In the first post in this series, I explained that while running recently I was reminded of several passages related to running a race and athletes. Since I started running for exercise a few months ago, I decided to look into those passages a little more closely to see if my experiences helped me to understand them.
In this post, I’m going to look at an illustration concerning athletes, not necessarily running. However, I think it applies. This illustration is in 2 Timothy. Here is the verse in the broader context:
You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus, and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him. An athlete is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules. It is the hard-working farmer who ought to have the first share of the crops. Think over what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything. Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David, as preached in my gospel, for which I am suffering, bound with chains as a criminal. But the word of God is not bound! Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory. The saying is trustworthy, for: If we have died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him; if we deny him, he also will deny us; if we are faithless, he remains faithful – for he cannot deny himself. Remind them of these things, and charge them before God not to quarrel about words, which does no good, but only ruins the hearers. (2 Timothy 2:1-14 ESV)
While this is a long passage, I think it’s important to keep at least that much together. Those faithful people (2 Timothy 2:2) who have been entrusted with what Timothy learned from Paul are mentioned again (2 Timothy 2:14) as those who are to be reminded of “these things” – that is, the things between 2 Timothy 2:2 and 2 Timothy 2:14.
Within this passage, Paul offers several different illustrations and metaphors to encourage Timothy as he teaches others. One of those illustrations concerns an athlete, who must compete “according to the rules” in order to receive the prize. The phrase “according to the rules” is translated from the adverb “lawfully.”
When running a race, a certain course is laid out and certain rules are enforced. For example, in some races, the use of mp3 players is not allowed. In runner decides to use an mp3 player anyway, that runner will be disqualified. Recently, a marathon runner in England was disqualified because he took the bus for several miles of the race.
In this passage, Paul doesn’t tell us exactly what he’s talking about here. But, if we look at other letters, we can see that Paul is often concerned about people not only believing the gospel, but living in a manner worthy of the gospel. To me, this is the closest point to what Paul wants Timothy to share with others.
What would you like to add to this discussion?
Running the Race as an Illustration in Scripture: