Tired of seeing ads while studying? Now you can enjoy an "Ads Free" version of the site for as little as 10¢ a day.

Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary

1 Corinthians 9:27

but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified.
New American Standard Version

Bible Study Resources

Nave's Topical Bible - Affections;   Apostasy;   Appetite;   Captivity;   Continence;   Lasciviousness;   Lust;   Minister, Christian;   Self-Denial;   Stoicism;   Temperance;   War;   Watchfulness;   Wicked (People);   Zeal, Religious;   Scofield Reference Index - Castaway;   Thompson Chain Reference - Appetites;   Castaways;   Fellowship-Estrangement;   Self-Control;   Self-Denial;   Self-Indulgence-Self-Denial;   Temperance;   Temperance-Intemperance;   Torrey's Topical Textbook - Affections, the;   Conduct, Christian;   Ministers;   Roman Empire, the;   Self-Denial;   Warfare of Saints;  
American Tract Society Bible Dictionary - Race;   Bridgeway Bible Dictionary - Body;   Crown;   Ethics;   Holy spirit;   Self-discipline;   Sport;   Baker Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology - Christians, Names of;   Crown;   Fruit of the Spirit;   Perseverance;   Reward;   Charles Buck Theological Dictionary - Grace;   Easton Bible Dictionary - Castaway;   Reprobate;   Holman Bible Dictionary - Body;   Castaway;   Games;   Gymnasium;   Perseverance;   1 Corinthians;   Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible - Assurance;   Games;   Reprobate;   Sin;   Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament - Abstinence;   Assurance;   Body;   Buffet;   Castaway;   Cenchreae;   Freedom of the Will;   Games;   Grace;   Justification;   Justification (2);   Lust;   Metaphor;   Mortify;   Offence (2);   Prize;   Reprobate;   Stigmata ;   King James Dictionary - Castaway;   Morrish Bible Dictionary - Castaway,;   Prize;   Reprobate,;   Smith Bible Dictionary - Games;  
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia - Body;   Buffet;   Burden;   Cast;   Castaway;   Games;   Perseverance;   Reprobate;   Salvation;  
Daily Light on the Daily Path - Devotion for May 28;   Every Day Light - Devotion for October 9;  

Adam Clarke Commentary

Verse 1 Corinthians 9:27. But I keep under my body, c.] This is an allusion, not only to boxers, but also to wrestlers in the same games, as we learn from the word υπωπιαζω, which signifies to hit in the eyes and δουλαγωγω, which signifies to trip, and give the antagonist a fall, and then keep him down when he was down, and having obliged him to acknowledge himself conquered, make him a slave. The apostle considers his body as an enemy with which he must contend; he must mortify it by self-denial, abstinence, and severe labour; it must be the slave of his soul, and not the soul the slave of the body, which in all unregenerate men is the case.

Lest-having preached to others — The word κηρυξας, which we translate having preached, refers to the office of the κηρυξ, 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. See my observations on this office in Clarke's notes at "Matthew 3:17".

Should be a castaway. — The word αδοκιμος signifies such a person as the βραβευται, or judges of the games, reject as not having deserved the prize. So Paul himself might be rejected by the great Judge; and to prevent this, he ran, he contended, he denied himself, and brought his body into subjection to his spirit, and had his spirit governed by the Spirit of God. Had this heavenly man lived in our days, he would by a certain class of people have been deemed a legalist; a people who widely differ from the practice of the apostle, for they are conformed to the world, and they feed themselves without fear.

ON the various important subjects in this chapter I have already spoken in great detail; not, indeed, all that might be said, but as much as is necessary. A few general observations will serve to recapitulate and impress what has been already said.

1. St. Paul contends that a preacher of the Gospel has a right to his support; and he has proved this from the law, from the Gospel, and from the common sense and consent of men. If a man who does not labour takes his maintenance from the Church of God, it is not only a domestic theft but a sacrilege. He that gives up his time to this labour has a right to the support of himself and family: he who takes more than is sufficient for this purpose is a covetous hireling. He who does nothing for the cause of God and religion, and yet obliges the Church to support him, and minister to his idleness, irregularities, luxury, avarice, and ambition, is a monster for whom human language has not yet got a name.

2. Those who refuse the labourer his hire are condemned by God and by good men. How liberal are many to public places of amusement, or to some popular charity, where their names are sure to be published abroad; while the man who watches over their souls is fed with the most parsimonious hand! Will not God abate this pride and reprove this hard-heartedness?

3. As the husbandman plows and sows in hope, and the God of providence makes him a partaker of his hope, let the upright preachers of God's word take example and encouragement by him. Let them labour in hope; God will not permit them to spend their strength for nought. Though much of their seed, through the fault of the bad ground, may be unfruitful, yet some will spring up unto eternal life.

4. St. Paul became all things to all men, that he might gain all. This was not the effect of a fickle or man-pleasing disposition; no man was ever of a more firm or decided character than St. Paul; but whenever he could with a good conscience yield so as to please his neighbour for his good to edification, he did so; and his yielding disposition was a proof of the greatness of his soul. The unyielding and obstinate mind is always a little mind: a want of true greatness always produces obstinacy and peevishness. Such a person as St. Paul is a blessing wherever he goes: on the contrary, the obstinate, hoggish man, is either a general curse, or a general cross; and if a preacher of the Gospel, his is a burthensome ministry. Reader, let me ask thee a question: If there be no gentleness in thy manners, is there any in thy heart? If there be little of Christ without, can there be much of Christ within?

5. A few general observations on the Grecian games may serve to recapitulate the subject in the four last verses.

1. The Isthmian games were celebrated among the Corinthians; and therefore the apostle addresses them, 1 Corinthians 9:24: KNOW ye not, c.

2. Of the five games there used, the apostle speaks only of three. RUNNING 1 Corinthians 9:24: They which run in a race; and 1 Corinthians 9:26: I therefore so run, not as uncertainly. WRESTLING, 1 Corinthians 9:25: Every man that striveth; ο αγωνιζομενος, he who wrestleth. BOXING, 1 Corinthians 9:26; 1 Corinthians 9:27: So fight I, not as one that beateth the air; ουτω πυκτευω, so fist I, so I hit; but I keep my body under; υπωπιαζω, I hit in the eye, I make the face black and blue.

3. He who won the race by running was to observe the laws of racing-keeping within the white line which marked out the path or compass in which they ran; and he was also to outrun the rest, and to come first to the goal; otherwise he ran uncertainly, 1 Corinthians 9:24; 1 Corinthians 9:26, and was αδοκιμος, one to whom the prize could not be judged by the judges of the games.

