Running With A Victory In Mind

Bible Book: 1 Corinthians  9 : 24-27
Subject: Victory; Faith
Series: Running The Race

In recent weeks, I have been speaking to you about “Running The Race.”

We looked at the Old Testament book of Habakkuk where God told Habakkuk in chapter 2, verse 2, “Write the vision, and make it plain upon tables, that he may run that readeth it.” The message of the verse seems to be that whoever would read this vision and revelation (the written revelation of increasing wickedness and the revelation of the justice and power of the true and living God) should run to God for help. So we should be “Running With A Vision In Mind.”

From Philippians 3, I spoke to you about “Running With A Viewpoint In Mind.” And we drew upon the viewpoint and perspective that Paul manifested in Philippians 3:12-14, a perspective that involved Fulfilling The Purpose, Forgetting The Past, and Following The Prize.

Then last week, I preached on Isaiah 40:31 where the prophet said, “they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.” And I talked about “Running With A Vigor In Mind.”

Today, I want to go back to the New Testament book of 1 Corinthians and chapter 9 where Paul talks about the idea of “Running With A Victory In Mind.”

In this chapter, Paul mentions the Financial Accommodations of Ministry in verses 1 thru 18.

In this chapter, Paul mentions a Focal Aspect of Ministry in verses 19 thru 23.

And then in this chapter, Paul mentions a Fitness Analogy of Ministry in verses 24 thru 27.

Paul returns again to describe the Christian experience in terms of an athletic event. And it is an analogy and a word picture that every Corinthian could relate to.

As John MacArthur said…

The Greeks had two great athletic festivals, the Olympic games and the Isthmian games. The Isthmian games were held at Corinth and were therefore intimately familiar to those to whom Paul was writing. Contestants in the games had to prove rigorous training for ten months. The last month was spent at Corinth, with supervised daily workouts in the gymnasium and athletic fields.

In verse 24, Paul referred to The Dedication of Runners in the Race.

In verse 25, Paul referred to The Discipline of Runners in the Race

In verse 26, Paul referred to The Deliberation of Runners in the Race

And in verse 27, Paul referred to The Disqualifying of Runners in the Race

Paul’s desire was to be victorious in the Christian race. In Philippians 3, we saw that he wanted to “win Christ.” In this chapter we see that he wanted to ‘win souls to Christ.’ And as Paul was running his race, he recognized that…

I. There Is A Crown To Obtain

(1 Corinthians 9:24–25)

Matthew Henry, paraphrasing Paul’s words to the Corinthians, said of verse 24…

All run at your games, but only one gets the race and wins the crown. … It is quite otherwise in the Christian race than in your races; only one wins the prize in them. You may all run so as to obtain. You have great encouragement, therefore, to persist constantly, and diligently, and vigorously, in your course. There is room for all to get the prize. You cannot fail if you run well.

A. We Are Told Of The Diversity Of The Crowns

(1 Corinthians 9:24-25) Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain. {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.

prize – Greek 1017. brabeion, brab-i'-on; from brabeus (an umpire; of uncert. der.); an award (of arbitration), i.e. (spec.) a prize in the public games:--prize.

obtain – Greek 2638. katalambano, kat-al-am-ban'-o; from G2596 and G2983; to take eagerly, i.e. seize, possess, etc. (lit. or fig.):--apprehend, attain, come upon, comprehend, find, obtain, perceive, (over-) take.

crown – Greek 4735. stephanos, stef'-an-os; from an appar. prim. stepho, (to twine or wreathe); a chaplet (as a badge of royalty, a prize in the public games or a symbol of honor gen.; but more conspicuous and elaborate than the simple fillet, G1238), lit. or fig.:--crown.

William E. Raffety said in The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia…

Paul, witnessing the races and games, caught the vision of wreath-crowned victors flush with the reward of earnest endeavor. He also saw the persistent, faithful Christian at the end of his hard-won race wearing the symbolic stephanos of rejoicing (1 Thessalonians 2:19 the King James Version), of righteousness (2 Timothy 4:8), of glory (1 Peter 5:4), of life (James 1:12; Revelation 2:10). Paul’s fellow Christians were his joy and stephanos (Philippians 4:1), “of which Paul might justly make his boast” (Ellicott).

