Lesson 7.6: Discipline of Christian Freedom -- Page 2 (Lessons on 1 Corinthians)

by John Lowe
(Woodruff, S.C.)

26 I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air:


I therefore so run, not as uncertainly;
What Paul is saying here is that he is not running like a person without a definite goal in mind; he is not running without knowing why or where he runs: “That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead. Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus. Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil 3:10-14; KJV).

Paul not only preached the gospel message and encouraged the believers to practice self-discipline and self-denial; he also practiced what he preached. He too had to live by the gospel and he too had to practice self-denial like the athletes just described. Paul did not run the race aimlessly nor was he like a boxer who misses his punches. Instead, he kept his eyes focused on the goal, running straight for it, with purpose in every step. He did not allow himself to be sidetracked and he did not waste time by becoming lazy. He kept on, disciplining and training his body. Paul pictured life as a battle. Believers must not become lazy—because Satan seeks to cause them to stumble, sin continues to buffet, and sorrow and pain are a daily reality (see Romans 7.14-25). Instead of being bound by their bodies, believers must diligently discipline themselves in their Christian lives in order to stay “in shape.”

The believer who runs well should make Jesus Christ the all-absorbing object of his heart’s desire, and focus all his energy and activities on His interests and His glory. When all we do is done for the glory of God and in the name of Jesus, the Lord will delight to give us a full reward on the crowning day
so fight I, not as one that beateth the air.

Paul is thinking here of boxing, which was one of the events in the Grecian games. A good boxer makes sure that his blows hit the spot on his opponent that will do the greatest damage. But Paul is speaking of a spiritual boxing match against the devil and the emissaries from hell; and as he fought, he did not fight like one who “beat the air.” He was determined that each blow against the enemy would land in the right place.

so fight I, not as one that beateth the air:
Paul is thinking here of boxing, which was one of the events in the Grecian games. A good boxer makes sure that his blows hit the spot on his opponent that will do the greatest damage. But Paul is speaking of a spiritual boxing match against the devil and the emissaries from hell; and as he fought, he did not fight like one who “beat the air.” He was determined that each blow against the enemy would land in the right place.


27 But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.

But I keep under my body,
The Greek verb used here for “keep under” is hupopiazo, and the literal meaning is “to strike under the eye, or beat the face black and blue.” Paul is not speaking here of literally beating himself black and blue; he means he is determined to keep his body under control, for fear that passion and lust overcome him. He means that he practiced rigid self-denial in order to keep himself spiritually fit for the Christian race, and the fights that are sure to come in the life of a believer. Paul realized and preached that the body is the temple of the Holy Spirit. In Romans 12.1 he pleads with believers to present their bodies a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable unto God, which is the reasonable service of every Christian.

“…and bring it into subjection:
What he is saying, is that he treated his body as a bondslave, refusing to gratify the desires of the flesh and the lust of the world. If the body gets the upper hand on the spirit, then the believer suffers loss and brings disgrace upon the name of Jesus and the cause of Christ.

Every believer should have complete mastery over the flesh, and in order to Be master of the flesh, we must rely upon the Holy Spirit. He is willing, but we, too, must have determination and be willing to respond to his leadership. The children of God are led by the Spirit of God, and He leads into paths of right living, but we must be willing to follow. If we walk in the Spirit we will not fulfill the lust of the flesh. That is what Paul is teaching the believers in Corinth, and that is what we need to learn in this day and this hour. The body may be a good servant, but it is a bad master. Bring it into subjection—or bondage, as a slave or servant.
“…lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.”

“By any means” points to the idea of “in any way possible.” Paul could not allow the flesh, the world, or the devil to get the upper hand in his life and ministry; he simply must not. So he buffeted his body daily and brought it into the position of a slave.

“When I have preached to others” signifies the act of giving out the good news. Paul was a herald of the gospel, giving out the good news that Jesus died, was buried and rose again to save sinners. We should keep our eyes centered on Jesus—and as we look into His face we should also be looking upon the fields that are white unto harvest, and we should go after unbelievers for His name's sake.

The Greek word adokimos, translated here as “castaway,” does not mean to be cut off from Christ. It means to be disapproved of not standing the test of faithfulness in stewardship (What you do with the gifts God has given you)—rejected from the standpoint of stewardship, not redemption. There are those who refuse to accept this translation, but outstanding Greek authorities declare that this word does not mean “cut off from Christ” in that Paul was not afraid he would be lost; but rather that his stewardship and ministry would be rejected. It has to do with the loss of reward, not the loss of the soul. This passage describes the spiritual maturation process, the period of growth during believers lives on earth when they are living “in” the world while not being “of” it. The time between a person’s acceptance of Christ as Savior and his or her death is the only time when growth in Christ can occur. Paul wanted to grow thoroughly and receive a reward from Christ when He returns. Paul did not want to be like the person who builds his or her life on shoddy materials only to be saved “like someone escaping through a wall of flames: “If any man's work shall be burned, he will suffer loss: but he will be saved; yet so as by fire” (1 Cor 3:15; KJV).

Paul’s greatest problem, in the contest, is himself. Distractions and hindrances arise chiefly within (the body). Here synonymous with bodily desires, is the flesh, through which Satan so easily strikes: “Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin” (Romans 6:6; KJV); “For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh” (Romans 8:3; KJV). Paul overcomes this, not through religiosity—“Which things have indeed a shew of wisdom in will worship, and humility, and neglecting of the body; not in any honor to the satisfying of the flesh” (Col 2:23; KJV)—but through utter dedication in training, the constant employment of himself in the service of Christ. If Paul had to continually watch over himself and deny himself so much, is it not important for us to do the same thing so that we might win the prize?

The very thought of losing our reward should frighten us who name the name of Jesus, if we should entertain any idea of giving Him our second best or proving untrue to Him in testimony or stewardship. We should hear Paul’s admonition and we should follow his advice. We should follow in his steps as he followed in the footsteps of Christ, whom he met on the Damascus Road, and who commissioned him as the apostle to the Gentiles. Again, it is not a matter of losing salvation, which Paul and all believers have already received as a free gift of grace given by God. The whole emphasis is on rewards, and Paul did not want to lose his reward.

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