Sometimes the answer to seemingly complex questions is really rather simple. Consider the case of the 2nd grade Sunday school teacher who had been telling a class of little boys about crowns of glory and heavenly rewards for people who faithfully obey God’s word and do His will. Now tell me,” the teacher said at the close of the lesson – “who will get the biggest crown?” There was a moment’s silence, then little Jake replied, “The one that’s got the biggest HEAD!” I want to call attention 2 Timothy 2:5 where the apostle Paul declares, “If anyone competes in athletics, he not crowned unless He competes according to the rules.” In that passage Paul’s concern is not athletics. His concern is the “crown of righteousness” he speaks of later at 4:8, laid up and promised not only to him, “but also to all who have loved His [that is, Christ’s] appearing.” It upsets a lot of folks these days to say it and preach it, but there are rules to keep if we want to receive the crown God gives! The Lord won’t just hand out a crown of life to everybody! This year the Atlanta Braves defeated the Houston Astros in the World Series four games to two. I watched some of the games and was greatly impressed with the athleticism of the players. Pitchers, hitters, those fielding ground balls & flies and turning double plays – these very highly paid athletes truly perform at an elite level of skill! athletes. But I was also very impressed with another group on the field at every game – those men in black suits we call “umpires.” You know, the guys who stand around with no other purpose but to observe the players and enforce the rules that govern the game of baseball. How important are they to the game? Important enough that, according to Career Trend, the rookie umpire is paid $150,000 and more experienced umpires as much as $450,000 per year. Please don’t miss the point – the game of baseball has rules, and it has people who are there for no other reason than to enforce them. The same is true with football, basketball, soccer, track and field, etc., etc., etc. And yes, occasionally an official “makes the wrong call” – and when they do, some spectators and athletes howl their heads off! Few people would try to deny that rules and accuracy in enforcing them matters. Otherwise, the game, whatever it is, becomes chaos. Except in one game – the “game” (if you will) we call the Christian life.
These days, when it comes to church life, some folks advocated for the Outback Steakhouse philosophy more than the Bible’s teaching. Outback’s ads said (say), “No Rules, Just Rights.” Even if that were true in their restaurants (which it is not), that won’t do when it comes to being in the Lord’s way. Take a Bible right now, turn to Acts 18:24-28, and read the account of Apollos. He was a wonderful man – “an eloquent man and mighty in the Scriptures … instructed in the way of the Lord … fervent in spirit … he spoke and taught accurately the things of the Lord” – but notice in verse 25b – “though he knew only the baptism of John.” Apollos’ teaching was accurate, but incomplete! It stopped short of Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection – and short of Great Commission baptism for forgiveness of sins (Mark 16:15-16 * Acts 2:38 * Romans 6:3-4). Apollos was a good man, not a bad man. He wasn’t a rebel against God’s way – but he was unaware of God’s completed plan. So, “When Aquila and Priscilla heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately” (vs 26). People are sometimes inaccurate about the way of God. God has a way, but only one way (John 14:6 * Acts 4:12). Are you accurately in God’s way?