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1 Corinthians 9

24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.

25 Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last for ever.

26 Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air.

27 No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.

When you start any form of employment you receive training. There are things you have to learn. Everyone realises that it will take you some time to ‘get up to speed’. Some jobs require many years of study. Others require a lot of practice. If you are not prepared to put in the required effort you will probably be sacked.

The Christian life is different. It is voluntary and there is no test of ability and you will not be sacked for poor performance.

Why then should we make any effort? You could say ‘the more we put in – the more we get out’ which is true, but missing the point. We have been ‘saved to serve’ and the way we now live our lives should reflect this.

Mother Teresa, renowned for working with the dying and destitute in Calcutta was asked once by a journalist ‘why do you continue to serve these people year in year out when you get nothing in return?’ (Many of the people she worked with were dying from AIDS). She looked at the Journalist with a smile and said, "Young man, I see Jesus in their eyes. I do it because of him."

A budding artist once painted a picture of the Last Supper. He took it to the writer Tolstoy for his opinion. Carefully and understandingly the Russian master of Words studied the canvas. Then pointing to Christ declared, "You do not love Him". "Why, that is the Lord Jesus," exclaimed the artist. "I know – but you do not love Him. If you truly loved Him, you would paint him better."

So how should I now live my life? What is my motivation?

John 13:1-17 (washing the Disciples feet)   

v17: Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.

So to our verses:

Paul is looking at those who voluntarily competed in the Greek games. These were annual events, rotating through four different sites. One site was at Olympia, another was near Corinth. They would have to undergo strict training, and would need to try harder than anyone else if they were to win. Those who won received a laurel wreath – a crown that will not last.

Paul’s encouragement here is for us to run the Christian race in such a way that we too may get the prize. (Also Philippians 3:12-14, 2 Timothy 4:7-8)

What is this prize?

V27 I beat my body and make it my slave

Here Paul talks about his body as if it is something he owns (just like a slave) and which he has to beat to make it obedient. Only then can he be confident that it will obey his wishes and not try to dictate to him!

In what ways can our bodies overrule our good intentions?

What are the desires of the flesh? (Galatians 5:16-26).

So we've seen how Paul controls himself in order to live an upright life. We will now look at what happens when we don’t.

1 Corinthians 10

1 For I do not want you to be ignorant of the fact, brothers, that our forefathers were all under the cloud and that they all passed through the sea.

2 They were all baptised into Moses in the cloud and in the sea.

3 They all ate the same spiritual food

4 and drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ.

5 Nevertheless, God was not pleased with most of them; their bodies were scattered over the desert.


What do the following mean? How else could you word it?

5 Nevertheless, God was not pleased with most of them; their bodies were scattered over the desert.

And yet – with all those special benefits (indicate board) – of the original people who had come out of Egypt, only Joshua and Caleb were allowed to enter the Promised Land. Why was that? (answer from verses 6-10)


6 Now these things occurred as examples to keep us from setting our hearts on evil things as they did.

The important word here is ‘setting’. In this world it is impossible to protect our minds from the things of the world. But to set your mind on them indicates a desire to turn from God’s ways and to follow our own ways – which are evil.

Paul tells us that these things were recorded for us as examples. Human nature hasn’t changed and we need to guard ourselves from the temptation to follow our own ways.

If I look to the light the shadows fall behind me. If I turn from the light, all I see are shadows.

7 Do not be idolaters, as some of them were; as it is written: The people sat down to eat and drink and got up to indulge in pagan revelry.

8 We should not commit sexual immorality, as some of them did— and in one day twenty-three thousand of them died.

9 We should not test the Lord, as some of them did— and were killed by snakes.

10 And do not grumble, as some of them did— and were killed by the destroying angel.

11 These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the fulfilment of the ages has come.

It may seem difficult for us to understand how it was possible for the Israelites to sin so deliberately and blatantly. But human nature hasn’t changed and the same temptations are around today. Was there anything particularly which led to their disobedience? (Add to board) Boredom, Frustration, Unwillingness to trust God completely, Desires of the flesh etc.

12 So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don't fall!

Do we find that it is when someone is complacent in their Christian walk that the devil will attack?

13 No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.

Note v13 says ‘when you are tempted’ – not ‘if’. We must be constantly alert because attacks will come. Then, when we recognise an attack, look for the way out!

We can probably all tell stories of failing Christians – but how can we guard ourselves?

1 Peter 5:8

Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.

Look again at the things that led to the destruction of the Israelites (on board)

What scripture passage are we reminded of in the phrase ‘so that you can stand up under it’ (v13)? Ephesians 6:10-18

We covered the rest of 1 Corinthians 10 when we looked at eating meat offered to idols, but there is a verse we need to read here again and that is v23:

Everything is permissible— but not everything is beneficial. Everything is permissible— but not everything is constructive. (Also 1 Corinthians 6:12)

What sort of things may be permissible for us which would not be beneficial to our walk (race!) with the Lord?

Going back to 1 Corinthians 9:27, Paul refused to become a slave to anything. He was determined to have the mastery, and even though some practices were perfectly acceptable to some, in Paul’s view if they were not beneficial and constructive, then they were probably dangerous and he would have nothing to do with them.

Instead, in Philippians 4:8-9, Paul suggests that we take positive action:

Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable— if anything is excellent or praiseworthy— think about such things.

Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me— put it into practice.

1 Corinthians 101 Corinthians 12

Study 11   1 Corinthians 9:24-27, 10:1-13
Run the race. Things that trip us up.

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