Life-Study of Hebrewsby Witness Lee
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
In this message we come to the Christian race. The Christian life is a race. Every saved Christian must run the race to win the prize (1 Cor. 9:24). This prize is not salvation in a common sense (Eph. 2:8; 1 Cor. 3:15), but a reward in a special sense (Heb. 10:35; 1 Cor. 3:14). The Apostle Paul, who has run the race and won the prize, was nearly the only one who likened the Christian life to a race. In the book of Hebrews he charged the Hebrew believers to run the race, saying, “run with endurance the race which is set before us” (12:1).
Now we must ask a very puzzling question: what is this race? We should not say that the race is perfection or glorification, for that is the goal of the race. Neither is the race the inward working of the law of life, for that is the process of the race. The race is not even the losing of the soul, because that is the way to run the race; it is not the race itself. In order to answer this question, we need to consider the Lord’s word in John 14:6: “I am the way.” A race is a way, a course. Because Christ is the way, He is also the race. The race we are running is Christ. Our way is our race. These are not two things, one the way and the other the race. No, the way we are walking is the race we are running. Therefore, Christ, who is the way, is the race. Although I have been ministering on this matter of running the race for over forty years, I have never been so clear as I am now that the race is Christ Himself.
I am burdened that we all might be clear about God’s way. In the universe God has prepared the unique way which we must take. This way has no beginning or ending; it is endless, reaching from eternity to eternity. From Genesis 1 through Revelation 22 there is only one way—Christ. Before Christ was manifested, God used types to signify this matter of Christ as God’s way, the most striking of which was the tabernacle. As we have seen, the tabernacle has three parts: the outer court, the Holy Place, and the Holy of Holies. In these three parts of the tabernacle there is a way, starting from the altar; passing through the laver, the showbread table, the lampstand, and the incense altar; and ushering us into the ark, the place where the law of life is. The way in the tabernacle is a picture of Christ as our unique way. As we shall see, there is a reason why this way is called a race.
Genesis 1 and 2 reveal that God’s intention was that man, who was created in His image, would be on His way. According to 2 Corinthians 4:4 and Colossians 1:15, the image of God is Christ. Thus, for man to be created in the image of God meant that he was made according to Christ. He was created according to Christ that he might be on God’s way, which is Christ. In Genesis 2 man was put in front of the tree of life, which signified Christ as our life. Therefore, man was not only made according to Christ, but also was destined to take in Christ as his life. If man had done this, he would immediately have been on God’s way. However, soon after the creation of man and before man was on God’s unique way, Satan came in to distract man from God’s way to something other than Christ. But, in His mercy, God came in to establish the way of redemption that the distracted man might be brought back to God’s way. Abel followed this, but Cain did not. Although Abel was brought back to God’s way, Cain was distracted by a further step of Satan, never returning to God’s original way. Later, God commanded the children of Israel to erect the tabernacle. With the tabernacle there was a clear way by which sinners could enter into the reality of what God is. When the children of Israel were called by God, they all were sinners distracted from the way of God. But God showed them the tabernacle, in which there was a way to go from the altar in the outer court to the consummate point in the Holy of Holies—the enjoyment of God’s element, the law of life. Everything on this way indicates an aspect of Christ. Hence, the way for man to reach God is just Christ Himself.
However, Judaism, the Jewish religion, misused the tabernacle and everything revealed in the Old Testament to make a religion. The very religion which was constituted according to God’s holy word eventually distracted God’s people from God’s way. Both the tabernacle and the temple were constructed for the purpose of showing God’s people the way by which they might reach God and enter into Him. When the Lord Jesus came, the priests were worshipping God in the temple, offering sacrifices on the altar, dressing the lamp, displaying the showbread, and burning the incense. They did all this for the purpose of contacting God. But the Lord Jesus went to the house of Simon the leper in Bethany, where He enjoyed fellowship with those brothers and sisters. While the priests were worshipping God in the temple, God was in Simon’s house in Bethany. The way was not in the temple; the way—Christ—was in that house in Bethany. Even the worship and service which had been ordained by God to show the way to reach God was utilized by Satan to distract people from Christ, God’s unique way.
Consider the example of Saul of Tarsus, who was absolutely for the Jewish religion. When he realized that some of his countrymen, such as Peter, John, and Stephen, were not in this religion, he was stirred up to oppose them. By that time, the way had become a race, and Peter, John, Stephen, and all the other believers were running in it. As Saul of Tarsus was running alongside of this way, attempting to hinder those on the way, the Lord Jesus appeared to him, striking him down and turning him to this way (Acts 9:1-6). I believe that once Saul was in Christ and was walking on this way, he considered his religious background and all the distractions along the way, thinking that he had been born a Hebrew and circumcised on the eighth day and wondering whether he should give it all up. Eventually he realized that he had to forget about being a Hebrew and not only walk on the way but run the race. Whenever you drive a car fast, you are not looking for an exit. But once you slow down, it means that you are seeking an exit. Saul began to speed up, and his name was changed to Paul. By running, the way was changed into a race.
As a saint in the Lord’s recovery, are you walking the way or running the race? If we are walking the way, one day we shall walk out. If we are walking gently and slowly, we shall be distracted by some other way. But if we run the race, taking no time to look around and keeping our eyes fixed on the goal, we shall not be distracted. Paul had the greatest incentive for pressing on and for running the race; he no longer had the time to look around or to consider anything else. Although Paul might never have staggered, as a typical Hebrew believer, he must have considered his background. I believe that after he was knocked down by the Lord on the road to Damascus, he recalled his life in the Jewish religion. Perhaps he said, “I had so many good things. Is the temple false and is the priesthood wrong? Were they not ordained by God?” If he had never considered his religious background, he could not have written Galatians 1, Philippians 3, and the whole book of Hebrews so clearly. If he had not been a typical Hebrew believer experiencing all these things, he could not have helped the staggering Hebrew Christians. But he had been in the same situation and had suffered from the same disease, being an experienced patient. There is a proverb which says that an experienced patient becomes a good doctor. As we shall see, Paul was a doctor and could heal those who were in danger of being crippled. He himself had once been in the same danger, but he had been healed. As a result, he knew the cure for the staggering Hebrew Christians and was able to give them the right medicine. In the book of Hebrews, Paul gave the best medication to the crippled ones that they might be brought back to running the race.
God’s intention is to put us into Christ and to work Christ into our being, making Christ our standard and all of us a reproduction of the standard. As we have seen, this will result in our perfection and glorification. When the book of Hebrews was written, many of the Hebrew believers were considering their background and were walking on the way or even standing still. They were in danger of being distracted by the temple, the priesthood, and the offerings. They were in danger of either being stranded or of shrinking back to Judaism and not coming forward to the Holy of Holies. This means that they were in danger of turning from God’s goal to something used by the enemy to distract God’s people from His way. Thus, after eleven chapters in which he presented the Hebrew believers a clear view of the way, the writer seemed to say, “Let us run the race. Don’t stand still, look back, or look around. Don’t even walk—run.” We should not only refuse to leave Christ and go back to Judaism; we should not even stand still in Christ. Even walking in Christ is inadequate. We must run the race. Do not take the time to consider or look around, to stand still or walk slowly. You must run the race. By now we should be clear what the race is—it is Christ Himself as our way. But we should not take this way as a way; we must take it as a race to run.
In chapter six Paul told us to flee. We must flee everything into the Holy of Holies where our Forerunner, Jesus Christ, has entered within the veil. This is what it means to run the race.
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