4. The athletic combatants, or wrestlers, observed a set diet. See the quotation from Epictetus, under 1 Corinthians 9:25. And this was a regimen both for quantity and quality; and they carefully abstained from all things that might render them less able for the combat; whence the apostle says they were temperate in all things, 1 Corinthians 9:25.

5. No person who was not of respectable family and connections was permitted to be a competitor at the Olympic games. St. Chrysostom, in whose time these games were still celebrated, assures us that no man was suffered to enter the lists who was either a servant or a slave, ουδεις αγωνιζεται δουλος, ουδεις στρατευεται οικετης· and if any such was found who had got himself inserted on the military list, his name was erased, and he was expelled and punished. Αλλ' εαν ἁλῳ δουλος ων, μετα τιμωριας εκβαλλεται του των στρατιωτων καταολου. To prevent any person of bad character from entering the list at the Olympic games, the kerux, or herald, was accustomed to proclaim aloud in the theater when the combatant was brought forth: Μη τις τουτου κατηγορει; ὡστε αυτον αποσκευασαμενον της δουλειας την ὑποψιαν οὑτως εις τους αγωνας εμβηναι· Who can accuse this man? For which he gives this reason: "that being free from all suspicion of being in a state of slavery, (and elsewhere he says of being a thief, or of corrupt morals), he might enter the lists with credit." Chrysost. Homil. in Inscript. Altaris, etc., vol. iii. page 59, Edit. Benedict.

6. The boxers used to prepare themselves by a sort of σκιαμαχια, or going through all their postures of defence and attack when no adversary was before them. This was termed beating the air, 1 Corinthians 9:26 but when such came to the combat, they endeavoured to blind their adversaries by hitting them in the eye, which is the meaning of υπωπιαζειν, as we have seen under 1 Corinthians 9:27.

7. The rewards of all these exercises were only a crown made of the leaves of some plant, or the bough of some tree; the olive, bay, laurel, parsley, c., called here by the apostle φθαρτον στεφανον, a corruptible, withering, and fading crown while he and his fellow Christians expected a crown incorruptible and immortal, and that could not fade away.

8. On the subject of the possibility of St. Paul becoming a castaway, much has been said in contradiction to his own words. He most absolutely states the possibility of the case: and who has a right to call this in question? The ancient Greek commentators, as Whitby has remarked, have made a good use of the apostle's saying, Ει δε Παυλος τουτο δεδοικεν ὁ τοσουτους διδαξας, τι αν ειποιμεν ἡμεις; "If Paul, so great a man, one who had preached and labored so much, dreaded this, what cause have we to fear lest this should befall us?"

9. On the necessity of being workers together with God, in order to avoid apostasy, Clemens Alexandrinus has some useful observations in his Stromata, lib. vii., page 448, Edit. Oberthur: Ὡς δε, says he, ὁ ιατρος ὑγειαν παρεχεται τοις συνεργουσι προς ὑγειαν, οὑτως και ὁ Θεος την αΐδιον σωτηριαν τοις συνεργουσι προς γνωσιν τε και ευπραγιαν· "As a physician gives health to those who cooperate with him in their cure; so God also gives eternal salvation to them who are workers together with him in knowledge and a godly life." "Therefore," says he, "it is well said among the Greeks, that when a certain wrestler, who had long inured his body to manly exercises, was going to the Olympic games, as he was passing by the statue of Jupiter he offered up this prayer: Ει παντα, ω Ζευ, δεοντως μοι τα προς τον αγωνα ταρεσκευασται, αποδος φερων δικαιως την νικην εμοι· 'O Jupiter, if I have performed every thing as I ought in reference to this contest, grant me the victory!'" May we not feel something of this spirit in seeking the kingdom of God? And can any thing of this kind be supposed to derogate from the glory of Christ? St. Paul himself says, if a man contend for the mastery, yet is he not crowned except he strive lawfully. Shall we pretend to be wiser than the apostle; and say, that we may gain the crown, though we neither fight the good fight nor finish the course?

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Bibliographical Information
Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 9:27". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". 1832.

Bridgeway Bible Commentary

Necessity for self-discipline (9:24-27)

Christianity is a life of effort. As runners in a race strain to the full to win the prize, so Christians should put all their effort into whatever they do (24). As athletes undergo strict training in their pursuit of victory, so Christians should deny themselves lawful pleasures and foods in order to be more useful for God (25). Paul has purpose and effort in all that he does. He is like a runner who heads for the finishing line or a boxer who aims to land his punches. He spares no effort in his program of vigorous self-discipline to keep himself fit. He realizes that it is dangerously easy to warn and instruct others, then fall into sin himself and be disqualified (26-27).

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Flemming, Donald C. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 9:27". "Brideway Bible Commentary". 2005.

Coffman Commentaries on the Bible

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.

Buffet my body ... is metaphorical and does not refer to any type of flagellation such as was practiced by ascetics as a means of religious discipline. It indicates that every Christian, as Paul did, should exercise the sternest self-control over the body, its desires and appetites being a powerful source of temptation in all people.

I myself should be rejected ... As Foy E. Wallace, Jr., said: "The translators (in this place) were evidently attempting to circumvent the possibility of apostasy."[22] There is no excuse for rendering the word here [@adokimos] as either "rejected" (English Revised Version (1885)) or "disqualified" (RSV). It means "reprobate" and is so translated elsewhere in the New Testament (Romans 1:28; 2 Corinthians 13:5,6,7; 2Tim.3:8; Titus 1:16). It is thus crystal clear that the apostle Paul, even after the world-shaking ministry of the word of God which characterized his life, considered it possible that he himself could become reprobate and lose the eternal reward. It was for the purpose of avoiding that possibility that he buffeted his body, walked in the strictest discipline, and devoted every possible effort to the service of the Lord. His example should put an end to all thoughts of "having it made" as a Christian and being certain to win eternal life apart from the most faithful continuance in God's service.

We must therefore refuse interpretations of this passage such as that of Morris, who said, "Paul's fear was not that he might lose his salvation, but that he might lose his crown through failing to satisfy his Lord."[23] Clearly it was such a view as this that led to the mistranslation of 1 Corinthians 9:27; but the truth is available and clear enough for all who desire to know it.

The hope of eternal life is not sealed in a single glorious moment in one's experience of conversion; but it is a lifelong fidelity to the risen Lord, the running of life's race all the way to the finish line. As DeHoff wrote:

Not until every thought and imagination of man's heart is brought into subjection is his conversion complete. In this sense, conversion goes on as long as we live; and we are finally free from sin only when the day dawns and the shadows flee away, and we stand justified in the presence of God with the redeemed of all ages.[24]

Farrar's analysis of this verse is as follows:

The word "reprobate" here rendered "a castaway" (KJV) is a metaphor derived from the testing of metals, and the casting aside of those which are spurious. That Paul should see the necessity for such serious and unceasing effort shows how little he believed in saintly works of "supererogation, over and above what is commanded." "When the cedar of Lebanon trembles, what shall the reed by the brookside do?"[25]

It might be added that this passage also shows how little Paul believed any such doctrine as the "final perseverance of the saints," called also "the impossibility of apostasy."

