1 Corinthians 9:25 Parallel Verses [⇓ See commentary ⇓]

1 Corinthians 9:25, NIV: "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."

1 Corinthians 9:25, ESV: "Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable."

1 Corinthians 9:25, KJV: "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."

1 Corinthians 9:25, NASB: "Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. So they do it to obtain a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable."

1 Corinthians 9:25, NLT: "All athletes are disciplined in their training. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize."

1 Corinthians 9:25, CSB: "Now everyone who competes exercises self-control in everything. They do it to receive a perishable crown, but we an imperishable crown."

What does 1 Corinthians 9:25 mean? [⇑ See verse text ⇑]

Corinthian society was highly competitive. The city hosted an Olympics-style event every other year, with games highlighted by foot races. Paul is using these races as a metaphor for a life of service to Christ and others.

The point of participating in a race is to win, and winning takes work. Athletes who hope to be competitive must exercise great control over themselves "in all things." This would include not just physical training, but also strict diets, sleep schedules, abstaining from harmful drugs, and caution in their behavior. Through it all, they would keep their focus on winning the race and getting the prize: a wreath. At the games in Corinth, it was a pine wreath placed on the head of the winner like a crown. If Paul were writing this today, he might refer to the gold medal of the modern Olympics.

Paul's point is that such a wreath will soon die. The honor of winning the race is short-lived. Christians, though, exercise self-control and self-denial in order to win a crown that will never die. Believers should seek this with all the dedication of an athlete who knows only one person can win the crown. Christians don't literally compete "against" one another, of course, so the emphasis here is on commitment and effort, not rivalry.

This undying crown or reward is not eternal life. Paul's teaching is clear: No amount of self-denial or effort will earn for us God's approval and a place in His family. Jesus earned that for us, and it is given as a gift to those who believe (Ephesians 2:8–9). Instead, Paul is describing a reward for service to Christ that will be given in addition to salvation. In Paul's case, that recognition from Christ will be because of those he "won" to faith in Jesus (1 Thessalonians 2:9–20).