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Sketches From The Life of Paul

by Ellen G. White

Chapter 15: Paul to the Corinthians.

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"Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible." The chaplet of fading laurel is presented before us in the strongest contrast with the enduring honor and the crown of immortal glory which he will receive who runs with triumph the Christian race, and becomes a victor in the spiritual warfare. There must be no flagging of zeal, no wavering steps, or the effort will be lost. The last few strides of the contestants in the race were always made with agonizing effort to keep up undiminished speed. So the Christian, as he nears the goal, must press on with even more zeal and determination than at the first part of his course.

Paul carries the illustration back to the preparation necessary to the success of the contestants in the race,—to the preliminary discipline, the careful and abstemious diet, the temperance in all things. These were unflinchingly practiced in order to win the small recompense of earthly honor. How much more important that the Christian, whose eternal interest is at stake, be trained to put appetite and passion under subjection to reason and the will of God. If men will voluntarily submit to hardships, privations, and self-denial to secure the perishable reward of worldly distinction, how much more should the Christian be willing to do and to suffer for the sake of obtaining the crown of glory that fadeth not away, and the life which runs parallel with the life of God.

The competitors in the ancient games, after [p. 166] they had submitted to self-denial and rigid discipline, were not even then sure of the victory. The prize could be awarded to but one. Some might put forth the utmost effort to obtain this crowning honor, but, as they reached forth the hand to secure it, another, an instant before them, might grasp the coveted treasure. Such is not the case in the Christian warfare. Those who comply with the conditions are not to be disappointed at the end of the race. They all may gain the prize, and win and wear the crown of immortal glory.

Multitudes in the world are witnessing this game of life, the Christian warfare. The Monarch of the universe and myriads of heavenly angels are watching with intense interest the efforts of those who engage to run the Christian race. The reward given to every man will be in accordance with the persevering energy and faithful earnestness with which he has performed his part in the great contest.

Paul himself practiced self-denial and endured severe hardships and privations that he might win the prize of eternal life, and, by his example and teachings, lead others also to be gainers of the same reward. He says: "I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air; but I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection, lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway." The apostle desired to arouse his Corinthian brethren to see the danger that menaced them through self-gratification, he therefore dwelt on the rigid discipline and abstemiousness necessary to develop soundness, vigor, and endurance in the competitors in [p. 167] the games. He drew a contrast between this preparation and its consequences, and the self-indulgent life of the Corinthian Christians, who had matters of eternal interest at stake, and needed the fullest strength of body and mind in order to come off victorious. He showed them that heretofore their course had been highly censurable; for not even anxiety for spiritual health and the honor of the gospel could induce them to deny the cravings of appetite and passion.

In the indulgence of depraved appetites they had even united with the heathen in their idolatrous festivals, thus endangering the faith of those newly converted from idolatry. Paul counsels them to firmly control their animal passions and appetites. The body, the master-piece of God's workmanship, like a perfect and well-stringed instrument, must be kept in soundness, in order to produce harmonious action. He says that unless he should put in practice his own exhortations, by striving for the mastery over self, observing temperance in all things, he would, after preaching to others, himself becomes a castaway.

The apostle declares that he did not run in the Christian race uncertainly, that is, indifferently, willing to be left behind; neither did he fight as the pugilist practices prior to the fray, beating the air with empty blows, having no opponent. But as, when in actual conflict, he contends for the mastery, overcomes his antagonist by repeated and well-directed blows, beats him to the ground, and holds him there till he acknowledges himself conquered, so did the apostle fight against the temptations of Satan and the evil propensities of the carnal nature. [p. 168]

Paul refers his brethren to the experience of ancient Israel, to the blessings which rewarded their obedience, and the judgments which followed their transgressions. He reminds them of the fact that the Hebrews were led in a miraculous manner from Egypt, under the protection of the shadowy cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night. He recounts how the whole company were thus safely conducted through the Red Sea, while the Egyptians, essaying to cross in like manner, were all drowned. God in these acts acknowledged all Israel as his church. "They did all eat the same spiritual meat, and did all drink the same spiritual drink; for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them; and that Rock was Christ." The Hebrews, in all their travels, had Christ as a leader. The smitten rock typified Christ, who was to be wounded for men's transgressions, that the stream of salvation might flow to them.

Notwithstanding the favor which God manifested to the Hebrews, yet because of their wicked lust for the luxuries which they had left in Egypt,—because of their sins and rebellion,— the judgments of God came upon them. The apostle enjoins upon his brethren the lesson to be learned: "Now these things were our examples, to the intent we should not lust after evil things, as they also lusted."

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