[22] Foy E. Wallace, Jr., A Review of the New Versions (Fort Worth, Texas: The Foy E. Wallace Jr., Publications, 1973), p. 435.

[23] Leon Morris, op. cit., p. 140.

[24] George W. DeHoff, op. cit., p. 78.

[25] F. W. Farrar, The Pulpit Commentary (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1950), Vol. 19, p. 291.

Copyright Statement
Coffman Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.
Bibliographical Information
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 9:27". "Coffman Commentaries on the Bible". Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.

Albert Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible

But I keep under my body - (ὑπωπιάζω hupōpiazō). This word occurs in the New Testament only here and in Luke 18:5, “Lest by her continual coming she ‘weary’ me.” The word is derived probably from ὑπώπιον hupōpion, 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 - (δουλαγωγῶ doulagōgō). 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.

Lest that by any means - See the note at 1 Corinthians 9:22. Paul designed to make every possible effort to be saved. He did not mean to be lost, but he meant to be saved. He felt that there was danger of being deceived and lost; and he meant by some means to have evidence of piety that would abide the trial of the Day of Judgment.

When I have preached to others - Doddridge renders this, “lest after having served as a herald to others, I should myself be disapproved;” and supposes that there was allusion in this to the Grecian “herald,” whose business it was to proclaim the conditions of the games, to display the prizes, etc. In this interpretation, also, Macknight, Rosenmuller, Koppe, and most of the modern interpreters agree. They suppose, therefore, that the allusion to the games is carried through all this description. But there is this difficulty in this interpretation, that it represents the apostle as both a herald and a contender in the games and thus leads to an inextricable confusion of metaphor. Probably, therefore; this is to be taken in the usual sense of the word “preaching” in the New Testament; and the apostle here is to be understood as “dropping” the metaphor, and speaking in the usual manner. 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. And yet he felt that there was a possibility that even after all this he might be lost.

I myself should be a cast-away. - This word (ἀδόκιμος adokimos) is taken from “bad metals” and properly denotes those which will not bear the “test” that is applied to them; that are found to be base and worthless, and are therefore rejected and cast away. The apostle had subjected himself to trials. He had given himself to self-denial and toil; to persecution and want; to perils, and cold, and nakedness, and hunger. He had done this, among other things, to give his religion a fair trial, to see whether it would bear all these tests; as metal is cast into the fire to see whether it is genuine, or is base and worthless. In doing this, he had endeavored to subdue his corrupt propensities, and bring everything into captivity to the Redeemer, that it might be found that he was a sincere, and humble, and devoted Christian. Many have supposed that the word “cast-away” here refers to those who had entered the lists, and had contended, and who had then been examined as to the manner in which they had conducted the contest, and had been found to have departed from the rules of the games, and who were then rejected. But this interpretation is too artificial and unnatural. The simple idea of Paul is, that he was afraid that he should be disapproved, rejected, cast off; that it would appear, after all, that he had no religion, and would then be cast away as unfit to enter into heaven.

From the many remarks which might be made from this interesting chapter, we may select the following:

1. We see the great anxiety which Paul had to save souls. This was his grand purpose; and for this he was willing to deny himself and to bear any trial.

2. We should be kind to others; we should not needlessly offend them; we should conform to them, as far as it can be done consistently with Christian integrity.

3. We should make an effort to be saved. O if people made such exertions to obtain a corruptible crown, how much greater should we make to obtain one that fadeth not away!

4. Ministers, like others, are in danger of losing their souls. If Paul felt this danger, who is there among the ministers of the cross who should not feel it? If Paul was not safe, who is? (See the supplementary note on 1 Corinthians 9:27.)

5. The fact that a man has preached to many is no certain evidence that he will be saved, 1 Corinthians 9:27. Paul had preached to thousands, and yet he felt that after all this there was a possibility that be might be lost.

6. The fact that a man has been very successful in the ministry is no certain evidence that he will be saved. God converts people; and he may sometimes do it by the instrumentality of those who themselves are deceived, or are deceivers. They may preach much truth; and God may bless that truth, and make it the means of saving the soul. There is no conclusive evidence that a man is a Christian simply because he is a successful and laborious preacher, any more than there is that a man is a Christian because he is a good farmer, and because God sends down the rain and the sunshine on his fields. Paul felt that even his success was no certain evidence that he would be saved. And if Paul felt thus, who should not feel that after the most distinguished success, he may himself be at last a castaway?

7. It will be a solemn and awesome thing for a minister of the gospel, and a “successful” minister, to go down to hell. What more fearful doom can be conceived, than after having led others in the way to life; after having described to them the glories of heaven; after having conducted them to the “sweet fields beyond the swelling flood” of death, he should find himself shut out, rejected, and cast down to hell! What more terrible can be imagined in the world of perdition than the doom of one who was once a minister of God, and once esteemed as a light in the church and a guide of souls, now sentenced to inextinguishable fires, while multitudes saved by him shall have gone to heaven! How fearful is the condition and how solemn the vocation of a minister of the gospel!

8. Ministers should be solicitous about their personal piety. Paul, one might suppose, might have rested contented with the remarkable manner of his conversion. He might have supposed that that put the matter beyond all possible doubt. But be did no such thing. He felt that it was necessary to have evidence day by day that he was then a Christian. Of all people, Paul was perhaps Least disposed to live on past experience, and to trust to such experience. Of all people, he had perhaps most reason to trust to such experience; and yet how seldom does he refer to it, how little does he regard it! The great question with him was, “Am I now a Christian? am I living as a Christian should now? am I evincing to others, am I giving to myself daily, constant, growing evidence that I am actuated by the pure principles of the gospel, and that that gospel is the object of my highest preference, and my holiest and constant desire? O how holy would be the ministry, if all should endeavor every day to live and act for Christ and for souls with as much steadiness and fidelity as did the apostle Paul!

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Bibliographical Information
Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 9:27". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". 1870.

Living By Faith: Commentary on Romans & 1st Corinthians

9:26-27: I therefore so run, as not uncertainly; so fight I, as not beating the air: 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 is the conclusion to Paul’s instructions about the Christian race. He ran “without uncertainty” (KJV). The ASV says, “not uncertainly.” This means he was aware of the goal (eternal life). He was not wandering aimlessly in his spiritual life. He knew what he wanted, he knew how to get it, and he was persistently pursuing it (compare verse 23 and the comments on that verse). “He who runs with a clear aim looks straight and runs straight to the goal, casts away every weight, pays no regard to what bystanders say, and sometimes is but aroused even by a fall” (Bengel, 2:214). Uncertainly (adelos) occurs only here in the New Testament. Gingrich and Danker (p. 16) defined it “as one who has no fixed goal.”

