“But 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.”
The above named Scripture is frequently referred to by those work-mongers who deny the efficiency of the grace of God to secure the eternal salvation of those on whom it is bestowed, with a manifest design to make the impression that the apostle Paul taught the doctrine of falling from grace. Infidels themselves in regard to the testimony of God on that subject, they desire to strengthen their skepticism by dragging the inspired apostle into their company. They would make it appear, if possible, that the same Paul who had so constantly and persistently contended that salvation was by grace alone, who declared to the saints at Ephesus, and to the faithful in Christ Jesus, that it was by grace they were saved, through faith, and that not of themselves, it is the gift of God; not of works, lest any man should boast; and who elsewhere contended that if salvation were of grace it could not be by works; and if by works it could not be by grace; and who positively and emphatically declared that it was not of works, but that it was by grace, and grace alone; that this same Paul was, after all, a poor, blind Arminian, and did hold that Christians were liable to fall from grace and be damned if they trusted alone in the grace of God for their salvation. Well did this apostle anticipate their infidelity, their cunning craftiness, and their handling the word of God deceitfully, when he charged them with turning the truth of God into a lie. This they do when they make the Scriptures say what they never said, and testify the opposite of what they have always testified. But it is only necessary to examine attentively, candidly what the apostle and all other inspired writers have said, to expose the deception of those God-defying skeptics who lie in wait to deceive. Those base deceivers would represent that the works of men are more effectual in securing salvation than the grace of God; for they represent that men may be the subjects of grace, have the grace of God in their hearts, feel its power to the extent that Paul had felt it when God himself had told Paul personally, “My grace is sufficient for thee,” and afterwards that grace prove insufficient, they fall from it and perish forever, and that the works of men are more reliable than the Saviour’s blood and righteousness; that they may be of the number for whom Christ shed his blood, to whom God has imputed his righteousness without works, and yet if they fail to secure their salvation by their own willing and doing, they will be lost, notwithstanding the grace of God and the blood and righteousness of our Lord Jesus Christ. Paul said by the grace of God he was what he was; but they would make him say by his own works he was what he was.
In urging on the Corinthian saints that they should abstain from idolatry and carnal lusts, that they might thereby enjoy the fellowship and communion of all who were of the household of God, he in the commencement of this chapter adverts to his own standing and experience. Of his standing in the house of God, he says, “Am I not an apostle? am I not free? have I not seen the Lord?” etc. His standing was such as could not be questioned as a child of God, an heir of immortality and an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, yet with all this array of incontestable evidence in his favor, to enjoy the confidence and fellowship of his brethren he had to keep under his body and to bring it into subjection. Keep his body under what? Bring it into subjection to what? He has informed us that with his mind he served the law of God, but with his flesh, or body, the law of sin. He found another law, that is, another from the law of the Spirit of life which is in Christ Jesus. This other law in his members, namely, the members of his body, bringing him into captivity to the law of sin which was in his members, for in his flesh dwelt no good thing. He had a continual warfare between the flesh and Spirit. When absent from the body he was present with the Lord, and when at home in the body he was absent from the Lord. The body naturally struggling for the ascendancy in the conflict, but the Spirit warring against the flesh, suppressed the corruptions of the body and kept it under, and in subjection to the new man, which, after God, is created in righteousness and true holiness. But why this conflict? Not to save his soul from hell; that salvation was already accomplished, and the assurance given him by the seal of God himself. Why then did he struggle with the corruptions of his flesh? Ah, if he had been an Arminian perhaps he would not, for they have often said if they were only sure that they would be saved at last, they would give a loose rein to all their wicked propensities; they would steal, murder and commit all manner of wickedness, and take their fill of sin. Well, they can never have that assurance until they are born of God, and if they are ever born of God they will never use such language, for they will then find in them a principle which aspires after holiness and struggles against the lusts of the flesh.
But the question is, In what sense Paul, after preaching to others, could himself be a castaway? We understand him to mean in regard to his usefulness to the saints as a minister of Christ unto them. He tells us in this chapter of his labors and sacrifices in the work of the ministry for the sake of the saints. He had waived his right to be supported by his brethren, and had accommodated himself to the condition and capacity of Jews and Gentiles, to the strong and to the weak, that his labors might be beneficial to them. In all his labors and sacrifices he had conferred not with flesh and blood, he had not pursued a course gratifying to the body, but in fastings oft, in afflictions, stripes and imprisonments oft, he had kept his body under and brought it into subjection, that his ministry might be useful to the saints. Suppose that Paul, while preaching the truth to the people, had indulged the unhallowed propensities of his depraved nature, mingling with scoffers, in rioting, drunkenness, fighting, or in any manner unbecoming his high and holy calling, would not such indulgence of the flesh have lowered him in the esteem and fellowship of his brethren? We have some painful examples of those who preach good, sound Bible doctrine, but their conduct out of the pulpit is such as contradicts the spirit of the truth which they proclaim. We have heard it said of some that when in the pulpit they never ought to go out, and when out they never ought to be allowed to go in. Christ compares his ministers to salt, but he says, If the salt have lost its savor, it is thenceforth good for nothing but to be cast out, or cast away, and trodden under foot of men. When cast away from the fellowship and confidence of the saints their preaching cannot be edifying, and if cast out, the world has no use for them, and they are trodden under foot of men.
May 15, 1863.
Elder Gilbert Beebe
Editorials Volume 5
Pages 362 – 365