1 Corinthians 9:27


Wednesday, 24 September 2014

But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified. 1 Corinthians 9:27

To finish chapter 9, Paul shows the severity of the conditioning he placed upon himself in order to obtain his crown. He had just said that he fought, not as one who “beats the air.” Using a boxing metaphor, he showed that like a boxer, he made every “punch” count in his training and in his fight to share the gospel. Now he continues on with the boxing metaphor. The word translated as “discipline” is the Greek word hupópiazó. It means to “strike under the eye” and thus to bruise, like a black eye. It is from the Greek word hupópion which is the part of the face under the eyes. It’s used only one other time in Scripture, in Luke 18:5. There it is speaking of the widow who troubles the judge as she continuously comes before him seeking justice.

Paul strove in the same manner as she did, continuously bringing his body “into subjection.” Here he uses an interesting term, doulagōgō. It means to bring into captivity or slavery as one would do when leading the losers of a battle off the battlefield. In this then, Paul is saying that his mortal flesh was the continuous loser in his battle. It was the flesh against the Spirit and the Spirit in him was always the victor. All of the worldly lusts and temptations were brought into this state of captivity, as he says, “lest when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.”

Here he was telling others to remain pure and undefiled in their walk. It would be hypocritical to act differently than how he preached. What a sad thing to stand at the judgment seat of Christ next to those he had preached to and have them receive greater rewards than he because of failing to bring his passions into subjugation! In order to avoid this, he lived as he preached. The term he uses for “disqualified” is adokimos. It comes from the idea of “bad metals.” It indicates the metals that are put into the fire and fail the test for purity. They are scraped off and removed; they are worthless slag and thus are cast away.

Paul was determined to be pure and undefiled when he stood before the Lord and so he disciplined himself in a way that this would come about.

Life application: Paul’s words here at the end of chapter 9 show that he struggled with the flesh like anyone else. If he had to discipline himself against it, it is an indication that discipline was needed. If we have a problem with weight, we won’t lose the weight without working out our diet. If we have a problem with an addiction, it won’t solve itself. Instead it will need to be brought under control. This is the way it is for all things contrary to the word of God. We can either slip comfortably into rebellion or we can fight against it. Let us be found approved by adhering to the word and standing fast in the battle which rages within us!

Lord, the flesh certainly does put up a fight
I cannot deny that it wages war against me
I struggle back at each punch and bite
And focus my eyes so that You are all I see

Lord, help me in this raging battle
Keep me close to You and obedient to Your word
As the snake hisses and his tail does rattle
Be with me and protect me, this I pray my Lord

You went to the cross to win the war for us
And so I know that You will be with me, my precious Lord Jesus

Lord, You know the conflicts that rage within me. You know my weaknesses and those things which tempt me. Help me Lord to stand strong against the devil and his use of these things which can only make me lose my sight of You. Give me the strength and determination to get into Your word each day and to remain obedient to it at all times. I’m so weak Lord, but in You I know that I have all the strength I need. Thank You for this assurance. Amen.


1 Corinthians 9:26


Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air. 1 Corinthians 9:26

In this verse, Paul sums up his thought concerning running which he has referred to for the past two verses by saying “therefore.” Because of what he stated, his concluding thought is that “I run thus: not with uncertainty.” In his run towards the Prize, he had a positive end and goal. The word he uses for “uncertainty” is adēlōs, a word used only here in the New Testament. It means something out of sight or obscure. For Paul, there was nothing obscure about his goal. He had a marked determination which led directly to Christ. The author of Hebrews says it this way –

“Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith…” Hebrews 12:1, 2

There was nothing that would hinder his race to the finish line, and to him that finish line was never out of his sight. After having conveyed this thought, he then suddenly switches from running to another metaphor, boxing. Not only was his race unhindered and with an end that was perfectly evident, but his attitude in reaching that point was also comparable to the boxer. Again in this one verse he uses another word found only here in the New Testament, pykteuō.  It specifically refers to a boxer; one who uses his fists in a match.

As he ran; so he fought. In his battle, he was one who fought “not as one who beats the air.” Before boxing matches then, and still in boxing matches today, boxers will punch the air in front of them as they warm up. It loosens the muscles and it gives an advanced demonstration of the fight ahead. When they do this, they don’t arbitrarily let their arms flail about. Rather, they are focused and punch as if there was already a face being hit. They also remain focused as if punches were expected to come back at them.

