Strive Lawfully

“If a man also strive for masteries, yet is he not crowned, except he strive lawfully.” —II Timothy 2:5

THIS TEXT HAS for its background the Grecian games of old, and fitly illustrates various experiences in the Christian racecourse. Wilson’s Emphatic Diaglott reads: “If any one contend in the games, he is not crowned, unless he contend lawfully.” In these Grecian sporting events there were definite, rigid rules to be observed, and each competitor was obliged to take an oath that he would not do anything unlawful. Whoever did not observe the rules had no real hope of being victorious no matter what strength, energy, skill, and zeal he displayed.

This is similarly true respecting the heavenly prize for which we are striving. There are certain definite conditions or rules laid down by our Father in his Holy Word, which we as consecrated children of his must observe. If we neglect them, or choose other rules, we cannot hope to succeed. God’s inspired Word instructs us as to what we should do, and what we should not do, and ‘striving lawfully’ means loyal and zealous obedience to that Word.


Jesus said: “Whosoever cloth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:27) It has been well said that ‘the way of the cross leads home’. But what does bearing the cross mean? It involves our doing the Heavenly Father’s will under unfavorable conditions.

If all things within us and around us were in complete harmony with the Lord, the doing of his will would not be a cross. But doing our Father’s will against all the oppositions of the world, the flesh, and the Adversary is indeed a cross. In our Lord’s case, this doing of God’s will brought to him the envy, hatred, malice, abuse, persecution, crucifixion, and death at the hands of his enemies.

We are called upon to take up the cross daily—not to take it up one day and put it down the next. (Luke 9:23) The cross is a symbol of death, and carrying our cross involves the death of the human will; being dead to self, but alive to the risen Lord, Jesus Christ.

And we are to be faithful in cross-bearing. Maintaining our willingness to stand firmly for the Lord, and for the truth, and for every principle of righteousness, meekly, humbly, yet firmly: letting our light shine, speaking the truth in love, thus doing our Father’s will no matter what the cost may be.

Striving lawfully means loyal and zealous obedience to our Father’s holy Word and will. Jesus, who did most surely strive lawfully, spoke these words: “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.”—Matt. 7:21


Did Paul, the writer of the phrase ‘strive lawfully’, comply with his own exhortation? Most assuredly! Sounding a truly personal note, he wrote, “Every combatant [in the games] is temperate in all things; they, indeed, that they may receive a perishable crown; but we, one imperishable. I therefore so run, as not uncertainly; I so strike, as not beating the air; but I severely discipline my body, and make it subservient [lead it captive]; lest possibly, having proclaimed to others, I myself should become one unapproved.”—I Cor. 9:25-27, WED

This was an important phase of God’s will for the apostle, and is also a vital feature of God’s will for each of his children; that is, severely disciplining self. The man engaged in conflict with an animal in the Grecian games knew that the bruised and wounded animal would seek to kill him; and the apostle would remind us here that the old nature within the Christian strives to kill the new mind. Therefore, the new mind must make sure that it uses all its strength to gain the victory. It is a real battle, a real conflict; and the final victory is to him that overcomes.

Individually, we are to be “more than conquerors through him that loved us.” (Rom. 8:37) We cannot accomplish this of ourselves, but ‘through him’. We can depend upon the Lord doing his part, and we should come to the comforting realization that this grand process is backed by the mighty power of the Holy Spirit. The only question is, are we willing to comply with the conditions? Are we determined to strive lawfully?

God’s Word is our divinely inspired book of rules, and the more we read and meditate upon this precious Word, the more wonderful are the prospects set before us, and the more reasonable do the Lord’s requirements become. We should more and more carefully and prayerfully study and meditate upon the Holy Scriptures, that we may know more and more clearly God’s will for us.

While our text (II Tim. 2:5) gives us an exhortation to strive lawfully, the 24th verse reads: “The servant of the Lord must not strive.” In the Greek, these two verses are not contradictory, but quite harmonious. God’s Word, in the original, is beautifully accurate. In the expression ‘strive lawfully’, the Greek word translated “strive” is athleo, meaning ‘to contend’, ‘to be a champion’. In verse 24, as quoted above, the Greek word translated “strive” is machomai, and means ‘to quarrel’, ‘to be contentious’. Therefore, in our striving lawfully, we must not quarrel, or be contentious. If we do quarrel, if we are contentious, or given to contention or strife, it is quite clear that we are not striving lawfully.

