What does it mean “I pummel my body into submission”?

Asked by mark

the saying “i pummel my body into submission” is this quoted in the bible
somewhere, if so what does it mean.
regards mark.


Hello Mark, this is a great question.  Yes, this sentence is quoted in the Bible, in the book of 1 Corinthians, Chapter 9, sentence 27.

To understand what a single sentence in the bible means,  just like reading any other material, we need to look at its context and its background.

1 Corinthians is a letter written by the apostle Paul, who was someone aiming to preach the good news of Jesus to people all over the world. In this letter, he had been addressing different issues the people in the church of Corinth were facing. One of the issues being addressed was that of rights and Christian freedom.

For example, in chapter 8, Paul discussed whether Christians can eat food sacrificed to idols. The simple answer was that yes, Christians have the right to eat anything they want, but they need to be mindful that by exercising their right to eat they do not cause to stumble someone who believes that an idol is another god. Such a person may falsely interpret the Christian’s action in eating food sacrificed to idols that Christians are allowed to worship more than one god.

Another example is in the beginning of chapter 9, where Paul explains that it was his right to be paid for his work in Christian ministry, but he had chosen to work for his own pay instead, because in this particular circumstance, it will help him spread the gospel.

It is against this background that Paul went on to discuss how he himself gave up his rights and freedom so that he could win more people to believe in Jesus. In chapter 9 sentence 19, he said,

“ For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them.”

He then used an example, comparing himself to an athlete who was competing in a race. The athlete is someone who works hard to control himself so that he can receive the prize. The Christian is someone who is aiming for a prize far more important than any athlete can receive, and that is eternal life.

Let’s read the passage from sentence 22 onwards:

To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. 23I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings.

Do you not know that in a race all the runners compete, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. 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.

Please note that the bold text can be read alternatively as “I pummel my body and make it a slave” which is more similar to the version you originally quoted.
After reading the sentence in its context, it may now be easier to see what the quote means.

Christians are to be self-controlled people, not because they do not have the right to enjoy material things. In fact, the Bible explicitly says that God gives us all good things to enjoy.
Therefore the idea that Christians should deny themselves to physical enjoyment is false. Christians should not be hurting their physical bodies intentionally, or depriving themselves of material enjoyments for the sake of it.

However, Christians should control their bodies and be willing to give up their rights when doing so will help themselves and others take hold of eternal life. This may occur in various circumstances as described above, e.g. refusing to eat certain foods sacrificed to idols, or refusing monetary payments for servicing a church. This is because eternal things are more important than material things that will eventually be destroyed.

 

Answers are kindly provided by our friends at Christianity.net.au

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