(1 Thessalonians 2:19) For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Are not even ye in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at his coming?

(2 Timothy 4:8) Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.

(1 Peter 5:4) And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away.

(James 1:12) Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him.

Cf. (Revelation 4:10-11) The four and twenty elders fall down before him that sat on the throne, and worship him that liveth for ever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying, {11} Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.

B. We Are Told Of The Durability Of The Crown

(1 Corinthians 9:25) 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.

corruptible – Greek 5349. phthartos, fthar-tos'; from G5351; decayed, i.e. (by impl.) perishable:--corruptible.

incorruptible – Greek 862. aphthartos, af'-thar-tos; from G1 (as a neg. particle) and a der. of G5351; undecaying (in essence or continuance):--not (in-, un-) corruptible, immortal.

John MacArthur wrote…

In the Isthmian games the prize was a pine wreath. The contestants competed for more than that, of course. The wreath represented fame, acclaim, and the life of a hero. Winners were immortalized, much as they are today. But that “immortality” was just as mortal as the wreath itself, and lasted little longer. Both were perishable. Christians do not run for a short-lived pine wreath or for short-lived fame. They already have true immortality. They run in order to receive a “crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award … on that day” (2 Timothy 4:8), “an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven” (1 Peter 1:4). That prize is imperishable.

(2 Timothy 4:8) Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.

(1 Peter 1:3-4) Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, {4} To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you,

As Paul was running his race, he recognized that…

II. There Is A Conditioning To Obey

(1 Corinthians 9:24–27)

A. Notice The Discipline Involved In Our Conditioning

(1 Corinthians 9:25) 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.

temperate – Greek 1467. egkrateuomai, eng-krat-yoo'-om-ahee; mid. from G1468; to exercise self-restraint (in diet and chastity):--can([-not]) contain, be temperate.

Albert Barnes explained the statements in verse 25 saying…

[And every man that striveth for the mastery] ‎ho ‎‎agoonizomenos‎. That “agonizes;” that is, that is engaged in the exercise of “wrestling, boxing,” or pitching the bar or quoit; compare the note at Luke 13:24. The sense is, everyone who endeavors to obtain a victory in these athletic exercises.

[Is temperate in all things] The word which is rendered “is temperate” ‎engkrateuetai ‎denotes “abstinence” from all that would excite, stimulate, and ultimately enfeeble; from wine, from exciting and luxurious living, and from licentious indulgences. It means that they did all they could to make the body vigorous, active, and supple. They pursued a course of entire temperate living; compare Acts 24:25; 1 Corinthians 7:9; Galatians 5:23; 2 Peter 1:6. It relates not only to indulgences unlawful in themselves, but to abstinence from many things that were regarded as “lawful,” but which were believed to render the body weak and effeminate. The phrase “in all things” means that this course of temperance or abstinence was not confined to one thing, or to one class of things, but to every kind of food and drink, and every indulgence that had a tendency to render the body weak and effeminate. The preparations which those who propose to contend in these games made is well known; and is often referred to by the Classic writers. Epictetus, as quoted by Grotius (in loco), thus speaks of these preparations. “Do you wish to gain the prize at the Olympic games? consider the requisite preparations and the consequence You must observe a strict regimen; must live on food which is unpleasant; must abstain from all delicacies; must exercise yourself at the prescribed times in heat and in cold; you must drink nothing cool ‎psuchron‎; must take no wine as usual; you must put yourself under a “pugilist,” as you would under a physician, and afterward enter the lists.”

(1 Corinthians 9:27) 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.

The American Standard Version renders the first part of the verse this way: “I buffet my body, and bring it into bondage.”

subjection – Greek 1396. doulagogeo, doo-lag-ogue-eh'-o; from a presumed comp. of G1401 and G71; to be a slave-driver, i.e. to enslave (fig. subdue):--bring into subjection.