To ensure the Corinthians knew that getting to heaven is not easy, Paul turned to another illustration in 26b-fighting. “Fight” (pukteuo) is a present tense verb that occurs only here in the New Testament and it refers to boxing. Paul said he was not like an unskilled boxer (someone who misses his mark and ends up “beating the air”). “To strike a terrific blow which lands on the air instead of on the opponent brings a laugh from the spectators” (Lenski, First Corinthians, p. 385). Paul was like a skilled boxer. Just as a knowledgeable fighter knows when and where to throw a punch, so Paul knew how to engage in the fight for eternal life. The verbs fight and beat are both in the present tense and are quite vivid. The CBL (GED, 5:385) noted that “Ancient Greek boxing did not use gloves, but fighters had thongs tied to their hands and wrists. There also were no timed rounds or a specific area in which to fight.”

Verse 27 builds upon the information in verse 26 by continuing the imagery of a physical contest. Here Paul said he had to keep his body under control to reach his goal of heaven (compare Galatians 5:17). Paul kept his life in order by “buffeting” himself (the KJV says, “I keep under my body”). “Buffet” (hupopiazo) is only used here and Luke 18:5 (Jesus used it to describe a widow who wearied a judge). This term meant to “strike someone on the face (under the eyes) in such a way that he gets a ‘black eye’ and is disfigured as a result” (Kittel, 8:590). In Luke 18:1-43 the word may indicate the judge’s prestige had been so injured and disgraced it was like his face had been blackened. It is also possible to view the widow in Jesus’ story as someone who was so desperate she might have hit the judge in the face (Kittel, 8:591). Here buffet is a present tense verb and it must be understood figuratively (Paul did not actually hit himself). Buffet means Paul kept his passions and life (his entire being) under control so he would not lose the heavenly race. “Athletes love to crow in advance about their certain victory. Paul’s case is altogether different” (Lenski, First Corinthians, p. 385).

The word “bondage” (doulagogeo) is translated “subjection” in the KJV. It is found only here in the New Testament and it is also a present tense verb. In Classical Greek bondage described people who were captured and made slaves. Both this word and the present tense tell us that Paul’s becoming a Christian did not fully remove his temptation to sin or always keep him from ever sinning (he made this same point in Romans 7:14-15 -see the commentary on these two passages). Though a Christian and an apostle, Paul was like everyone else-his Christian life was a race and struggle.

By combining the verbs “buffet” and “bondage” Paul gave “the picture of the athlete who does all to discipline himself and to keep his body under rigorous control, in order that it might serve and not hinder his progress to the goal” (Rienecker and Rogers, p. 417). Some have said it is “easy to love Jesus, but loving Jesus is not easy.” If by this someone means the “person of Jesus is easy to love” (or many of His teachings are very attractive), the statement is true. Christianity is a very attractive way of life, but it does require a significant amount of on-going effort.

Paul brought his desires and life into subjection to God “lest by any means” he should be “rejected” (the KJV says “be a castaway”). The adverb lest (mepos) “occurs after verbs of fear or apprehension to voice a speaker’s negative reservation” (CBL, GED, 4:191). Paul knew that even though he was an apostle, he could fall from grace (lose his salvation). This point is so clear and forceful those who deny that Christians can lose their salvation have had to resort to very twisted logic-the type of reasoning found in the Bible Knowledge commentary (p. 525). This source wrongly said: “Like the brother who had indulged in immorality (1 Corinthians 5:1-5), Paul’s life could be cut short by the disciplinary disapproval of God. God had disciplined in the past (10:6-10), was disciplining in the present (11:30-32), and would discipline in the immediate future (5:5). Paul was concerned that some might not be able to say with him one day, ‘I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race’ (2 Timothy 4:7), but would find themselves cut off in the midst of the contest by the disciplinary action of God.”

Paul did not have in mind his life being “cut short” (God lessening his number of years on the earth). He was worried about becoming a castaway (adokimos). This term described a person or thing that failed to pass a test and was therefore disqualified (rejected). Castaway was “used with reference to ancient coins which were always weighed and otherwise carefully tested; the genuine and the full-weight coins were accepted as ‘proven,’ and others were rejected as ‘disproven’” (Lenski, First Corinthians, p. 388). It was also the term used for disqualified contestants in the Grecian games (Willis, p. 252). “At the Greek games, there was a herald who announced the rules of the contest, the names of the contestants, and the names and cities of the winners. He would also announce the names of any contestants who were disqualified” (Warren Wiersbe, First Corinthians, p. 602). A good definition for castaway is “not standing the test” (Exegetical Dictionary of the New Testament, 1:33). If a person does not pass God’s test, the end result will not be salvation-it will be eternal condemnation in hell. If a person is seeking eternal life but fails to win the race, he will be lost.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Price, Brad "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 9:27". "Living By Faith: Commentary on Romans & 1st Corinthians".

Calvin's Commentary on the Bible

27. But I keep under my body (516) Budaeus reads Observo ; ( I keep a watch over;) but in my opinion the Apostle has employed the word ὑπωπιάζειν (517) here, to mean treating in a servile manner (518) 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, (519) 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.”

(516) “ Mais ie matte et reduy en seruitude mort corps;” — “But I mortify my body, and bring it into servitude.”

(517) 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

(518) “ Manier rudement et d’une faqon seruile;” — “To handle roughly, and in a servile manner.”

(519) 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

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Bibliographical Information
Calvin, John. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 9:27". "Calvin's Commentary on the Bible". 1840-57.

Chuck Smith Bible Commentary

Shall we turn in our Bibles to I Corinthians, chapter 9.

I could do a lot of things I don't do. The reason why I don't do them is I do not want to be an offense unto a weaker brethren and destroy his relationship with God because of my own liberty in Christ. This is essentially what Paul is saying to the Corinthians. And he is telling them that they should be careful in their exercise of their own freedom in Christ, that they would not use it in such a way as it could be a stumblingblock to a weaker brother.

Now, as Paul is continuing this line of thought and this argument, he gives an example from his own personal life. Being an apostle, he could make many demands as an apostle that he refuses to make, because he doesn't want to cause offense to anyone. So as he is getting into this apostleship now, and his rights as an apostle, he is only showing from his own personal experience how he puts into practice the principal that he has just sought to teach them. And that is: yes, you have liberty, you have the rights, but you don't have to always insist on your rights or exercise your liberty, especially if it hurts someone else.

