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A Mini-Series is a small subset of lessons from a major series which covers a particular subject or book. The class numbers will be in reference to the major series rather than the mini-series.
Sun, Mar 02, 2003

49 - Rewards and the Bema

1 Corinthians 9:24-25 by Robert Dean
Series:1st Corinthians (2002)
Duration:1 hr 0 mins 39 secs

Rewards and the Bema. 1 Corinthians 9:24-25


This is where we start getting to the reward section in the last paragraph. When Paul came to Corinth he first met up with Priscilla and Aquila who had as their profession the business of making tents. Paul went into a partnership with them. The interesting thing about this from an isagogical standpoint is that the commercial enterprise of tent making was not indigenous to Greek culture. Their tents were all imported. Paul is going to work as a labourer in a business that has a tremendous in the Greek culture, so he is going to be able to make a significant income through this business. Furthermore, there was something that took place every other year in Corinth. They conducted what was called the Isthmian Games. These brought visitors from all over the Roman empire, especially from all over Greece and Asia Minor. Paul was probably thinking about what a fantastic evangelism opportunity this would be. Not only that they would need tents for all the people who were coming.

1 Corinthians 9:21 NASB "to those who are without law, as without law, though not being without the law of God but under the law of Christ, so that I might win those who are without law." In other words, when he was with the Gentiles (this doesn't mean lawless or not law abiders) who don't have the Mosaic law, then he operated as one who wasn't under the Mosaic law. He could go and enjoy a good pork roast. He would not mind working on the Sabbath and he would not mind doing things that might be considered a violation of the Mosaic law because he knew the Mosaic law was no longer in effect. In fact, this is a great verse on dispensationalism, that there is a distinction between Israel and the church and that the Mosaic law was given to Israel and not to the church, and that noth8ng in the Mosaic law applies today. It was a law code for the nation Israel and no Gentile in the Old Testament was ever held accountable for obedience or disobedience for anything in the Mosaic law. The Gentiles were not under the Mosaic law and Paul's ultimate goal in all of this is that he might win those to Christ.

Then he says [22] "To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak; I have become all things to all men, so that I may by all means save some." That is, to the weaker brother. He didn't make an issue out of things he had the liberty to do. That is what "I have become all things to all men" means. It doesn't mean he compromised on everything and wherever he went he just went along to get along, it means that he didn't make issues out of non-issues no matter who he was with, "so that I may by all means save some." This is simply an idiom that by giving the gospel he might see them saved. [23] "I do all things for the sake of the gospel, so that I may become a fellow partaker of it." The ultimate determiner of everything in our lives is the gospel. What we are doing we should be doing because of our eternal perspective. We are living today in light of eternity. This is the theme of the remaining verses. We live today in light of eternity because we know that the decisions we are making today determine who and what we will be in eternity. It has to do with capacity, and capacity is developed in the midst of testing and trials which can only occur today. So there are going to be differences in capacity for enjoying where we are in heaven. There are going to be different rewards in heaven, different responsibilities, different positions, different areas in which we live and operate in heaven. All of this is determined by our spiritual growth today and the development of capacity to operate in heaven, capacity and responsibility to rule and reign with Jesus Christ. So Paul says in v. 23 that we have to get to that point of spiritual maturity where we realize that the criterion that should affect every decision we make in life is how they impact eternity. How does this relate to my role as a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ, to be an ambassador for Him, to represent Him in this world today, through witnessing and through encouraging other believers through the function of my priesthood in a local church, through my involvement in financially supporting local church ministries and missions.  All of this means that we are beginning to make day-to-day decisions today, not on the basis of how it makes me feel today, not on the basis of how it is going to impact my life today, my investments today, or anything other than how it is going to impact my position at the judgment seat of Christ.

