What does 1 Corinthians 9:26 mean?
ESV: So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air.
NIV: Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air.
NASB: Therefore I run in such a way as not to run aimlessly; I box in such a way, as to avoid hitting air;
CSB: So I do not run like one who runs aimlessly or box like one beating the air.
NLT: So I run with purpose in every step. I am not just shadowboxing.
KJV: I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air:
NKJV: Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air.
Verse Commentary:
Paul has shifted his metaphor a bit to make himself the focus. He has been describing what an athlete must do to win a race, including the exercise of great self-control. The training programs for athletes in Paul's day included commitments to abstain from specific food, drink, and sensual experiences in order to be ready to compete at the highest level. In the previous verse, Paul pointed out they did all of this to win a wreath that would quickly die. Paul sees himself as competing to win souls for Christ and to receive an eternal recognition for that effort. Such a "crown" would be far more valuable.

Now Paul turns the spotlight on his own training for this prize. He insists that he does not run aimlessly. His work is very intentional. Then he includes another common competition of the day, boxing. Paul writes that he does not train so that he can beat up the air. Boxers often use "shadow boxing" as a training tool, where they duck and strike against an imagined opponent. That's a training tool, however, not the end goal of one's training. Paul plans to win the fight, to land some serious blows on his opponent. He is disciplining himself for actual competition.

Paul's commitment to setting aside his freedoms and rights wasn't mere exercise. He is competing for recognition from Christ for how well he fought to win people to trust in Jesus. He is living this way intentionally. This is in keeping with the main theme of his metaphor: that Christians should be committed to faith as is a dedicated athlete to their sport.
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 5:31:36 PM
© Copyright 2002-2024 Got Questions Ministries. All rights reserved.
Text from ESV, NIV, NASB, CSB, NLT, KJV, NKJV © Copyright respective owners, used by permission.
www.BibleRef.com