1 CORINTHIANS 9
24 Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain.
THE OLYMPIC GAMES
'...Apostolic comparison took account of these games in ancient times - the races and wrestlings-which were apt figures of the course of Christ's people. "Now they do it," said Paul, "to obtain a corruptible crown (the stephan, or wreath of laurel) but we an incorruptible." Thus the Olympic Games at Athens remind us of our own struggle.
The widening field of competition (for athletes came from America and Australia) seems to coincide with the area of the higher struggle, for both these countries have their contingents of runners and wrestlers in the race and strife for life eternal. The figure of the panting Greek who won the long race from Marathon recalls the apostle's words,
"Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one obtaineth the prize;" and the account of the trainings undergone his further saying, "Every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things."
Again, it is said that a man is not crowned unless he strive lawfully. He must respect the rules of the games, and cultivate endurance. The apostle did it - finished his course, and fought his fight, and confidently awaited "a crown of righteousness," which is in the hands of Christ to bestow, not only on Paul, but on "all them also that love his appearing." To "him that overcometh" Christ promises "all things." "He that endureth to the end shall be saved."
The Christadelphian, June 1896. p227
26 I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air:
"I keep under my body, lest I should be a castaway."
"Keep under" is a most feeble and inadequate translation. The Revised Version is a little better: "I buffet my body." But this is still too weak. Rotherham comes closer:
"I beat my body under."
The context and the language show that Paul is using the figure of boxing. "Fight" in verse 26 should be "box." It's pukteo (pook-teh'-o), from which we get the word pugnacious. The root is fist. Not boxing as it is today, but as it was in the stern Roman day. The word here for "keep under" is hupopiazo (hoop-o-pee-ad'-zo) and it literally means to punch beneath the eye, to strike violently in the face. It is a boxing term for knocking out the opponent. Roman boxers in the arena did not use soft padded gloves for mere entertainment. Their hands were wrapped in leather thongs with metal knobs. A writer says, describing them,
"One wonders how any human being, no matter how strong and powerful, could stand the blows from such weapons."
They were accurately called limb breakers. Boxing, in the Roman arena, was a bloody conflict unto death. This is the figure Paul uses of the conflict of his own flesh, and for him it was literally true. As a direct result of his faithful, fearless walk and teaching, he was stoned and left for dead, scourged with whips, and beaten with rods repeatedly. He permanently bore the marks on his battered body, as we read in Galatians. These are harsh realities intended to make us think.
We are not likely to be called upon in these soft, easy, treacherous days to endure these things for the sake of the Truth or the brotherhood, as so many of the faithful have been in the past. The test for us is just the same - whom we will serve, to what extent of faithfulness and completeness we will render that service, and to what extent we will please the flesh?
Bro Growcott - Blessed is he that watcheth and keepeth his garments