Paul and Fighting as a Sport

This question has probably been asked often in the past, but if fighting as a sport was considered sinful or hedonistic would Paul have used it as a metaphor?

1 Corinthians 9:24-27 Lattimore Translation
Do you not know that when they run in the stadium they all run, but only one wins the prize? Run to win. And everyone who competes keeps in training in every way; but they, to win a perishable wreath; we, for an imperishable one. I myself do not race without a goal; I do not box to punish the air; but I batter my own body to enslave it; so that, while calling others to action, I may not myself be disqualified.

I don’t think he would, but I can’t really back this up. I would appreciate it if you could give me grounds for this or refute it.

I may or may not have a followup post on this.

8 Responses to “Paul and Fighting as a Sport”


  1. 1 Nik

    I think Paul used those particular metaphors because the Corinthians were familiar with the running and boxing events of the Isthmian Games that Corinth hosted. During the games, I would imagine that the population of the city swelled. Is it possible that Paul was encouraging his disciples before they entered the crowds to share the message of salvation?Pauls ‘fists’ were directed inward as he beat down such things as over-confidence and self-righteousness that manifested out of his sinful nature.

  2. 2 Scripture Zealot

    Nik, I was going to mention the Isthmian games but didn’t want to sound like a know-it-all (not that you do!) or more importantly get it wrong.

    Are you saying you’re taking a neutral stance and not saying whether is was considered sinful/barbaric or not?

    I’m sure there were plenty of prostitution or other debaucherous metaphors that could be used that would obviously be off limits.
    Jeff

  3. 3 Nik

    To be honest, first learned about the Isthmian Games this morning, and would have commented before leaving for work, but ran out of enough time. After work, was surprised to see that you had already cranked out two more posts!Thoughts about a city buzzing with olympic games started to become a vision in my head, as I imagined Christians who might face the challenge of witnessing among many people. Sort of exciting to think about.Sorry for sidestepping… Instead of answering your specific question, I desired to talk about aspects I felt were more significant. One aspect being how Paul has to tame his sinful nature – the boxing metaphor. That verse also stresses the importance of the continuance of faithfulness – fighting the good fight without ceasing. After every sermon, self-righteousness – or whatever manifestations of his sinful nature might cause the Apostle to fall from grace, raise their deceitful heads and he beats them down.

  4. 4 Scripture Zealot

    Good points.

    What Paul was referring to is disciplining himself to not give in to being tempted to worship idols in one form or another or causing others to stumble.

    What I was thinking about posting about is how some people think that some fighting sports are barbaric and yet they will watch the NFL as if it’s a non-violent sport.

    I almost never post twice in a day. I had been working on that book review for a few days and then the Mark Driscoll thing came up today and I wanted to get that out before it became old news.
    Jeff

  5. 5 Stan McCullars

    I would consider the anti-fighting people, at least the ones that try to hold others to that sentiment, legalists. They must stretch a few verses beyond credulity to “justify” their position.

  6. 6 Scripture Zealot

    I agree Stan. I think what’s worse is when some see some forms of fighting sports as hedonistic and then watch their favorite NFL team every Sunday. I brought this up because of something I read by a well known person but didn’t want to mention specifics because I don’t know all the details of their views of other sports.

    If someone doesn’t like violent sports at all, that’s fine and I don’t think it’s hypocritical or wrong at all. It’s the inconsistency (which we all have to a degree) or legalism like you say. If Paul thought boxing was a legitimate sport, it would provide more solid ground for my argument.
    Jeff

  7. 7 Stan McCullars

    I’ve never understood the NFL vs. fighting sports either. Very hypocritical.

  8. 8 Deb

    Here In America ,sports are our Idols,If half of the people that attended and watched NFL,boxing,racing,basketball,and baseball,would get that thrilled with worshiping God,just think how America would be! maybe God would heal our land then! Oh I forgot Hockey!

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