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Commentary on Corinthians - Volume 1
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1 Corinthians 9:23-27

23. And this I do for the gospel’s sake, that I might be partaker there of with you

23. Hoc autem facio propter Evangelium, ut particeps eius fiam.

24. Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain.

24. An nescitis, quod qui in stadium currunt, omnes quidem currunt, sed unus accipit praemium? Sic currite, ut comprehendatis.

25. And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible.

25. Porro quicunque certat, per omnia temperans est: 506506     “Il s’abstient en toutes choses, ou — vit entierement par regime;” — “He abstains in all things, or — he lives entirely according to prescribed rule.” illi quidem igitur, ut perituram coronam accipiant, nos autem, ut aeternam.

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

26. Ego itaque sic curro, ut non in incertum: sic pugilem ago, non velut aerem fortens:

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.

27. Verum subigo corpus meum, et in servitutem redigo, ne quo modo fiat, ut, quum aliis praedicaverim, ipse reprobus 507507     “Reprouue, ou, trouue non rcceuable;” — “Reprobate, or, found not admissible.” efficiar.

 

23. That I may become a partaker of it. As the Corinthians might think with themselves, that this was a peculiarity in Paul’s case on the ground of his office, he argues, from the very design of it, that this is common to all Christians. For when he declares, that his aim had been, that he might become a partaker of the gospel, he indirectly intimates, that all who do not act the same part with him are unworthy of the fellowship of the gospel. To become a partaker of the gospel is to receive the fruit of it.

24. Know ye not, that they who run in a race. He has laid down the doctrine, and now, with the view of impressing it upon the minds of the Corinthians, he adds an exhortation. He states briefly, that what they had hitherto attained was nothing, unless they steadfastly persevered, inasmuch as it is not enough to have once entered on the Lord’s way, if they do not strive until they reach the goal, agreeably to that declaration of Christ — He that shall endure unto the end, etc. (Matthew 10:22.) Now he borrows a similitude from the race-course. 508508     “De ceux qui conrent a la lice pour quelque pris;” — “From those who run in the race-course for some prize.” For as in that case many descend into the arena, but he alone is crowned who has first reached the goal, so there is no reason why any one should feel satisfied with himself on the ground of his having once entered upon the race prescribed in the gospel, unless he persevere in it until death. There is, however, this difference between our contest and theirs, that among them only one is victorious, and obtains the palm — the man who has got before all the others; 509509     “Qui a mieux couru que los antres, et est le premier venu au but;” — “Who has run better than the others, and has come first to the goal.” but our condition is superior in this respect, that there may be many at the same time. 510510     “I1 yen pent auoir plusieurs de nons qui soyent couronnez;” — “There may be many of us that are crowned.” For God requires from us nothing more than that we press on vigorously until we reach the goal. 511511     “Que nons ne perdions point courage, mais que perscuerions constamment jusques a la fin;” — “That we do not lose heart, but persevere steadfastly unto the end.” Thus one does not hinder another: nay more, those who run in the Christian race are mutually helpful to each other. He expresses the same sentiment in another form in 2 Timothy 2:5,

If any one striveth, he is not crowned, unless he strives lawfully.

So run. Here we have the application of the similitude — that it is not enough to have set out, if we do not continue to run during our whole life. For our life is like a race-course. We must not therefore become wearied after a short time, like one that stops short in the middle of the race-course, but instead of this, death alone must put a period to our running. The particle ὅυτω, (so,) may be taken in two ways. Chrysostom connects it with what goes before, in this manner: as those who run do not stop running until they have reached the goal, so do ye also persevere, and do not stop running so long as you live. It will, however, correspond not inaptly with what follows. “You must not run so as to stop short in the middle of the race-course, but so as to obtain the prize.” As to the term stadium, (race-course,) and the different kinds of races, 512512     “Qui estoyent anciennement en vsage;” — “Which were anciently in use.” I say nothing, as these things may be obtained from grammarians, and it is generally known that there were some races on horseback, and others on foot. Nor are these things particularly needed for understanding Paul’s meaning.

