1 Corinthians 9:26–27 (NKJV)
26 Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus, I fight: not as one who beats the air.
27 But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.
Again, in this passage, many Christians interpret Paul’s prospect of becoming disqualified as a possibility of losing his salvation through lack of discipline. Was Paul afraid he might be eternally separated from God if he messed up late in life, although he had loved and served Jesus for many years? The short answer is NO. Let me explain why. The point of the entire context is not the receiving of eternal life nor Paul’s making it to heaven when he dies, but rather his faithfulness and usefulness to God in what God wants to accomplish through Paul’s life. It’s the joy of hearing Jesus say, ”Well done, good and faithful servant!” (Matthew 25:21, 23). The prize is not eternal life, because eternal life is a free gift of God. The prize, or the crown, is significance in the Kingdom of God, blessing in his life and ministry, and praises from God when Paul would stand before Him after a life well lived in His service. Paul is not concerned about losing his eternal life, but he’s very concerned about not being disqualified for ministry. Since he desires to continue his ministry and run in a way that is pleasing and honoring to God, he runs with care and perseverance.
The same thing is true for your life. Being disqualified doesn’t mean losing your eternal life but losing your ministry or your opportunity to serve God in this life. It’s these things Paul could lose and which any of us could lose as well if we fail to keep our bodies in discipline and self-control.
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