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"which doth so easily beset (us)" "EUPERISTATOS, standing well around, well or easily surrounding or encompassing; well circumstanced, of a temptation or sin, which has every advantage in favor of its prevailing,..." Bullinger page 97. This word only occurs in Hebrews 12:1 in the New Testament. "...literally signifies 'standing well (that is,easily) around' (EU, well, PERI, around, STATOS, standing, that is, easily encompassing). It describes sin as having advantage in favor of its prevailing." Vine's page 120. "...skillfully surrounding that is besetting namely to prevent or retard running..." Grimm-Thayer page 261.
The Apostle Paul is dealing with the period of training in preparation for the race plus the preparations just before the start of the race. He first tells us that we must "lay aside every weight" which refers to the excess weight that must be taken off and probably the removal of the unneeded garments. He then tells us that we must "lay aside...the sin which doth easily beset us" which probably refers to the fact that the runners ran naked and barefoot shedding their long flowing garments and sandals. Thus we have the positive and negative aspects set before us to be a successful runner. Let us look at them in more detail comparing the natural with the spiritual.
In order to be successful, the natural athlete must be in peek physical and mental shape. He can not be fat, weak, short-winded, tired or tiring easily, or easily fatigued, mentally fatigued and having slow reflexes. He must know his limits and what he can do. He must have an absolute knowledge, understanding and wisdom in the application of the sport he is participating in. He also must know the capabilities of his opponents -- both their strengths and weaknesses in order to compete successfully against them. What does all of this require? Well, it requires hard work -- constant, rigorous, habitual exercise in order to take off the excess weight and firm up, tone-up and build up ones muscles, wind and endurance. Atheletes have to establish a daily routine in order to discipline themselves to be able to endure the rigors of the race. Their training has to be habitual not on an indifferent or hit-or-miss basis. They have to practice the various skills needed to be victorious when competing. These skills have to be so much a part of them from their habitual use that the athlete does not even have to think about how, what or when they should be manifested. His actions, reactions and interactions should be so much a part of him that their use is all automatic requiring no hesitation on his part in their use. In the Olympic games as well as the other Greek games the athlete had to follow a set diet and training routine for at least ten months before the activities they were about to participate in plus spend at least thirty days before the contest attending the exercises at the gymnasium or else they would be rejected from competing in the games by the judges.
Likewise the spiritual athlete must follow a rigorous disciplined routine and partake of a set diet on a daily basis or else he will be rejected by the Judge, namely, the Lord Jesus Christ. Though the Apostle Paul told Timothy that "bodily exercise profiteth little" (1 Tim. 4:8) he also commanded "exercise thyself rather unto godliness ... [for] godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come." (1 Tim. 4:7-8). The word for "exercise" in 1 Tim. 4:8 is a term appropriated from the training of an athlete for the games,namely,"GUMNASIA," gymnastic exercise, (so called because practiced nude or nearly so ..." Bullinger page 268. (This is the only occurrence of this word in the New Testament.) The word for "exercise" in 1 Tim. 4:7 is the cognate verb form and also appropriated from the games, namely, "GUMNAZO, to practice gymnastic exercises, (from GUMNOS, naked,) hence to train, accustom..." Bullinger page 268. It only occurs in the following passages:
1 Tim. 4:7 "exercise" Develops godliness.
Heb. 5:14 "exercised" Developed the ability to discern both good and evil through constant use of the Word of the Deity.
Heb. 12:11 "which are exercised" Develops the peaceable fruit of righteous unto them who are exercised by chastening.
2 Pet. 2:14 "exercised" The "cursed children" who have exercised their hearts with covetous practices.
Thus the first three passages just mentioned above show that the spiritual man must continually study and meditate upon the word of the Deity (the "strong meat" of Heb. 5:14) in order to distinguish between what is right or wrong. Nothing less than a constant habitual daily following of this rule of diet and exercise will produce a healthy spiritual athlete in peek condition. It is through this that he will know what his limits are and what he can do. It is through this that he will know how to respond to every situation he finds himself in during the race for aionian life. It then follows that those who are exercised by the chastening educational disciplining hand of the Deity will develop the "peaceable fruit of righteousness" which sees our spiritual athlete shaping up acceptable and properly so that he will not be refused by the Judge. The above then passes on to the development of "godliness" from this continuous exercise routine. This is when our athlete is in peek shape for peek performance and victory in the race for aionian life. (See Appendix A for discussion of "godliness".)