So, the law that governs me is the law of love, my love for my brethren in Christ, especially those who might be weaker in the faith. My love for them is the law that governs my activities, not whether it is right or wrong. And so Paul said,

Am I not an apostle? am I not free? ( 1 Corinthians 9:1 )

That is, free to do whatever I want as an apostle.

have I not seen Jesus Christ our Lord? are you not my work in the Lord? ( 1 Corinthians 9:1 )

So he is using as a sign of his apostleship, first of all, that he had seen Christ the Lord. One of the requirements of apostleship in the early church was the ability to bear witness of the resurrection of Jesus Christ by being an eyewitness of His resurrection.

Now, there are those today within the church who are seeking to claim the authority of apostles, and one of them died the other day. But they do have men who have claimed the authority of apostleship. From a New Testament standpoint, it would be a difficult kind of a claim to make, for one of the requirements was the ability to bear witness of the resurrection of Jesus Christ by being an eyewitness. Paul declares that he saw Jesus. He also refers to the proof of the apostleship their changed lives. They are his epistles of commendation known and read of all men.

He said,

If I be not an apostle unto others, doubtless I am to you: for the seal of my apostleship is your being in the Lord ( 1 Corinthians 9:2 ).

My ministry among you, the fruit of the ministry, the proof of my ministry. The fact that you are in the Lord. You are the seal of my apostleship.

Mine answer to them that do examine me in this ( 1 Corinthians 9:3 ):

He is actually saying, "This is my defense to those who would cross-examine me." He is using in the Greek a couple of legal terms. And evidently, the divisions in Corinth led to the place where they said, "Well, we are of Apollos," and they began as they did in many places to challenge Paul's claim as an apostle. Paul said, "I am an apostle, not by the will of man, but by the will of God." But they challenged his claim. They said, "Aw, he says he is an apostle, but he's not really an apostle." So they were challenging his apostleship. And so he said,

My defense to them that would examine me in this issue, is that have I not the power to eat and to drink? Have we not the power to lead about a sister, a wife, as well as other apostles, and as the brethren of the Lord, and also of Peter himself? Or I only and Barnabas, have we not the power to forbear working? ( 1 Corinthians 9:3-6 )

We don't have to work. We have the power not to work as an apostle. For those who preach the gospel have every right to live by the gospel. He said,

Who goes a warfare any time at his own expense? ( 1 Corinthians 9:7 )

If you go to war, they provide for you. You don't go out and buy your gun and your boots, and buy your helmet and buy your ammunition. Those things are provided for you if you are in the military. You don't have to buy your own F-15. So Paul said, "Who goes to war and pays his own expenses?"

who plants a vineyard, and does not eat the fruit of it? or who feeds the flock, and doesn't drink the milk? Say I these things as a man? or saith the law also? ( 1 Corinthians 9:7-8 )

Am I just spouting off as a man, or does the Bible confirm this? And using as a scriptural basis for this premise, he said,

For it is written in the law of Moses, Thou shalt not muzzle the ox that treads out the corn. Does God take care for oxen? ( 1 Corinthians 9:9 )

So, that was a part of the law. The ox that treaded down the corn, you weren't to put a muzzle on his mouth. As he was going through pulling the plows and all, he could eat as he went through. You weren't to muzzle his mouth, because he is laboring. He is working.

Now he is saying, "Does God take care of oxen? Is He more interested in oxen than He is in men?" So Paul goes to the Old Testament to show that a servant has the right, or the ox has the right to eat the corn that it is treading.

Now did the Lord say it altogether for our sakes? For our sakes, no doubt, this is written: that he that plows should plow in hope ( 1 Corinthians 9:10 );

That is, the hope of the harvest.

and he that threshes threshes in hope that he might be the partaker of his own labor. If we have sown to you spiritual things, is it a great thing if we shall reap from you the carnal things? If others are partakers of this power over you, are not we even more? Nevertheless we have not used this power; but suffer all things, lest we should hinder the gospel of Christ ( 1 Corinthians 9:10-12 ).

Now, again, talking about the liberty to do things, the right to do things. Paul is pointing out that, as an apostle, as being the instrument that God used to minister to these people's spiritual life, having brought to them the Word of God and the things of the Spirit, as an apostle he had every right to be supported by them. He had every right to receive material benefits from them. However, he said, "I did not do it lest I would hinder the gospel of Christ."

Do you not know that they which minister about holy things live of the things of the temple? and they which wait at the altar are partakers with the altar? ( 1 Corinthians 9:13 )

The priests who offered the sacrifices got a certain portion of the meat. He got a certain portion of the flour and these things that were brought as sacrifices from the people to sacrifice to the Lord. The priests got a share of those things. He lived by these things that were brought in.

Now Paul is saying, "I have every right to receive from you material recompense for my labors among you."

Even [he said] the Lord has ordained that they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel. But I have used none of these things: neither have I written these things, that it should be so done unto me: for it were better for me to die, than that any man should make my glorying void ( 1 Corinthians 9:14-15 ).

Now Paul said, "Yes, I have every right, but I am not exercising it. I would rather be dead than to take a penny from you." Why did Paul have this attitude? Because, unfortunately in Paul's day, as it is in the present day, there are many ministers that abuse this right. There are many ministries that are constantly seeking gimmicks, methods, and ways of extracting more money from the people.

If you ever get on the mailing lists of some of these evangelists, there is no end to their imaginations and the development of gimmicks to try and get you to send in your support for their ministries. You go to a lot of these services and you are exposed to a lot of the gimmickry. "The Lord has revealed to me that there are ten people here tonight that are going to give one thousand dollars for this ministry. The Lord has revealed to me that there are fifty people that are going to give five hundred dollars." That is not so. That is putting it mildly. That is gimmickry. That is deception. That is terrible!

Now, because of this, many people have been turned away from the gospel of Jesus Christ, and they say, "All they want is your money." And unfortunately, that is true in many places. That is the reason why here at Calvary Chapel we never have pledges. That is the reason why here at Calvary Chapel we never make any appeals for the offerings. Nothing more is ever said than, "The ushers will come forward to receive the tithes and the offerings." But it is up to you whether you give or not, and no one will ever ask you to give. That is why that we here at Calvary Chapel love to give to people to just blow the minds of people who say the church is only out to get. That was the same with Paul. He didn't want to be accused of being a mercenary, of just being after the people's money. He didn't want that to be an offense.

You know, years ago when the Lord called me into the ministry I had seen a lot of this begging for Jesus bit. I had seen these various types of offering appeals. In fact, in college I was even taught how to make a strong appeal for money, taught how to develop drives and solicit pledges and things of this nature. But, when the Lord called me to the ministry, I said, "Lord, I will make you a deal. I will serve You in the ministry as long as You provide, but I am never going to solicit my support from people. You take care of me. I am not going to ask people. I am not going to beg people for money. Money will never be an issue in my ministry."

