24. Know you not that those who run on the course, all indeed run, but one only receives the prize? So run, that you may obtain.
25. And everyone who contends in the public games, abstains from all things: and they indeed, to receive a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible.
26. I therefore thus run, not as to an uncertain point: I thus fight, not as beating the air:
27. But I chastise my body, and reduce it to servitude; lest haply when I have preached to others, I myself be made reprobate.
All indeed run. The real cause of the evil complained of, namely, the attendance of the Corinthian Christians at the pagan festivities, and their excusing it, was the love of luxury and pleasure; which the Apostle points to in these verses, as not only hindering the salvation of others, by the scandal it occasioned, but as likely to endanger their own. The figure the Apostle uses was very familiar at Corinth, on account of the Isthmian games, which were held there, and the preparations for which occupied a large share of the attention of the inhabitants. They are said by Lenglet to have been instituted by Sisyphus, in B.C. 1406, as a religious solemnity, in honour of Melicertes, a god of the sea, and re-established B.C. 1239 by Theseus in honour of Poseidon. The exercises were racing, boxing, and wrestling, the prize a wreath of olive or laurel. Only the victor obtained the prize; but the point of the Apostle’s remark is that all did not obtain it. The Christian faith does not assure salvation except to those who persevere in it to the end. The training necessitated abstinence from indulgence, vino et venere, as Horace says. The runner in a race keeps the end steadily in view, and pursues the most direct course to it. I run, not to any uncertain end. An unskilful or careless boxer is liable to waste his energy in beating the air, because his antagonist will avoid his blows; so I fight. I chastise my body, and enslave it. The word used means literally to strike under the eye, or beat black and blue; and it is said that the victor in this contest might claim his defeated antagonist as his slave.
In verse 23, Saint Paul prays that he may be a partaker with others of the reward of eternal life, promised in the Gospel. In verse 27 he expresses a fear that he may possibly be rejected altogether. Calvin believed he was saved by his faith; but Paul was afraid of being damned.
A Summary of Chapter 10. In this chapter the Apostle reminds the Corinthians that faith and baptism are not sufficient to ensure salvation, without perseverance and obedience, using the example of the people of Israel, who were delivered from bondage in Egypt, but did not enter the land of promise. And applying this to the question under consideration in the two previous chapters, he gives his final decision as to participation in pagan sacrifices, admitting the general principle asserted by the learned men, but forbidding the practice as likely to occasion scandal.
1. For I would not have you ignorant, brethren, that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed the sea;
2. And all were baptized in Moses, in the cloud and in the sea;
3. And all ate the same spiritual food;
4. And all drank the same spiritual drink: (And drank of the spiritual rock that followed them, and the rock was Christ).
All our fathers were under the cloud. He said in the last chapter, All run, but only one receives the prize; I chastise my body, lest I prove reprobate. The same idea is enforced and repeated here. All our fathers were delivered from bondage in Egypt; all were under the protection and guidance of the fiery column that led their march, a cloud by day, Exodus 13:21, Num 9:15, 16, and covered them with its shadow when they rested, from the heat of the sun. All passed through the waters of the Red Sea to deliverance and freedom. This is a (figure of Christian baptism. The cloud overhead represents the water of baptism, ready to descend, with the grace of the Holy Spirit. The water of the sea is the immersion in the fount of regeneration. The destruction of the Egyptians is the blotting out of sin. Estius suggests that in their passage they were not improbably sprinkled and wetted with the foam of the sea. All subsisted on the manna from the skies, which is called spiritual food because it was prepared by the hands of Angels, and tasted variously
according to the palate of the consumer, but always wonderfully and deliciously; and because it was a type of Christ, the living bread who comes down from heaven, and of the holy Eucharist, which confers in this life desires and graces miraculous and supernatural, and eternal life hereafter. And all drank of the spiritual rock, the water which flowed miraculously and supernaturally from the rock in Horeb struck by the rod of Moses, Exodus 17:6, and which continued to follow them, at least for some distance, in their wandering in the desert. And as the passage of the Red Sea was a figure of Baptism, so this rock was a figure of Christ, from whose side, struck by the spear, water flowed for the refreshment of his Church.
Theodoret says: The sea was a type of our baptism; the cloud of the grace of the Holy Spirit; Moses, of the priest; his rod, of the cross; Israel crossing the sea, of those who receive baptism; the Egyptians following, hosts of evil spirits, pursuing, baffled, defeated ; Pharaoh, of the devil, ruined and overthrown.
Divine grace warms and illuminates, like the fiery cloud; refreshes like the same cloud by day; supports and sustains, like the column. It gives us the fire of charity, the calming of the passions, the strength to persevere. The fire, the cloud, the column, never desert or leave us.
Cornelius a Lapide enumerates fourteen points of resemblance between the manna and the holy Eucharist.
The water from the rock follows us on our march. The grace of Christ is never wanting to us. I am with you all days.
All this is true, but there is nevertheless another and further truth, which the Apostle presents in the following verses.