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1 Corinthians 9:25

Adam Clarke
Bible Commentary

Is temperate in all things - All those who contended in these exercises went through a long state and series of painful preparations. To this exact discipline Epictetus refers, cap. 35: Θελεις Ολυμπια νικησαι; Δει σ 'ευτακτειν, αναγκοτροφειν, απεχεσθαι, πεμματων, γυμναζεσθαι προς αναγκην εν ὡρα τεταγμενη, εν καυματι, εν ψυχει, μη ψυχρον πινειν, μη οινον ὡς ετυχεν· ἁπλως, ὡς ιατρῳ, παραδεδωκεναι σεαυτον τῳ επιστατη· ειτα εις τον αγωνα παρερχεσθαι· κ. τ. λ. "Do you wish to gain the prize at the Olympic games? - Consider the requisite preparations and the consequences: you must observe a strict regimen; must live on food which you dislike; you must abstain from all delicacies; must exercise yourself at the necessary and prescribed times both in heat and in cold; you must drink nothing cooling; take no wine as formerly; in a word, you must put yourself under the directions of a pugilist, as you would under those of a physician, and afterwards enter the lists. Here you may get your arm broken, your foot put out of joint, be obliged to swallow mouthfuls of dust, to receive many stripes, and after all be conquered." Thus we find that these suffered much hardships in order to conquer, and yet were uncertain of the victory.

Horace speaks of it in nearly the same way: -

Qui studet optatam cursu contingere metam,

Multa tulit fecitque puer: sudavit et alsit:

Abstinuit Venere et Baccho.

De Arte Poet., ver. 412.

A youth who hopes the Olympic prize to gain,

All arts must try, and every toil sustain;

Th' extremes of heat and cold must often prove;

And shun the weakening joys of wine and love.

Francis.

These quotations show the propriety of the apostle's words: Every man that striveth for the mastery, παντα εγκρατευεται, is temperate, or continent, in all things.

They do it to obtain a corruptible crown - The crown won by the victor in the Olympian games was made of the wild olive; in the Pythian games of laurel; in the Nemean games of parsley; and in the Isthmian games of the pine. These were all corruptible, for they began to wither as soon as they were separated from the trees, or plucked out of the earth. In opposition to these, the apostle says, he contended for an incorruptible crown, the heavenly inheritance. He sought not worldly honor; but that honor which comes from God.

Matthew Henry
Concise Bible Commentary
The apostle compares himself to the racers and combatants in the Isthmian games, well known by the Corinthians. But in the Christian race all may run so as to obtain. There is the greatest encouragement, therefore, to persevere with all our strength, in this course. Those who ran in these games were kept to a spare diet. They used themselves to hardships. They practised the exercises. And those who pursue the interests of their souls, must combat hard with fleshly lusts. The body must not be suffered to rule. The apostle presses this advice on the Corinthians. He sets before himself and them the danger of yielding to fleshly desires, pampering the body, and its lusts and appetites. Holy fear of himself was needed to keep an apostle faithful: how much more is it needful for our preservation! Let us learn from hence humility and caution, and to watch against dangers which surround us while in the body.
Albert Barnes
Notes on the Whole Bible

And every man that striveth for the mastery - ( ὁ ἀγωνιζόμενος ho agōnizomenos). That “agonizes;” that is, that is engaged in the exercise of “wrestling, boxing,” or pitching the bar or quoit; compare the note at Luke 13:24. The sense is, everyone who endeavors to obtain a victory in these athletic exercises.

Is temperate in all things - The word which is rendered “is temperate” ( ἐγκρατευεται egkrateuetai) denotes “abstinence” from all that would excite, stimulate, and ultimately enfeeble; from wine, from exciting and luxurious living, and from licentious indulgences. It means that they did all they could to make the body vigorous, active, and supple. They pursued a course of entire temperate living; compare Acts 24:25; 1 Corinthians 7:9; Galatians 5:23; 2 Peter 1:6. It relates not only to indulgences unlawful in themselves, but to abstinence from many things that were regarded as “lawful,” but which were believed to render the body weak and effeminate. The phrase “in all things” means that this course of temperance or abstinence was not confined to one thing, or to one class of things, but to every kind of food and drink, and every indulgence that had a tendency to render the body weak and effeminate. The preparations which those who propose to contend in these games made is well known; and is often referred to by the Classic writers. Epictetus, as quoted by Grotius (in loco), thus speaks of these preparations. “Do you wish to gain the prize at the Olympic games? consider the requisite preparations and the consequence You must observe a strict regimen; must live on food which is unpleasant; must abstain from all delicacies; must exercise yourself at the prescribed times in heat and in cold; you must drink nothing cool ( ψυχρὸν psuchron); must take no wine as usual; you must put yourself under a “pugilist,” as you would under a physician, and afterward enter the lists.” Epict. chapter 35: Horace has described the preparations necessary in the same way.

Qui studet optatam cursn contingere metam.

Multa tulit fecitque puer; sudavit, et alsit,

Abstinuit venere et Baccho.

