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The words, "my defence to them that examine me is this," reveal the opposition to him in Corinth. The two words, "defence" and "examine," are purely legal, and are in the language of the courts of justice. The apostle is speaking of himself as on his defense and under examination. The apostle declares that his right in the case of the Corinthians at least is based on his work. Whatever relation he may bear to others, he is an apostle to them at least, for they are the very seal of his apostleship in that they are, as he has said previously, his children in the Gospel.
While defending his rights, he declared his abandonment of them in the power of that compulsion of the Gospel through which he became all things to all men. The same principles are here enforced by a general illustration. The apostle used the race as an illustration, and laid down this one simple principle, "So run that ye may attain." The goal is always to be kept in view, and all present action is to be governed by the passion for reaching that goal and receiving the crown. There is 'therefore to be self-control in all things, in order that there may be ultimate victory.
The solemn closing words reach the very heart of the argument. The apostle, speaking now of himself, again for the sake of illustration, declares that he runs not uncertainly; that he fights not as beating the air; that he brings his body into bondage, even by buffeting, and all this because he sees the terrible possibility of himself being rejected, even though he has been a herald to others; the meaning of which most evidently is that failure to regulate life so as to help others imperils our own salvation.
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Morgan, G. Campbell. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 9". "G. Campbell Morgan Exposition on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 13 / Ordinary 18