In 776 BC the first Olympics games were held. These games took place in Greece every four years without interruption until AD 393. That is 1169 years, so we can assume that many people in the time of the New Testament knew of these games, and even without ESPN being in existence conversation about the Olympic games would probably have been common. In several places in the New Testament the authors use the terminology of athletic competition as an analogy of how those who lived in the aftermath of the resurrection of Jesus were to live in honoring God. One of these scriptural references is I Corinthians 9:24-27 which will be our central text this coming Sunday. Paul uses language of “running a race, winning a prize, exercising self-control, receiving a wreath, not running aimlessly, not boxing as one beating in the air, and disciplining your body.” Paul would not have written words like this if the people of Corinth had no understanding of what these words meant for athletic competition. I believe he was making an analogy from what people knew to help understand what was a struggle in their lives - our responsibility of following Jesus Christ on a daily basis. And there are other places beside our I Corinthians passage where this type of athletic language is used. But we can be assured Paul did not write these words to be found on the sports pages of life, but on the front pages of everyday living as a visible reminder of what God has done in our lives through His Son Jesus.
The following are things we know what God has done for us: We have been obtained by God’s sovereign election before the foundation of the world (Eph. 1:4), we have been obtained by his predestination to adoption (Eph. 1:5), we have been obtained by the reconciling death of His Son while we were still sinners (Romans 5:6-10), we have been obtained by regeneration and calling (I Cor. 1:24, I John 5:1), and we have been obtained by the indwelling work of the Holy Spirit (Eph. 1:13). These are foundational truths of God’s grace and mercy in our lives. God was the initiator in all of these things.
And yet in I Corinthians 9:24 we are commanded “to run so we may obtain it (the prize).” What does it mean to run to obtain that which we know we already have? We will look at this on Sunday, and if you have time look at the following items to help us receive God’s Word to us.
- Read the following passages as we see how in various places God’s Word uses the athletic language to help describe how we are to live in honoring God. Philippians 3:12-14, I Timothy 6:12, Hebrews 12:1-2, II Timothy 2:5, Isaiah 40:28-31.
- What are the consequences of how we live our life as a follower of Jesus Christ? What’s at stake for us and for others in the way we live our lives?
- Hebrews 9:14 says, “how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God.” What does the term “dead works” mean, and in what way can these dead works become a part of our daily living?
- Martin Lloyd Jones writes: “We must talk to ourselves instead of allowing ‘ourselves’ to talk to us!” What do you think he means, and how does what he say affect how we live our daily lives?