Introduction: When I was young, my father told me stories about how
he was always the fastest worker. I took those stories to heart, and
when I had manual jobs I always tried to be the fastest. In school, I
applied this idea to try to get the top grade. Mental health experts
might worry about this kind of thing, but I never thought it harmed
me in the long run. At some point I noticed that I was not the
smartest guy around, and so I had to become more reasonable about my
goals. In our study of the Bible this week, Paul talks about this
kind of attitude. He says, in 1 Corinthians 9:24, that only one
person wins a race. “Run in such a way as to get the prize.” Let’s
race into our study of the Bible and learn more about winning the

  1. Paul’s Determination

    1. Read 1 Corinthians 9:19. Would you like to be a slave?

      1. What is Paul’s motive for being willing to be a
        slave? (To win people to the gospel of Jesus.)

    2. Read 1 Corinthians 9:20-22. Is Paul compromising his
      beliefs? (Paul must have a hierarchy of beliefs. At the
      top is winning people to the gospel.)

      1. What is the most important belief that Paul
        compromised? (His right to be free from slavery –
        from being unreasonably controlled by others.)

      2. How would you apply Paul’s attitude to your life
        today? (We are too quick to fight over things that do
        not really make any difference. Paul says the most
        important thing is bringing people to salvation.)

    3. Read 1 Corinthians 9:24. What kind of running is this? (It
      is running hard, running to win.)

    4. Read 1 Corinthians 9:25-27. Paul was just writing about
      giving up his own rights. What kind of training should we
      get into to learn this? (We must learn to be students of
      what is important and what is not.)

      1. Look again at 1 Corinthians 9:27. What does Paul mean
        by being “disqualified for the prize?” (It sounds
        like he is talking about losing his salvation.)

        1. If Paul is saved by grace, how can that be a
          realistic fear?

        2. If it is a realistic fear, what is the area in
          which we should be very careful? (Paul has been
          discussing giving up his rights. He has been
          discussing becoming all things to all people. I
          think Paul teaches us that having a correct
          religious focus is very important. It is
          something we need to work on.)

  2. The Law

    1. Read Romans 7:1-3. What makes the difference whether this
      woman is an adulteress or not? (Whether her first husband
      is alive.)

    2. Read Romans 7:4. Imagine that Paul is speaking to you. To
      whom does Paul compare you? The dead husband? The wife?
      (Both! Paul says that when Jesus died on the cross, we
      “died to the law.” Thus, it is our connection to the law
      which is dissolved by death. We are like the husband in
      that we died with Jesus, and we are like the wife in that
      our obligation to our husband (the law) ended with his

      1. Who is our new husband? (Jesus. “You might belong to

      2. What is the goal of this new arrangement? (That we
        might bear fruit to God.)

      3. When Paul taught us about racing to win, what does
        that have to do with bearing fruit?

    3. Read Romans 7:5-6. What does the law do to us? (“The
      sinful passions aroused by the law.” Paul tells us that
      the law stimulated sin in our life.)

      1. How can that be? (Have you ever told a young child
        not to do something? If you tell them not to do
        something, they are determined to do it.)

      2. How does the dissolution of our obligation to the law
        (like the death of the husband), help us with the
        problem of wanting to do what we are told not to do?
        (We “serve in the new way of the Spirit.” The Holy
        Spirit drives our thoughts and deeds.)

    4. Read Romans 7:7. Is there something wrong with the law
      when it stimulates us to sin? (We need the law to
      understand what is sin.)

      1. Which law is Paul writing about here? (The Ten
        Commandments. “Do not covet” is the tenth commandment
        of Exodus 20.)

    5. Read Romans 7:8-12. How can we have the law of God
      described both as “holy, righteous and good” and something
      that “actually brought death?” (The law is perfect, but we
      are not. Praise God that Jesus lived a perfect life on our
      behalf, paid the death penalty on our behalf, and rose to
      life eternal. Being bound by the law excites our sinful
      nature. But, knowing that Jesus fulfilled the law on our
      behalf, and living a life lead by the Holy Spirit, gives
      us a new and better attitude about the law.)

    6. Read Romans 7:14-20. How easy is it to keep the law? (“I
      have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it

    7. Read Romans 7:21-25. What is the good news about this
      conflict between the law and our sinful nature? (The
      rescue of Jesus! Thank our Lord for His grace.)

    8. Read Romans 8:1-4. How are the requirements of the law
      met? (Through Jesus.)

    9. Read Romans 8:5-11. What is the key to pleasing God? (To
      have the Holy Spirit live in us. To set our minds on what
      the Holy Spirit desires.)

      1. Recall that we are in the race to win, and that
        having a correct focus is very important. How would
        you relate this to the message of righteousness by
        faith? (We win the race by cooperating with the Holy
        Spirit. We win the race by seeking the Holy Spirit.)

      2. What kind of life is that? Will it be enjoyable?
        (“The mind controlled by the Spirit is life and
        peace.” Romans 8:6. Would you like peace in your

    10. Look again at Romans 8:7-8. Notice the tension. On one
      hand Paul tells us that we do the wrong things because the
      law produces the wrong desires. He tells us that Jesus
      rescued us from that problem. On the other hand, Paul also
      tells us that we must not be controlled by our sinful
      nature. Does grace give us license to sin? (If we are
      focused on sin, we have the wrong focus. What we should
      focus on is setting our minds on what the Holy Spirit
      desires ( Romans 8:5). We win the prize by “strict
      training” to focus on the Holy Spirit rather than “running
      aimlessly” ( 1 Corinthians 9:25-26).)

  3. Christ Crucified

    1. Read 1 Corinthians 2:1-2. What does this teach us about
      our ability to be missionaries? (Paul says he did not use
      eloquence or superior wisdom.)

    2. Read 1 Corinthians 2:3-5. What is at the center of
      preaching Jesus’ sacrifice on our behalf? (The Holy
      Spirit. Paul tells us that it was not his talent that won
      people to Jesus, it was the power of God.)

    3. Read 1 Corinthians 2:6-8. Paul seems to modify his
      statement about wisdom. Do we need wisdom to share the
      gospel? (Not the wisdom of the world, but rather the
      wisdom of God.)

    4. Read 1 Corinthians 2:9-10. What is the key to having the
      wisdom of God? (The Holy Spirit reveals it to us.)

    5. Friend, do you see a consistent theme here? If you want to
      live a life pleasing to God, then focus on the Holy
      Spirit. If you want to convert others to the gospel, then
      rely on the power of the Holy Spirit. If you want to have
      true wisdom, then ask the Holy Spirit. Will you, today,
      ask God to give you a greater measure of the Holy Spirit?

  4. Next week: Must the Whole World Hear?