Another aspect of "laying aside every weight" is what must be done before the above is possible and which must be continuously done throughout the spiritual athlete's life. Just as a natural athlete must put off or remove the excess weight which will only slow him down and weaken him so that he can not endure or successfully finish the race, the spiritual athlete must remove that represented by the flesh. He must put off the works of darkness (Rom. 13:12) and put off the former conduct of the old man (Eph. 4:22), namely, lying (Eph. 4:25), anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth, (Col. 3:8) all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness (James 1:21) and all malice, and all guile, and hypocrisies, and envies, and all evil speakings (1 Pet. 2:1) in order to arrive at a positive state of excellent spiritual health, superb spiritual condition and ready for optimal performance in the race for aionian life.
Did you also notice the importance of diet when we touched upon Heb. 5:14? The phrase referred to is "strong meat." "Strong" is "STEREOS, stable, firm, solid." Page 744, Bullinger. It only occurs in the following New Testament passages:
2 Tim. 2:19 "sure" The foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, the Lord knoweth them that are His.
Heb. 5:12 "strong" (literally solid food)
Heb. 5:12 "strong" (literally solid food)
1 Pet.5:9 "steadfast" Peter exhorts the brethren to resist the devil steadfast in the faith.
"meat" is "TROPHE, nourishment, sustenance, food, victuals." Bullinger, Page 491.
It only occurs in the following passages:
Matt. 3:4 "meat"
Matt. 6:25 "meat"
Matt. 10:10 "meat"
Matt. 24:45 "meat" Who then is a faithful and wise servant, whom his Lord hath made ruler over his household, to give them meat in due season.
Luke 12:23 "meat"
John 4:8 "meat"
Acts 2:46 "meat" (literally food)
Acts 9:19 "meat"
Acts 14:17 "food"
Acts 27:33 "meat" (literally food)
Acts 27:34 "meat"
Acts 27:36 "meat" (literally food)
Acts 27:38 "when they had eaten enough" (literally being satisfied with food)
Heb. 5:12 "meat" (literally solid food) The deep things of the Word of Yahweh.
Heb. 5:14 "meat" The deep things of the Word of Yahweh.
James 2:15 "food"
Thus the natural athlete needs solid food not processed or refined food. He needs a nourishing balanced diet in order to obtain the energy and body building substances so that he can exercise and train without tiring or injuring himself. Likewise, the spiritual man needs the solid nutritious food that the Word of the Deity can provide and which the doctrines and philosophies of the world can not.
As has already been mentioned the athlete trained and ran the race naked. One reason for this was that the long flowing robes would hinder movement and possibly trip up the individual who would try to run in them. A second reason is that running barefoot he would avoid the sandal breaking and tripping him and thus injuring him and causing him to lose the race. The same thing could happen if it slipped off while running. A third reason is that it would make him feel lighter because all the weight of the clothes and sandals would be removed and thus enable him to be quicker. A fourth reason is that during training he could observe what muscles he is using during a particular exercise and which ones need additional work. For all of these reasons and probably more he was willing to endure the embarrassment and shame of being naked so that he could be successful in his sport. Likewise, the spiritual athlete must remove all that could hinder him in his training for and in his race for life eternal. The Lord Jesus Christ has "washed us from our sins in his own blood" Rev. 1:5. Thus we are "purged from his (our) old sins" 2 Pet. 1:9. (See Romans 6:1-23 and Col. 2:11.) Thus we must strive against sin (Heb. 12:4) avoiding "the pleasures of sin" (Heb. 11:25) so that we might not "be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin" (Heb. 3:13). In this way, we can avoid the sin "which doth so easily beset us" or easily surrounding us. This is important because the carnal mind or sin nature and the environment in which it is found naturally incline towards each other and away from the Deity. Notice what John says about the world: "Love not the world neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever." (1 John 2:15-17). See what James says, "Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God. (James 1:4). Now notice what Paul says about the carnal mind which is also a manifestation of sin-in-the-flesh, "That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the spirit. For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the spirit the things of the spirit. For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God." (Rom. 8:4-8). Now look at Peter's admonition in 2 Pet. 2:20, "For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning." It is for all of the above that we must "lay aside" or put off "the sin which doth so easily beset us." How is this accomplished? Well, look at Rom. 12:1-2, and Prov. 4:10-22, and 2 Tim. 2:4,5! Thus it is only by crucifying the carnal mind and transforming the mind by the Word of the Deity and absolutely avoiding temptation or that which tempts us to commit sin that we can be successful. Remember sin as it is described here is represented as "that which has every thing in its favor, time, and place, and opportunity; the heart and the object; and a sin in which all these things frequently occur, and consequently the transgression is frequently committed ... the sin that stands well, or is favorably situated, ever surrounding the person and soliciting his acquiescence. What we term the easily besetting sin is our sin constitution, the sin of our trade, that in which our worldly honor, secular profit, and sensual gratification are most frequently felt and consulted ..." Adam Clarke's Commentary Vol. 6 pages 776-777. It is important to remember that the Hebrew's problem was that of unbelief. They were experiencing persecution and pressure for them to return to the Temple worship which is what the apostle Paul is dealing with in this epistle. Let us make sure that in this day and age when the times are like Noah's and Lot's that we do not fall prey to the enticement of the present evil world and thus become guilty of unbelief or other sins and lose the race.
