Verse 27. "But I keep under my body, &c." - This is an allusion, not only to boxers, but also to wrestlers in the same games, as we learn from the word upwpiazw, which signifies to hit in the eyes; and doulagwgw, which signifies to trip, and give the antagonist a fall, and then keep him down when he was down, and having obliged him to acknowledge himself conquered, make him a slave. The apostle considers his body as an enemy with which he must contend; he must mortify it by self-denial, abstinence, and severe labour; it must be the slave of his soul, and not the soul the slave of the body, which in all unregenerate men is the case.
"Lest-having preached to others" - The word khruxav, which we translate having preached, refers to the office of the khrux, or herald, at these games, whose business it was to proclaim the conditions of the games, display the prizes, exhort the combatants, excite the emulation of those who were to contend, declare the terms of each contest, pronounce the name of the victors, and put the crown on their heads. See my observations on this office in the notes at Matt. iii. 17.
"Should be a castaway." - The word adokimov signifies such a person as the brabeutai, or judges of the games, reject as not having deserved the prize. So Paul himself might be rejected by the great Judge; and to prevent this, he ran, he contended, he denied himself, and brought his body into subjection to his spirit, and had his spirit governed by the Spirit of God.
Had this heavenly man lived in our days, he would by a certain class of people have been deemed a legalist; a people who widely differ from the practice of the apostle, for they are conformed to the world, and they feed themselves without fear.
ON the various important subjects in this chapter I have already spoken in great detail; not, indeed, all that might be said, but as much as is necessary.
A few general observations will serve to recapitulate and impress what has been already said.
1. St. Paul contends that a preacher of the Gospel has a right to his support; and he has proved this from the law, from the Gospel, and from the common sense and consent of men. If a man who does not labour takes his maintenance from the Church of God, it is not only a domestic theft but a sacrilege. He that gives up his time to this labour has a right to the support of himself and family: he who takes more than is sufficient for this purpose is a covetous hireling. He who does nothing for the cause of God and religion, and yet obliges the Church to support him, and minister to his idleness, irregularities, luxury, avarice, and ambition, is a monster for whom human language has not yet got a name.
2. Those who refuse the labourer his hire are condemned by God and by good men. How liberal are many to public places of amusement, or to some popular charity, where their names are sure to be published abroad; while the man who watches over their souls is fed with the most parsimonious hand! Will not God abate this pride and reprove this hard-heartedness? 3. As the husbandman plows and sows in hope, and the God of providence makes him a partaker of his hope, let the upright preachers of God's word take example and encouragement by him. Let them labour in hope; God will not permit them to spend their strength for nought.
Though much of their seed, through the fault of the bad ground, may be unfruitful, yet some will spring up unto eternal life.
4. St. Paul became all things to all men, that he might gain all. This was not the effect of a fickle or man-pleasing disposition; no man was ever of a more firm or decided character than St. Paul; but whenever he could with a good conscience yield so as to please his neighbour for his good to edification, he did so; and his yielding disposition was a proof of the greatness of his soul. The unyielding and obstinate mind is always a little mind: a want of true greatness always produces obstinacy and peevishness. Such a person as St. Paul is a blessing wherever he goes: on the contrary, the obstinate, hoggish man, is either a general curse, or a general cross; and if a preacher of the Gospel, his is a burthensome ministry. Reader, let me ask thee a question: If there be no gentleness in thy manners, is there any in thy heart? If there be little of Christ without, can there be much of Christ within? 5. A few general observations on the Grecian games may serve to recapitulate the subject in the four last verses.
1. The Isthmian games were celebrated among the Corinthians; and therefore the apostle addresses them, ver. 24: KNOW ye not, &c.
2. Of the five games there used, the apostle speaks only of three.
RUNNING; ver. 24: They which run in a race; and 1 Cor. ix. x16: I therefore so run, not as uncertainly. WRESTLING, ver. 25: Every man that striveth; o agwnizomenov, he who wrestleth.
BOXING, ver. 26, x17: So fight I, not as one that beateth the air; outw pukteuw, so fist I, so I hit; but I keep my body under; upwpiazw, I hit in the eye, I make the face black and blue.
