Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings. ...No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.
I will begin with I am confused and it gets worse. Join me if you dare. Enlighten me if you will.
What I have read is that Paul is all out for the gospel and sharing it. He does it all without taking anything for it; even though he could easily be taken care of or compensated for his time and efforts...especially among those he has personally ministered to. His reward in preaching is that he can do it free of charge and not utilize what he is fully authorized to access (support and resources). He also says that he must preach the Gospel as he is compelled to do so; but it seems that he does so voluntarily and not to just "discharge a trust."
So, the beginnings of my quandary are that Paul appears to be boasting in his ability to preach without needing help...I don't see this, as he referenced earlier, as knowing nothing but Christ and Christ crucified. Instead of seeing everything through the cross, it seems a bit pretentious to me. But if the boasting part is removed, (and the "I would rather die than have someone take this boast from me" portion), I get that he is pleased to not be a burden to the little flock-stations he is responsible for. Very commendable and instructive.
Then he discusses his freedom a bit more in that he becomes a slave to everyone to win as many as possible.."all for the sake of the Gospel that he may share in its blessings"...so this seems like a bit more of a reward than just speaking without a love-offering. He says that he is completely devoted to winning the race and willing to meet the physical demands it requires. He is content to pay whatever that price is...so that after he has "preached to others, he will not be disqualified." I guess, I need to know from what will he be disqualified. He speaks of the race and running so as to get the prize...is it the triumphant spread of the Gospel? If so, how would he be qualified or disqualified by that...I thought the Lord Jesus qualified him on the road to Damascus. Would it be salvation? But that's not right, either....
So, I don't quite follow. I also went into chapter 10 and it did not clarify for me. So, what exactly is Paul concerned with losing? or losing out on? Why is he seemingly so arrogant and hung on what he has done ( I did read this in a couple other translations and they did not settle it for me) and I know that is not his heart from his other words (where he does become like those he is around...which may be what inspired Hudson Taylor in China, shaving his head and growing a back-braid, donning Chinese attire and a teacher's robe ~laying down himself that he may better relate to those where he was...or maybe they both followed Jesus' example when He slipped on the body of flesh as He was made in the likeness of man). Paul is giving instruction and answering questions in this letter, I remember; but I don't understand the lesson or question he is aiming for here. I am certain there is one simple key that will unlock the door to my understanding; but sometimes when I read Paul's words, I feel like I joined him in mid-air and I can't get my parachute to deploy.