There is another interesting way of looking at the phrase "the sin which doth so easily beset us," namely, that expressed in notes on Hebrews by Brother John Martin page 126: "One commentator upon this word understands it to be "well surrounded by an admiring crowd," and this would suit the context of Paul's thought. If through the eye of faith we can see the grandstands of the arena packed with the martyrs of old, we will be urged on to emulate their example and be unashamed to strip off every encumbrance in our efforts for victory. On the other hand, if we regard the plaudits of an admiring crowd whose lives are steeped in sin, we will quickly encumber ourselves with the things of the flesh to please them, but find to our bitter disappointment, that we have lost the race." The commentator referred to above could possibly be Ellicott who in vol. 4 of his commentary on page 338 says the following: "Though the exact word is not found elsewhere, there are words closely allied as to the meaning of which there is no doubt. Analogy clearly points too the signification much admired (literally, well surrounded by an admiring crowd). It is not impossible that even with this meaning the words "lay aside" or put away (often applied to putting off clothing) might still suggest a garment; if so the allusion might be to a runner who refused to put off a garment which the crowd admired, though such an encumbrance must cause him to fail of the prize. It is more likely that the writer speaks of sin generally as an obstacle to the race, which must be put aside if the runner is to contend at all."
Another interesting quotation comes from The Annotated Bible by Gaebelein, Vol. 4 page 294: "The Christian's life is a race; the glory at His coming is the goal. The runner of the race does not burden himself with weights; unnecessary things. Everything that impedes spiritual progress must be laid aside, as well as the sin that so easily besets us, which is the sin of unbelief. Against this sin they had been emphatically warned. "It is a sin that easily besets us, because it is but the mind of nature acting, according to its instincts, against the will of God." And the runners eyes are to be on the goal. (Phil. 3). The believer runs the race with steadfastness and divests himself of every weight and the sin that easily besets, if he looks away from everything and looks away "unto Jesus, the author and finisher of faith (Leader and Perfector), who for the joy that was set before Him, endured the cross, having despised the shame and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.""
One other interesting quotation comes from Word Studies in the Greek New Testament by Wuest Vol. 2 page 214 of part 2: "It speaks of a sin readily or easily encircles the Christian runner, like a long, loose robe clinging to his limbs. The sin may be any evil propensity. Here the context suggests the sin of unbelief which was the thing keeping the unsaved recipients of this letter from putting their faith in Messiah as High Priest."
In 1 Cor. 9:25, 27 the Apostle Paul makes another significant statement that applies to the period of training of an athlete. Let us look at what he says and consider it meditatively. Firstly in verse 25 he says, "And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things." Secondly in verse 27, "But I keep under my body and bring it into subjection ..." "striveth for the mastery" "AGONIZOMAI, to be a competitor in a contest; hence, to contend, exert one's self, strive very earnestly." Bullinger page 743. It occurs in only the following New Testament passages:
Note 1: "labor" "KOPIAO, to be beat out, that is to be weary, faint; then, to weary one's self as with labor, to toil." Bullinger page 438. This characterizes and emphasizes the meaning of the word we are looking at, namely, AGONIZOMAI. Both of these terms represent the type of dedicated efforts so that Col. 1:19-29 might be an obvious reality.
