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Running the race for the crown

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Today’s bible study is 1 Corinthians 9:24-25: Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain. And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible.

What race are we running in our lives? Who will be the winner of this race? What will be the prize? We know that we must strive for mastery and that they key to doing so is temperance in all things, but how does this temperance relate to winning a race? And what of a corruptible crown? Are we corrupt or can we learn to be incorruptible? This is a lot to consider and comment on.

Under Christ’s law, Paul’s stance on Gentile Christians to Old Testament law was not a problem at Corinth, though it was to become a hot issue later in the Galatians churches. Here Paul can portray his own stance without the pressure of polemics on the subject of law. To Jews, he became as one under the Jewish law, and to Gentiles as one outside the law, but in each case he makes it clear that neither position is really where he stands. He is not determined by the law – neither in keeping it nor in not keeping it – but by the new reality in Christ, which transcends the apparent either/or.

Paul’s flexible strategy of evangelism is not that of following the path of least resistance. Paul uses familiar metaphors from the Corinthian games, held every two years and second in importance only to the Olympics. Serving in the Christian mission calls for the discipline of an athlete who has his eyes firmly fixed upon the goal line and who exerts himself completely to attain his goal.

The options are to win, lose, or be disqualified, and the outcome is not clear until the race is complete. Unfortunately, Paul had no awareness of team sports – all the Greek games were only individual competition – though Paul’s point would be better served by the team analogy. Confidence in God’s grace is not incompatible with disciplined training and struggle to complete the race. There is no false security for the Corinthians or for Paul.

There is also no false security for us. O Lord, let us be ever mindful that our security comes from you and that you will guide us toward the finish line. You, and you alone, will give us the strength and the speed to win the race and claim the prize. Without you, we will falter and fail. Like Paul, may we not live only by a list of rules but give out entire beings to Your holy will, as servants and children of God.

References: The People’s New Testament Commentary by M. Eugene Boring and Fred B. Craddock and The MacArthur Bible Commentary by John MacArthur.

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