Disqualified from the prize?

“disqualified for the prize/being a castaway”

1 Corinthians 9:25-27
19 Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. 20 To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. 21 To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. 22 To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. 23 I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings. 25 Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. 26 Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. 27 No, I beat 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 used to think Paul had to beat his body to ensure he does not lose his salvation. Hence he was afraid of losing his salvation. I also thought he had meant we need to beat our body keep it away from sin. Otherwise we would be disqualified from heaven. The KJV calls it being a “cast away”.

If that interpretation is correct then Paul would then had been preaching you must obey the law to keep your salvation. But look at this:

1 Corinthians 9:20-21
20 To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. 21 To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law.

So Paul was not talking about righteousness that came from the law. As such what did Paul mean?

The subject matter here is his right as an apostle. He had the right to be paid or ask for money for his ministry but he chose to earn his own living.

1 Corinthians 9
Paul’s Rights as an Apostle
1 Am I not free? Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen Jesus our Lord? Are you not the result of my work in the Lord? 2 Even though I may not be an apostle to others, surely I am to you! For you are the seal of my apostleship in the Lord.

Then

13 Don’t you know that those who serve in the temple get their food from the temple, and that those who serve at the altar share in what is offered on the altar? 14In the same way, the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should receive their living from the gospel.

15 But I have not used any of these rights.

Why did he do that? He wanted to be accepted by those who he was reaching out to. He wanted to do it by being one with them in their culture and background. So he lived life of discipline. He beat his body. He lived like a Jew to win the Jew. The Gentile to win a Gentile. See verse 19 onwards….

19 Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. 20 To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. 21 To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. 22 To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. 23 I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.

As such the following words “26 Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. 27 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.” were clearly referring to his submission to the culture of the people whose souls there were trying to win.

You see the prize is not salvation. The prize to Paul was the souls of the people he was trying to win. The prize he wanted to win was the salvation of the souls of others and not his. If Paul wasn’t sure of his salvation, he would have never said ‘for me to live is Christ, to die is GAIN.’ He knows where he is going.

May those of you who feel disqualified return to a saviour who accepts you and love you.

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