Once the fight actually began, they would use this same marked determination to ensure that every punch landed on its intended target. If the target is missed, it becomes too late to control the arm and additional energy is lost as the body moves with the arms. The boxer becomes unbalanced and susceptible to a good pounding from his opponent. Additionally, the tendons and muscles can be more easily strained during such a miss. For this reason, “beating the air” rather than the body of the opponent was a big mistake, a mistake which could end in defeat.

Paul determined that any attack by Satan would be deflected and that his prowess as a fighter was to fight back with exacting blows, not just in defense, but in an offensive manner. He prepared himself for the battle and he always determined to be ready and on target with his actions.

Life application: Paul likens our time in Christ to a race and also to a boxing match. Both of these are extremely strenuous activities and the implication is that we need to be prepared both mentally and physically in order to meet the challenges we will face. The surest way to be ready is through three distinct avenues – 1) prayer; 2) fellowship with other Christians; and 3) reading, studying, and adhering to the word of God. If we do these, we will be like Paul as we strive forward. We will be prepared for the race and for the battle.

Lord God, I thank You that You haven’t left us here in a battle without tools to get us through it. You have given us the avenue of prayer to speak to You and wait upon an answer. You have given us the opportunity to fellowship with other believers and to be built up and strengthened in our race and in the battles that come our way. And Lord, You have given us Your word to instruct us and to build us up in what we should do. We can face the challenges that come and we can even take the offensive position because we have Your word as our guide and our light. Thank You for these implements of battle, O God. Amen.


1 Corinthians 9:25


Monday, 22 September 2014

And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown. 1 Corinthians 9:25

In his previous verse, Paul wrote that there are many runners in a race, but only one would receive the crown. He then implored those in Corinth to run their course in Christ in the same manner, setting aside all encumbrances and looking towards the Prize. Now, still using the Isthmian games as his metaphor, he tells them that “everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things.”

Ancient writers note that those who were involved in the preparation for these games required ten full months of training, right up to the moment before the games began. Much of their training involved not only physical conditioning, but dietary restrictions as well. The thoughts of two commentators from those times read:

Epictetus – “Thou must be orderly, living on spare food; abstain from confections; make a point of exercising at the appointed time, in heat and in cold; nor drink cold water nor wine at hazard.”

Horace – “The youth who would win in the race hath borne and done much; he hath sweat and been cold; he hath abstained from love and wine”

Such extreme conditioning would have been known to the people at Corinth and so Paul, without extra comment, states this in the plain form that the athlete was “temperate in all things.” In this simple expression, he was intimating to those at Corinth (and thus to us) that we have an obligation to be temperate as well. We cannot expect to live an antinomian existence and feel that we are properly conditioning ourselves as we strive towards the Prize. Freedom in Christ is not freedom to sin. Rather it is freedom from sin.

Paul continues with his thought, noting that those who participated in these games conditioned themselves in this manner in order “to obtain a perishable crown, be we for an imperishable crown.” Think of the difference! The athlete in these ancient games was striving for temporary notoriety and a crown that would literally fall apart in a very short amount of time. The leaves would fall off, the twigs would become brittle and eventually break, insects could destroy it in a few hours, or any thief could carry it off and it would be gone. It was a temporary reminder of a temporary honor. All of that intense conditioning for something so ephemeral in nature.

On the other hand, the crown that we are striving for is an eternal one. It will never fade, never be taken away, and never lose its luster. Paul asks us to consider this and to determine that we will strive even more rigorously for our crown than those of the Isthmian games strived, simply because our reward is so much greater; infinitely greater because it is eternal.

Life application: In this verse and the preceding verse he has made some notable contrasts that we should remember. The first is that of the earthly race which was in hopes of earthly results in contrast to the spiritual race which is in hopes of spiritual results. The second is that there was only one crown given in the earthly competition in contrast to the idea that all can obtain the crown in the spiritual race. And the third is that the crown in the earthly race is temporary and corruptible in contrast to the heavenly crown which is incorruptible and eternal. In all ways, the end result of the spiritual race is superior. Because of this, our conditioning in this race should also be superior in all ways.

Lord, the race is set before me and the reward is an eternal crown that will never fade, never perish, and which will never be taken away. If I strive for prizes in this earthly walk which will fade away in time, how much more should I strive with all of my existence and every fiber of my being for that wondrous crown which You have promised? Help me to remember this and to determine each day to do my very best for the high honor of receiving Your everlasting crown of life! Amen.



