By Nikos Lemonidis


There is one law that from antiquity till today governs all athletic contests. Namely, an athlete is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules.

2 Timothy 2:5:
And if a man also strive for masteries, yet is he not crowned, except he strive lawfully.

There is no scriptural evidence that Paul the Apostle ever took the 200km/124 miles journey from Corinth to Olympia to visit the actual site of the notorious ancient games. What is evident, however, is that he was well aware of the nature of these games as expressed in his epistles, even using them as examples to convey important spiritual truths.

Boxing and wrestling were taught at the “Palestra” school of Olympia.

1 Corinthians 9:26b:
... So fight I, not as one that beateth the air:

Ephesians 6:12a:
For we wrestle not against flesh and blood ...

The Games initially consisted of a single event, a race along the length of the stadium which is still nearly fully intact today. However the last running event added to the Olympic program was the "Hoplite" race. Traditionally run as the last race of the Olympic Games, it seems to best suit what Paul had in mind. The runners would run 400 or 800 yards, wearing a helmet and carrying a shield. As the armour weighed between 50 and 60 lbs (27kg), the Hoplite race emulated the speed and stamina needed for warfare. It was easy for runners to drop their shields or trip over fallen competitors.

Ephesians 6:14-17:
14: Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness;
15: And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace;
16: Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.
17: And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God:

There is an endurance race set before any man who wants to be with Jesus Christ.

Hebrews 12:1b:
... let us run with patience the race that is set before us ....

What is the mastery we must strive in?

Hebrews 12:4:
Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin.

What is the prize? The Scriptures speak of an incorruptible crown.

1 Corinthians 9:25-26:
25: And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible.
26: I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air:

Every prize is laid up at the finish of the race.

1 Corinthians 9:27:
But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.

Is Paul saying that if his body was not brought under subjection, he was in danger of being a castaway (disqualified) from the race and not receiving the crown?

Philippians 3:11-14:
11: If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead.
12: Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus.
13: Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before,
14: I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.

Brother, sister, remember that every athlete begins the race from the same starting line. We share a common faith, in the same measure, with the same gifts from Christ. But faith has its own fight. We must contend for it.

Jude 1:3:
Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.

This is a life-long race. In the original Olympic Games there was no crown for second place. Only one received the prize.

1 Corinthians 9:24:
Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain.

The Full Gospel is not only teaching spiritual matters. Every Christian was to know Christ and taste the power of his resurrection. Everybody likes the part of Christ described in the first and second phrases of the following verse:

Philippians 3:10a:
That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection ...

Everybody wants the best of him, but who wants the rest of him as ascribed to the third and fourth phrases?

Philippians 3:10b:
... and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death;

Believing in the name of Jesus is just the start. In his day, Jesus did not commit himself to everyone who believed in his name.

John 2:23-25:
23: Now when he was in Jerusalem at the passover, in the feast day, many believed in his name, when they saw the miracles which he did.
24: But Jesus did not commit himself unto them, because he knew all men,
25: And needed not that any should testify of man: for he knew what was in man.

There is a promise that God shall reveal which doctrine is sound.

Philippians 3:15:
Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded: and if in any thing ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you.

How does enduring sound doctrine relate to receiving a crown?

2 Timothy 4:3-4; 6-7:
3: For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears;
4: And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.
6: For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand.
7: I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith:

Now it is high time to decide if those that love the Lord's appearing finished their courses lawfully or not, kept the faith or not, whether they have striven against sin or not, or lived lukewarm lives by using grace as a license to sin, at best to be saved “yet as by fire” (1 Cor. 3:15). Who has bewitched us to believe that we may receive a crown without victory?

Revelation 3:21-22:
21: To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne.
22: He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.


From the library of Workers Together With Him