Perhaps it may turn out a sang,
Perhaps turn out a sermon.

-- R. Burns Epistle to a Young Friend

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

The Temperance League

Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable.  So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air.  But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified. – 1 Corinthians 9:25-27

Paul shows a familiarity with the Hellenistic games that were so much a part of the lifestyle from ancient times on the Peninsula.  The word for self-control was translated in older English versions as “temperance”.  The verb form is rare in Greek, though it is from a common adjective.  Athletes were in training for ten months.  They abstained from wine and adhered to a rigid diet and a strict regimen of habits. 

The Christian contends for an eternal crown as opposed to the corruptible wreath given to the victor in the pankration.  If the athletes disciplined themselves for a game, how much more ought we be willing to discipline ourselves for life everlasting.  Paul’s image of shadow-boxing is interesting.  From A.T. Robertson’s Word Pictures in the New Testament: 

Paul changes the metaphor from the runner to the boxer. Old verb (only here in N.T.) from πυκτης (pugilist) and that from πυγμη (fist). See on Mr 7:3). As not beating the air (ως ουκ αερα δερων). A boxer did this when practising without an adversary (cf. doing "the daily dozen") and this was called "shadow-fighting" (σκιαμαχια). He smote something more solid than air. Probably ου negatives αερα, though it still occurs with the participle as a strong and positive negative.

The target of Paul’s attack was the carnal nature and the body.  He pictures himself beating down the flesh whenever it tries to rear up and gain control.  Either you control the flesh or the flesh controls you.  Either you stay in training or you lose ground.  There is a reason they are called “daily devotions”.  It’s the same reason we eat every day when we can and brush our teeth and exercise and shower daily.  It doesn’t take long, if we ignore the little foxes, for the vine to be spoiled.

There is nothing wrong with emotions, imaginations, desires, plans, preferences, or even fantasies, but if these things are left uncontrolled and unpruned, they are unproductive and even counterproductive.  Nothing good comes of a lack of self-control, and that is not the spirit we have, for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control (2 Timothy 1:7).


USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Shadow-smoting the flesh (best to continue until the flesh is K.O.'d).

mushroom said...

Knock 'im out, John.