1Co 9:24 Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain.
1Co 9:25 And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible.
The New Testament contains the rules for believers who would enter the spiritual race to win the "incorruptible crown".
(1) The believer must deny self of anything that would weigh him down and hold him back. Heb. 12:1
Heb 12:1 Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us,
(2) The believer must keep his eyes fixed on Christ, and not look to the right or the left. Heb. 12:2
Heb 12:2 Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.
(3) The believer must find his strength in the Lord. Eph. 6:10-18
Eph 6:10 Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might.
Eph 6:11 Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.
Eph 6:12 For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.
Eph 6:13 Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.
Eph 6:14 Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness;
Eph 6:15 And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace;
Eph 6:16 Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.
Eph 6:17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God:
Eph 6:18 Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints;
(4) The believer must place his all upon the alter of the Lord. Rom. 12: 1,2
Rom 12:1 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.
Rom 12:2 And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.
(5) The believer must, by faith, refuse anything that would impede spiritual progress. Heb. 11:24-29
Heb 11:24 By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter;
Heb 11:25 Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season;
Heb 11:26 Esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt: for he had respect unto the recompence of the reward.
Heb 11:27 By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king: for he endured, as seeing him who is invisible.
Heb 11:28 Through faith he kept the passover, and the sprinkling of blood, lest he that destroyed the firstborn should touch them.
Heb 11:29 By faith they passed through the Red sea as by dry land: which the Egyptians assaying to do were drowned.
This commentary gives some interesting and valuable thoughts on gaining the incorruptible crown:
They which run in a race, run all, etc. He had spoken of self denial in order to secure gospel success. He now enforces the need of sparing no effort, self denial or exertion, to win the crown. The Corinthians were familiar with the races in the stadium. Only one, the foremost, received a prize. Hence the lesson, so run that you may obtain; outstrip all others if possible. The Isthmian games, among the most famous of Greece, were celebrated at Corinth.
Every man that striveth, etc. Everyone who proposed to strive in the games for the prize pursued a course of self control, and exercised himself very systematically. All this effort was made for a corruptible crown. The prize of the victor in the foot race was a crown woven of the pine leaves which grew then, and still grow, on the isthmus of Corinth.
But we an incorruptible. We run for a crown that never fades (1Pe_5:4).
I, therefore, so run, not as uncertainly. Not as one who had no definite goal before him. His eye was fixed upon the heavenly prize.
Not as one that beateth the air. The first figure is of a runner with a definite object; the second is taken from the boxer who strikes the air instead of his competitor. So fights not Paul. He puts a skillful aim into his blows.
But I keep my body under. I buffet my body (Revision). He puts the body down by his blows, by self denial for Christ. It shall not be his master, but his servant. He keeps it under lest, after having preached to others, he should be rejected; that is, refused the prize of the crown. What an exhortation to us is this example of the apostle! Continually vigilant lest he should be finally rejected! Even he worked out his salvation "with fear and trembling." Surely, he should "give all diligence to make our calling and election sure." In this worldly, self-seeking, luxurious age "we should give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard." B.W. Johnson comm.
These quotations show the propriety of the apostle’s words: Every man that striveth for the mastery, παντα εγκρατευεται, is temperate, or continent, in all things.
They do it to obtain a corruptible crown - The crown won by the victor in the Olympian games was made of the wild olive; in the Pythian games of laurel; in the Nemean games of parsley; and in the Isthmian games of the pine. These were all corruptible, for they began to wither as soon as they were separated from the trees, or plucked out of the earth. In opposition to these, the apostle says, he contended for an incorruptible crown, the heavenly inheritance. He sought not worldly honor; but that honor which comes from God. Adam Clarke comm.