1 Corinthians chapter 9, verse 24
Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth
Having pointed out the manifold usefulness of condescension and that
this is the highest perfectness, and that he himself having risen higher
than all towards perfection, or rather having gone beyond it by declining
to receive, descended lower than all again; and having made known to us
the times for each of these, both for the perfectness and for the condescension;
he touches them more sharply in what follows, covertly intimating that
this which was done by them and which was counted a mark of perfectness,
is a kind of superfluous and useless labor. And he saith it not thus out
clearly, lest they should become insolent; but the methods of proof employed
by him makes this evident.
And having said that they sin against Christ and destroy the brethren,
and are nothing profited by this perfect knowledge, except charity be added;
he again proceeds to a common example, and saith,
"Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth
the prize?" Now this he saith, not as though here also one only out
of many would be saved; far from it; but to set forth the exceeding diligence
which it is our duty to use. For as there, though many descend into the
course not many are crowned, but this befalls one only; and it is not enough
to descend into the contest, nor to anoint one's self and wrestle: so likewise
here it is not sufficient to believe, and to contend in any way; but unless
we have so run as unto the end to show ourselves unblameable, and to come
near the prize, it will profit us nothing. For even though thou consider
thyself to be perfect according to knowledge, thou hast not yet attained
the whole; which hinting at, he said, "so run, that ye may obtain." They
had not then yet, as it seems, attained. And having said thus, he teaches
them also the manner.
Ver. 25. "And every man that striveth in the games is temperate in
What is, "all things?" He doth not abstain from one and err in another,
but he masters entirely gluttony and lasciviousness and drunkenness and
all his passions. "For this," saith he, "takes place even in the heathen
games. For neither is excess of wine permitted to those who contend at
the time of the contest, nor wantonness, lest they should weaken their
vigor, nor yet so much as to be busied about any thing else, but separating
themselves altogether from all things they apply themselves to their exercise
only." Now if there these things be so where the crown fails to one, much
more here, where the incitement in emulation is more abundant. For here
neither is one to be crowned alone, and the rewards also far surpass the
labors. Wherefore also he puts it so as to shame them, saying, "Now they
do it receive to a corruptible crown, but we an incorruptible."
[2.] Ver. 26. "I therefore so run, as not uncertainly."
Thus having shamed them from those that are without, he next brings
forward himself also, which kind of thing is a most excellent method of
teaching: and accordingly we find him every where doing so.
But what is, "not uncertainly?" "Looking to some mark," saith he, "not
at random and in vain, as ye do. For what profit have ye of entering into
idol-temples, and exhibiting for-sooth that perfectness? None. But not
such am I, but all things whatsoever I do, I do for the salvation of my
neighbor. Whether I show forth perfectness, it is for their sake; or condescension,
for their sake again: whether I surpass Peter in declining to receive [compensation],
it is that they may not be offended; or descend lower than all, being circumcised
and shaving my head, it is that they may not be subverted. This is, "not
uncertainly." But thou, why dost thou eat in idol-temples, tell me? Nay,
thou canst not assign any reasonable cause. For "meat commendeth thee not
to God; neither if thou eat art thou the better, nor if thou eat not art
thou the worse." (1 Corinthians chapter 8, verse 8) Plainly then thou runnest
at random: for this is, "uncertainly."
"So fight I, as not beating the air." This he saith, again intimating
that he acted not at random nor in vain. "For I have one at whom I may
strike, i.e., the devil. But thou dost not strike him, but simply throwest
away thy strength."
Now so far then, altogether bearing with them, he thus speaks. For since
he had dealt somewhat vehemently with them in the preceding part, he now
on the contrary keeps back his rebuke, reserving for the end of the discourse
the deep wound of all. Since here he says that they act at random and in
vain; but afterwards signifies that it is at the risk of no less than utter
ruin to their own soul, and that even apart from all injury to their brethren,
neither are they themselves guiltless in daring so to act.
Ver. 27. "But I buffet my body, and bring it into bondage lest by
any means, after that I have preached to others, I myself should be rejected."
Here he implies that they axe subject to the lust of the belly and give
up the reins to it, and under a pretence of perfection fulfil their own
greediness; a thought which before also he was travailing to express, when
he said, "meats for the belly, and the belly for meats." (1 Corinthians
chapter 6, verse 13) For since both fornication is caused by luxury, and
it also brought forth idolatry, he naturally oftentimes inveighs against
this disease; and pointing out how great things he suffered for the Gospel,
he sets this also down among them. "As I went," saith he, "beyond the commands,
and this when it was no light matter for me:" ("for we endure all things,"
it is said,) "so also here I submit to much labor in order to live soberly.
Stubborn as appetite is and the tyranny of the belly, nevertheless I bridle
it and give not myself up to the passion, but endure all labor not to be
drawn aside by it."
"For do not, I pray you, suppose that by taking things easily I arrive
at this desirable result. For it is a race and a manifold struggle, and
a tyrannical nature continually rising up against me and seeking to free
itself. But I bear not with it but keep it down, and bring it into subjection
with many struggles." Now this he saith that none may despairingly withdraw
from the conflicts in behalf of virtue because the undertaking is laborious.
Wherefore he saith, "I buffet and bring into bondage." He said not, "I
kill:" nor., "I punish" for the flesh is not to be hated, but, "I buffet
and bring into bondage;" which is the part of a master not of an enemy,
of a teacher not of a foe, of a gymnastic master not of an adversary.
"Lest by any means, having preached to others, I myself should be
Now if Paul feared this who had taught so many, and feared it after
his preaching and becoming an angel and undertaking the leadership of the
whole world; what can we say?
For, "think not," saith he, "because ye have believed, that this is
sufficient for your salvation: since if to me neither preaching nor teaching
nor bringing over innumerable persons, is enough for salvation unless I
exhibit my own conduct also unblameable, much less toyou,."
[3.] Then he comes to other illustrations again. And as above he alleged
the examples of the Apostles and those of common custom and those of the
priests, and his own, so also here having set forth those of the Olympic
games and those of his own course, he again proceeds to the histories of
the Old Testament. And because what he has to say will be somewhat unpleasing
he makes his exhortation general, and discourses not only concerning the
subject before him, but also generally concerning all the evils among the
Corinthians. And in the case of the heathen games, "Know ye not?" saith