First of all what is a race? According to dictionary meaning:
compete with another or others to see who is fastest at covering a set course or achieving an objective.
Now lets’s hear what Apostle Paul says about Christian Race:
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. (1Corinth 9:24 NKJV)
This lesson is a part of the long four-chapter instruction Paul gives the Corinthians. Therein he teaches them how to deal with those weak in the faith, and warns rash, presumptuous Christians to take heed lest they fall, however they may stand at the present. He presents a forcible simile in the running of the race, or the strife for the prize. Many run without obtaining the object of their pursuit. But we should not vainly run. To faithfully follow Christ does not mean simply to run.
That will not suffice. We must run to the purpose. To believe, to be running in Christ’s course, is not sufficient; we must lay hold on eternal life. Christ says (Mt 24, 13), ‘But he that endureth to the end, the same shall be saved.’ And Paul (I Cor 10, 12), ‘Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.’
Now, running is hindered in two ways; for one, by indolence. When faith is not strenuously exercised, when we are indolent in good works, our progress is hindered, so that the prize is not attained. But to such hindrance I do not think Paul here refers. He is not alluding to those who indolently run, but to them who run in vain because missing their object; individuals, for instance, who pursue their aim at full speed, but, deluded by a phantom, miss their aim and rush to ruin or run up against fearful obstacles.
Hence Paul enjoins men to run successfully while in the race, that they may seize the prize and not lose it by default. In consequence the race is hindered when a false goal is set up or the true one removed. The apostle says (Col 2, 18), ‘Let no man rob you of your prize.’ It is true, however, that an indolent, negligent life will eventually bring about loss of the prize. While men sleep, the enemy very soon sows tares among the wheat.
The goal is removed when the Word of God is falsified and creations of the human mind are preached under the name of God’s Word. And these things readily come about when we are not careful to keep the unity of the Spirit, when each follows his own ideas and yields to no other, because he prefers his own conceit. Such must be the course of events where love is lacking.
The strong and the learned desire to be looked upon as peculiarly commendable, while the weak in the faith are despised. Thus the devil has abundant opportunity to sow tares. Paul calls love the unity of the Spirit, and admonishes (Eph 4, 3) that we endeavor to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. In Second Thessalonians 2, 10 he proclaims the coming of Antichrist ‘because they received not the love of the truth’; that is, true love.
‘And every man that striveth in the games [that striveth for the mastery].’
Were he who competes in a race to attempt other things or to make a success of other matters at the same time, he would not gain much; rather he would soon be defeated, lose the race and everything. If he would truly strive, he must attend to no other thing. All else must be neglected and attention centered upon the contest alone. Even then the winner must have fortune’s favor; for they who neglect all to run do not all gain the prize.
Likewise in the Christian contest it is necessary, and in an even higher degree, to renounce everything and to devote oneself only to the contest. He who would in addition seek his own glory and profit, who would find in the Word and Spirit of God occasion for his own praise and advantage after the manner of the dissenters and schismatics–what can such a one expect to win? He is wholly entangled in temporal glory and gain; bound hand and foot, a complete captive. The race he runs is the mere dream race of one lying upon his couch an indolent captive.
‘I therefore so run, as not uncertainly; so fight I, as not beating the air.’
Paul here points to himself as exemplar and hints at the cause of failure, viz., lapse from love and the use of the divine word in a wilful, ambitious and covetous spirit, whereas the faith which worketh by love is lacking. Under such conditions, false and indolent Christians run indeed a merry race; yet God’s Word and ways in which they are so alert and speedy are merely a show, because they make them subserve their own interests and glory.
They fail, however, to see that they race uncertainly and beat the air. They never make a serious attempt, nor do they ever hit the mark. While it is theirs to mortify ambition, to restrain their self-will and to enlist in the service of their neighbors, they do none of these things.
On the contrary, they even do many things to strengthen their ambition and self-will, and then they swear by a thousand oaths that they are seeking not their own honor but the honor of God, their neighbor’s welfare and not their own. Peter says (2 Pet 1, 9-10) this class are blind and cannot see afar and have forgotten they were purged from their old sins, because they fail to make their calling sure by good works.
Therefore, it comes about that, as Paul says, they run uncertainly, beating the air. Their hearts are unstable and w
avering before God, and they are changeable and fickle in all their ways, James 1, 8. Since they are aimless and inconstant at heart, this will appear likewise as inconstancy in regard to works and doctrines. They undertake now this and now that; they cannot be quiet nor refrain from factional strife. Thus they miss their aim or else remove the goal, and cannot but deviate from the true and common path.
‘But I buffet [keep under] my body, and bring it into bondage [subjection].’
The apostle’s thought is the same as in his statement above, ‘Every man that striveth in the games exerciseth self-control in all-things.’ By ‘keeping under the body’ Paul means, not only subduing the carnal lusts, but every temporal object as well, in so far as it appeals to bodily desire–love of honor, fame, wealth and the like.
He who gives license to these things instead of subduing them will preach to his own condemnation, however correct his preaching be. Such do not permit the truth to be presented; this is true particularly of temporal honor. These words of the apostle, then, are a fine thrust at ambitious and self-centered preachers and Christians. Not only do they run in vain and fight to no purpose; they become actual castaways with only the semblance–the colour–of Christianity.