Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
May 4, 1967

The Language Of Olympia - "Ye Did Run Well"

Clint Springer

In a number of passages Paul alludes to the Olympian games of ancient Greece and makes figurative comparison to the Christian life. One of these statements concerns a former state of the Galatians and is found in that epistle, chapter five, verse seven. The Galatian Christians had started a good race but were returning to Judaism. Most of us now, no doubt, can remember similar circumstances of people who "did run well" but who have now gone back into perdition. Like Paul, perhaps, we will become the enemy of many by simply speaking the truth on these matters. (Gal.4:16)

This same figure is exemplified several other places. In Hebrews 12;1, inasmuch as we are compassed about by so many great witnesses, we are told to lay aside the weight that would burden us down and to run with patience the race that is set before us The Greeks, I am told, would practice with weights upon their ankles to strengthen their muscles; when the actual race was started, these weights would be laid aside that the athlete might feel fleet-footed and free. Whatever deters our service to God is like (illegible, sic) to the Olympian runner and must be put away. Paul said in Phil. 3:13,14, "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, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus." In H Tim. 4:7,8 we see that it was after the race was won that he was able to say that the crown of life was his. (see also I Cor. 9:24) Olympia was a place in ancient Greece and all these passages mention indirectly the language of the games held there.

There are many points of analogy that can be seen from this comparison: Only qualified Greeks could run; only qualified Christians are in the race. The necessity of perseverance indicates that in both races only the winner was crowned; Paul's crown, you remember, was laid up for him because he had finished his course! All of us receive joy from seeing an athlete run well. A "has been", however, is most pathetic, and this is true of the punch-drunk boxer as well as the disciple of Christ that (past tense) "did run well".

Such thoughts as these remind me of the toothpaste commercial about the boy who had just won the race: Says the mother to the coach, "I wish I could get him to move that fast when it comes to brushing his teeth!" And so it is in things pertaining to religion today. How many times have you wished for a literal "hot-stick" (an electric prod used in driving cattle) to help people work for the Lord?

We're not in competition with one another as Christians in this race, but rather it is a personal trial with each individual running against Satan. Who will win in your race, however, depends on you. (I Cor. 9:26, 27; Phil. 2:16) To hear the words "ye did run well" but were hindered is to be lost! Let us lay aside the weight and get on with the business at hand.