We are all engaged in a race, but there is not to be any hindering of others. There should be no selfishness, no ruling other brethren out of this wonderful contest, and out of the kingdom. And there must not be any refusal, or even the slightest hesitancy, to lovingly help and assist any and all runners for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. Strive lawfully—“Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.”—Gal. 6:2

The fighting spirit within us must be used—under the control of the Holy Spirit—in severely disciplining one’s own body, and wrestling against spiritual wickedness in high places, not for quarreling with, and fighting with the brethren. We are to judge self lest we cast a stumbling block before others and cause them to stumble and fall in this heavenly race. We are to fight down the wrong spirit in our hearts.


“Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.” (Rom. 8:9) Quoting more fully from II Timothy 2:24,25, WED, we read: A servant of the Lord must not be contentious, but be gentle towards all, fit to teach, patient under evil; in meekness correcting the opposers.” As we contend earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints, and are giving a faithful witness, holding forth the Word of life, we are to do so with earnestness and zeal, and also with gentleness, meekness, patience, and humility.

We are to be governed by a royal law—the law of love. (James 2:8) “A new commandment I give unto you,” said Jesus, “That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” (John 13:34,35) This is a commandment to us, individually.

In effect Jesus said: If you would be my disciple, if you would share my throne, and glory, and immortality, you must have my Spirit. You must follow me; you must be more than straightforward, honest, just; you must be self-sacrificing. You are to love one another, as I have loved you. You must cast in your lot with me in self-sacrifice, or you cannot be my disciple, nor share my glory, and associate yourself in my work of blessing all the families of the earth. Because I have laid down my life for you, you ought to lay down your lives for the brethren.—I John 3:16

It is recorded in I Corinthians 4:9 that “we are made a spectacle unto the world, and to angels, and to men.” We are, according to the Greek word used here, a public spectacle, or show. We are in the arena, and are to be the right kind of spectacle. To walk in the way, as our Lord set us an example, implies not only a passive conformity to his disposition or spirit, but also an active, energetic zeal in the promulgation of his truth at all hazards.


When the Apostle Paul wrote the words ‘strive lawfully’, he was a prisoner in chains in Rome for his faithfulness to his Lord, and to the truth. But, said he, “The Word of God is not bound [or chained].” (II Tim. 2:9) “Therefore,” he continues, quite uncomplainingly, “I endure all things for the elect’s sakes, that they may also obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory.”

The apostle surely endured all things for the elect’s sakes, for the body members of the Anointed, for the building up of the body of Christ. And we also are to endure all things for the elect’s sakes—for any and all the elect, all the body members still in the flesh. Some are known to us; others, at the moment, unknown. Possibly some of these are within our reach. Are we longing for the completion and glorification of God’s elect? Is it really our hearts’ fervent and earnest prayer that God’s elect shall before long be completed and glorified with our Lord, beyond the veil? And are we living and laboring, day by day, with this end in view?

According to II Corinthians 6:11-13, New International Version, some of the elect in the church at Corinth seemed to have a small, narrow, congested sort of heart. “We have spoken freely to you, Corinthians,” the apostle wrote, “and opened wide our hearts to you. We are not withholding our affection from you, but you are withholding yours from us. As a fair exchange—I speak as to my children—open wide your hearts also.” There is to be no narrowness in our love. We shall need to go often to the throne of heavenly grace in this matter.


Ours is a wonderful race course, and daily—even hourly—we are looking toward our glorious Leader whom we are to follow, looking unto Jesus, the starter and finisher of the faith, and of our racecourse, who, for the joy that was set before him, endured the cross, disregarding the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider him attentively, who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you may not be wearied, and discouraged in your mind. Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin. (Heb. 12:1-4) But Jesus did resist unto blood, and so have many of his footstep followers throughout the Gospel Age.

By comparison with Jesus, we suffer very little; and yet, it may be that we complain about the suffering and hardship of the Christian racecourse. In our little way we may easily become weary and discouraged. Let us consider Jesus attentively—study, meditate upon, comprehend his course of action and what he overcame. Let us also consider his sublime words of instruction, his gracious words of encouragement, and his wonderful promises to help. Let us, with renewed determination and zeal, deny self utterly; take up our cross daily and follow him.

There is a great cloud of witnesses surrounding us. (Heb. 12:1) And we, some of the last members of the body of the Anointed One, are in the arena, endeavoring more and more, with the Lord’s help, to be the right kind of spectacle; and to strive lawfully, as we run our race. Jesus, our faithful Leader and victorious Forerunner, now beyond the veil, awaits our arrival. Also the greater part of his body members have successfully finished their course, faithful unto death. The end of our race is almost in sight. Strive lawfully, and see that no man take thy crown.

Dawn Bible Students Association
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