The apostle Paul wrote, “Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain” (I Cor. 9:24). In the very next verse, Paul refers to striving for the mastery (I Cor. 9:24). The writer of the book of Hebrews, which may well have also been the apostle Paul, wrote, “Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us” (Heb. 12:1). In each of these, there is the illusion to competing in some sporting event. There are a number of lessons that can be drawn from these and other such references, but there is just one that we wish to examine in this article.
Paul said, “So run, that ye may obtain” (I Cor. 9:24). The little word “so” is important to our thought here. It is an adverb and indicates that there is a certain manner in which one must run if he or she is to be a winner. Though things have changed a bit, it used to be said in the realm of auto racing, ” if you ain’t cheatin, if you ain’t trying”. In other words, breaking the rules was expected if one intended to be a winner. However, as Paul indicated, there is a certain set of rules that one must abide by if he is to be a winner. Those auto racers of old often got by with breaking the rules, because the officials couldn’t catch every little discrepancy. Paul wrote, “And if a man also strive for masteries, yet is he not crowned, except he strive lawfully” (II Tim. 2:5). And, in this case, He who made the laws by which we must run is able to know any and every discrepancy in our efforts. The Hebrew writer said, “Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do” (Heb. 4:13). The wise man, Solomon, said, “For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil” (Eccl. 12:14). There are no secrets from God. He knows our every action and our every thought.
On the day of judgment, man will be judged according to what he has done in this life. Paul wrote, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad” (II Cor. 5:10). The only one that will receive the prize is the one that has been obedient to the rules set forth by the Lord.
This same apostle Paul wrote, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith” (Rom. 1:16-17). Now we know what the true rule book that must be followed is; it is the gospel of Christ. To the Thessalonians, he wrote, “And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power” (II Thess. 1:7-9). When Paul said “So run” (I Cor. 9:24), he was directing us to run in a certain manner. Now we know what that manner is. It is to run in accordance to the teachings of the gospel of Christ, by which we will be judged.
(Robert Oliver is pastor of The Church of Christ and a long-time columnist for The Sampson Independent. Send any questions or comments to: email@example.com)