Recently a question was posed concerning the meaning of “disqualification” in 1 Corinthians 9:27 and 2 Corinthians 13:5. The following was my response to the aforementioned query:
In performing a search of the Greek word (adokimos) that is translated “disapproved” or “disqualified” the same Greek word (adokimos) is found in 1 Corinthians 9:27, 2 Corinthians 13:5-7, Hebrews 6:8, 2 Timothy 3:8, Titus 1:16, and Romans 1:28. I’ll bold the translated English. But first, here is Thayer’s definition of the Greek word, adokimos:
1) not standing the test, not approved.
1a) properly used of metals and coins.
2) that which does not prove itself such as it ought.
2a) unfit for, unproved, spurious, reprobate.
Hebrews 6:8: “but bearing thorns and thistles,” it is deemed unfit and near a curse, of which the end is for burning.) The LITV translates it “unfit.” Other translations translate it as worthless, rejected, or disapproved. This appears to speak of finality–that is, those unregenerate persons who continually bear “thorns and thistles” are unfit, the end of which is burning. Evidence of their disqualification is their bearing of the “fruit” of thorns and thistles (cf. Romans 6:21, 7:5; Hebrews 9:14).
2 Timothy 3:8: “But in the way Jannes and Jambres withstood Moses, so also these withstand the truth, men having been corrupted in mind, found worthless concerning the faith.” This is the LITV, which translates the Greek, “worthless.” Other translations translate it reprobate, disapproved. Those who withstand the truth of the gospel are shown to be disqualified concerning the faith. The apostle Paul, before he was saved by God (Galatians 1:15-16) was disqualified concerning the faith, clearly evidenced by his ignorant zeal (cf. Romans 10:1-3; Galatians 1:13).
Titus 1:16: “They profess to know God, but by their works they deny Him, being abominable and disobedient, and worthless to every good work.” LITV translates again as “worthless.” Other translations translate the Greek as reprobate, disapproved, and disqualified. Multitudes of false religionists profess to know God, many of them professing to know the God of Christianity. For example, the WCF and its adherents profess to know God, but by their evil work of endorsing adultery they show themselves to be disqualified to every good work.
Romans 1:28: “And even as they did not think fit to have God in their knowledge, God gave them up to a reprobate mind, to do the things not right.” LITV translates it “reprobate.” Other translations, disapproved — so a, “disapproved mind.” Obviously the word “reprobate” must be defined. For it may mean simply disapproved or disqualified. God’s giving an unregenerate person up to a “reprobate” mind to homosexuality is not necessarily a final giving up since 1 Corinthians 6:11 says that some regenerate persons who were formerly homosexual were delivered (1 Corinthians 6:9-11). Okay, now to the main passages in question:
In 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 Paul is talking about persevering in the faith–which of course, every elect person will do since it is God who is preserving them by His power:
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, He according to His great mercy having regenerated us to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and unfading, having been kept in Heaven for you the ones in the power of God being guarded through faith to a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time; in which you exult; yet a little while, if need be, grieving in manifold trials, so that the proving of your faith, much more precious than perishing gold, but having been proved through fire, may be found to praise and honor and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ; whom having not seen, you love; in whom not yet seeing, but believing, you exult with joy unspeakable and being glorified, obtaining the end of your faith, the salvation of your souls” (1 Peter 1:3-9).
“And the Lord will deliver me from every wicked work and will save me for His heavenly kingdom; to whom be the glory to the ages of the ages. Amen” (2 Timothy 4:18).
“Now to Him being able to keep you without stumbling, and to set you before His glory without blemish, with unspeakable joy” (Jude 1:24).
Paul’s writing of “buffeting” his body and “leading it captive” is in the context of proclaiming the gospel to others. He does this lest he be shown to be disqualified. Obviously, if “shown to be disqualified” means shown to be unregenerate, then Paul is just talking about the fruit and the good works that God causes His people to walk in and produce (Romans 7:4; Ephesians 2:10). At the end of his life, Paul said that he fought the good fight, that he had finished the race, that he had kept the faith (2 Timothy 4:7). Paul mentions Demas as one who did not keep the faith, but departed from it having loved the present world (2 Timothy 4:10). Presumably Demas had also proclaimed the truth to others. But unlike Paul, Demas did not “lead his body captive” by showing contempt for the world, but showed himself to be disqualified by being enamored with it (cf. James 4:4; 1 John 2:15-17).
Also, seemingly in the context of disqualification Paul tells the Corinthian assembly that many of those who had passed through the Sea, etc., were shown to be disqualified by their practice of immorality and idolatry (1 Corinthians 10:1-14). Of course, our faith, repentance, good works, etc., are NOT conditions for gaining or maintaining salvation or assurance of salvation for that is grounded exclusively and firmly on the Rock (i.e., the Person and Work of Jesus Christ). All of these things are fruits or evidences of salvation.