By the use of this term in 1 Cor. 9:25 the Apostle Paul us indicating that our determination should be just as earnest and agonizing as the runner who is agonizing for a corruptible crown. We should be making every effort so that we can be successful in our race for life eternal. Thus the intensity of our efforts is brought out by the very word which identifies the contest itself. Can this action word be applied to our life in Christ Jesus? There are other related terms that it would be well worth our while looking at right now. They are as follows: "AGON, a gathering, assembly, especially an assembly to see games, then, the assembly of the Greeks at their great national games, and hence, the contest for a prize at their games; generally any struggle or trial with the accessory idea of peril." Bullinger page 180. "... place of assembly where games were often celebrated; hence, a stadium, a course; then, the race or contest itself." Bullinger page 620. It only occurs in the following New Testament passages:
Note 1: "good" KALOS, beautiful, referring to objects whose appearance has a certain harmonious perfection: KALOS is to AGATHOS, what the phenomenal is to the essence; hence, beautiful, pleasing, of objects perceived by the senses; acceptable, agreeable, well-fitted. Then, of a perfect inward nature manifesting and demonstrating itself in an outward shape, that is, physically, exquisite, genuine, perfect in form and nature; morally, excellent, worthy of recognition, becoming, well-suited, beautiful, and in this sense, good. (As compared with DIKAIOS, righteous; DIKAIOS, expresses simply a legal judgment, while KALOS, reflects the agreeable impression made by the good as it manifests itself.) Bullinger page 336.
"AGONIA, bodily strife, struggle or contest; violent struggle or agony both of body and mind,...." Bullinger page36. It only occurs in Luke 22:44 "agony" which was used of Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane as he prayed to his Father. The intensity of this struggle is indicated by the statement "and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground." Can this be said of our struggle for the coronal wreath of life? The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia Of The Bible on pages 70-71 says the following about this term: "A word found in canonical Scripture only in Luke 22:44, where it is used to describe the Lord's agony in the Garden of Gethsemane. It is a transliteration of the Greek AGONIA, which described the exhausting struggles and sufferings of athletes and gladiators in Greek and Roman amphitheaters. It is equivalent to "sorrowful and troubled" in Matthew 26:37 and "greatly distressed and troubled" in Mark 14:33..."
"SUGNAGONIZOUAI, (AGONIZOMAI with SUV, together in conjunction with, prefixed)..." Bullinger 744. It only occurs in Rom. 15:30 where the Apostle Paul beseeches the brethren to agonize with him in prayers to God for himself that his mission might be accomplished in Jerusalem and that he might be able to come to visit them afterwards. Again, we find a very intense word associated with prayer. Are our prayers just as earnest and intense for our brethren and that the work of the Lord might be done? After all this is a very essential part of our running a successful race for aionian life. We must agonize in our prayers that the will of the Deity might be accomplished and that we can become a vital part in the fulfilling of that will. In this manner our running will be blessed with success.
"EPAGONIZOMAI, to contend as a combatant upon (that is for or about) a thing..." Bullinger page 183. It only occurs in Jude verse 3 where he exhorts the brethren to "earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints." Brother H. P. Mansfield has the following to say on this subject on page 67 of his book entitled Contending Earnestly For The Faith: "The Greek word translated "earnestly contend" is epagonizesthai, and signifies "super-agony". It is a word taken from the sports' arena, and is expressive of the greatest effort in harnessing mind and in a contest to gain the victory over other contestants. The most dedicated effort is required in such cases, and a similar dedication is required in preserving in its purity the "faith once (for all) delivered unto the saints.""
"ANTAGONIZOMAI, (AGONIZOMAI with ANTI, against, prefixed.)" Bullinger page 744. It only occurs in Heb. 12:4 translated "striving against" where the Apostle Paul admonishes the Hebrew brethren that they had not agonized against sin to the point where their blood had been spilt. It would seem that the Apostle Paul is referring to the sport of boxing here and is indicating that their efforts have been feeble for they have not as yet drawn blood. It must be remembered that boxers wrapped their hands in leather studded with nails which were called cestus. We will look at this later.
