Art Toombs Ministries 

Online Bible Commentary

Being Used by God

1 Corinthians 9:24 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. 25 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. 26 Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air. 27 But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified. (NKJV)

In the previous passage, Paul claimed that he became “all things to all men, that I might by all means save some” (v. 22b). He would do anything possible, without violating his Christian principles, in order to “save some”. He knew that he could not save all non- believers. There would be some people who would not accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior and would not become Christians. This statement of his goal of his ministry informs us as to the meaning of the next passage.

Proper construction of sermons calls for one or more illustrations in order to illustrate each point of the message. Paul, the great preacher, uses illustrations in this passage.

He incorporates athletic illustrations, as he frequently does in his writings. He uses illustrations of running a race and a boxing and or wrestling match.

He likely used these particular illustrations because the Corinthian believers would be very familiar with the Greek Isthmian games, which included, among other contests, running races in armor, boxing and wrestling.

The Isthmian games were held in Corinth for about 800 years beginning in 582 BC. The games died out in the fourth century A. D. when Christianity became dominant in the area.

Paul begins this passage by stating that of all those who “run in a race” only one receives “the prize” (v. 24). At this time, the winners would receive pine wreaths because pine was sacred to Poseidon, the Greek God of the sea.

Everyone who competes in the games is “temperate in all things” (v. 25a). The Greek word translated “temperate” means self-control. The athletes work hard and are disciplined in their training.

If these athletes are so disciplined in their training to win a “perishable crown”, the pine wreath, how much more should we Christians be disciplined and self-controlled to win an “imperishable crown” (v. 25b)? The pine wreath fades away in time but the rewards we receive in Heaven for doing good works are eternal.

Therefore, Paul writes that he runs “thus”, with self-control and discipline, “not with uncertainty” (v. 26a). And when he fights, he does not fight “as one who beats the air”, one who is not disciplined (v. 26b).  His body is under control and his punches are targeted.

In conclusion Paul writes that he takes care to discipline his “body and bring it into subjection” (v. 27a). He does this so that when he preaches he will not “become disqualified” (v. 27b). The word translated “disqualified” is the Greek word adokimos, which means unapproved. Paul seeks the approval of God.

This discipline that Paul writes of is the way he conducts his life and ministry. He is careful to live a pure life, not to be a stumbling block to others, and not to behave in a way that his motives are questioned.

In doing so, Paul will be approved to be used by God. Paul is aware of the fact that God uses those who remain faithful to Him and His teachings. He does not want his ministry to be unapproved by God.

God uses us when we are careful to obey Him and His teachings. We must be disciplined and exercise self-control in order to be used by God. If we are not faithful to God, He will just find someone else to do His work. And we will lose out on our rewards in Heaven.