Saturday, January 27, 2018

Rewards of the Christian Life

The Christian life is portrayed as a race by the writer of Hebrews. "Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:1,2. Many Bible Scholars feel that the Apostle Paul was probably the writer of Hebrews because verses like these are closely related to many of his other writings. In other cases, Paul compares himself with the racers and competitors in the Isthmian games which were celebrated in the city of Corinth. This comparison made an allusion which was well known to the people of Paul's day and therefore was a great teaching metaphor.

The competitors who ran in these games were duly qualified both by character and ability. The distance and width of the course were clearly marked out. The prize that was to be won was set forth. Judges were chosen and sworn to judge impartially. The starting signal was given and the race was run. The winner was carried to the judge, the prize was given and a crown placed on the winner's head. The name of the winner was proclaimed to the great assembly of people.

The Christian race is so compared. The Christian must be qualified both by character and ability. The Christian must pursue the course with patience and perseverance. After completing the race the successful Christian is brought before the Judge where he/she is rewarded and crowned with glory.
The Christian race is not any race, but a particular race. It is, "The race set before us". The course of the race is the road of life. The length of it is a lifetime. The width of it is the size of the world. This course has many challenges and many temptations to turn the runner aside. The riches and cares, the company and amusements, the pleasures and influence of the world are all dead weights which must be "laid aside" so they don't hinder the Christian runner.

The progress of the Christian in this race depends on several things. The Christian must keep to the course and not turn out of the way. Some run the race well for a while and then turn aside. The Christian must stay on course. The middle of the course is the safest place to run. Constant progress must be made and the runner must continue patiently under all difficulties. The prize must be kept in view.

The nature of the prize in the Christian race is different from worldly races. Scripture represents this prize as rewards under the figure of a trophy or crown. There are various crowns that may be rewarded to Christians when they complete this race of life.

The Incorruptible Crown - I Corinthians 9:24-25. "Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishible crown. " In the Christian's duty, all run that they might obtain this crown. All that finish get the prize, not just the winner. The Christian runner is described as being "temperate in all things". Much self-denial was practiced by the Olympic runners Paul mentioned. They kept to a strict diet and discipline. Should not the Christian much more curtail themselves of their liberty for the glorious prize set before them? Christians must deny self and keep the body under "bringing it into subjection", (I Corinthians 9:27). The Christian runner faces hardship and is always in close combat just as any competitor. Paul mentions one enemy of the Christian runner (the body) which must be brought under subjection. Paul is referring to those fleshly appetites and inclinations.

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