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04-07-2013 - Posted by Andre Piet



What is the meaning of what Paul said 1 Corinthians 9:26,27? Was he afraid to become disqualified?


Paul had, in the foregoing part of 1 Corinthians 9, explained that he was willing to do anything for the sake of the Evangel (:23). For the Jews, he became as a Jew, for the Greeks as a Greek and for the weak as being weak (:20-22). He did not want his conduct, under any circumstances, to become a stumbling block for the Good News. Paul’s determination was that of a top athlete, who runs the race with only one thing in mind: to achieve the prize (:24). With that difference that an athlete only goes for a corruptible wreath, while Paul went for a “incorruptible wreath” (: 25). And then he says:

26 Now then, thus am I racing, not as dubious, thus am I boxing, not as punching the air, 27 but I am belaboring my body and leading it into slavery, lest somehow, when heralding to others, I myself may become disqualified.

To obtain a prize is the all important focus of the athlete. As the runner is focused on the finish line and the boxer is focused on delivering the knock-out punch, so Paul is focused on winning people for the Evangel. And even as an athlete completely subjects his body to the goal he has set for himself, so did Paul as well. To win, a sportsman renounces all pleasures through proper discipline. With “disqualified” (:27), Paul refers to the prize that he would lose, when he would not do everything possible for the Evangel (:23). The prizes that will be awarded to us, later, will correspond to the degree to which the Good News has determined our lives. The criteria will not be our performance, but it will be our focus on the Evangel. That is what counts. Is it possible that the prize or the wreath will be missed? Yes, that is right! Please note: not our future salvation is debatable, but whether we are winners or losers in this life. This is what the wreath speaks of. That is also what Paul emphasizes in what follows. In chapter 10, he continues:

1 For I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, that our fathers all were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, 2 and all are baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, 3 and all ate the same spiritual food, 4 and all drank the same spiritual drink, for they drank of the spiritual Rock which followed. Now the Rock was Christ. 5 But not in the majority of them does God delight, for they were strewn along in the wilderness.

What Paul is saying here is that you can be baptized into Christ and you can eat spiritual food and drink, etc., but nevertheless, what concerns this life, you can be a loser (cf 1 Cor.11:30-32). Indeed, to the Corinthians, Paul suggests that even the majority of them are living a lost life. As the Israelites died in the wilderness due to idolatry (10:7) and fornication (10:8) and by grumbling (10:10), believers can also fail due to the same things (10:12). Paul still continues to embroider on the theme of winning and losing. We are winners in the Evangel (10:12!), or we are losers who are focused on different things? Paul was not fearing to become disqualified, but he reached forth to the qualification, not negatively, but positively. He was not concerned about what he had to look away from (so-called pleasures). He saw only to (the profits of) the Evangel, and that enabled him to renounce everything else. That is what qualifies our live. That is going for gold!