RUNNING THE RACE
PRINCETON CHRISTIAN CHURCH
GALATIANS 5:1-15 17 SEPTEMBER 2023
In the first century, Christians who lived in the region of Galatia were being hindered from faithfully serving the Lord. Paul even suggests that someone was “bewitching” them (Galatians 3:1). They were being troubled by these bewitchers.
They were causing trouble among the Christians in Galatia. They were having a bad leavening influence on them as Paul mentions in verse 12 as well as in Chapter 1, verse 7 as he says: “….. there are some who are disturbing you and want to distort the gospel of Christ.” (5:8,9).
Now, this mention of leavening simply means that these troublemakers were attempting to change the minds and lives of Christians who were trying to live according to the teachings of Jesus.
Who were these leaven-ers or these bewitch-ers – these troublemakers?
They were people who were known as Judaizers. Now, Judaizers were people who were trying to bind the teaching of the Law of Moses to Christians. They were teaching, in particular, that it was necessary for the Christians to be circumcised. (Acts 15:1,5). Verse 1 – “Some men came down from Judea and began teaching the brethren, “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.” In verse 5 we read: “But some of them of the sect of the Pharisees who had believed stood up, saying, “It is necessary to circumcise them and to direct them to observe the Law of Moses.”
The damage that these troublemakers were causing was that they were perverting the Gospel. How were these Judaizers disrupting the churches of Galatia by perverting the gospel (Paul says in Galatians 1:6-7): “I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel, which is really not another (Gospel).”
So, what was the consequence of those false teachers’ efforts? Note the message of Galatians 5:7: “You ran well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth.” Some among the Galatian Christians – followers of Christ – had believed these Judaizers – these false teachers and had stopped obeying the truth.
This, of course, placed them in a dangerous position of facing a state of spiritual death. That is how serious the situation had become. And, for us, if we listen to the Judaizers – that is, false teachers – today, what will be our condition? Of course – it will be the very same.
Well, the message Paul is teaching in Galatians 5 would apply to us as well if we listen to and begin to follow those who are intent on leading Christians astray and away from the Truth.
In the New Testament writings, the Christian life is sometimes compared to a race. The Christians in Galatia are portrayed as “running,” and in 1 Corinthians 9:24 Paul urges saints to “run in such a way” that they can obtain the prize.
In a race, we run. We are told in Hebrews 12:1 to “run with endurance the race that is set before us”
From the time of our baptism into Christ to the time that we leave this world – we are in this race. This is our Christian race. We are not running a physical race hoping to gain the fastest speed to beat all the others running alongside us to the finish line.
It is instead; a race of endurance. In this race, there is no first place, no second place, nor is there a last place. In this race, everyone who enters the race can be successful. All the runners can receive the prize. And the prize is the crown of life.
But we can be very sure that all races have an end or finish line. This race in life has a finish line as well. Like other races, this race has a goal. Like other races, this race has rules and regulations all runners must follow as they run.
But, unlike all the other races, in the Christian race we are not in competition with other runners.
Let’s consider this situation here. Suppose in our Christian life we have run the race well for years. But we begin to slack off in later years. We don’t run quite as diligently as we once had. We begin to slack off. We take detours along the way. What is the worth of our prior running of the race?
Well, the truth is that it is not enough to have run well in the past. God’s concern is about how we are running in the present – the here and now.
There is a name for that situation or condition – it is called backsliding.
The Galatian Christians had run well in the past as Paul points out in 5:7: “You were running well, who hindered you from obeying the truth.” That is well and good, but what about right now? What about now when Paul is writing to them? How are they running? They were off course. And we know that because they were no longer obeying the truth. Paul is very clear about that.
We must be very careful not to give in to the temptation to boast about our past dedication and service to the Lord. We must not boast about how faithful we were at one time in our lives. We must be careful not to be deceived into thinking that the “once upon a time” faithfulness we had at one time has us locked into security.
