What does 1 Corinthians 9:25 mean?
ESV: Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable.
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.
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.
CSB: Now everyone who competes exercises self-control in everything. They do it to receive a perishable crown, but we an imperishable crown.
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.
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.
NKJV: And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown.
Verse Commentary:
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).
Verse Context:
First Corinthians 9:24–27 builds a metaphor comparing Paul's foregoing freedoms, in order to win people to faith in Christ, with an athlete training to win a prize. Both voluntarily give up things to which they are otherwise entitled. That requires self-sacrifice and a tough approach to one's own feelings. They do this for the sake of victory. But the athlete can win only a wreath that will quickly die. In contrast, Paul aims to win a prize that will live forever. He also trains himself in this way to avoid being disqualified before crossing the finish line.
Chapter Summary:
Paul encourages Christians to willingly give up their ''rights'' for the good of those who are weak in their faith. Paul shows that he, too, has given up his rights, including the right as an apostle to receive financial support from those he serves. Instead, he boasts that he serves the Corinthians without any compensation, even at great cost to himself. Paul describes himself as an athlete competing for the prize of a crown in eternity. His point is for believers to pursue godliness, and the good of others, with that kind of commitment.
Chapter Context:
First Corinthians 8 ended with Paul's declaration that he would give up his right to eat any meat rather than cause a brother in Christ to stumble. He shows in this chapter that he is already giving up his right as an apostle to be financially supported by those he serves. He doesn't want anything to get in the way of anyone believing the gospel. He limits his freedoms further by becoming all things to all people to win some for Christ. He disciplines himself like an athlete in training, to get a prize and to avoid being disqualified. The next passages will expand on this idea of distinguishing what is ''allowed'' from what is ''best.''
Book Summary:
First Corinthians is one of the more practical books of the New Testament. Paul writes to a church immersed in a city associated with trade, but also with corruption and immorality. These believers are struggling to properly apply spiritual gifts and to resist the ungodly practices of the surrounding culture. Paul's letter gives instructions for real-life concerns such as marriage and spirituality. He also deals with the importance of unity and gives one of the Bible's more well-known descriptions of love in chapter 13.
Accessed 5/26/2024 4:10:29 PM
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