Means and Ends

“At thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore” (Ps. 16: 11)

The Basket Case Chronicles #104

“And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible. I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air: but I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway” (1 Cor. 9:25-27).

Paul sees himself in training, and not for a contest that will give him a temporary gold, silver, or bronze medal. He is in it for an incorruptible crown, a crown that cannot be taken away or lost. Although the ends are dissimilar, the regime of training is similar. Paul is temperate in all things, just as a runner who is striving “for mastery” is temperate in all things.

When Paul says he runs, but not “uncertainly,” he is saying that he is focused. And his boxing is not shadow boxing, but he has a real opponent, which is his body (soma). He pummels his body, and makes it his slave. The stakes are high—he does not want to be the one who preached an incorruptible crown to others, only to fall short of it himself. Bringing salvation to others was the race he was assigned to run as he was given the gift of salvation himself.

Those who worry that Paul’s nervous reference to himself becoming a castaway is somehow inconsistent with his high theology of salvation expressed elsewhere (e.g. Rom. 8:33-39) are those who don’t have a robust theology of means and ends. Paul knew that they were all going to survive the storm they were in (Acts 27:24), and he also knew that if the sailors got away in their boat they weren’t going to survive it (Acts 27:31). He also knew that if he let his body get the upper hand, he was going to be lost.

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