We cannot fool ourselves into thinking that surely God will accept us based on our faithfulness in the past, although now we don’t practice that faithfulness. What matters is our relationship with Christ at this moment.
It is a great thing if we were running the race with the Lord all the days of our past. Hear what John says in 1 John 1:7: “…if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin. If we dare not walk in the light, then our past faithfulness counts as nothing.
Judas Iscariot “ran well” at one time, but later betrayed the Lord.
At one point, Demas “ran” as a faithful co-worker of the apostle Paul (Philemon 24), but later deserted Paul and the Lord’s Cause (2 Timothy 4:10).
The church at Ephesus was once blessed for their good works as part of their faithful service to Christ.
There came a time, though, when the church at Ephesus was rebuked because it left its first love. They were called upon to remember where they had been in their race and how they had fallen, They were called upon to repent and return to their former works to run well again. (Revelation 2:1-7). READ
We must not rest on our past accomplishments but keep our eye on the goal and strive to run well today all the way to the finish line.
In our race today, sometimes there are people or things that hinder us. That is precisely what happened in Galatia in the first century.
Look at that question again: “Who hindered you...?” We know that in the Church at Galatia, the ones hindering them were the Judaizers.
What about today? Who are those who hinder us? Who are those who attempt to discredit our life in Christ?
We all know people – often someone in our own families - who at one time were “so faithful,” in their walk – or run – with Christ. But now that person, or those persons are not running so well. What happened to them? Most likely the Judaizers got to them and convinced them that life was not worth it – they convinced them there was a better life out there where they could be free to do as they pleased, without paying any attention to the only One who could provide for them the very best of life for eternity.
Who, in our time, hinders the children of God from obeying the truth? In some cases, it may be friends, the kind that apply intense pressure to conform to their worldly ways and mock those who refuse to bend. It may be a loved one or a close friend who entices a servant of the Lord to be involved in sin.
It may be a false teacher who deceives a weaker Christian who is a struggling disciple by promising miraculous healing for all physical ailments. It may be a husband or wife who begs and convinces a Christian to go with him/her to a denomination that doesn't teach the truth. Many have been snatched away in that manner, never to return.
Sadly, but always, the great deceiver, Satan, has his demons at work trying to convince Christians that we are being deceived into believing that there is a Heaven and only those who obey the Gospel will enter in. And, in reality, many just simply don’t want to be bound by the teaching of the New Testament,
It is so vitally important that we be wise enough to recognize those people or things in our lives that might be working to hinder us from walking faithfully with our Lord.
Then, we must be strong enough to deal with those hindering things or people. Our souls are at stake. We must not allow anything or anyone to pull us away from our first love. We must be prepared to echo the words of Jesus: “Get behind Me, Satan” (Luke 4:8).
On a personal level, when all is said and done, if I do not obey the truth, then I must take full responsibility for my actions.
As God’s children, we must keep on obeying His truth. It is, without a doubt, an ongoing process.
If I, or you, ever stop obeying the truth, it will be for one reason and one reason only. Others can hinder me. Others can influence me.
Yet, in the end, it all comes down to my own personal choice.
Will I, or will I not, choose to continue to obey the truth?
It really is a matter of choice! On judgment day, it will do me no good to point an accusing finger at others. Because we all will be judged according to what we personally have done, not on what anyone else has done in their lives, or not even what they may have done to us.
Let’s be honest with ourselves and ask ourselves a question. Right now, at this very hour, how are you running the race?
May the Lord help us to take and use His whole armor so that we might be able to stand against all the wiles of the devil.
And for anyone who has not responded to the Gospel message and has not had the blood of Jesus Christ applied to their life through repentance, accepting Jesus Christ as Lord of your life, have your sins washed away through baptism, there is no better day than this one to make that change in your life.
We can’t promise an easy life after accepting Jesus as Lord, but we can promise – by the Word of God – that the eternal reward is worth it all.
If you are not now running the race with your God and His Son Jesus Christ, He is inviting you today to be His child.