3. He who won the race by running was to observe the laws of racing-keeping within the white line which marked out the path or compass in which they ran; and he was also to outrun the rest, and to come first to the goal; otherwise he ran uncertainly, 1 Cor. ix. 24, 26, and was adokimov, one to whom the prize could not be judged by the judges of the games.
4. The athletic combatants, or wrestlers, observed a set diet. See the quotation from Epictetus, under ver. 25. And this was a regimen both for quantity and quality; and they carefully abstained from all things that might render them less able for the combat; whence the apostle says they were temperate in all things, ver. 25.
5. No person who was not of respectable family and connections was permitted to be a competitor at the Olympic games. St. Chrysostom, in whose time these games were still celebrated, assures us that no man was suffered to enter the lists who was either a servant or a slave, oudeiv agwnizetai doulov, oudeiv strateuetai oikethv? and if any such was found who had got himself inserted on the military list, his name was erased, and he was expelled and punished. allÆ ean alw doulov wn, meta timeriav ekballetai tou twn stratiwtwn kataolou. To prevent any person of bad character from entering the list at the Olympic games, the kerux, or herald, was accustomed to proclaim aloud in the theater when the combatant was brought forth: mh toutou kathgorei; wste auton aposkeuasamenon thv douleiav thn upoyian outwv eiv touv agwnav embhnai: Who can accuse this man? For which he gives this reason: "that being free from all suspicion of being in a state of slavery, (and elsewhere he says of being a thief, or of corrupt morals,) he might enter the lists with credit." Chrysost. Homil. in Inscript. Altaris, &c., vol. iii. page 59, Edit. Benedict.
6. The boxers used to prepare themselves by a sort of skiamacia, or going through all their postures of defense and attack when no adversary was before them. This was termed beating the air, 1 Cor. ix. 26; but when such came to the combat, they endeavoured to blind their adversaries by hitting them in the eye, which is the meaning of upwpiazein, as we have seen under 1 Cor. ix. 27.
7. The rewards of all these exercises were only a crown made of the leaves of some plant, or the bough of some tree; the olive, bay, laurel, parsley, &c., called here by the apostle fqarton stefanon, a corruptible, withering, and fading crown; while he and his fellow Christians expected a crown incorruptible and immortal, and that could not fade away.
8. On the subject of the possibility of St. Paul becoming a castaway, much has been said in contradiction to his own words. HE most absolutely states the possibility of the case: and who has a right to call this in question? The ancient Greek commentators, as Whitby has remarked, have made a good use of the apostle's saying, ei de paulov touto dedoiken o tosoutouv didaxav, ti an eipoimen hmeiv; "If Paul, so great a man, one who had preached and laboured so much, dreaded this, what cause have we to fear lest this should befall us?" 9. On the necessity of being workers together with God, in order to avoid apostasy, Clemens Alexandrinus has some useful observations in his Stromata, lib. vii., page 448, Edit. Oberthur: Æwv de, says he, o iatrov ugeian parexetai toiv sunergousi prov ugeian, outwv kai o qeov thn aidion swthrian toiv sunergousi prov gnwsin te kai eupragian? "As a physician gives health to those who cooperate with him in their cure; so God also gives eternal salvation to them who are workers together with him in knowledge and a godly life." "Therefore," says he, "it is well said among the Greeks, that when a certain wrestler, who had long inured his body to manly exercises, was going to the Olympic games, as he was passing by the statue of Jupiter he offered up this prayer: ei panta, w zeu, deontwv moi ta prov ton agwna taoeskeuastai, apodov ferwn dikaiwv thn nikhn emoi? 'O Jupiter, if I have performed every thing as I ought in reference to this contest, grant me the victory!'" May we not feel something of this spirit in seeking the kingdom of God? And can any thing of this kind be supposed to derogate from the glory of Christ? St. Paul himself says, if a man contend for the mastery, yet is he not crowned except he strive lawfully. Shall we pretend to be wiser than the apostle; and say, that we may gain the crown, though we neither fight the good fight nor finish the course?