Running the good race is not what you think.

Often we equate this question by performing and serving Christ to win the ultimate prize of salvation the “crown of life”. Thus from young we are encouraged to be pauline in our enthusiam to fight “the good fight” and “run the good race”. Streaming from this teaching, we preach a struggle to leads to blood sweat and tears to emulate Jesus in his sufferings to carry the cross and his invitation to carry the cross ourselves. Others teach we are to obey the 10 commandments or Jesus commandments on the Mount to the hilt.

However, after much study, I realised the church has taught a veiled message. “Running the good race” in fact has nothing to do with human performance. It is infact totally against the idea which is permiated above. To teach the above is in fact the best way NOT to run the “good race”.

The term “run the good race” originates from Galatians 2: 2. Let’s read:
Galatians 2:2 (New Living Translation)

2 I went there because God revealed to me that I should go. While I was there I met privately with those considered to be leaders of the church and shared with them the message I had been preaching to the Gentiles. I wanted to make sure that we were in agreement, for fear that all my efforts had been wasted and I was running the race for nothing.

Paul then continues to use the same terminology in Galatians 5:7

Galatians 5:7 (New Living Translation)
7 You were running the race so well. Who has held you back from following the truth?

The term “running the good race” must be interpreted in the manner in which Paul used it else where. This includes the following:

Philippians 2:16
Hold firmly to the word of life; then, on the day of Christ’s return, I will be proud that I did not run the race in vain and that my work was not useless.

2 Timothy 4:7
I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful.

Hebrews 12:1
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.

Hence to understand the above referred verse in Galatians 2 and 5, we have to understand the context in which the words were stated. After Paul had appointed elders and left Galatia, some people came and began teaching that belief in Jesus was not enough. These likely were some converted Jews from Jerusalem who had received Jesus as Lord and Savior, but who felt that they had to hang on to the law and Judaism. Four thousand years of Jewish traditions were hard for some to give up. They thought that Christianity ought to be an updated version of Judaism and couldn’t accept that Gentiles could be included into the Church, much less allowed to remain as Gentiles.

These teachers came to the Galatians and said something like, “Listen, we’re here to follow up and improve on Paul’s ministry to you. He was absolutely right in saying that you need to have faith in Jesus—that’s how you get started in the Christian life. What he failed to tell you, and what he would have told you if he had time, is that in addition to Jesus you need to follow certain religious laws and rules.”

The religious formula these teachers were using was … “Jesus plus something.” Paul was livid about this because he knew and was convinced that the true equation isJesus plus nothing equals salvation. He also recognized that any time someone teaches “Jesus plus something,” even if it is just a little something, they are not improving on the Gospel, or even distracting from the Gospel. Teaching Jesus plus something is the utter destruction of the Gospel.

To see things in a better light I will now refer to Galatians 5 for the sake of context.

Galatians 5
Freedom in Christ
1 So Christ has truly set us free. Now make sure that you stay free, and don’t get tied up again in slavery to the law.
2 Listen! I, Paul, tell you this: If you are counting on circumcision to make you right with God, then Christ will be of no benefit to you.
3 I’ll say it again. If you are trying to find favor with God by being circumcised, you must obey every regulation in the whole law of Moses.
4 For if you are trying to make yourselves right with God by keeping the law, you have been cut off from Christ! You have fallen away from God’s grace.
5 But we who live by the Spirit eagerly wait to receive by faith the righteousness God has promised to us.
6 For when we place our faith in Christ Jesus, there is no benefit in being circumcised or being uncircumcised. What is important is faith expressing itself in love.
7 You were running the race so well. Who has held you back from following the truth?
8 It certainly isn’t God, for he is the one who called you to freedom.
9 This false teaching is like a little yeast that spreads through the whole batch of dough!
10 I am trusting the Lord to keep you from believing false teachings. God will judge that person, whoever he is, who has been confusing you.

The yeast that Paul speaks about in chapter 9 is highlighted in verse 3. Hence if you obey a small part of the law, you are required to obey the whole law. Many argue that it is only the ceremonial law that has been abolished by Christ. Paul teaches here, the law is a composit whole. For further studies on this, please refer to these links:

A similar misunderstanding is the way we interpret Hebrews 12, wherein we equate running the race as fighting sin that easily entangles us. This is another interpretation which commonly mistaken. Hebrews 12:1 says “the sin” and it is not sin. This sin that easily entangles us is the same sin in Hebrews 10:26. It is the sin of thinking Jesus’ blood is not enough to satisfy God of your sins past, present & future. It is called the sin of unbelief. That is why he asks us to continue to look at Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith. The reason the Hebrews think as such is that they had been under the old system where they had relied on the blood of bulls and goats to cleanse their conscious which did not work at all. Hebrews 10:1 and 3 tell that they are offered under Law. For further reading:

Hence the writer exhorts us to perserver in the race to fix our eyes to Jesus the author and perfecter of our faith. In other words, the writer is saying to run the good race is to fix your hope of your salvation in Christ and Christ ALONE. This is the same with what Paul is saying. Live by Grace and grace alone. Do not mix it with Law. As such to run the good race is to keep your salvation free from LAW or human performance to curry favour from God. Favour from God is secured in the finished work of Jesus and the finished work of Jesus alone.

It is grace that will allow the Spirit to bear fruit. It is by believe Jesus plus nothing that will cause Christ to be formed in you. The minute you try to be righteous by obeying the Law you are cut-off from Christ. Hence you stop running the race. Jesus then become of no benefit to you.

Let me just quote a brother who puts it plainly:

“Suppose some one had paid a million dollars into the bank in your name, and had given you a check-book so that you could draw out just as you wanted: would you go to work and try to live on ten dollars a month? Yet that is exactly what many of us are doing as Christians. I believe this low standard of Christian life in the Church is doing more to manufacture infidels than all the skeptical books that were ever written.”

As such fix your eyes upon Jesus the author and perfecter of your faith. It is he that perfects your faith, not you.


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