I feel that it is criminal and manifestly wrong for these ministers who are constantly begging people for their dollars. And you know, it is almost as bad as the time in the Roman church when they sold indulgences. "You want to get your prayer answered, send your offering in to us. You've got an unsaved son? Send your offering to us and God will save him. You can buy salvation for your son. You can buy healing for your mother. You can buy all kinds of indulgences." It is made out to be that way in these phony fundraising drives. If those who were soliciting those funds would live very simple lives, not live in a lavish style, then I could accept it. But when these same ones who are begging these poor little widows to sacrifice from their social security checks to send into them, and they themselves are living a very high style of life, I find it intolerable.

Paul the apostle, I think I really identify and love this guy, because he had much the same attitude that I have as far as money is concerned. He said, "I don't want your money. I won't take your money. I glory in the fact that I was able to provide for myself and the needs of my party while I was there and we didn't take anything from you. And I would rather be dead than to lose this bit of glorying that I had that I did not take money from you, though as an apostle I had every right. God has ordained that those that minister the gospel should live of the gospel. That is right. The ox is not to be muzzled. God, if He takes care of the ox, surely takes care of His servants that are out preaching His Word. The priests live by the things of the altar. I had every right to, but yet I didn't, because I didn't want to be an offense. I didn't want to stumble somebody to think that I was trying to enrich myself through the preaching of the gospel."

I have used none of these things: neither have I written these things, that it should be so done unto me ( 1 Corinthians 9:15 ):

I am not trying to make an appeal now, Paul said. That is not the purpose for my saying these things.

for it were better that I be dead, than that any man should make my glorying void. For though I preach the gospel, I have nothing to glory of: for necessity is laid upon me; yea, woe is me, if I preach not the gospel! ( 1 Corinthians 9:15-16 )

I am not preaching it for the glory or for the money. There is a necessity laid on me. There is a burden on my heart. Woe is me, if I don't preach the gospel of Jesus Christ.

For if I do this thing willingly, then I have a reward: but if against my will, a dispensation of the gospel is committed unto me ( 1 Corinthians 9:17 ).

Paul said, "I am doing this willingly. Thus, I have my reward, because I am doing it willing for the Lord."

What is my reward then? Verily that, when I preach the gospel, I may make the gospel of Christ without charge, that I abuse not my power in the gospel ( 1 Corinthians 9:18 ).

I love that. Jesus said, "Freely you have received, freely give." Oh, how I thank God that our radio ministry does not depend upon the listeners for the support. How I thank God that we can go on the radio around the country and not have to spend fifteen minutes a day in urging the people to support us this week, or we won't be on the air next week. I thank the Lord that we can just freely minister the gospel to people around the country blowing their minds because they wonder, "How in the world is this program supported?" It is supported because God has put upon the hearts of the people here to give, and it is more than we need so we just use the excess to get the gospel out around the world. And you know what? The more we give, the more the Lord sends in. That is the amazing thing. We have been trying to outgive God. And every time we take on new stations and put more money into the radio to spread the Word out further, the more God blesses, the more the supplies come in. And so, we have seen the radio ministry expand from the original twenty-five to over one hundred and twenty stations, and another one hundred stations on Sunday broadcast only, plus cable television around the country. And we can do it without charge, and that is the glorious thing. Not looking for the support of the people, but just looking to God for His supply.

Paul said,

For though I am really free from all men ( 1 Corinthians 9:19 ),

I don't owe you anything and I haven't taken anything from you, so I am free of all men.

yet have I made myself the servant unto all, that I might gain the more ( 1 Corinthians 9:19 ).

I am really free from you, but I made myself a servant that I might gain more.

unto the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain the Jews; to them that are under the law, as under the law, that I might gain them that are under the law; To them that are without law, as also without law, (not without law to God, but under the law to Christ,) that I might gain them that are without law. To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak: I am made all things to all men, that I by all means might save some. And this I do for the gospel's sake, that I might be partaker thereof with you ( 1 Corinthians 9:20-23 ).

So Paul is seeking to identify with people. He is not setting himself above people and preaching down to people, but coming down on their level and seeking to understand where they are, seeking to identify with them in such a way that they could identify with Paul so that he could lead them to the strength and the power that they might know through Jesus Christ.

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

And so, again, Paul sees the Christian life as a race. He said to Timothy, "I have fought a good fight, I have finished the course" ( 2 Timothy 4:7 ). The idea of the race. If Paul was the author of Hebrews, and I personally feel he was, he also made reference to the race. "Wherefore laying aside every weight and sin which doth so easily beset us, let us run the race with patience looking unto Jesus the author and the finisher of our faith" ( Hebrews 12:1-2 ).

Now, life is as a race, but Paul says, "Run to win." I like that. I have enough competitive spirit in me that I don't play to lose. Whenever I go out in any sport, I go out to win. That is almost a fault. It has been a real fault in my life. My desire to win is so great that if there is any place I can lose my composure it is when there has been a bad call. I am out to win. And Paul said to be that way in your life for Christ. Go all out. So run that you might obtain the prize.

And every man that strives for the mastery ( 1 Corinthians 9:25 )

That is a term for the wrestling. The Olympics were held in Athens, but they had also the second largest athletic events in the world were held in Corinth. And so those in Corinth were very familiar with the athletes who would be training for the games of Corinth. A fellow who is working out in wrestling,

is temperate in all things ( 1 Corinthians 9:25 ).

That is, he lives a very disciplined life as he is getting his body into shape.

They are doing it for a corruptible crown ( 1 Corinthians 9:25 );

They are putting their bodies through torturous exercises in order that they might develop their athletic skills. They are watching their diet. They are living very careful, disciplined lives in order that they might win their event so that the judges may put a little laurel wreath on their head--a laurel wreath that will soon dry out, a corruptible crown.

Now, if they are willing to put in so much time, so much energy, so much effort, so much discipline to receive a gold medal, how much more effort should we be putting in to gain the incorruptible crown of glory that God has promised to His faithful servants. Run to win. And as Paul said, "I run that way."

I therefore so run [I run to win], not as uncertainly ( 1 Corinthians 9:26 );

That is, not just careless . . . "Well, I hope I finish. Doesn't matter." No sir, I'm running with the intention of winning.

so fight I, not as one who is beating the air ( 1 Corinthians 9:26 ):

Not as a shadow boxer.

But I keep my body under, and bring it into subjection ( 1 Corinthians 9:27 ):

"I discipline," Paul said, "my own body, keeping it into subjection."

lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be disapproved ( 1 Corinthians 9:27 ).

