THE VALUE OF THE ETERNAL PRIZE AND THE DANGER OF DISQUALIFICATION MOTIVATE DISCIPLINED CHRISTIAN LIVING IN THE WARFARE AGAINST SIN
– Are we talking in this passage about rewards that will differentiate between believers based on the quality of their Christian service . . . OR
– Are we talking about gaining or being disqualified from the same prize that awaits each believer = eternal life and fellowship with God
Issues to deal with:
– says that only one receives the prize – how can this be a reference to salvation?
– Apostle Paul views himself as in danger of disqualification – What to make of this?
MacArthur takes the view that it may refer to disqualification “from preaching and leading the church, particularly being blameless and above reproach in the sexual area, since such sin is a disqualification.”
But what does the text say?
A. Preceding context – 9:23 “that I may be a fellow partaker of it” [the gospel]
Seems to be talking about fellowship in the eternal life that is in the Son in the same sense that fellowship is spoken of in 1 John 1:1-4
B. Following context – 10:5 “Nevertheless, with most of them God was not well-pleased; for they were laid low in the wilderness.”
Paul uses this historical example to exhort the Corinthians not to crave evil things; not to be idolaters; not to act immorally; not to try the Lord; not to grumble; etc.; This usage does not seem to lend a lot of weight in either direction.
Start at the end – word study of “disqualified” in v. 27 – NT usage is decisive:
2 Cor. 13:5-7 — used of reprobates
Heb. 6:8 – “worthless and in danger of being cursed”
Rom. 1:28 – “disapproved mind”
2 Tim. 3:8 – “Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so these men also oppose the truth, men of depraved mind, rejected in regard to the faith.”
Titus 1:16 – “They profess to know God, but by their deeds they deny Him, being detestable and disobedient and worthless for any good deed.”
The Corinthian believers exhibited a carelessness in their Christian living and a casualness that did not recognize the reality of their ongoing warfare with sin. The Apostle Paul shakes them out of their lethargy with this motivational plea for disciplined Christian living.
Nicoll: Paul pursues this line of warning, addressed to men who were imperiling their own souls by self-indulgence and worldly conformity. Of the danger of missing the prize of life through indiscipline Paul is keenly sensible in his own case; he conveys his apprehension under the picture, so familiar to the Corinthians, of the Isthmian Games.
Paul uses both the carrot and the stick and dresses up his appeal in the familiar athletic pictures of two different types of contests: an Olympic style marathon race and an intense boxing match.
These two analogies from the realm of sports should be self evident:
“Do you not know that”
I. (:24-25) THE CARROT – RUNNING ANALOGY
THE VALUE OF THE ETERNAL PRIZE MOTIVATES DISCIPLINED CHRISTIAN LIVING IN THE WARFARE AGAINST SIN
A. Participation Does Not Equate to Victory
1. The Christian Life is a Marathon … not a Sprint
“in a race”
(Although the figure used here for a stadion was only a furlong long, a little more than 200 yards)
2. Participation is Not the Same as Perseverance and Victory
“the runners all compete”
3. Receiving the Prize is What Matters
“but only one receives the prize?”
B. Pursue the Prize Diligently and Zealously
“Run in such a way that you may win it.”
Why else would you train and participate? The possibility of running and not obtaining is very real to the Apostle Paul.
The Goal of the Christian life is Victory
How is victory defined here?
Piper: The point here is not that only one Christian wins the prize of the upward call of God. As a matter of fact in the Christian race one of the rules is that you must help others finish (Hebrews 3:13). Finishing the race is a community project. The point is not that there is only one winner. The point is: run the way the winner runs.
How does the winner run? He runs hard. He gives the race everything he has. In another place Paul says, “Never flag in zeal, be aglow with the Spirit, serve the Lord” (Romans 12:10). This is the way we are to run in our service for Christ: with zeal and fervent in the Spirit. Not lazy or idle or sluggish or unconcerned.
C. Disciplined Living (Exercising Self Control by the Spirit) is the Key to Victory
“Athletes exercise self-control in all things”
What type of discipline and training do we see from athletes?
How would you describe disciplined Christian living?
Why must the scope of this discipline be “in all things”?:
Morris: Notice that the athlete denies himself many lawful pleasures. The Christian must avoid not only definite sin, but anything that hinders his complete effectiveness.
D. Earthly Prizes Cannot Compare to the Eternal Prize
1. Earthly Prizes are Perishable
“they do it to receive a perishable wreath”
2. The Eternal Prize is Imperishable
“but we an imperishable one.”
Lenski: The argument from the less to the greater is overwhelming: if those athletes practice such self-control merely to obtain a slight and fading earthly crown, shall we do less for a heavenly crown of glory that lasts forever?
II. (:26-27) THE STICK – BOXING ANALOGY
THE DANGER OF DISQUALIFICATION MOTIVATES DISCIPLINED CHRISTIAN LIVING IN THE WARFARE AGAINST SIN
A. (:26) Key Elements of Disciplined Christian Living
1. Discipline Involves Purposeful Dedication
a. Transition: Race Analogy – Purposeful Running
“So I do not run aimlessly”
b. Boxing Analogy – Purposeful Boxing
“nor do I box as though beating the air”
2. Discipline Involves Hardship and Mastery
a. Hardship / Suffering
“but I punish my body”
b. Mastery / Dominion
“and enslave it”
MacArthur: Most people, including many Christians, are instead slaves to their bodies. Their bodies tell their minds what to do. Their bodies decide when to eat, what to eat, how much to eat, when to sleep and get up, and so on. An athlete cannot allow that. He follows the training rules, not his body. He runs when he would rather be resting, he eats a balanced meal when he would rather have a chocolate sundae, he goes to bed when he would rather stay up, and he gets up early to train when he would rather stay in bed. An athlete leads his body; he does not follow it. It is his slave, not the other way around.
B. (:27) Ever Present Danger of Ultimate Disqualification
1. Christian Service No Guarantee of Ultimate Victory
“so that after proclaiming to others”
2. Disqualification Would be a Terrible Tragedy
“I myself should not be disqualified.”