25. Now every one that striveth. As he had exhorted to perseverance, it remained to state in what way they must persevere. This second thing he now sets before them by a comparison taken from pugilists; not indeed in every particular, 513513     “Non pas qu’il vucille appliquer la similitude en tout et par tout;” — “Not that he meant to apply the similitude out and out.” but in so far as was required by the subject in hand, within which he confines himself — how far they ought to yield to the weakness of the brethren. Now he argues from the less to the greater, that it is an unseemly thing if we grudge to give up our right, inasmuch as the pugilists eating their coliphium, 514514     “C’estoit vnc sorte de pain propre pour entretenir et augmenter la force, duquel vsoyent ordinairement les lutteurs et telles gens. Les Grecs le nonmoyent coliphium;” — “This was a kind of bread that was fitted to maintain and increase strength, which was commonly made use of by wrestlers, and persons of that sort. The Greeks call it coliphium.” The term coliphium is supposed to be compounded of κῶλον, a limb, and ιφ, strongly — a means of strengthening the limbs It is defined by Tymme, in his Translation of Calvin on the Corinthians, to be “a kinde of breade whereof the Wrastelers did use in tyme past to eate, to be more strong.” It is made mention of by Juvenal (2. 53.) — Ed and that sparingly and not to the full, voluntarily deny themselves every delicacy, in order that they may have more agility for the combat, and they do this, too, for the sake of a corruptible crown But if they value so highly a crown of leaves that quickly fades, what value ought we to set upon a crown of immortality? Let us not, therefore, think it hard to give up a little of our right. It is well known that wrestlers were contented with the most frugal diet, so that their simple fare has become proverbial.

26. I therefore so run He returns to speak of himself, that his doctrine may have the more weight, on his setting himself forward by way of pattern. What. he says here some refer to assurance of hope — (Hebrews 6:11) — “I do not run in vain, nor do I run the risk of losing my labor, for I have the Lord’s promise, which never deceives.” It rather appears to me, however, that his object is to direct the course of believers straight forward toward the goal, that it may not be wavering and devious. “The Lord exercises us here in the way of running and wrestling, but he sets before us the object at which we ought to aim, and prescribes a sure rule for our wrestling, that we may not weary ourselves in vain.” Now he takes in both the similitudes that he had employed. “I know,” says he, “whither I am running, and, like a skillful wrestler, I am anxious that I may not miss my aim.” Those things ought to kindle up and confirm the Christian breast, so as to devote itself with greater alacrity to all the duties of piety; 515515     “Toutes choses concenantes la piete et crainte de Dieu;” — “All things that relate to piety and the fear of God.” for it is a great matter not to wander in ignorance through uncertain windings.

27. But I keep under my body 516516     “Mais ie matte et reduy en seruitude mort corps;” — “But I mortify my body, and bring it into servitude.” Budaeus reads Observo; (I keep a watch over;) but in my opinion the Apostle has employed the word ὑπωπιάζειν 517517     Its original meaning is to strike under the eye, being compounded of ὑπό, (under,) and ὤψ, (the eye,) to beat black and blue, as the wrestlers were accustomed to do with the cestus (See Arist. Pac. 541.) — Ed here, to mean treating in a servile manner 518518     “Manier rudement et d’une faqon seruile;” — “To handle roughly, and in a servile manner.” For he declares that he does not indulge self, but restrains his inclinations — which cannot be accomplished unless the body is tamed, and, by being held back from its inclinations, is habituated to subjection, like a wild and refractory steed. The ancient monks, with a view to yield obedience to this precept contrived many exercises of discipline, for they slept on benches, they forced themselves to long watchings, and shunned delicacies. The main thing, however, was wanting in them, for they did not apprehend why it was that the Apostle enjoins this, because they lost sight of another injunction —

to take no concern for our flesh to fulfill the lusts thereof.
(Romans 13:14.)

For what he says elsewhere (1 Timothy 4:8) always holds good — that bodily exercise profiteth little. Let us, however, treat the body so as to make a slave of it, 519519     Our author has evidently in view the literal meaning of the original word here used δουλαγωγῶ, I reduce to slavery It is used in this sense by Diodorus Siculus. (12. 24.) — Ed that it may not, by its wantonness, keep us back from the duties of piety; and farther, that we may not indulge it, so as to occasion injury, or offense, to others.

That, when I have preached to others Some explain these words in this way — “Lest, after having taught others with propriety and faithfulness, I should incur the judgment of condemnation in the sight of God by a wicked life.” But it will suit better to view this expression as referring to men, in this way — “My life ought to be a kind of rule to others. Accordingly, I strive to conduct myself in such a manner, that my character and conduct may not be inconsistent with my doctrine, and that thus I may not, with great disgrace to myself, and a grievous occasion of offense to my brethren, neglect those things which I require from others.” It may also be taken in connection with a preceding statement, (1 Corinthians 9:23,) in this way — “Lest I should be defrauded of the gospel, of which others are partakers through means of my labors.”


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