Don’t Be Disqualified!

Posted on October 8, 2021


By David Ettinger

Losing the Privilege
The title of this post relates to Christian service on the Lord’s behalf, and it comes from 1 Corinthians 9:27: “… but I strictly discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified.”

The apostle Paul was cautious in his Christian walk, so much so that he feared losing the privilege of serving God should his life not measure up to the Lord’s – or at least his own –standards. What was Paul getting at?

Paul’s Defense
Paul’s primary focus in 1 Corinthians 9 was the defense of his Gospel ministry. Specifically, Paul was defending his worthiness, sincerity, and credibility as an evangelist by refusing compensation for preaching the Gospel so as not be accused of being motivated by money.

Paul’s refusal to be compensated was commendable considering he was perfectly within his rights to receive monetary considerations for preaching: “So also the Lord directed those who proclaim the gospel to get their living from the gospel” (v. 14).

So, yes, Paul had every right to be compensated, but refused: “But I have used none of these things. And I have not written these things so that it will be done so in my case; for it would be better for me to die than that” (v. 16).

Paul preached the Gospel “for free” and trusted God to meet his physical needs. By not being indebted to man, Paul was free from human obligations. Yet, he felt spiritually obligated: “For though I am free from all people, I have made myself a slave to all, so that I may gain more.”

What Paul gained was the spiritual reward of preaching the Gospel from a pure heart, doing so for the pleasure of it, not for monetary gain. Paul renounced his personal rights for a specific purpose: “To the weak I became weak, that I might gain the weak; I have become all things to all people, so that I may by all means save some” (v. 19, emphasis added).

Paul did just about anything necessary to win souls for Christ. Every move he made was to advance the Gospel.

And Yet …
Despite all this, Paul had fears. He feared that if his personal life did not measure up, he would “be disqualified” from serving God.

In verses 24 through 26 Paul wrote of how athletes train to win – that is disciplining their bodies to be in optimal shape for competition. By comparison, Paul encourages Christians to do the same spiritually: “… I strictly discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified” (v. 27).

Paul’s point is that effective service for Christ involves self-surrender, self-control, and self-sacrifice. Conversely, being self-indulgent can disqualify Christians from serving.

But what of this word “disqualify”? Is it talking about losing salvation? In some cases, yes, but not here. The Greek word for “disqualified” is adikimos, which can be translated “unapproved,” “unfit,” or “not standing the test.”

Paul is saying that if Christians – him included – slack in their behavior and self-discipline, they can forfeit the privilege of serving God. Believers who either live sinfully or make no attempt to live righteously can be “put on the shelf” when it comes to Christian service.

Don’t Be Disqualified
If Paul feared he could be disqualified from Christian service, you and I should fear the same. The Corinthians to whom Paul wrote were steeped in worldliness and sin. What kind of sin? Chapter 10 gives us some clues: “Do not be idolaters …” (v. 7); “Nor are we to commit sexual immorality …” (v. 8); “Nor are we to put the Lord to the test …” (v. 9); “Nor grumble …” (v. 10). Instead, “No one is to seek his own advantage, but rather that of his neighbor” (v. 24).

We are our worst enemies when it comes to serving Christ as our sins and indulgences render us “disqualified” in this area (Isaiah 59:2; Jeremiah 5:25). We must be mindful of the way we live our lives that we may “Run in such a way that [we] may win” (1 Corinthians 9:24).

Let us follow Paul’s lead by living such lives that God will declare us “qualified” to communicate the message of salvation in Christ to a world perishing in its sin!