Many Christians, when they read this admonition to run to win the race, think of racing many opponents because this is a feature of modern competition. Christians can be confused as to who they are competing against and may think this verse speaks of competing ministries. I do not think the verse refers to competing against other Christians, rather, the struggle between the “old” and “new man” within a believer. Paul here refers to a two person race as evidenced by the accompanying figure of boxing the body negating the lusts of the flesh (beating the body to submit it to the new person). Both metaphors are for the ultimate purpose of not being disqualified through the lack of self control. It is the same as presenting one’s body as a living sacrifice (Rom. 12.1-2). The old person is rendered inoperable by denying the old self and taking up their cross in following Christ (Mt.10.38-9).
In a previous entry I shared some pictures related to “Running the Race.” The winners of such competitions were awarded, among other things, victory crowns—the composition of which depended upon the games.
Modern Recreation of Victory Wreaths — On the left a Pine Wreath for the winner of an event at the Isthmian Games and on the right a Laural Wreath for the winner of an event at the Olympic Games — Click on Image to Enlarge and/or Download
The games at Isthmia were held twice during the four year Olympic cycle. The city of Corinth was in charge of these games and Isthmia was only 6 miles from Corinth. The games included athletic as well a music contests. It is very probable that the games were held during Paul’s stay at Corinth. Indeed, he writes to the church at Corinth:
1Cor. 9:24 Do you not know
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