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The 'Adokimos' Man

The apostle Paul was adept at using metaphorical language to help readers understand how he envisioned his ministry and lived his life. Common metaphors pertained to athletics; in particular, the runner and the fighter. In 1 Corinthians 9:22-27, Paul used these two metaphors to illustrate the discipline he employed in order to be as effective as possible and experience maximum results for his efforts. He established the tone for the context with this summary statement: “I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some” (9:22). 

The phrase by all means is the translation of 'pantōs', meaning “altogether, in any and every way, by all means.” Paul had a comprehensive mindset whereby he considered ALL of his words, plans, actions and associations as lending themselves to the salvation of ALL manner of sinners. How many of us can say we live our lives with the same mindset? In doing this, Paul likened his efforts to one who runs and to one who fights. He wrote:

I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air: 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” (1 Corinthians 9:26-27). 

Paul disclosed his greatest fear as a preacher, that of becoming a castaway. The word is 'adokimos', a word which means “not standing the test, not approved.” The word was used of metals and coins that the assay process revealed to be inferior, defective, worthless for the purpose intended. Many metal manufacturers today utilize quality control measures to test the strength and structural integrity of their products BEFORE marketing them to consumers. 

The word 'adokimos' is used eight times in the NT. This is the ONLY time it's translated castaway. In one usage it's translated rejected. In the other six usages, it's translated reprobate. The fact Paul chose this word to describe a ministry outcome he wanted to avoid speaks volumes about the word reprobate. It might help to break down the word 'reprobate' into 're-probate'. The 'probate' process involves the official proving of a will, establishing its validity. If the probate process hits a snag and requires further research to ascertain its validity, the will can then be considered to be in 'reprobate' status; that is, in need of additional scrutiny to work out the bugs. 

Think about the high school athlete who tries out for the football team. After giving his best effort to impress the coaches, the head coach pulls him aside, and says: “Son, you've got a lot of heart. But you're just not big enough, strong enough or fast enough to make the team. Spend the off season getting bigger, stronger and faster. Then try again next year!” The high school athlete proved himself to be reprobate; that is, when coaches measured him against the requirements for a team position, he came up short. But a reprobate status did not preclude him going back to the drawing board, working hard and eventually making the team. There is a common misconception about the word 'reprobate' that includes finality. In Paul's case, going back to the drawing board and having to 're-probate' himself for ministry after he had preached to others was not an option. So he took measures to ensure that did not happen.

Paul used two verbs to describe these measures. In the first, he said: “I keep under my body.” In the second, he said: “[I] bring it [my body] into subjection.” The verb keep under is 'hypōpiazō', meaning “to beat black and blue, to hit under the eye (buffet or disable an antagonist as a pugilist).” The verb is present tense, signifying an ongoing practice of life, a habit. The verb bring into subjection is 'doulagōgeō', which means “to lead away into slavery, claim as one's slave.” The verb contains the ideas of severity, rigid discipline. As a matter of observation, it is always a FREE man who leads the SLAVE away! The verb is also present tense. Both verbs are active voice, which conveys the idea of a proactive approach to discipline. It portrays the believer as one having his eyes on the prize of an incorruptible crown (9:24-25), fully willing to implement the disciplines necessary to attain it!

The imagery of one pummeling his body into submission, leading it into slavery, has a direct connection with the phrase when I have preached to others. What exactly is the preaching (declaration) of the gospel meant to produce? Is it not FREEDOM from sin and its penalty! Is not the gospel of Christ all about LIBERTY? Did not Jesus say he came to SET AT LIBERTY them that are bruised (Luke 4:18)? Does not scripture admonish us to stand fast in the LIBERTY wherein Christ made us FREE (Galatians 5:1)? Is not the role of the indwelling Spirit to enable believers to enjoy that LIBERTY (2 Corinthians 3:17)? What Paul is essentially saying is the only qualified preacher of LIBERTY is a LIBERATED man! What Paul wanted to avoid AT ALL COSTS was being a preacher of LIBERTY while being in SLAVERY to carnal desires! So he implemented the disciplines necessary to ensure his body was the slave and his spirit the master! 

This passage about the 'adokimos' man is MORE relevant to the modern-day American pulpit than anyone could possibly imagine. On any given Sunday, men wearing clergy robes and fashionable suits will fulfill  perfunctory pulpit duties. And before the next Sunday rolls around, they will have visited an Internet porn site, engaged in cybersex, conducted an adulterous affair at a secret rendezvous, gorged themselves in gluttonous fashion at an all-you-can-eat buffet, carved up a brother with malicious gossip or maybe just squandered their time giving themselves to EVERY kind of activity EXCEPT the Word of God and prayer (Acts 6:4). In short, they'll step up to the pulpit the next Lord's Day attempting to proclaim a message of liberty to sinners while standing in need of liberation themselves. 

I'm not one of those super saints who quotes 2 Chronicles 7:14 every chance they get and blames the church for all of America's ills. In my opinion, one simply cannot make that case from scripture. But I'll readily admit a huge contributing factor to the cesspool of sin America has become is the 'adokimos' man with his undisciplined life and powerless pulpit!


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