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1 Corinthians 9:24-27 (ESV):

24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. 25 Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. 26 So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. 27 But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.

To me, this athlete analogy by Paul sounds very much like an exhortation to work very hard in order to win the prize and not be disqualified, and I can therefore understand why some might take the interpretive leap to concluding that the passage is teaching works-based salvation.

Did Paul teach works-based salvation in 1 Corinthians 9:24-27?

What about the possibility of being "disqualified" (verse 27)? Does that mean that Paul was worried about the possibility of losing his salvation?

How can we reconcile this passage with the idea of salvation by grace through faith, as taught by Paul in Ephesians 2:8-10 (ESV)?

8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

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  • Ephesians 2:8-10 does not say that salvation will not have works. It says that the works themselves don't save us ("not a result of works"). This is a major point that is often overlooked. Verse 10 says what we are created "for works." Dec 26, 2021 at 22:43
  • Paul also mentions that those who have been saved by faith still have to choose to not sin in Romans 6. To not run the race when you have been called to would of course be sin.
    – trlkly
    Dec 27, 2021 at 1:33
  • All attempts to 'reconcile' exhortations to holiness, endurance, faith and patience with scriptures of promise, miss the point. He that overcometh is he that gains reward. The hypothetical inherit nothing.
    – Nigel J
    Dec 27, 2021 at 18:32

1 Answer 1

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Did Paul teach works-based salvation in 1 Corinthians 9:24-27?

These verses have nothing to do with salvation but with rewards.

When one looks at the context of these verses one needs to look back to the verses before it to see that he's talking about rewards and what he is doing above and beyond what is expected of him.

Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel! 17If my preaching is voluntary, I have a reward. But if it is not voluntary, I am still entrusted with a responsibility. 18What then is my reward? That in preaching the gospel I may offer it free of charge, and so not use up my rights in preaching it.

He was compelled to preach the gospel and he would be miserable if he did not.

On the other hand it was his right to reap material things from those to who he preached.

He chose not to and still worked for a living making tents as well as preaching.

He made himself a slave to all that he might win the more as stated in the verses below. 1 Corinthians 9: 18-23

I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible.

To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews.

To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), to win those under the law.

To those without the law I became like one without the law (though I am not outside the law of God but am under the law of Christ), to win those without the law.

To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some.

I do all this for the sake of the gospel, so that I may share in its blessings.

God had compelled him to preach the gospel but he did things above and beyond his calling which will give him rewards later.

He wanted to win an imperishable wreath so to speak, so everything he did he did with this in mind. Even though he was tired, he made himself continue to work and press on. Even though he was not under the law he made himself do things he didn't need to do two win those that were under the law.

Even though he was free from all men he made himself a slave so he could win more people to the gospel.

All the things he listed he did to share in the blessings of the gospel that he will receive later.

He disciplined his body to work hard, suffer because he desired to give it all he had.

He knew that there was rewards for doing such things and so he lead the way by showing an example of how he went above and beyond and disciplined his body hard.

He made his body his slave so he could win an imperishable wreath. Athletes do it to win a temporary perishable wreath, why not work hard for something that will last.

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    What about the possibility of being "disqualified" (verse 27)? Does that mean that Paul was worried about the possibility of losing his salvation? Dec 26, 2021 at 21:32
  • Spirit Realm Investigator, He was talking about being disqualified from receiving rewards. That can only be done by not playing by the rules, or by cheating. He did everything for the sake of the gospel so he could become a fellow partaker of it. Like a farmer who works hard for the crops and gets to eat them so Paul will see the work of his toil and will rejoice in seeing his work come to fruition. He was hungry, thirsty , poorly clothed, roughly treated , homeless and then he continued to tile working with his hands. When he was reviled he blessed, when he was persecuted he endured.
    – Sherrie
    Dec 27, 2021 at 0:41
  • But he was slandered he tried to conciliate. 1 Cor. 1:11-13. Everything he preached he followed through on. He was not a hypocrite.Thanks Doddard for your encouragement.
    – Sherrie
    Dec 27, 2021 at 0:41
  • Thoroughly practical and sensible. Up-voted +1.
    – Nigel J
    Dec 27, 2021 at 18:34

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