From verse 24 on the emphasis is on the games. 1 Corinthians 9:24 NASB "Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but {only} one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win." The race is analogous to living the Christian life and pursuing the goal which is spiritual maturity. The prize is limited. We don't press the analogy too far, that only one person in the church can receive the prize, he is saying the prize is limited to those who run successfully. That is why he concludes with the admonition to run in such a way that you may obtain it. [25] "Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then {do it} to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable." They are self-disciplined and are following a rigorous course of training so that they can be physically prepared for the contest. That relates to the believer who is willing to set aside non-essential issues in life that are distractions to his spiritual growth so that he can run the race. The terminology for the perishable crown comes right out of the Isthmian Games where they were given a wreath of withered celery. It was already perishing and this would bring to Paul's mind the fact that the best they are going to get out of ten months of labor, of rigorous workout, running the race where there would only be one winner, and all he gets from this was just a bunch of withered celery leaves. How much more should the believer endure all of the discipline necessary to study the Word, learn the Word, to grow and mature as a believer because the prize that we are going to receive is an imperishable crown, an imperishable prize that is going to be ours throughout all of eternity. 

1 Corinthians 9:26 NASB "Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air." By application we are going to be consistent and make spiritual maturity our goal, we are going to make everything else in life subordinate to this most important objective. This is what happens when people finally catch what the spiritual life is all about and realize that learning doctrine isn't just something they do, it is everything they do, that the spiritual life is the most important thing they do and is the heartbeat that drives every decision in their life. [27] "but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified." The word here for "discipline" is the Greek word HUPOPIAZO [u(pwpiazw] which literally means to strike under the eye, it has the idea of hitting one's self. It is the idea of going to the extreme of physically controlling one's body in order to bring it under control. Being disqualified doesn't mean to lose salvation. This is the Greek word ADOKIMOS [a)dokimoj] which means unapproved or unworthy. Remember that at the judgment seat of Christ there are going to be loser believers, failure believers, believers who have not grown, carnal believers who when their works are evaluated their evaluation was a failure and they lose rewards.

The doctrine of rewards

1)  The athlete had to go through ten months of strict training just to qualify to participate in the Games. He had to enter a registered state gymnasium, and that would be analogous to the fact that the believer is to live inside the soul fortress. He is to live in fellowship with God. We must be in fellowship with God and filled with the Holy Spirit for the training to have any value spiritually. We must fulfil the training rules of the plan of God in order to continue and advance in the spiritual life. That means in John's terminology, we must abide in Christ. Only the Christian who lives the Christian way of life in the soul fortress is qualified to compete in the angelic conflict.

2)  In the athletic analogy there were several different groups of people. The contestants were the ones who trained under the rules of the national gymnasium for ten months. They had to exercise under the authority of the ruler of the gym. This is analogous to the local church situation. If the believer is going to compete in the spiritual life and advance he has to align himself with a local church. He has to operate under the authority that God has established in that local church, and that is the pastor, and the role of the pastor-teacher is to teach the Word of God, to feed the sheep, to give them the information they need so that they can take that doctrine, apply it in their lives and grow to spiritual maturity.

3)  Disqualification is analogous to carnality. If the athlete ate the wrong food, slipped out at night to go see his wife, decided to hit the local bar and have a glass of wine, then he was disqualified and would not be allowed to compete. They trained the body and the mind, but in the spiritual life the issue is obedience to God, being filled with the Holy Spirit and growing to spiritual maturity. The believer can disqualify himself through continuous carnality and refusal to advance and stay in fellowship.

4)  The athlete followed a set of very strict rules which constantly tested his motivation, his decisions, and momentum. This is analogous to the fact that every day we have tests to challenge us in relationship to our motivation, to our decisions, and when we pass those tests we grow spiritually and it increases our momentum in the spiritual life.

5)  Everyone did the same exercises under the same authority. The verb for their discipline was GUMNAZO [gumnazw]. Initially the word meant to be naked. All the athletes worked out naked and it came to be applied to discipline and the idea of stripping away everything that could distract and be a hindrance to the goal. 1 Timothy 4:7 NASB "On the other hand, discipline [gumnazw] yourself for the purpose of godliness." That is, strip off all of the distractions. The word for "godliness" is EUSEBEIA [e)usebeia], what we would call the development of our spiritual life and the production of the fruit of the Spirit.

6)  In terms of diet all the athletes ate the same food. In the same way, all believers eat the same food when they come to church and they learn then teaching of the Word of God. And it is God the Holy Spirit who converts that diet into spiritually usable material that they can apply and which the Holy Spirit uses to produce spiritual growth.

7)  All earthly distractions were removed during the ten-month period so that they could focus on the task. In the same way we are to remove all distractions to spiritual growth so that we can focus on the objective that God has given us.