Now, Paul talks about the discipline, keeping his body under. Man is a threefold being: body, mind, and spirit. The natural man is body, mind, and spirit. When a person is born again, he is inverted and he becomes spirit, mind, and body. The natural man, body, mind, and spirit; the mind is under the control of the body, which is uppermost. So the unregenerate man, the sinner, is a man who is aware and conscious of the body and the body needs and the body appetites, and that is all he thinks about. And all you have to do is open up your ears in the public and you hear what people talk about. What are they talking about? Their fleshly experiences. The gal they had last weekend. Some new bar that has opened up, some disco, fleshly body experiences. That is their mind. That is where their minds run in that area.

When a person is born again by the Spirit and he becomes spirit, mind, and body, then the mind is under the control of the Spirit and he is thinking about spiritual things, how he may please God. He is thinking about the Word of God. He is thinking about his walk with Jesus Christ. He is thinking about the Lord. He is singing about the Lord. His mind is on the things of the Spirit.

Now, the Bible tells us that the persons whose minds are upon the things of the flesh is dead, but the person whose mind is upon the things of the Spirit is alive, and he has peace and he has joy.

Now, when I am born again and I am now spirit, soul, and body, my body down here doesn't like it in the basement. My body enjoyed sitting on the throne. It enjoyed ruling over me. It enjoyed its tyranny that it had over me, and it doesn't like being underneath. And thus, my body is constantly trying to rise. I am not dead to the desires of my flesh. They are there. They are always there as long as I am living in this body. But my desires for the Lord and the things of the Lord are greater than my desires for the flesh. But I find that I have to keep my body under, for my body would love to come and begin to rule again and put the spirit under. So Paul said, "I discipline myself to keep the body under, not giving over to the things of my flesh, lest even in this area of having ministered to others I myself would be disapproved." And there are those who say that Paul is here talking about his service to God put on the shelf so to speak.

So, it is important for us to keep the body under, to discipline ourselves in spiritual disciplines. If the athletes are willing to go through such discipline just to receive a corruptible crown, how much more should we discipline ourselves for the incorruptible crown of life that the Lord our righteous judge shall give to us and to all those who love His appearing.

Paul tells us that the flesh lusts against the spirit and the spirit against the flesh. These are contrary. I am in a battle within, and I must discipline myself to keep the body under.


Copyright Statement
Copyright © 2014, Calvary Chapel of Costa Mesa, Ca.
Bibliographical Information
Smith, Charles Ward. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 9:27". "Chuck Smith Bible Commentary". 2014.

Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable

Apostolic exhortation and example 9:24-27

This passage is transitional, concluding Paul’s defense of his apostolic authority (1 Corinthians 9:1-23) and returning to the argument against participating in cultic meals (ch. 8). Metaphors from the athletic games fill the pericope. Philosophers and other orators in Paul’s world frequently used athletic metaphors to describe their labors. [Note: Keener, pp. 81-82.]

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 9:27". "Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable". 2012.

Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable

In another sense Paul viewed his flesh as his enemy. He recognized the need to exercise strict self-discipline. Obviously Paul was not speaking of self-discipline in the physical realm alone. He also had in mind moral discipline and discipline in the amoral areas of his life including voluntary curtailment of personal rights and liberties (cf. ch. 8; 1 Timothy 4:8). [Note: See Jerry M. Hullinger, "The Historical Background of Paul’s Athletic Allusions," Bibliotheca Sacra 161:643 July-September 2004):343-59.]

We must be careful not to confuse the fear of disqualification with the fear of damnation. Paul had no fear that he would lose his salvation (Romans 8:1; Romans 8:29-39). In the context what he could lose was a reward. [Note: See Smith, "Can Fallen . . .," pp. 466-67.] How ironic and pathetic it would be for Paul to forfeit a crown through his own lack of self-discipline or by breaking the Judge’s rules since He had instructed others concerning how to win one.

This whole chapter is an explanation of the last verse of the preceding chapter. More generally it clarifies the importance of limiting our legitimate liberty as Christians for higher goals, namely, the glory of God and the welfare of other people.

"Almost in reaction against . . . globalization, many people are responding with increasing nationalism, sometimes with almost frightening ethnocentrism. Christians are not immune to these sweeping currents of thought. They, too, can be caught up in flag-waving nationalism that puts the interests of my nation or my class or my race or my tribe or my heritage above the demands of the kingdom of God. Instead of feeling that their most important citizenship is in heaven, and that they are just passing through down here on their way ’home’ to the heavenly Jerusalem (Hebrews 12:22-23), they become embroiled with petty priorities that constitute an implicit denial of the lordship of Christ." [Note: Carson, p. 116.]

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 9:27". "Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable". 2012.

John Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible

But I keep under my body,.... The allusion is still to fighters, who, by cuffing and boxing, give their antagonists black and blue eyes, which is the proper signification of the word here used: so it is said u of Menedemus, that in questions or scholastic exercises, he was so vehement and pugnacious, that he never departed without υπωπια φερων, "carrying away black and blue eyes". This is not to be understood by the apostle of his natural body, and of his keeping it under by immoderate watchings, fastings, and labours, or by whipping and scourging, and lying upon the bare ground, and other such practices; but of the body of sin, the corruption of nature, and of that being laid under some restraints; of the mortifying the deeds of the body through the Spirit, of crucifying the affections with the lusts, of putting off the old man with his deeds, as concerning the former conversation, and of making no provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof: it seems to be the same with what the Jews call w, כובש יצרו, "a subduing of a man's evil concupiscence": who is a strong man? they say x,

הכובש את יצרו, "he that subdues his corruption", according to

Proverbs 16:32 and again y

"the sons of Ulam were mighty and powerful men,

כבשין יצריהון, "subduing their corruptions", as man that draws a bow with wisdom.''

And bring it into subjection; so as not to serve and obey it in the lusts thereof; but to have the ascendant of it, and government over it, that it does not, and cannot reign as it formerly did: the allusion is still to the combatant, who gets and keeps his antagonist under him, and has the command of him, and throws him on the ground, or drags him about at pleasure:

lest that by any means when I have preached to others; the Gospel of the grace of God, for their souls' profit and advantage, to gain and save them; and have called upon them so to run, that they might receive and enjoy the incorruptible crown:

I myself should be a castaway, or rejected, or disapproved of; that is, by men: the apostle's concern is, lest he should do anything that might bring a reproach on the Gospel; lest some corruption of his nature or other should break out, and thereby his ministry be justly blamed, and be brought under contempt; and so he be rejected and disapproved of by men, and become useless as a preacher: not that he feared he should become a reprobate, as the word is opposed to an elect person; or that he should be a castaway eternally, or be everlastingly damned; for he knew in whom he had believed, and was persuaded of his interest in the love of God, and that he was a chosen vessel of salvation, that could not be eternally lost: though supposing that this is his sense, and these his fears and concern, it follows not as neither that he was, so neither that he could be a lost and damned person: the fears of the saints, their godly jealousies of themselves, and pious care that they be not lost, are not at all inconsistent with the firmness of their election, their security in Christ, and the impossibility of their final and total falling away; but on the contrary are overruled, and made use of by the Spirit of God, for their final perseverance in grace and holiness.

u Hesychius de Philosophis, p. 48. w Tzeror Hammor, fol. 145. 2, 3. T. Bab. Yoma, fol. 69. 2. x Pirke Abot, c. 4. sect. 1. y Targum in 1 Chron. viii. 40.