Albert Barnes further wrote…

[But I keep under my body] ‎hupoopiazoo‎. … The word is derived probably from [hupoopion], the part of the face “under the eye” (Passow), and means properly, to strike under the eye, either with the fist or the cestus, so as to render the part livid, or as we say, “black and blue”; or as is commonly termed, “to give anyone a black eye.” The word is derived, of course, from the athletic exercises of the Greeks. It then comes to mean, “to treat anyone with harshness, severity, or cruelty;” and thence also, so to treat any evil inclinations or dispositions; or to subject one’s-self to mortification or self-denial, or to a severe and rigid discipline, that all the corrupt passions might be removed. The word here means, that Paul made use of all possible means to subdue his corrupt and carnal inclinations; to show that he was not under the dominion of evil passions, but was wholly under the dominion of the gospel.

[And bring it into subjection] ‎doulagoogoo‎. This word properly means, to reduce to servitude or slavery; and probably was usually applied to the act of subduing an enemy, and leading him captive from the field of battle; as the captives in war were regarded as slaves. It then means, effectually and totally to subdue, to conquer, to reduce to bondage and subjection. Paul means by it, the purpose to obtain a complete VICTORY over his corrupt passions and propensities, and a design to gain the mastery over all his natural and evil inclinations.

B. Notice The Deliberation Involved In Our Conditioning

(1 Corinthians 9:26) I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air:

Adam Clarke said…

[I therefore so run; not as uncertainly] In the foot-course in those games, how many soever ran, only one could have the prize, however strenuously they might exert themselves; therefore, all ran uncertainly; but it was widely different in the Christian course, if everyone ran as he ought, each would receive the prize.

The word adeeloos, which we translate “uncertainly”, has other meanings:

1. It signifies ignorantly; I do not run like one ignorant of what he is about, or of the laws of the course; I know that there is an eternal life; I know the way that leads to it; and I know and feel the power of it.

2. It signifies without observation; the eyes of all the spectators were fixed on those who ran in these races; and to gain the applause of the multitude, they stretched every nerve; the apostle knew that the eyes of all were fixed upon him.

a. His false brethren waited for his halting:

b. The persecuting Jews and Gentiles longed for his downfall:

c. The church of Christ looked on him with anxiety:

d. And he acted in all things as under the immediate eye of God.

MacArthur said…

Paul had a purpose in running. He was not without aim. His goal, which he states four times in verses 19-22, was to win as many people to Jesus Christ as possible by as many means as possible. Changing metaphors, he says that he boxed in such a way, as not beating the air. He did not shadow box; he was always fighting the real fight, “the good fight” (1 Timothy 1:18). He was not just working up a sweat, but engaging in a real battle.

As Albert Barnes said…

[Not as one that beateth the air] The “phrase” here is taken from the habits of the pugilists or boxers, who were accustomed, before entering the lists, to exercise their limbs with the gauntlet, in order to acquire greater skill and dexterity. There was also, before the real contest commenced, a PLAY with their fists and weapons, by way of show or bravado, which was called [skiamachia], a mock-battle, or a fighting the air (shadow boxing). The phrase also is applicable to a “missing the aim,” when a blow was struck in a real struggle, and when the adversary would elude the blow, so that it would be spent in the empty air. This last the idea which Paul means to present. He did not miss his aim; he did not exert himself and spend his strength for nothing. Every blow that he struck TOLD; and he did not waste his energies on that which would produce no result.

Finally, as Paul was running his race, he recognized that…

III. There Is A Caution To Observe

(1 Corinthians 9:27)

A. Paul Points To The Demonstration Of His Duty

(1 Corinthians 9:27) 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.

Barnes said of Paul that…

He had preached to others, to many others. He had proclaimed the gospel far and near. He had preached to many thousands, and had been the means of the conversion of thousands. The contest, the agony, the struggle in which he had been engaged, was that of preaching the gospel in the most effectual manner.

Adam Clarke said…

[Lest that by any means, when I have preached to others] The word ‎keeruxas‎, which we translate having preached, refers to the office of the ‎keerux‎, or herald, at these games, whose business it was to proclaim the conditions of the games, display the prizes, exhort the combatants, excite the emulation of those who were to contend, declare the terms of each contest, pronounce the name of the victors, and put the crown on their heads.