"ATHLEO, to contend, contend for the mastery in the public games, that is, boxing, throwing, wrestling, etc., ..." Bullinger page 744. It only occurs in 2 Tim. 2:5 "strive ... strive" where the Apostle Paul exhorts Timothy by telling him that the only way he could be given the stphanos indicating victory in the contest is by contending according to the rules. The Greek word translated "lawfully" is "NOMIMOS, lawfully, according to law and custom, ..."Bullinger page 444. "... in accordance with rule(s) or law of athletes ... compete according to the rules ..." Arndt and Gingrich page 543. It only occurs in 1 Tim. 1:8 "lawfully" and in 2 Tim. 2:5 "lawfully". In other words just as the natural athlete had rules and regulations to abide by in order to qualify for the race and to successfully finish it, so must the spiritual athlete. The Word of the Deity is the book of rules and regulations we must compete by in order to qualify for the race for aionian life and to be the recipient of the stephanos of righteousness at the hands of the righteous Judge. Consider the following quotations from a book entitled Olympic Games In Ancient Greece by Shirley Glubok and Alfred Tamarin pages 16-18 and 91-92: "... For thirty days the athletes had been training under the supervision of the Hellanodicae [the judges], who were very strict. Any athlete who broke a rule could expect a beating. The contestants, who had to be free Greeks sons of free Greek parents [later included Romans], were tested and trainedd rigorously, and only the best were permitted to compete at Olympia. According to Philostratus (Life of Apollonius), before the chosen athletes had set out on the two-day march to the Games, they had been told by the judges: "If you have practiced hard for Olympia, and if you have not been lazy, or done anything dishonorable, then go forward with confidence. But if any of you have not trained yourselves this way, then leave us and go where you choose."
"At Olympia the athletes had to go through one final ceremony to reaffirm their eligibility to compete. They stood before a towering statue of Zeus, represented as the god of oaths brandishing a thunderbolt in each hand. The figure was awe-inspiring, a grim warning to anyone who might have been tempted to testify falsely. The athletes, their fathers, brothers, and trainers raised their hands over the entrails of a sacrificed pig and swore a solemn oath.. They vowed that they had observed all the rules of training for at least ten months and that they would use no unfair means in order to win at the Games.
"After the athletes had finished giving their oath, the judges swore to take no bribes, to make their decisions fairly, and to keep secret the reasons for their judgments..."
"...And with professionalism came corruption, cheating, and attempts to bribe ... Heavy fines were imposed by the Elean sponsors of the Games. These fines were used to make six bronze statues of Zeus [from one incident alone], which were set up at the entrance to the stadium as warnings to the competitors. The statues were called zanes. They were inscribed: "Not with money, but with speed of foot and strength of body must prizes be won at Olympia."
Upon considering the above quotations we are immediately impressed with the religious nature of the games, the dedication and discipline of the athletes, and the fellowship and comradery experienced by all who participated in them. Likewise our race is religious for we have made a covenant with the Deity through the waters of baptism and we must dedicate ourselves to Him and discipline ourselves according to His rules and compete according to His rules. Can the separation, dedication, disciplining of ourselves, the fellowshipping of one another be positively said of us as it was of the individuals involved in a sport of no eternal value? The answer of this question can be the difference between success in the race for aionian life or failure!
"SUNATHLEO, (ATHLEO with SUN, together in conjunction with, prefixed), ... to contend along with any one, that is on his side; to render mutual help in contesting, ..." Bullinger pages 744 and 438. It only occurs in Phil.1:27 "striving together" and Phil. 4:3 "labored with" where the Apostle Paul exhorts the brethren to strive together as a unit "for the faith of the gospel," also acknowledging those who labored with him. It is important to remember that we are not running this race independent of each other but that each spiritual athlete is not only striving for his own victory but aiding others to attain theirs. We can do this by providing an example of a true spiritual athlete thus encouraging others to persevere unto the end.
"ATHLESIS, a contest or combat, especially of athletes, generally a struggle, trial." Bullinger page 284. "... contest, in N T only figurative of temptations and suffering which, so to speak, fight against men: POLLEN ATHLESIN HUPEMEINATE PATHEMATOV you have had to endure a hard struggle with suffering Heb. 10:32..." Arndt and Gingrich page 21. The above term only occurs in Heb. 10:32 "fight". Here the Apostle Paul is exhorting the Hebrew brethren to remember the former days, after their illumination, they had endured a great struggle with sufferings. "endured," "HUPOMENO, (MENO, stay. stand fast, continue, abide, with HUPO, under, prefixed,) to remain behind after others have gone; transitive to remain under the approach or presence of any person or thing, that is to await the onset; then, of persons in conflict, to keep one's ground, hold out, (HUPOMENO is a brave bearing up against suffering...)." Bullinger page 250. It only occurs in the following New Testament passages:
1 Pet. 2:20 "take it patiently ... take it patiently" There is no glory associated with remaining stedfast when buffeted for your sinning but there is when you are the recipient of suffering for well-doing and remain stedfast.
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