THE CHRISTIAN RACE – Hebrews 12


Therefore let us also, seeing we are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, 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, looking unto Jesus the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising shame, and hath sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

Hebrews 12:1‭-‬2 ASV

The metaphor comparing the Christian life to a race has the following Biblically supported analogies:

  • (1) The contender must be legally enrolled in a contest in order to win: the Christian must contend lawfully by belonging to the church and accepting full obligations of Christian service (2 Timothy 2:5).
  • (2) Some win and some do not (1 Corinthians 9:24).
  • (3) For the contender in an athletic contest, discipline is an absolute prerequisite of success; the Christian runner, too, must lay aside every weight and the ever-convenient sin in order to win (Hebrews 12:1).
  • (4) A host of spectators watch a race in the coliseum; the spirits of the just behold the efforts of the Christian contender (Hebrews 12:1).
  • (5) Patience is required of both the athletic contestant and the Christian, endurance being necessary to win in both cases.
  • (6) The winner is rewarded, the earthly contender with a perishable reward, the Christian with an eternal reward (1 Corinthians 9:25).
  • (7) The analogy becomes a contrast in the matter of how many may win. In the earthly contest, only one receives the prize; but in the heavenly contest, every man may do so, since his victory does not depend upon any relationship between his achievement and the achievement of his fellow contestant.

If he runs well, he may win; if all run well, all may win! How much better to run in such a contest where all may win.

Lay aside every weight is the order for all who would win in the Christian race.

There are two classes of impediments to be avoided by the successful contender in the race of life, the first of these being “weights,” as mentioned here.

This class of hindrance includes just about everything that can get in the way, or impede the Christian contender’s progress.

Things not bad at all in themselves, but which, in the last analysis, hinder the work of the child of God must all be cast aside.

Just as the runner in a race travels as lightly as possible, the Christians must avoid being weighted down with all kinds of worldly duties and commitments.

What do Christians do with their time?

There is the vacation cottage, the fraternal lodge, the club, the political party, the yacht, the alumni organization, the board of directors, the governing committee, the bridge club, the country club, the volunteer group, the P.T.A., the board of elections, the chamber of commerce, and a list of associations for almost any conceivable purpose, many of them no doubt worthy – but whatever one’s views about any or all such things, one fact is certain, no man can do all that and be a good Christian too!

Far too many children of the King allow their time, talent, and money to be preempted by secondary things, things that must be recognized as “weights,” when understood in the light of their effect on dedication to Christ and his cause on earth.

And the sin which doth so easily beset us is the second class of hindrance the Christian contender must avoid. It refers to conduct inherently unrighteous, which is always a mortal enemy of faith.

Nowhere else in the New Testament is the word equivalent to “easily besetting” to be found; and various views of what is meant by the expression have been advanced.

The word from which such a modifier of “sin” comes is akin to the word “circumstance.” As Bristol noted, “The Latin translation is `circumstans’, denoting something that surrounds.”

Adam Clarke observed this and defined the besetting sin accordingly, thus, “The well-circumstanced sin; that which has everything in its favor, time, and place, and opportunity.”

If a paraphrase may be ventured, perhaps it means, “Lay aside the sin that is always so conveniently close to us.”

Run with patience the race that is set before us.

The race Christians must run as “Neither a saunter nor a stroll, but a race, a difficult struggle”; he also said,

The word forace’ is [AGONA] from which we getagony.’ The race of life is an agonizing, grueling course and requires Christian endurance if one is to win.

“Patience,” then, is not merely sitting down and waiting until something happens. It means endurance and the power of perseverance, including the ability to finish what is begun.

This metaphor of the race of life was especially dear to Paul who found a place for it in the last letter he ever wrote, saying, “I have finished the course, etc.” (2 Timothy 4:7).

Other Pauline passages involving use of this metaphor are 1 Corinthians 9:24ff; Galatians 2:2; Philippians 2:16; and 2 Timothy 2:5.

Know ye not that they that run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? Even so run; that ye may attain. And every man that striveth in the games exerciseth self-control in all things. Now they do it to receive a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible.
1 Corinthians 9:24‭-‬25 ASV

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