De Arte Poet. 412

A youth who hopes the Olympic prize to gain,

All arts must try, and every toil sustain;

The extremes of heat and cold must often prove,

And shun the weakening joys of wine and love.

Francis.

To obtain a corruptible crown - A garland, diadem, or civic wreath, that must soon fade away. The garland bestowed on the victor was made of olive, pine, apple, laurel, or parsley. That would soon lose its beauty and fade; of course, it could be of little value. Yet we see how eagerly they sought it; how much self-denial those who entered the lists would practice to obtain it; how long they would deny themselves of the common pleasures of life that they might be successful. So much “temperance” would pagans practice to obtain a fading wreath of laurel, pine, or parsley. Hence, learn:

(1) The duty of denying ourselves to obtain a far more valuable reward, the incorruptible crown of heaven.

(2) the duty of all Christians who strive for that crown to be temperate in all things. If the pagans practiced temperance to obtain a fading laurel, should not we to obtain one that never fades?

(3) how much their conduct puts to shame the conduct of many professing Christians and Christian ministers. they set such a value on a civic wreath of pine or laurel, that they were willing to deny themselves, and practice the most rigid abstinence. they knew that indulgence in wine and in luxurious living unsuited them for the struggle and for victory; they knew that it enfeebled their powers, and weakened their frame; and, like people intent on an object dear to them, they abstained wholly from these things, and embraced the principles of “total abstinence.” Yet how many professed Christians, and Christian ministers, though striving for the crown that fadeth not away, indulge in wine, and in the filthy, offensive, and disgusting use of tobacco; and in luxurious living, and in habits of indolence and sloth! How many there are that will not give up these habits, though they know that they are enfeebling, injurious, offensive, and destructive to religious comfort and usefulness. Can a man be truly in earnest in his professed religion; can he be a sincere Christian, who is not willing to abandon anything and everything that will tend to impair the vigor of his mind, and weaken his body, and make him a stumbling-block to others?

(4) the value of “temperance” is here presented in a very striking and impressive view. When even the pagans wished to accomplish anything that demanded skill, strength, power, vigor of body, they saw the necessity of being temperate, and they were so. And this proves what all experiment has proved, that if people wish to accomplish much, they must be temperate. It proves that people can do more without intoxicating drink than they can with it. The example of these Grecian athletes - their wrestlers, boxers, and racers, is “against” all the farmers, and mechanics, and seamen, and day-laborers, and “gentlemen,” and “clergymen,” and “lawyers,” who plead that stimulating drink is necessary to enable them to bear cold and heat, and toil and exposure. A little “experience” from men like the Grecian wrestlers, who had something that they wished to do, is much better than a great deal of philosophy and sophistical reasoning from people who wish to drink, and to find some argument for drinking that shalt be a salve to their consciences. Perhaps the world has furnished no stronger argument in favor of total abstinence than the example of the Grecian “Athletae.” It is certain that their example, the example of people who wished to accomplish much by bodily vigor and health, is an effectual and unbreakable argument against all those who plead that stimulating drinks are desirable or necessary in order to increase the vigor of the bodily frame.

But we - We Christians.

An incorruptible - An incorruptible, an unfading crown. The blessings of heaven that shall be bestowed on the righteous are often represented under the image of a crown or diadem; a crown that is unfading, and eternal; 2 Timothy 4:8; James 1:12; 1 Peter 5:4. Revelation 2:10; Revelation 3:11; Revelation 4:4. The doctrine here taught is, the necessity of making an effort to secure eternal life. The apostle never thought of entering heaven by indolence or by inactivity. He urged, by every possible argument, the necessity of making an exertion to secure the rewards of the just. His reasons for this effort are many. Let a few be pondered:

(1) The work of salvation is difficult. The thousand obstacles arising, the love of sin, and the opposition of Satan and of the world, are in the way.

(2) the danger of losing the crown of glory is great. Every moment exposes it to hazard, for at any moment we may die.

(3) the danger is not only great, but it is dreadful. If anything should arouse man, it should be the apprehension of eternal damnation and everlasting wrath.

(4) people in this life, in the games of Greece, in the career of ambition, in the pursuit of pleasure and wealth, make immense efforts to obtain the fading and perishing object of their desires. Why should not a man be willing to make as great efforts at least to secure eternal glory?

(5) the value of the interest at stake. Eternal happiness is before those who will embrace the offers of life. If a man should be influenced by anything to make an effort, should it not be by the prospect of eternal glory? what should influence him if this should not?

Ellen G. White
Child Guidance, 394-400

Intemperance Causes Most of Life's Ills—Intemperance is at the foundation of the larger share of the ills of life. It annually destroys tens of thousands. We do not speak of intemperance as limited only to the use of intoxicating liquors, but give it a broader meaning, including the hurtful indulgence of any appetite or passion.1 CG 394.1

Through intemperance some sacrifice one half, and others two thirds of their physical, mental, and moral powers and become playthings for the enemy.2 CG 394.2

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