The following is an excellent, but brief exposition from Paul Chasteen which was published in Charisma. Discipline, control, restraint and restriction of the desires of the flesh should be at the top of the church’s teachings, but they’re not. Perhaps the explosion of sexual immorality so common among Christians can be attributed to this failure to consistently teach and instruct on this important aspect of our holiness.
Do contemporary Christians think that Jesus did not have to discipline his flesh? If he had not, as Chasteen points out he would have disqualified himself from the cross. Our failure to discipline our bodies to avoid sexual sin prevents us from truly experiencing God and sharing the fullness of God to a dying world.
What’s up with Paul and the struggle with his flesh? Shouldn’t this spiritual giant have been beyond such a struggle? Why would he need to take drastic measures to control his body?
As Christians we are called to discipline our bodies. By “discipline” I mean to take charge of urges motivated by the flesh. Whether we like it or not, the Word is clear that we are to control our fleshly desires.
So why does Paul make such an extreme statement? Mainly because he knows our bodies are not yet redeemed and that they have the potential to impede our spiritual progress.
In verse 27, when referring to the discipline of his own body, Paul uses a strong Greek word to get his point across. The word hupopeadzo conveys the idea of handling roughly or forcing into submission. This was Paul’s attitude toward his flesh.
Romans 8:9-10 tells us that because of sin our bodies are dead. The verses are not referring to physical death but rather to the fact that our bodies are not alive to God, that they do not want to participate in spiritual matters.
For instance, the physical body has no desire to pray or worship. It is dead, so to speak, to the things of God and must be made to cooperate.
As a matter of fact, Paul goes on to explain that our bodies are somewhat unspiritual. Not in the sense that the human body is unprofitable or bad, but rather in the sense that the principle of sin operates through the unredeemed physical body, thus making it not spiritual.
Sin working through the body also can easily sidetrack our spiritual progress. Romans 6:12-13 says: “Do not let sin control the way you live. … Do not let any part of your body become an instrument of evil to serve sin.”
If left undisciplined, the body will become an instrument through which sin can dominate.
Paul clearly understood the need to discipline his body, and he took drastic measures to ensure that he kept it in check. If this great man of God needed to discipline his body, we certainly need to bring ours into subjection—especially since failure to do so can lead to disqualification.
Self control is a fruit of the Spirit equal in importance to love, joy and peace. Its also important to note that discipline without spiritual renewal is nothing more than a form of asceticism. Anyone can learn to practice self denial (buddhist monks come to mind) but it must be done only under the influence of the Holy Spirit, thus accomplishing the greater goals of holiness.