1 Corinthians 9:27 - Not a "Castaway," but Disapproved?

1 Corinthians 9:27  •  2 min. read  •  grade level: 8
Question: 1 Cor. 9:2727But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway. (1 Corinthians 9:27). Is there any sufficient reason to lower the last clause, as Calvin does, by excluding the issue of ruin before God, and looking rather at failure in the fruit of service among men? In other words, does the apostle mean, not a “castaway” or reprobate, but merely disapproved for his work and disappointed of a special prize? Q.
Answer: There ought to be no doubt that in the text, as in the context, the most searching and solemn warning is intended. Very great levity at that time prevailed in the Corinthian assembly: parties attaching themselves to favorite teachers, just as outside to the rival schools of philosophy; indifference to gross wickedness in their midst; keenness for their alleged rights carried into worldly law-courts; boasting of liberty in partaking of food which had been offered to idols; women forward in speaking; men turning the assembly into license for their speech; and questions raised, not only as to the marriage tie but such a truth as the resurrection of the body. They were too unspiritual to feel the dishonor done to the Lord by all this laxity. Hence it is that the apostle insists, not on preaching only but on our living to God soberly, justly, and piously as he enjoins in writing later to Titus. To make it the more impressive, without being personal, he applies the case to himself. “I therefore thus run, as not uncertainly; I so combat as not beating the air. But I buffet my body, and lead it captive, lest having preached to others I should be myself reprobate.” It is not service or fruit failing, but himself rejected by God. The use of the word is the same as in 2 Cor. 13:5-75Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates? 6But I trust that ye shall know that we are not reprobates. 7Now I pray to God that ye do no evil; not that we should appear approved, but that ye should do that which is honest, though we be as reprobates. (2 Corinthians 13:5‑7). It has no other sense in the N.T. Even if softened down to disapproved, it means everywhere the total and final disapprobation of God. It is really lack of faith, fearing to face the plain and certain truth that an unholy liver, no matter how he preaches or what the resulting fruit, will assuredly be lost. Paul was as decided for devotedness of life as for sovereign grace in justifying the ungodly. Nor is there a greater danger for man and dishonor to God than to be zealous in preaching and loose in practice. This he follows up for Christians generally (not preachers only) in 1 Cor. 105But with many of them God was not well pleased: for they were overthrown in the wilderness. 6Now these things were our examples, to the intent we should not lust after evil things, as they also lusted. 7Neither be ye idolaters, as were some of them; as it is written, The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play. (1 Corinthians 10:5‑7) where he adduces the ruin of multitudes in Israel, as a warning to presumptuous professors of Christianity