature.” The divine nature is the nature that God himself possesses. It is the highest nature, one in which death is not possible, immortality.
Paul says, in speaking of God, “Who only hath immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto; whom no man hath seen, nor can see” (1 Tim. 6:16). Some believe every person has an immortal soul within him. However, one would be hard pressed to find scriptural support for this allegation. It is borrowed from Greek mythology, not the Bible. The Bible says, “The soul that sinneth, it shall die” (Eze. 18:4). A host of scriptures speak of “soul death” but none, no, not one, of “soul immortality.”
Paul tells us that Christians seek for “immortality.” He says in Romans 2:7, “To them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, eternal life.” You do not seek for what you possess. Hence, it is clear that those who seek “immortality” must do so “by patient continuance in well doing.”
Paul clarifies the subject of justification in the Book of Romans. In Romans 5:9, 10 we have this explanation
“Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved [Greek, sozo] from wrath through him. For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved [Greek, sozo] by his life.”
Here we see a contrast between being “justified by his blood” and being “saved by his life.” We need both to attain everlasting life. Being “justified by his blood” is the means whereby we are reconciled to God or justified. Being “saved by his life” means that we must follow in the footsteps of our Master as our life pattern. To read into this richness so simple a concept as an assurance of being saved, seems to me simply incorrect.
Paul says, “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved [Greek., sozo]. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation” (Rom. 10:9, 10). Paul speaks of two things the believer must do-”confess with thy mouth” and believe that “God raised him from the dead.” Belief in Jesus’ death and resurrection will bring “righteousness” or justification. However, the individual must also make “confession unto salvation.” He must own his belief and give public expression to it in his daily life. This is what a true believer would do. It is not what someone whose life is devoid of spiritual reality would do.
Romans 10:13 continues, “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved [Gk., sozo].” Only one requirement is made of the believer. The same apostle is not discounting what he said in the preceding verses, but merely emphasizing that belief in Jesus is the sole means of being “saved” from our sins or the judgment standing against us. As already shown, there is much more to such belief than a casual expression of words. Wholehearted belief and consecration lead to a heavenly reward, but we are not to presume that a mere “call” upon the name of the Lord guarantees heaven to anyone.