1 Corinthians 9:24


Sunday, 21 September 2014

Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. 1 Corinthians 9:24

In this verse, Paul moves from his thoughts concerning serving men in order to impress upon them the gospel of Christ (verses 19-23), to his desire to run the race and receive the prize set before him (verses 24-27). In this, he begins with “Do you not know…?” This is way of saying, “You certainly know.” The reference he will now make will be to the Isthmian Games which took place on the Isthmus of Corinth. They were comparable to our modern Olympics and were something every person would be aware of. In Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers, he describes these games:

“These, like the other games of Greece—the Olympian, Pythian, and Nemean—included every form of athletic exercise, and stood on an entirely different footing from anything of the kind in modern times. For the Greek, these contests were great national and religious festivals. None but freemen could enter the lists, and they only after they had satisfied the appointed officers that they had for ten months undergone the necessary preliminary training. For thirty days previous to the contest the candidates had to attend the exercises at the gymnasium, and only after the fulfilment of these conditions were they allowed, when the time arrived, to contend in the sight of assembled Greece. Proclamation was made of the name and country of each competitor by a herald. The victor was crowned with a garland of pine leaves or ivy. The family of the conqueror was honoured by his victory, and when he returned to his native town he would enter it through a breach in the walls, the object of this being to symbolise that for a town which was honoured with such a citizen no walls of defence were needful.”

This is the reference Paul is making. The athletes of his time, and those of ours as well, have the same end goal in common. They “all run, but one receives the prize.” There was only one victor’s wreath then and there is only one gold medal now. Those who are capable, well-trained, and endure the rigors of the race are the ones who win and receive their reward. Paul tells those in Corinth to act this way in their race to the finish. Writing to all, but with each individual in mind, he hints that each should “run in such a way that you may obtain it.

He will continue with his thoughts on this for three more verses, showing the necessity for each of us to train with rigor and to persevere in our steps all of our days as we look forward to the Prize which awaits us.

Life application: Paul’s use of an athlete who strives to be the champion in the Isthmian games is an excellent example for us. We can look at those who work towards the gold medal in the modern Olympic games and understand what he was referring to. These people put out maximum effort for the thing they desired. If our desire is truly Christ, then we should be even more willing to put out all we can in order to please Him. We have one short life in which to earn our heavenly rewards. Let us not squander it, but strive forward with our eyes firmly fixed on Him!

Lord God, there is a race set before me with the greatest Prize at the end. I know that in order to be the champion You would have me to be, I need to be fully trained, and so I will read Your word in order to comply with the standards of the race. I know that I will need to be ready for a long race because I don’t know my life’s end. And so I will stay close to the fellowship of others who can build me up as I persevere. And I know that the victor’s crown won’t be mine unless I act in accordance with the rules. And so I will apply my training, not cheat in my perseverance, and will fix my eyes and my thoughts on Jesus each step of the way. Be with me as I strive to complete the race with honor and with purity of my heart. Amen.


1 Corinthians 9:23


Saturday, 20 September 2014

Now this I do for the gospel’s sake, that I may be partaker of it with you. 1 Corinthians 9:23

Summing up his thoughts of the previous four verses, we read Paul’s reflection on why he became “all things to all men“. He’s already said that it was that he “might by all means save some.” But for him, there is a wondrous bonus tied into that notion. By doing this “for the gospel’s sake” Paul knew that this would make him a “partaker of it with” those who heard and believed.

And isn’t this the burden on our own hearts for those we love? Don’t we longingly desire that the people we share our daily lives with will also share heaven’s glory with us? Paul looked even beyond his close associates and relatives and desired this for all men. He knew that he was once far off from the Lord and that only through his calling on the road to Damascus was his salvation possible. He looked for that same heartfelt conversion in others.

Life application: As you pass by people on the street, do you take the time to think “that is a person created in God’s image.”? Isn’t every person of equal value when it comes to sharing Jesus? Even our enemies can be changed. Try to have Paul’s attitude and realize that sharing the good news is something we should do at all times and with all people.

Heavenly Father, don’t let me be timid in telling others about Jesus. Keep me from shying back for whatever silly reason pops up in my mind. Instead, fill me with boldness to speak out this wondrous message which can change the eternal direction of others. I know that someone took the time to tell me and I’m grateful for it. Help me to remember this and to act on it Lord. This I pray that Your kingdom will be filled to overflowing! Amen.