The excitement of seeing the Olympic Games and the skill level of the contestants is truly remarkable. What are not visible to the viewer are the months and years of vigorous training that qualifies the participants to enter the games. The Apostle Paul was very familiar with the games of his time and effectively used them as illustration in teaching and in the writing of his letters. To the churches in Corinth he wrote of the games as an analogy to spiritual life. Corinth was saturated in idolatry and the immoral practices associated with heathen temple worship.
The Apostle had come to Corinth and successfully presented the gospel message that there was only one true God and He manifested Himself in the flesh, Jesus the Christ. God had come into the human race and taken upon Himself the sins of mankind on a Roman cross so that the sin debt of mankind would be satisfied in full. All who chose to believe in that finished Work on the Cross would have eternal life and relationship with God.
Paul wrote … “When I came to you, brothers, I did not come with eloquence or superior wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. I came to you in weakness and fear, and with much trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit's power, so that your faith might not rest on men's wisdom, but on God's power” (1 Cor 2:1-5 NIV).
Many had believed in Christ but were still in spiritual infancy. The practices and teachings of idolatry still lingered. Dissension, division and false issues related to living the spiritual life were surfacing in the churches. Therefore, the Apostle Paul in his first letter to Corinth spoke of the spiritual condition of believers. “Brothers, I could not address you as spiritual but as worldly — mere infants in Christ. I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready.
You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere men? For when one says, "I follow Paul," and another, "I follow Apollos," are you not mere men” (1 Cor 3:1-4 NIV)? They had to be reminded that … “ What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe — as the Lord has assigned to each his task. I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow.
The man who plants and the man who waters have one purpose, and each will be rewarded according to his own labor. For we are God's fellow workers; you are God's field, God's building” (1 Cor 3:5-9 NIV). Learning the Word of God and walking by means of the Spirit would be essential for their spiritual advance. “If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit” (Gal 5:25 NASB).
The Apostle challenged the believers in Corinth … “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize” (1 Cor 9:24-27 NIV).