“But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others, I myself should be disqualified.”
Another of my unfavorite verses. I don’t feel like I am a very disciplined person. At some point will a lack of discipline disqualify me from the Christian life because I did not try hard enough? And by the way – what is hard enough? See why I didn’t like this verse? It seemed like my effort was the determiner of God’s relationship with me. That is not good news.
That changed when I put it in context: the cultural context, the textual context, and the gospel context.
- Cultural Context: Paul was likely referring to the Isthmiam games held outside of Corinth. They were one of the great national festivals and included all kinds of athletic events including foot races. These races had heralds that both called others to the race and then also ran in the race themselves.
- Textual Context: In I Cor 9, Paul describes himself as one who is heralding others to the gospel. He has become “all things to all people, that by all means I might save some.” That is his role in the race. He is the apostle calling others. What is he concerned about being disqualified from? From the TASK of being a herald. An apostle. Of calling others to the race. In the gospel, we can be disqualified from a kingdom task, but never from our relationship with the King!
- Gospel Context: Nothing “will able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
So what are my applications? First – eliminate discipline? Absolutely not. I want to be effective and faithful in the task God has given me. And second – rejoice in the good news of the gospel, that when my discipline droops and my faithfulness flags, His loving and faithful arms are holding me tight.
ACTION: Forward this to a friend who needs some good news and suggest they become a subscriber so the good news of the gospel can keep permeating their lives and their reading of the Scriptures.