24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners compete, but [only] one receives the prize? So run [your race] that you may lay hold [of the prize] and make it yours.
25 Now every athlete who goes into training conducts himself temperately and restricts himself in all things. They do it to win a wreath that will soon wither, but we [do it to receive a crown of eternal blessedness] that cannot wither.
26 Therefore I do not run uncertainly-without definite aim. I do not box as one beating the air and striking without an adversary.
27 But [like a boxer] I buffet my body-handle it roughly, discipline it by hardships-and subdue it, for fear that after proclaiming to others the Gospel and things pertaining to it, I myself should become unfit-not stand the test and be unapproved-and rejected [as counterfeit]. (1 CORINTHIANS 9:24-27).
24-27 By way of practical application, Paul now gives a strong exhortation for Christian self-denial, using himself as an example and employing athletic figures familiar to the Corinthians at their own Isthmian athletic games, hosted every other year by the people of Corinth. The particular events he refers to are running and boxing.
Paul assumes their common knowledge of the foot race in the stadium (v.25). Every one of the Corinthian believers should run as these runners do, with an all-out effort to get the prize. "Strict training" refers to the athlete's self-control in diet and in his rigorous bodily discipline. Paul observes that the athlete's train vigorously for a "corruptible crown"-a laurel or celery wreath that would soon wither away. But the Christian's crown, eternal life and fellowship with God, will last forever (Rev. 2:10).
Paul says of himself that he does not contend like an undisciplined runner or boxer. Rather, he aims his blows against his own body, beating it black and blue. The picture is graphic: the ancient boxers devastatingly punishing one another with knuckles bound with leather thongs. So, by pummeling his body, Paul enslaves it in order to gain the Christian prize.
In the Greek games, there was a herald who announced the rules of the contest; but Paul is not only a Christian herald (i.e, preacher), he is also one who plays in the game. That is, he not only preached the Gospel but he also lived by the Gospel's rules. True Christians, while confident of God's sovereign grace, are nevertheless conscious of their own battle against sin. They do not want to be "disqualified [i.e., tested and disapproved] for the prize."
[NIV BIBLE COMMENTARY Volume 2: New Testament].
JESUS IS LORD.