We love the brethren lest we be shown to be disqualified (1 John 3:14-17). Is our love for each other perfect or sinless? No. And while we “know that we have passed from death to life because we love the brothers” (1 John 3:14), this confirming evidence is not our hope since we fall short, but our lives are characterized by a constant striving to lay down our lives for each other as Christ has laid down His life for us (1 John 3:16). Many self-righteous religionists confound the evidences of salvation with the assurance of salvation. In so doing they show themselves disqualified ones–ones who insult the Spirit of grace by saying that He works “graciously” in them to establish a righteousness of their own (Romans 10:1-3), rather than causing them to trust in Christ alone (John 15:26, 16:13-14).
In short, in the specific context of 1 Corinthians 9:27 disqualification would be anything that shows a professing believer to be an unbeliever. As for 2 Corinthians 13:5, I will quote Marc (plus intersperse a few comments of my own):
“Examine yourselves, whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Or do you not yourselves perceive that Jesus Christ is in you, unless you are disapproved?” (2Co 13:5)
All professing believers (which includes true believers and professing believers who are really unbelievers) are to examine and test themselves. They are to scrutinize themselves, prove themselves, inspect themselves, analyze themselves.
I’ll again put in here what self-righteous religionists like to say about this passage. They say that this passage proves that believers can doubt their salvation. Their reasoning is along these lines: “How can God command those who have no doubt that they are believers to examine themselves to see whether or not they are believers? This is to make the doubters sure of their salvation.” But wait a minute. This would be to say that this command is NOT for people who have full assurance, and most of these people would admit that there are some believers who do have full assurance. So they believe that once a person has full assurance, this command is not for them. That’s absurd, of course.
Ironically for the self-righteous, it is those who doubt who show themselves to be disqualified or disapproved concerning the faith. The doubters are those who do not perceive that Jesus Christ (the Spirit of Christ; the Holy Spirit) is in them. Paul is talking about examining themselves for confirming evidential fruit–fruit that flows from assurance grounded upon the work of Another. Paul is not admonishing professing believers to extract a self-righteous assurance of salvation out of the evidential fruit of obedience. The obedience or righteousness that gives assurance is the one that is being submitted to (Romans 10:1-4). The doubter is ignorant of whose righteousness is the sole grounds of acceptance before God and so must seek–with or without “spiritual-enablement”–to establish a righteousness of his own (Romans 10:3). Those who are unsure of whether or not Christ is in them are presently disqualified concerning the faith. But if they are elect, God in time will inevitably and infallibly call them by His Word and Spirit, causing them to submit to the righteousness of Jesus Christ as the sole grounds of acceptance before God (Romans 10:1-4).
All believers, ALL of whom have full assurance of salvation, are to examine, test, scrutinize, prove, inspect, analyze themselves. Thus, it obviously does not mean sitting down and saying, “Am I really saved? I don’t know. Let me examine and scrutinize my beliefs and my life so I can find out.” It means to think about what I believe and how I conduct my life — to confirm that the Spirit witnesses with my Spirit that I am a child of God:
In 1 Corinthians 9:24-27, when Paul compares the life of the Christian to a race, etc., he is admonishing professing believers to think about what they believe and how they conduct their lives.
“For if you live according to flesh, you are going to die. But if by the Spirit you put to death the practices of the body, you will live. For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery again to fear, but you received a Spirit of adoption by which we cry, Abba! Father! The Spirit Himself witnesses with our spirit that we are children of God.” (Rom 8:13-16)
Of course, when every believer examines himself, he finds himself to be a child of God. There was never a doubt.
As 2 Corinthians 13:5 admonishes, we examine ourselves in light of Scripture and perceive that Jesus Christ is in us and that the Spirit of God witnesses with our spirit that we are children of God. We believe God’s promise to save His people conditioned on the atoning blood and imputed righteousness of Christ alone. Our assurance is based solely on His work. And though we fall short of God’s perfect standard of righteousness in our character and conduct, we nevertheless strive to obey Him out of love. It is by the blood and righteousness of Jesus Christ that the Father has qualified us to share in the inheritance (Colossians 1:12-14). Those who go out from among believers and cast aside their faith show themselves to be disqualified:
“Little children, it is a last hour, and as you heard that the antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have risen up, from which you know that it is a last hour. They went out from us, but they were not of us. For if they were of us, they would have remained with us; but they left so that it might be revealed that they all are not of us. And you have an anointing from the Holy One, and you know all things. I did not write to you because you do not know the truth, but because you know it, and because every lie is not of the truth. Who is the liar, except the one denying, saying that Jesus is not the Christ? This is the antichrist, the one denying the Father and the Son. Everyone denying the Son does not have the Father. The one confessing the Son also has the Father. Then what you heard from the beginning, let it abide in you. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, you will abide both in the Son and in the Father. And this is the promise which He promised us: everlasting life” (1 John 2:18-25).