The metaphor of boxing
In his first letter to the Corinthian Church, the apostle Paul gave a metaphor about boxing where he resembled the Christian life with that of an athlete’s race. He said, “Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air” (1 Corinthian 9:26 NIV). Paul spoke of the ancient boxing match or fist fight of the Greeks to illustrate vividly the violent nature of the fight that must be waged by every faithful believer.
A boxer might be seen as beating the air when he practices without a challenger. Or his opponent might dodge his blow, thus cause him to waste his energy. Paul shows clearly that he did not spare his opponent, or allow him to escape his blows; nor did he waste his time in mediocre fighting, because his opponent must be dealt with firmly. He targeted every blow with surety, aiming it with power so that it effectively did what it was supposed to do. Therefore, the wicked desires of the body were to be curbed and the whole body should be brought into submission to God through Christ (2 Corinthians 10:3–5).
The boxing gloves worn by the fighters were not gloves like the ones boxers use today; they were often made of oxhide bands, which were sometimes strengthened with brass knuckles. This deadly weapon showed the harshness that the sincere believer should exercise toward his evil tendencies. It calls for a tough discipline and self-denial that must be exercised in order that victory may be obtained over all the evil tendencies of man.
The need to overcome the flesh
Many Christians know that there is a need to overcome the lusts and appetites that are contrary to God’s will. But they are not serious in their efforts to control self. They make a pretend to be fighting, but they do not really want to attack these weaknesses because they don’t wish to experience pain. They appreciate their sinful nature too much to attack it, and lack the power of will to take action.
It was not so with Paul. For he did not permit anything to deter him from being faithful; he was prepared to do anything God wanted him to do that he may be true to his calling. He knew that there was a continuous threat of being deceived because of the falseness of sin, and he was resolute to do his part to guarantee his triumph in having the crown of eternal life.
He genuinely wished to have no pity on his sinful flesh, his carnal nature. He was ashamed of it and hated it. Therefore, he controlled his mind and brought every thought into captivity. He said,” Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry” (Colossians 3:5). This verse should not be understood as though, like the Gnostics, Paul viewed the body itself as essentially evil. He simply tried to achieve mastery over his body, not seek to destroy it.
God gives the victory
As man, Christ met temptation and overcame by divine power. “God with us” (Matthew 1:23) is the guarantee of our freedom from sin, the guarantee of our power to obey the law of heaven. The Lord declared, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26).
Jesus’ life attests that it is possible for us to overcome the flesh. Paul taught, “I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13). When the heavenly commands are truly followed, the Lord makes Himself responsible for the victory. In Christ, there is power to accomplish every duty and strength to repel temptation. In Him, there is grace for daily growth, courage for battles, and passion for service (1 John 5:4).
In His service,