Copyright Statement
The New John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible Modernised and adapted for the computer by Larry Pierce of Online Bible. All Rights Reserved, Larry Pierce, Winterbourne, Ontario.
A printed copy of this work can be ordered from: The Baptist Standard Bearer, 1 Iron Oaks Dr, Paris, AR, 72855
Bibliographical Information
Gill, John. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 9:27". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". 1999.

Matthew Henry's Complete Commentary on the Bible

The Apostle's Devotedness. A. D. 57.

      24 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.   26 I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air:   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.

      In these verses the apostle hints at the great encouragement he had to act in this manner. He had a glorious prize, an incorruptible crown, in view. Upon this head he compares himself to the racers and combatants in the Isthmian games, an allusion well known to the Corinthians, because they were celebrated in their neighbourhood: "Know you not that those who run in a race run all, but one obtaineth the prize?1 Corinthians 9:24; 1 Corinthians 9:24. All run at your games, but only one gets the race and wins the crown." And here,

      I. He excites them to their duty: "So run that you may obtain. 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. Yet there should be a noble emulation; you should endeavour to outdo one another. And it is a glorious contest who shall get first to heaven, or have the best rewards in that blessed world. I make it my endeavour to run; so do you, as you see me go before you." Note, It is the duty of Christians to follow their ministers closely in the chase of eternal glory, and the honour and duty of ministers to lead them in the way.

      II. He directs them in their course, by setting more fully to view his own example, still carrying on the allusion. 1. Those that ran in their games were kept to a set diet: "Every man that strives for the mastery is temperate in all things,1 Corinthians 9:23; 1 Corinthians 9:23. The fighters and wrestlers in your exercises are kept to strict diet and discipline; nay, they keep themselves to it. They do not indulge themselves, but restrain themselves from the food they eat and so from the liberties they use on other occasions. And should not Christians much more abridge themselves of their liberty, for so glorious an end as winning the race, and obtaining the prize set before them? They used a very spare diet, and course food, and denied themselves much, to prepare for their race and combat; so do I; so should you, after my example. It is hard if, for the heavenly crown, you cannot abstain from heathen sacrifices." 2. They were not only temperate, but inured themselves to hardships. Those who fought with one another in these exercises prepared themselves by beating the air, as the apostle calls it, or by throwing out their arms, and thereby inuring themselves, beforehand, to deal about their blows in close combat, or brandish them by way of flourish. There is no room for any such exercise in the Christian warfare. Christians are ever in close combat. There enemies make fierce and hearty opposition, and are ever at hand; and for this reason they must lay about them in earnest, and never drop the contest, nor flag and faint in it. They must fight, not as those that beat the air, but must strive against their enemies with all their might. One enemy the apostle here mentions, namely, the body; this must be kept under, beaten black and blue, as the combatants were in these Grecian games, and thereby brought into subjection. By the body we are to understand fleshly appetites and inclinations. These the apostle set himself to curb and conquer, and in this the Corinthians were bound to imitate him. Note, Those who would aright pursue the interests of their souls must beat down their bodies, and keep them under. They must combat hard with fleshly lusts, and not indulge a wanton appetite, and long for heathenish sacrifices, nor eat them, to please their flesh, at the hazard of their brethren's souls. The body must be made to serve the mind, not suffered to lord over it.

      III. The apostle presses this advice on the Corinthians by proper arguments drawn from the same contenders. 1. They take pains, and undergo all those hardships, to obtain a corruptible crown (1 Corinthians 9:25; 1 Corinthians 9:25), but we an incorruptible. Those who conquered in these games were crowned only with the withering leaves or boughs of trees, of olive, bays, or laurel. But Christians have an incorruptible crown in view, a crown of glory that never fadeth away, an inheritance incorruptible, reserved in heaven for them. And would they yet suffer themselves to be outdone by these racers or wrestlers? Can they use abstinence in diet, exert themselves in racing, expose their bodies to so much hardship in a combat, who have no more in view than the trifling huzzas of a giddy multitude, or a crown of leaves? And shall not Christians, who hope for the approbation of the sovereign Judge, and a crown of glory from his hands, stretch forward in the heavenly race, and exert themselves in beating down their fleshly inclinations, and the strong-holds of sin? 2. The racers in these games run at uncertainty. All run, but one receives the prize, 1 Corinthians 9:24; 1 Corinthians 9:24. Every racer, therefore, is at a great uncertainty whether he shall win it or no. But the Christian racer is at no such uncertainty. Every one may run here so as to obtain; but then he must run within the lines, he must keep to the path of duty prescribed, which, some think, is the meaning of running not as uncertainly,1 Corinthians 9:26; 1 Corinthians 9:26. He who keeps within the limits prescribed, and keeps on in his race, will never miss his crown, though others may get theirs before him. And would the Grecian racers keep within their bounds, and exert themselves to the very last, when one only could win, and all must be uncertain which that one would be? And shall not Christians be much more exact and vigorous when all are sure of a crown when they come to the end of their race? 3. He sets before himself and them the danger of yielding to fleshly inclinations, and pampering the body and its lusts and appetites: I keep my body under, lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a cast-away (1 Corinthians 9:27; 1 Corinthians 9:27), rejected, disapproved, adokimos, one to whom the brabeutes--the judge or umpire of the race, will not decree the crown. The allusion to the games runs through the whole sentence. Note, A preacher of salvation may yet miss it. He may show others the way to heaven, and never get thither himself. To prevent this, Paul took so much pains in subduing and keeping under bodily inclinations, lest by any means he himself, who had preached to others, should yet miss the crown, be disapproved and rejected by his sovereign Judge. A holy fear of himself was necessary to preserve the fidelity of an apostle; and how much more necessary is it to our preservation? Note, Holy fear of ourselves, and not presumptuous confidence, is the best security against apostasy from God, and final rejection by him.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain and are a derivative of an electronic edition that is available on the Christian Classics Ethereal Library Website.
Bibliographical Information
Henry, Matthew. "Complete Commentary on 1 Corinthians 9:27". "Matthew Henry Complete Commentary on the Whole Bible". 1706.