“Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? Even so run, that ye may attain.” (1 Corinthians 9:24)
Paul told the Corinthians to run and later added: “So I run” (1 Corinthians 9:26). We do not have to look far to discover what you had to run against if you lived among those Corinthians. The letter begins with the complete contrast between the spiritual man and the natural man, showing that in this race the spiritual man has to run against the natural, and defeat him. We must be careful to note that it is not a question of overcoming the natural man by the natural man; that is a hopeless endeavor. No, the spiritual man is the new creation man, born of the Spirit and now the deepest inner reality of the Christian. The fact is that within the sphere of a Christian’s being there is the natural man who always hinders God’s purposes, and the ‘hidden man of the heart’ who is governed by the mind of the Spirit. And the attaining of the prize is the result of the progress and growth of what is of Christ in the life and the leaving behind, often by conflict, of that which is not Christ.
Our natural mind is a great obstacle in the race which we are running, cropping up all the time with its complexes, its arguments, its interests and its methods. When the Corinthians were brought into the Church they left behind their obvious sins, but they carried over into their new realm the old, natural ways of thinking and reasoning which belonged to the world and not to the Spirit of God. But the apostle remonstrated with them: “But we have the mind of Christ” (1 Corinthians 2:16), so urging them to allow the cross to be planted between the natural mind and the spiritual. We shall only come to the fullness of Christ as we leave behind the mind of the natural man and move on more and more in the progress of the mind of Christ. On everything – every judgment, every conclusion, every analysis, every appraisal – we must ask the Lord: ‘Is that Your mind, Lord, or is it mine?’
There was no man who had stronger convictions as to the rightness of his course than Saul of Tarsus. The great revolution which took place in him when he came to Christ was that he had to say: ‘I have been all wrong in my fundamental way of thinking’. After that confession he made good headway in the race because he was always ready to subject his thinking to the jurisdiction of his crucified Lord. This is the way of spiritual progress.