How To Train Your Dra...(self)

by Aaron

There is a verse that is often misunderstood (much like sometimes a sermon given on Sunday morning can be misinterpreted). In context the entire verses read 1 Corinthian 9:24-27 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. 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 forever. Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. 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. Can you guess what verse gets misinterpreted?

Yep, Verse 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. But let’s back up and give you some context. What Paul is talking about here is in reference to what was known as the Isthmian games (these were precursors to the Olympic games which we are so familiar with). Athletes today go into training with hope of not necessarily getting a medal but of getting sponsored and making a living.

At the end of the Isthmian games the athletes who competed would stand before what was called the BEMA SEAT and be handed out their medals or crowns (these crowns were normally woven vines with flowers of some sort). Athletes would devote themselves to their sport, eat differently, exercise differently, sleep differently, all in an effort to get one of these crowns.

When Paul says I beat my body and make it my slave he is referring to strict training, not actual beating of his body (called self flagellation). What he means is that he does what he needs to so that He can grow in his relationship and understanding of God's call in life. He runs (or lives) in way that does not disqualify him from the crown (the prize). Devotion to Christ was so paramount to Paul that he was willing to restructure his entire life so that being a disciple of Jesus was first for him.

At the real Isthmian games, even if you had won a coveted crown, soon after the end of the games your crown would quickly fade and die. It is why Peter says in 1 Peter 5:4 And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away. It's not that we do things so God loves us or to win our salvation, but faithfulness in discipleship brings God joy, and that should be motivation for us as His people.

For a while the word discipleship was used as a verb that meant to TEACH or TRAIN. It would be good if we saw it that way again, don't you think?