Of children, Zechariah 8:5. Imitating marriages and funerals, Matthew 11:16-17. The earnestness of the Hebrew character indisposed adults to games. Public games they had none, the great feasts of religion supplying them with their anniversary occasions of national gatherings. Jason's introduction of Greek games and a gymnasium was among the corrupting influences which broke down the fence of Judaism, and threw it open to the assaults of the Old Testament antichrist, Antiochus Epiphanes (1 Maccabees 1:14; 2 Maccabees 4:12-14). Herod erected a theater and amphitheater, with quinquennial contests in gymnastics, chariot races, music, and wild beasts, at Jerusalem and Caesarea, to the annoyance of the faithful Jews (Josephus, Ant 15:8, sec. 1; 9, sec. 6). The "chiefs of Asia" (Asiarchs) superintended the games in honor of Diana at Ephesus (Acts 19:31).
In 1 Corinthians 15:32 Paul alludes to "fights with beasts" (though his fights were with beast-like men, Demetrius and his craftsmen, not with beasts, from which his Roman citizenship exempted him), at Ephesus. The "fighters with beasts" were kept to the "last" of the "spectacle"; this he alludes to, 1 Corinthians 4:9; "God hath set forth (exhibited previous to execution) us the apostles last, as it were appointed to death, for we are made a spectacle unto the world," etc., a "gazing stock" as in an amphitheater (Hebrews 10:33). The Asiarchs' friendliness was probably due to their having been interested in his teaching during his long stay at Ephesus. Nero used to clothe the Christians in beast skins when he exposed them to wild beasts; compare 2 Timothy 4:17, "I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion" (namely, from Satan's snare, 1 Peter 5:8).
In 2 Timothy 4:7, "I have striven the good strife," not merely a fight, any competitive contest as the race-course, 1 Timothy 6:12 which was written from Corinth, where national games recurred at stated seasons, which accounts for the allusion: "strive" with such earnestness in "the good strife" as to "lay hold" on the prize, the crown or garland of the winner, "eternal life." (See TIMOTHY.) James 1:12; Revelation 2:10. Philemon 3:12-14; "not as though I had attained," namely, the prize, "or am already perfected" (Greek), i.e., my course completed and I crowned with the garland of perfect victory; "I follow after," i.e. I press on, "if that I may apprehend (grasp) that for which I am apprehended of (grasped by) Christ," i.e., if so be that I may lay hold on the prize for obtaining which I was laid hold on by Christ at conversion (Song of Solomon 1:4; 1 Corinthians 13:12).
"Forgetting those things behind (the space already past, contrast 2 Timothy 3:7; 2 Peter 1:9) and reaching forth unto those things before," like a race runner with body bent forward, the eye reaching before and drawing on the hand, the hand reaching before and drawing on the foot. The "crown (garland) of righteousness," "of life," "of glory," is "the prize of the high calling (the calling that is above, coming from, and leading to, heaven) of God in Christ Jesus" (1 Thessalonians 2:12), given by "the righteous Judge" (2 Timothy 4:8; 1 Peter 5:4). The false teacher, as a self constituted umpire, would "defraud you of your prize" (katabrabeueto), by drawing you away from Christ to angel worship (Colossians 2:18). Therefore "let the peace of God as umpire rule (brabeueto) in your hearts" and restrain wrong passions, that so you may attain the prize "to the which ye are called" (Colossians 3:15).
In 1 Corinthians 9:24 the Isthmian games, celebrated on the isthmus of Corinth, are vividly alluded to. They were a subject of patriotic pride to the Corinthians, a passion rather than a pastime; so a suitable image of Christian earnestness. Paul wrote 1 Corinthians at Ephesus, and in addressing the Ephesian elders he uses naturally the same image, an undesigned coincidence (Acts 20:24). "So (with the determined earnestness of the ONE earthly winner) run, that ye may obtain" is such language as instructors in the gymnasts and spectators on the race-course would urge on the runners with. The competitor had to "strive lawfully" (2 Timothy 2:5), i.e. observing the conditions of the contest, keeping to the bounds of the course, and stripped of clothes, and previously training himself with chastity, abstemious diet, anointing, enduring cold, heat, and severe exercise.
As a soldier the believer is one of many; as an athlete he has to wage an individual struggle continually, as if (which is the case in a race) one alone could win; "they who run in the stadium (racecourse, oblong, at one end semicircular, where the tiers of spectators sat), run all, but one receiveth the prize." Paul further urges Christians, run so as not only to receive salvation but a full reward (compare 1 Corinthians 3:14-15; 2 John 1:8). Pugilism is the allusion in "I keep under (Greek: I bruise under the eyes, so as to disable) my body (the old flesh, whereas the games competitor boxed another I box myself), and bring it into subjection as a slave, lest that by any means, when I have preached (heralded, as the heralds summoned the candidates to the race) to others, I myself should be a castaway" (Greek: rejected), namely, not as to his personal salvation of which he had no doubts (Galatians 1:15; Ephesians 1:4; Ephesians 1:7; Philemon 1:6; Titus 1:2; 2 Timothy 1:12), but as to the special reward of those who "turn many to righteousness" (Daniel 12:3; 1 Thessalonians 2:19).
So Paul denied himself, in not claiming sustenance, in view of "reward," namely, "to gain the more" (1 Corinthians 9:18-23). 1 Corinthians 9:25; "striveth for the mastery," namely, in wrestling, more severe than the foot-race. The "crown" (garland, not a king's diadem) is termed "corruptible," being made of the soon withering fir leaves from the groves round the Isthmian racecourse. Our crown is "incorruptible" (1 Peter 1:4). "I run not as uncertainly," i.e. not without a definite goal, in "becoming all things to all men" I aim at "gaining the more." Ye gain no end, he implies to the Corinthians, in your eating idol meats. He who knows what to aim at, and how to aim, looks straight to the goal, and casts away every encumbrance (Hebrews 12:1). So the believer must cast aside not only sinful lusts, but even harmless and otherwise useful things which would retard him (Mark 9:42-48; Mark 10:50; Ephesians 4:22; Colossians 3:9).
"He must run with enduring perseverance the race set before him." "Not as one that beateth the air," in a skiamachia, or sparring in sham fight, striking the air as if an adversary. Satan is a real adversary, acting through the flesh. The "so great a cloud of witnesses" (Hebrews 12:1-2) that "we are compassed about with" attest by their own case God's faithfulness to His people (Hebrews 6:12).
A second sense is nowhere positively sustained by Scripture, namely, that, as the crowd of surrounding spectators gave fresh spirit to the combatants, so the deceased saints who once were in the same contest, and who now are witnessing our struggle of faith, ought to increase our earnestness, testifying as they do to God's faith. fullness; but see Job 14:21; Ecclesiastes 9:5; Isaiah 63:16, which seemingly deny to disembodied spirits consciousness of earthly affairs. "Looking off unto Jesus (aforontes, with eye fixed on the distant goal) the Prince-leader and Finisher (the Starting point and the Goal, as in the diaulos race, wherein they doubled back to the starting point) of our faith" (2 Timothy 3:7).