1 Corinthians 8-11
(Keep Your Eye on the Prize)
December 1st

Produced by The Listening for God Ministry
Copyright 2016

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Please refer to one or more Bible versions of your choice to read this section. We recommend that you read at least two versions for added understanding. For your convenience, we have provided six links below, each of which takes you directly to today's chapters in a specific version:

Key Verse

Do you not know that the runners in the stadium all run in the race, but only one wins the prize? Run so as to win. Every athlete exercises discipline in every way. They do it to win a perishable crown, but we an imperishable one.

- 1 Corinthians 9:25-16 (NAB)

Summary of Chapters

In chapter 9, Paul explains how he has worked for the Corinthians without asking for any financial contribution – even though he would have been well within his rights to ask. But because of this they should know that he is serving them solely for their benefit. He says he makes himself a slave to serve others, not for financial gain but “for the sake of the Gospel, that I may share in its blessings (1 Cor 9:23 - NIV).”

For the sports fan in his audience, Paul concludes the chapter with an analogy to athletic competition. He observes that only one runner gets the prize, and suggests that we ought to train and perform in our service to the Lord as if we wanted to win that crown – but instead of getting one of the laurels that will eventually wilt we get one that lasts forever.

Paul may have figured that the people needed a good example of what happens when the eye is on the prize. Therefore in chapter 10 he holds up the ancient Israelites as examples of what not to do. They had been rescued from Egypt, but wandered in the desert and stepped into an immoral life because they forgot who had saved them. When the Corinthians sit down to celebrate the Lord’s Supper, they should remember who has saved them and should honor him with their celebration by keeping it holy and focused on the Lord. He concludes that thought with an encouragement for the Corinthians to perpetually worship their Creator:

    Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.

    - 1 Corinthians 10:31 (KJV)

In chapter 11 Paul continues the discussion of proper protocol for worship. The first part of the chapter is a topic that must be considered as one specifically for the people of Corinth at that time in their history – as Paul suggests that there is a hierarchy in which men are closer to God than women and that women must not pray or prophesize without their veils.

By stark contrast, the second part of the chapter is a universal and timeless description of the Lord’s Supper. In fact, this description is the one used in today’s church services and masses across many denominations:

    For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way he took the cup also, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.

    1 Corinthians 11:23-26 (NRSV)

Paul emphasizes that we are all to celebrate communion together, and accept the communion in the spirit in which it was intended, with our thoughts and prayers focused on Jesus and the sacrifice he made for us.

Reflection and Application

The topic of eating food that may have been sacrificed to idols may have been raised as a question in a letter from the Corinthians to Paul. Paul essentially tells the people to “forget about it.” Maybe the food you are eating was sacrificed to false idols, maybe not. In either case, he tells the Corinthians that they are not responsible and should not add the extra burden of trying to maintain a law for something for which they had no knowledge.

There would not have been a stamp on the meat indicated it had or had not been used for sacrifice, so it as Caveat Emptor for each consumer of the meat. However, if possibility of the use for idol worship might bother any fellow diners then the host should play it safe and ensure that the meal had not been used in that way.

The verses in chapter 9 regarding running for the prize are often referenced by modern day preachers and commentators. The people of Corinth were very familiar with the procedures of a running competition. They knew that an athlete must train hard to prepare for the competition and then must run with all their heart to win the race. The winner received a crown of laurels to recognize his achievement.

In our culture, we award gold medals to the top finisher in athletic events such as running, swimming, diving, skiing, and others. We often provide awards for other top performers (and in some cases for all participants). However, we understand that only one athlete gets the gold and in team sports, only one team gets the coveted trophy – whether it’s a World Series ring, the Stanley Cup or something else. We understand the determination and skill required to reach that lofty goal and can relate to what Paul was saying. It takes time and effort and heart to achieve the goal. Paul wants us to put the same contribution into our Christian service that the top athletes put into their athletic performance. This is how we keep our eyes on the prize. This concept is captured in the traditional Gospel song Keep Your Eye on the Prize:,

    Paul and Silas bound in jail
    Had no money for to go their bail
    Keep your eyes on the prize, hold on

    Paul and Silas thought they was lost
    Dungeon shook and the chains come off
    Keep your eyes on the prize, hold on

    Freedom's name is mighty sweet
    And soon we're gonna meet
    Keep your eyes on the prize, hold on

    I got my hand on the gospel plow
    Won't take nothing for my journey now
    Keep your eyes on the prize, hold on

    Hold on, hold on
    Keep your eyes on the prize, hold on

    Now only thing I did was wrong
    Stayin' in the wilderness too long
    Keep your eyes on the prize, hold on

    -Excerpt from Bruce Springsteen’s version of the traditional gospel song, Keep Your Eyes on the Prize

Many of the wandering Israelites took their eyes off the prize, but those that did not became the surviving remnant of faithful ones who received God’s blessing and passed their faith to their descendants.

The concept of superiority of one gender over the other seems contrary to the Gospel and Old Testament as there are examples of courage and faith from both sides of the divide. Certainly, Jesus showed no hesitation to interact with either gender or any race as we saw with the Samaritan woman at the well, for example, in John chapter 4, verses 4-42. Therefore, we follow Jesus’ example when we don’t discriminate by race, gender, or other attributes.

Keep Your Eye on the Prize, performed by Springsteen and the Seeger Sessions

Questions and Prayers for Further Reflection

    Related Questions
    1. What is one of your most memorable prizes or awards that you have received? What was the effort that you made to earn that one?
    2. How do we keep our eye on the prize offered by God when there are so many worldly prizes that seem to be within our grasp?
    3. How do we make sure that everyone feels welcome to participate in our worship services?

    Recommended Prayer
    Father in heaven, we know you offer the best prize - help us keep our eyes on it.

    Prayer Concern
    Professional Athletes


    (1) Foreman, Kenneth J, The Layman’s Bible Commentary, Volume 21, Romans 1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians, John Knox Press, Richmond, VA, 1961, p.86

    Looking Ahead

    Tomorrow's reading: 1 Corinthians 12-16 (Many Spiritual Gifts)

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