B. Paul Points To The Danger Of Disqualification

(1 Corinthians 9:27) 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.

castaway – Greek 96. adokimos, ad-ok'-ee-mos; from G1 (as a neg. particle) and G1384; unapproved, i.e. rejected; by impl. worthless (lit. or mor.):--castaway, rejected, reprobate.

John MacArthur wrote…

Paul trained rigorously lest possibly, after I have preached to others, I myself should be disqualified. Here is another metaphor from the Isthmian games. A contestant who failed to meet the training requirements was disqualified. He could not even run, much less win. Paul did not want to spend his life preaching the requirements to others and then be disqualified for not meeting the requirements himself.

Many believers start the Christian life with enthusiasm and devotion. They train carefully for a while but soon tire of the effort and begin to “break training.” Before long they are disqualified from being effective witnesses. They do not have what it takes, because they are unwilling to pay the price. The flesh, the world, everyday affairs, personal interests, and often simple laziness hinder spiritual growth and preparation for service.

John Phillips explained it this way…

The word for castaway is adokimos, meaning “to be disapproved or rejected for the prize.” Paul was horrified at the thought that, having told others the laws of the contest, he should himself violate them and be ignominiously rejected by the Judge.

As Warren Wiersbe said…

Paul’s fear of becoming a castaway had nothing to do with his salvation. He is not talking about salvation but Christian service. We are not saved by running the race and winning; we run the race because we are saved (Philippians 3:12-16 and Hebrews 12:1-3). The word “castaway” means “disapproved, disqualified”; it is translated “not well pleased” in 10:5. Paul compares himself to the herald who called the athletes into the arena, yet who himself did not pass the tests to be a contestant! Paul was not afraid of losing his salvation but of losing his reward for faithful, sacrificial service.

Cf. (2 Timothy 2:5) And if a man also strive for masteries, yet is he not crowned, except he strive lawfully.

(Ecclesiastes 10:1) Dead flies cause the ointment of the apothecary to send forth a stinking savour: so doth a little folly him that is in reputation for wisdom and honour.


A sports story from The Atlanta Journal-Constitution dated Sunday, March 21, 2010 by Ken Sugiura had the headline “Leader Runs Astray At Georgia Marathon, Disqualified.” The story said…

The fourth ING Georgia Marathon mostly ran in a positive direction. That is, if you discount the lead runner veering off course, following a pace-setting police motorcycle to disaster.

An otherwise perfect Sunday for running ended badly for Tesfaye Sendeku, a 26-year-old Ethiopian who trains out of Fayetteville, when he finished first in two hours and 15 minutes only to learn he had been disqualified.

A 20-second leader over the field near the 22-mile mark in Piedmont Park, Sendeku temporarily left the course, totally unaware of his error. The motorcycle in front of him drove straight when it should have continued to the right, skipping an out-and-back loop, before merging back onto the designated route.

Once everything was sorted out, Jynocel Basweti, 23, was declared the winner. A Kenyan who lives in New Mexico, he completed the course in 2:20:49. Basweti earlier this year won marathons in Albany and Jackson, Miss.

Sendeku’s coach, Sue Bozgoz, acknowledged Sendeku’s responsibility to know the course, but said “if there’s a lead vehicle, you’re supposed to follow it.” Bozgoz intended to appeal the result.

Race director Jeff Graves called it a communication error. “It [stinks],” Graves said. “You don’t want somebody to not run the race correctly.”

To accommodate everyone and share in the blame for the mishap, race officials awarded the $2,000 winner’s share to both Basweti and Sendeku.

“It’s a painful thing to happen,” second-place finisher Richard Chelimo of Kenya said. “The marathon is not a joke. It is hard.”

Basweti had to feel sympathetic. Last year, the same thing happened to him at the Miami Marathon when he followed a video production truck off the course.


God help us not to get “off track” or “side-tracked” in the Christian race lest we should also be disqualified and have loss of reward. Let us run the race with victory in mind!