World English Bible translation
9:12If others partake of this right over you, don't we yet more? Nevertheless we did not use this right, but we bear all things, that we may cause no hindrance to the gospel of Christ. 9:13 Don't you know that those who serve around sacred things eat from the things of the temple, and those who wait on the altar have their portion with the altar? 9:14 Even so the Lord ordained that those who proclaim the gospel should live from the gospel. 9:15 But I have used none of these things, and I don't write these things that it may be done so in my case; for I would rather die, than that anyone should make my boasting void. 9:16 For if I preach the gospel, I have nothing to boast about; for necessity is laid on me; but woe is to me, if I don't preach the gospel. 9:17 For if I do this of my own will, I have a reward. But if not of my own will, I have a stewardship entrusted to me. 9:18 What then is my reward? That, when I preach the gospel, I may present the gospel of Christ without charge, so as not to abuse my authority in the gospel. 9:19 For though I was free from all, I brought myself under bondage to all, that I might gain the more. 9:20 To the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain Jews; to those who are under the law, as under the law, that I might gain those who are under the law; 9:21 to those who are without law, as without law (not being without law toward God, but under law toward Christ), that I might win those who are without law. 9:22 To the weak I became as weak, that I might gain the weak. I have become all things to all men, that I may by all means save some. 9:23 Now I do this for the gospel's sake, that I may be a joint partaker of it. 9:24 Don't you know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run like that, that you may win. 9:25 Every man who strives in the games exercises self-control in all things. Now they do it to receive a corruptible crown, but we an incorruptible. 9:26 I therefore run like that, as not uncertainly. I fight like that, as not beating the air, 9:27 but I beat my body and bring it into submission, lest by any means, after I have preached to others, I myself should be rejected.
Today's Lesson continues the defense of Paul's apostleship. In the last section, Paul began to deal with the rights of an apostle. He had expressed to the Corinthians that though he had the right to demand remuneration for preaching the gospel, he did not choose to do so. He refused to accept monetary reward so that no one would have a right to accuse him of preaching the gospel under false motives. Paul was the apostle to the Gentiles. Many of those that he encountered had no previous introduction to the Jewish Scriptures. In order to avoid even the appearance of impropriety, Paul chose to forgo some of the rights and benefits that he might otherwise have been entitled to exercise.
Paul firmly believed that he was compelled to preach the gospel. "Woe is to me, if I don't preach the gospel." He choose not to accept reward for that which his own heart and God's leading compelled him to do. But, that does not mean that Paul did not feel rewarded for what he did. For Paul, the gospel was its own reward. His reward was that he might preach the gospel of Christ "without charge."
Toward this end, Paul writes that he made himself a slave to all men so that he might bring them to Christ. To the Jews he became like a Jew. To the Gentiles he came as a Gentile. To the weak he became weak and to the strong he was strong. He did this so that all men might see themselves in his own life and so might be willing to give him a fair hearing.
What Paul is describing is not an easy thing to accomplish. It took great determination and self-control. In order to explain it to the Corinthians, Paul uses a metaphor. Many athletes run in a race. Only one of them wins the prize. Paul tells the Corinthians to live their Christian lives as though it was a race that they strongly wanted to win. It takes sacrifice and perseverance and self-control to win the race. The athlete must be willing to devote a great deal of time and energy and effort into winning against his competitors. Paul encourages the Corinthians to live their life in Christ like that.
Athletes strive to win physical rewards and glory. Paul reminds these Gentiles that the rewards that God offers are greater than any that an athlete can hope to achieve. The crown that a Christian will receive at the end of the race will be an incorruptible crown. The glory that will be ours in Christ can never be taken away and will never fail.
So Paul tells them that he is willing to set aside earthly desires in order to achieve this crown. "I beat my body and bring it into submission." Medieval monks took this saying literally, but there is no reason for us to do so. Paul is merely extending the metaphor. Just as an athlete trains his body into submission to achieve his goal, Paul trained his own desires to achieve his end. Just as an athlete sacrificed, Paul sacrificed.
What sacrifice have you made for the sake of the gospel? What is there that holds you back from achieving what God would want you to achieve?
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