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More on “Staying Awake” December 16, 2006

Posted by larrylaz in Scripture Meditation.
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Joe,

So I said yesterday that your post about “staying awake” stirred in me some thoughts because of what I had read yesterday morning. My reading in 1 Corinthians 10 fit nicely with what you wrote then. Here’s the passage, going back to the end of chapter 9,

24Do you not know that in a race all the runners compete, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. 25Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. 26So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. 27But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified. 1[For] I want you to know, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, 2and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, 3and all ate the same spiritual food, 4and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ. 5Nevertheless, with most of them God was not pleased, for they were overthrown in the wilderness. 6Now these things took place as examples for us, that we might not desire evil as they did. 7Do not be idolaters as some of them were; as it is written, “The people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play.” 8We must not indulge in sexual immorality as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in a single day. 9We must not put Christ to the test, as some of them did and were destroyed by serpents, 10nor grumble, as some of them did and were destroyed by the Destroyer. 11Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come. 12Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall.

At the beginning of verse 1, I added the word “For” in brackets because that is a very important word in my opinion, and a word that the ESV does not translate for some reason. Most of the other translations do include it, however, and it is in the original language. I think the connection is important because it shows that as chapter 10 begins Paul is not moving on to some new topic; rather, he is elaborating on what he has just said regarding the discipline involved in running for the imperishable reward. I have quoted the end of chapter 9 frequently in talking about the discipline required to fight the fight of faith, but I rarely move beyond chapter 9 to see how Paul continues his argument.

After urging his readers to pummel their bodies in pursuing the great reward of chapter 9, he gives an illustration of some who were “disqualified” because they did not run as they were supposed to. The diligent, Olympic-like pursuit is so important because the Israelites also experienced many spiritual blessings, but because they did not “stay awake” to the dangers that surrounded them, they were overthrown in the wilderness and became idolaters, desiring evil and forsaking the Fountain of Living Water.

Their being overthrown served as an example for our instruction (v.11), leading Paul to conclude by saying, “12Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. I think this concluding exhortation is another way of saying what Paul was saying in 9:24-27. Running in such a way as to win the prize means “taking heed” lest we fall like the Israelites did. It can be deadly to look back and trust in our religious experiences of the past while neglecting the present pursuit of Christ.

God’s judgment of the Israelites occurred for our instruction, so that we might not persist in the same sluggish indifference to sin that led to their destruction. The example of the Israelites is written to show the deadly consequences of not running the way Paul commanded at the end of chapter 9.

This seems so relevant for the Church in our day, which has told people time and time again that their assurance of salvation rests in a decision or prayer prayed in the past, regardless of whether they are running in such a way as to win the prize right now. In the name of bringing comfort to parishioners, many pastors are leading their people into the pit of hell by telling them that it doesn’t matter how diligently they are “staying awake” or “taking heed”, so long as they made their decision in the past. But Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 9:24-10:12 show the deadly consequences of refusing to run the race set before us.

There is more to say on this, especially with regard to how this all relates to the issue of eternal security and the perseverance of the saints, but this post is already reaching Challies-like length (not really, but it’s long for me!), so perhaps further reflections will come another time. Maybe if you feel compelled, you can add some to my reflections.

Striving with you, brother, to enter by the narrow gate,

Larry

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