2 Timothy 2:5
And if a man also strive for masteries, yet is he not crowned, except he strive lawfully.
We gather from this figure that in spiritual things there is a striving lawfully and a striving unlawfully, and that the prize is not necessarily given to him who wins the race, if he has not complied with certain rules laid down. I think, then, we may say that there are three distinct ways of striving.
1. There is an unlawful striving after unlawful objects.
2. An unlawful striving after lawful objects.
3. A lawful striving after lawful objects.
I. As what is right is often more clearly shown by holding up what is wrong, I shall attempt to describe WHAT IT IS TO STRIVE UNLAWFULLY AFTER UNLAWFUL OBJECTS.
1. To strive, then, after pre-eminence, to be a Diotrephes in a church (John 3:9).
2. All strife about vain and idle questions (ver. 14).
3. To seek after a form of godliness, whilst secretly denying the power thereof, or to have a name to live when dead in sin.
4. To strive after fleshly holiness and creature perfection.
5. To seek to find an easier and smoother path than the strait gate and the narrow way.
II. But now I come to another kind of striving, which is UNLAWFUL STRIVING AFTER LAWFUL OBJECTS. Now God has laid down in His word of truth three solemn rules, laws you may call them if you like, which constitute lawful striving.
1. The Holy Ghost must begin, carry on, and finish the inward work of grace.
2. The soul must be brought under His Divine teaching to be thoroughly stripped and emptied of all creature wisdom, strength, help, hope, and righteousness.
3. The glory of a Triune God must be the end and motive of all. Any departure from these three rules of striving makes a man strive unlawfully.
III. But we come now to the only striving which the Lord crowns — A LAWFUL STRIVING AFTER LAWFUL OBJECTS.
1. Now we will begin with the first rule, which is this, that the Holy Spirit must work in us all the power, wisdom, grace, faith, strength, and life, that we strive with.
2. The second rule of lawful striving is, that the runners in this race should have no strength. "He giveth power to the faint, and to them that have no might He increaseth strength."
3. And this enables you to comply with the third rule of lawful strife — to give God all the glory. Surely you can take no glory to self, when self has been proved, and found wanting. Now these lawful strivers after lawful objects are crowned, and they only. This crown is twofold — a crown here and a crown hereafter, a crown of grace set on the heart below, and a crown of glory set on the head above.
(J. C. Philpot.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And if a man also strive for masteries, yet is he not crowned, except he strive lawfully.