Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things.
Could this possibly be a Bible quote? Salvation is like running in a race, but only one receives the prize, so run as hard and swift as you can so you can be saved. Knowing this, that all those who compete for God’s grace must exercise discipline and self control. Is this true? Could it really be from the Bible?
Yes, this is from the Bible but I have taken it out of context. You see, without context many a verse can be misunderstood or misrepresented. Let’s look at the whole point.
In his letter to the Corinthians the Apostle Paul is quoted as writing:
“And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things”. – 1 Corinthians 9:25a NKJV
As Jesus did, and as many preachers and teachers do today, Paul was appealing to familiar situations to use as analogies to spiritual principles. In this case he used the training and competition of a race in contrast to a life lived in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. In that day, as today, those who compete in a race discipline themselves and train rigorously to compete for the prize. Look at the recent Tour de France. The hours and days and years of hard training and sacrifice with the hope of winning the title and trophy. People throughout time have sacrificed much for such opportunities. This was Paul’s set up, and here is his pivot point:
“Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown”. – 1 Corinthians 9:25b NKJV
His point? People will work so hard for a prize, i.e. crown, but it’s a crown that is not certain and if you do win it’s a crown that doesn’t last. Yes, Lance Armstrong has won 7 Tour d’ Frances, but his time is over and the prize is no longer his. In time, the trophies on his shelf will grow old and decay. And one day he will grow old and pass from this life. And what good will his trophies do for him then?
So Paul continues: “Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air. But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified”. If we would be willing to put so much effort into natural things which do not last, why would we not be willing to put even more effort into those things that last forever.
Yes, by grace we are saved, but it is by our works that we glorify God. And by exercising ourselves unto godliness, we will find ourselves fully equipped for this life and the next.