|Silver being refined|
Paul said: "Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win. Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified." (1Co 9:24-27)
I want to focus on his final sentence in this passage. He said he disciplined his body, which literally means to hit under the eye or subdue. Paul knew what it meant to deny himself, mortify his flesh and take up his cross daily. It was a way of life for him.
So That I Myself May Not Become a Castaway
He did this so that after he had preached to others, he himself would not be disqualified. I would like to draw your attention to the word “disqualified.” It comes from the Greek word adokimos. Here is a little word study on adokimos from Bruce Hurt on his Precept Austin website:
Worthless (96) (adokimos from a = without + dokimos = tested and thus reliable or acceptable) refers to that which is rejected after a trial or examination because it fails the test. It means to put to the test for the purpose of being approved, but failing to meet the requirements.
Old Testament Use of Adokimos
The basic meaning of adokimos is that of failing to meet the test or not standing the test. It describes that which does not prove itself to be such as it ought and which is therefore disapproved and useless. For example, "sterile soil" (see Hebrews 6:8 below) is unfit for fulfilling its purpose.
In short adokimos describes that which is worthless, spurious, unqualified, disqualified, corrupted, not approved. Adokimos was commonly used of metals that were rejected by refiners because of impurities. The impure metals were discarded, and adokimos therefore came to include the ideas of worthlessness and uselessness. -- from Bruce Hurt’s Precept-Austin commentary on Titus 1:16
In the Greek Old testament, known as the Septuagint (LXX), the word adokimos occurs twice in Pr 25:4 and Isa 1:22.
The Lord said to unfaithful Israel, “Your silver has become dross, Your drink diluted with water.” (Isa 1:22)
Solomon wrote, “Take away the dross from the silver, And there comes out a vessel for the smith;” (Pro 25:4)
In both of these passages, the word adokimos is translated “dross,” literally meaning refuse or scoria (rejected matter, that which is thrown off), or worthless.
Other New Testament Uses of Adokimos
The word adokimos is used elsewhere in the New Testament as well, in the following passages (see underlined words):
And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper, (Rom 1:28)
Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you--unless indeed you fail the test? (2Co 13:5)
But I trust that you will realize that we ourselves do not fail the test. (2Co 13:6)
Now we pray to God that you do no wrong; not that we ourselves may appear approved, but that you may do what is right, even though we may appear unapproved. (2Co 13:7)
Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so these men also oppose the truth, men of depraved mind, rejected in regard to the faith. (2Ti 3:8)
They profess to know God, but by their deeds they deny Him, being detestable and disobedient and worthless for any good deed. (Tit 1:16)
For ground that drinks the rain which often falls on it and brings forth vegetation useful to those for whose sake it is also tilled, receives a blessing from God; but if it yields thorns and thistles, it is worthless and close to being cursed, and it ends up being burned. (Heb 6:7-8)
but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified. (1Co 9:27)
Losing His Reward or Missing Heaven?
Now let’s look at the context of our main text in 1 Corinthians 9. We need to determine whether Paul was talking about losing his reward for his labor in the Lord, or missing heaven. We know that he had written earlier in this letter about a man's reward being burned up, if he builds incorrectly, but he himself will be saved as through a fire (1 Cor 3:18).
But in this passage, Paul is speaking about the need to run the race of a disciple in such a way as to win the prize. This requires strict discipline in much the same way that an Olympic athlete requires strict training. Then Paul goes on to talk about the Israelites who were laid low in the wilderness, because God was not well-pleased with them. He warns the Corinthian Church against immoral living, and craving evil, for which the Israelites were destroyed (1 Cor 10:9). He also warns about grumbling, for which the Israelites were also destroyed (1 Cor 10:10).
We know that Paul is talking about the possibility of Christians missing heaven here, because he clearly stated in chapter six that those who live such lives will not inherit the kingdom of God. He said, "Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God." (1Co 6:9-10)
He goes on to say, “Now these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come. Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall.” (1Co 10:11-12)
There are two important points here in 1 Cor 10:11-12 that are directly relevant to what he said in 1 Cor 9:27. He said that the destruction of the Israelites in the desert for their sin is an example meant to warn us, so that we do not likewise fall. Then he says that if any disciple of Christ thinks he stands, he should take heed that he does not fall. This word “fall” means to fall down or fail. So if you are a Christian, be careful you don’t fall. This would be a completely useless and unnecessary warning in Scripture, if it were impossible for a Christian to fall.
The Lord says that before He comes, He will send His messenger to prepare His people. We know that He did this through John the Baptist before His first coming, and He is doing it again now right before His second coming. "He will sit as a smelter and purifier of silver, and He will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, so that they may present to the LORD offerings in righteousness." (Mal 3:3)
I for one desire the refiner's fire to burn up all the worthless dross within me. I hope you do also. Please read my other blog called Holy Fire Baptism for more on this.
Putting it All Together
If even the apostle Paul disciplined his body and made it his slave, so that he would not become corrupted, depraved, unapproved, disqualified or worthless, then we know this applies to every believer -- no matter if they are a pastor, elder, deacon, teacher, or simply a disciple of the Lord.
Let's receive this warning for what it is and examine ourselves to make sure we are living in such a way that is consistent with Jesus Christ living in us. Let's be sure we are not living in such a way that is corrupted, depraved, unapproved, disqualified or worthless. We don't want to be corrupted Christians and fail to receive the prize. Don't receive God's grace in vain! (2 Cor 6:1)
This requires taking up your cross daily, denying yourself, mortifying your flesh, and following Jesus. Paul called it beating his body and making it his slave. You need to ask the Holy Spirit every day to apply the cross to your flesh to hold it in a place of death. Ask the Lord to send His holy fire to refine you and remove all the dross from your heart, everything that will not pass through the fire as purely from Him. Ask Him to do whatever it takes to prepare you for His soon coming. And He who began a good work in you will be faithful to perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.
Author's note: A related song I'd like to share here is "I Don't Wanna Fall Away from You" by Keith Green. Here are some related articles you should check out:
Taken to Hell
Angelica Zambrano Heaven and Hell
Obedience by the Spirit
Salvation with Fear and Trembling
Is Obedience Optional
The Apostasy Parables
Attribution notice: Most Scripture quotations taken from the NASB. Silver refining from Malachi 3:3 puzzle on Rock4Jesus.
You can access my complete blog directory at "Writing for the Master." Now I'd like to ask a very important question.
Do You Want to Know Him?
If you want to know Jesus personally, you can. It all begins when you repent and believe in Jesus. Do you know what God's Word, the Bible says?
“Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.’” (Mar 1:14b-15). He preached that we must repent and believe.
Please see my explanation of this in my post called "Do You Want to Know Jesus?"
Len Lacroix is the founder of Doulos Missions International. He was based in Eastern Europe for four years, making disciples, as well as helping leaders to be more effective at making disciples who multiply, developing leaders who multiply, with the ultimate goal of planting churches that multiply. His ministry is now based in the United States with the same goal of helping fulfill the Great Commission. www.dmiworld.org.