The Law-Abiding Athlete

May 15, 2007

As we further consider the six pictures of pastoral ministry found in 2 Timothy 2, Paul next brings to view the law-abiding athlete. He writes: “Similarly, if anyone competes as an athlete, he does not receive the victor’s crown unless he competes according to the rules.” ( 2 Timothy 2:5).


What Paul had in mind (as on other ocassions – cf.1 Cor 9:24-26; Eph 6:12) was the Greek games. Though ancient, these games were similar to ours in that they were regulated. Each event had its rules. If at any time, a competitor failed to comply with those rules he would be disqualified and the prize could not be his. An athlete could be wonderfully talented, vastly superior to his competitors, and even cross the line first. But if he did not compete “according to the rules”, he would be disqualified.

‘So’, says Paul, ‘the Christian pastor.’ He must be a law-abiding competitor. That is to say – and this is crucial to emphasise – he must live according to the rules which Christ has laid down (i.e. not man made rules).

This does not contradict grace, of course (though some Christians suspect so). Too many Christians make the sad mistake of thinking that the ‘graced’ life need not be a godly one. Yet nothing could be further from the truth! It is by Christ’s grace that we enter the race; now then it is incumbent upon us to abide by the race-rules. Properly understood, ‘living according to the rules’ is actually an outflow of grace.

So John Stott writes: “In spite of the strange teaching of the so-called ‘new morality’, which insists that the category of the law has been abolished by Christ, the Christian is under obligation to live ‘lawfully’, to keep the rules, to obey God’s moral laws. True, he is not ‘under law’ as a way of salvation, to commend him to God, but he is as a guide to his conduct.”


Therefore fellow pastors, what we must be asking ourselves is two fold: 1) What does the guide-book say? And 2) Am I living according to it? Or to put it in other terms: does my conduct match my biblical creeds, and my deeds my doctrine?

Or even more specifically.

When the book says I must “Guard the good deposit” entrusted to me (2 Tim 1:14), do I live according to the book?

When the book prescribes that I must “fan into flame the gift of God” (2 Tim 1:6), do l live according to the book?

When the book commands that I “not be ashamed to testify about our Lord” (2 Tim 1:8) but “join” with fellow saints in “suffering for the gospel” (2 Timothy 1:8), do I will live according to the book?

While the books says I must at all times “Remember Jesus Christ” (2 Tim 2:8) do I live according to the book?.

When the book exhorts, “Do your best to present yourself as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed but correctly handles the word of truth” (2 Tim 2:15), do I live according to the book?.

When the book commends that I “flee the evil desires of youth, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart” (2 Tim 2:22), do I will live according to the book?.

When the book states that “the Lord’s servant must not quarrel; instead he must be kind to everyone” (2 Tim 2:”4), do I live according to the book?

When the book charges me to “preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season” (2 Tim 4:2), do I live according to the book?

How about it brothers… Are we running “according to the rules” or are we in danger of disqualification for failing to heed the guide-book? Can we say with Paul: “No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize” (1 Cor 9:27)?


Workman’s Toolbox
* Recently I interviewed Vaughan Roberts. Through www.10ofthose.com you can purchase Vaughan’s new book for a stunning £3.50 including postage and packaging! This is available (thanks to Jonathan Carswell) to the first 20 people who email quote@10ofthose.com, giving the reference blogadamsVR.
* A few suggestions for keeping your Greek skills sharp (HT: Transforming Sermons)



  1. There’s a nice little intersection with today’s reading from Oswald Chambers’ My Utmost for His Highest: “May God not find the whine in us any more, but may He find us full of spiritual pluck and athleticism, ready to face anything He brings.”

    You’re in my thoughts this week, Colin, as you prepare for Sunday!

    David Reimer
    (p.s. have you ever thought about putting your “Workman’s Toolbox” links in a “sideblog”?)

  2. David, that’s a good point about the sidebar. Hadn’t thought of that…. I’ll try to work out how I do it!

  3. Good word. I linked to it today. Peace.

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