I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified (1 Corinthians 9:27). Paul, writing to the church at Corinth to correct their problems, confesses that he himself has to be careful to avoid sin. In fact Paul intimates he goes to great lengths — disciplining his body, keeping himself under control — to avoid the pitfalls of willful sin. But why? Did Paul not believe in the perseverance of the saints, or in the eternal security of believers?
Of the eight speeches by Paul detailed by Luke in the book of Acts, the address in Acts 20 to the Ephesian elders is the only pastoral one. In fact, it is the only public discourse recorded in Acts that is addressed to a Christian audience—which clearly indicates how purposeful and proactive the early church was in reaching out to the unbelieving world with the gospel!
In several places in Scripture Paul gives us a list of the kinds of sins that characterize the unsaved, along with the admonition not to tolerate these sins in our own lives as professing believers (1 Corinthians 10:7-12; Ephesians 5:3-7; Colossians 3:5-9). It should be incredibly sobering to us if we are regularly participating in the exact same sins that have brought others under the wrath and judgment of God!
No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it (1 Corinthians 10:13). God is faithful. What a wonderful reminder! God will never give up on what he has begun, he will never renege on any promise he has made. Because God will never give up, we ought to never give up. And yet God’s faithfulness, we are reminded in this very verse of Scripture,
“According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it“ (1 Corinthians 3:10). Paul emphasizes over and over again that his labors were “according to the grace of God.” In other words, we can only do what God enables us to do. We are only as strong or skillful or successful as God’s grace working in and through us. Have we been blessed to persevere in Christian service for several years or decades? We are