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Read Introduction to 1 Corinthians


26 “Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air. 27But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.”



Therefore I run thus:

In the light of an “incorruptible” reward, Paul ran the race of his Christian life with a sense of goal and purpose.

not with uncertainty.

Paul did not live his Christian life aimlessly but with self-discipline towards God’s purpose for his life. He ran with a clear eye on the finish line, with a definite aim on his goal. He did not run irresolutely or aimlessly. He was clear about the purpose of his life; he did not flay about in ministry.

Philippians 3:13-14, 13Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, 14Ipress toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air.

The word “fight” means to fight with the fists. Boxers in the first century used ox hide gloves with strips of metal and glass tied around the hand like bandages. They made their blows count! Paul did not live his life like a religious shadow boxer. He did not simply flay the air, for he wanted to make every punch count; everything he did, he did for the glory of God. He had a target for everything he did. People might construe Paul’s idea of becoming all things to all men (9:22) as a capitulation to unprincipled living. No, he meant every blow he struck to land squarely on his target.


But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection,

Now we learn who Paul’s opponent was – himself. The word “discipline” here means to strike under the eye; to give a black eye. It is necessary to discipline our bodies if we want to accomplish our goals. If our goal is to win others to Christ, then we forgo certain rights or privileges. We must bring our body into subjection or servanthood and lead it captive permanently. This countervails self-indulgence.

lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.

“Disqualified” does not mean to lose salvation. This athletic term for public games means disapproved. The idea is to be disqualified from a reward. A disapproved athlete was thrown out of the stadium; he was not thrown out of life. In 400 years, less than 100 athletes were disqualified from the games. A disapproved ministry cannot stand the test of God’s evaluation. If God disapproves of our ministry, He will disqualify us from ministry. People who fail to preach to others do not go to hell.


If we want to live a full life, we can let nothing get in the way of our objective of living our lives for the Lord.


Goal orientation gives parameters for where we are heading. It gives us a way to measure how we are achieving our purpose. Discipline is necessary for an athlete or for us in any area of life. Officials disqualify a 100-yard sprinter who fouls another runner 30 yards down the track. God will disqualify believers from reward at the end of their spiritual race if they live lives of unconfessed sin and unresolved purpose. They finish the race but lose their reward. God will not reward Christians for their service committed while out of fellowship with Him.

We will not lose our salvation, but we can lose the reward. God will give the reward on faithfulness, not fame. We will be greatly surprised at some unsung saint receiving massive rewards for taking her faith seriously. It will not matter then whether people patted us on the back not. We do it for the Lord and let the chips fall where they may. We are glad to go into training. We will never be sorry that we spent and were spent for the Lord Jesus.

Some people never seem to get anywhere with their lives. They run like a gerbil on a wheel and can never tell where they are going. Victorious Christian living demands discipline. God designed the Christian life for progress, and Jesus will wait at the finish line to give us a reward for Christian service. Do you land telling blows for the cause of Christ?

It is a fearsome thing to be disqualified from reward for ministry at the Judgment Seat of Christ. Many ministries lose effectiveness due to disqualification. If we allow ourselves to become slaves to our bodies, we will lose God’s approval.