1 Cor 9:27 “ . . . but I pommel my body and subdue it, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.”
1 Cor 9:27
This means that while alive, we should always be vigilant in our perseverance because we can never take things for granted. On the practical plane, this means not letting up on our ascetical struggle, mortifying the flesh, guarding our eyes, etc.
We “ought to have the most secure hope in the help of God, who, so long as we are faithful to his grace, will bring the good work to perfection, just as he began it, working both the will and the performance (Phil 2:13), so that at the end of our lives we can say like Paul:” there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness which the Lord, the righteous judge, will reward to me on that day (2 Tim 4:8).
The prize that Paul is saying here is certainly not salvation because if it is, then, salvation becomes a prize or a reward when it is not as discussed earlier based on Romans 6:23 “ For the wages of sin is death, but the free GIFT of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Paul elsewhere talks of it as a crown. I believe that while we are saved by faith alone and salvation is a GIFT, we will be rewarded with crowns because of what we have done while in the Body. This will include our services for the believers/church done in the name of the Lord and righteous things we do as believers.
A good example here is what Paul is saying in the following verses.
Philippians 4:1 -1Therefore, my brethren dearly beloved and longed for, my joy and crown, so stand fast in the Lord, my dearly beloved.
2 Timothy 4:8 - Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.
Again, if you take this “crowns” and “rewards” as salvation, then it renders salvation or eternal life as a REWARD, no longer as a GIFT.
Catholic: That’s a good point, except that Romans 2:7 clearly speaks of salvation (aka eternal life) as a reward “. . .to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he [God] will give eternal life.
Which becomes even clearer with Heb 6:10: “For God is not so unjust as to overlook your work and the love which you showed for his sake in serving the saints. . .”
In Mt 5:12 Jesus promises rich rewards In heaven to those who, for his sake, are scorned and persecuted. In Mt 25:34 ff, the Judge of the World decrees eternal reward for the just on the ground of their good works.
Surely, with all these passages, salvation must also be a reward, in which case, the only way that we can reconcile Romans 6:23 and Romans 2:7 (and Heb 6:10, Mt 5:12, and Mt25:34 ff) is to say that salvation is a gift AND a reward.
And indeed, that’s what the Church teaches. The Church teaches that for the justified, eternal life is BOTH a gift or grace promised by God AND a reward for his own good works and merits .
As God’s grace is the presupposition and foundation of (supernatural) good works, by which man merits eternal life, so salutary works are, AT THE SAME TIME gifts of God AND meritorious acts of man. I’m referring here to TRUE merit, i.e., of meritum de condigno.
(Credit: Ludwig Ott ,"Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma.")