1 Corinthians 9:23-27 Refutation of Once Saved Always Saved (OSAS)
The context of this passage of scripture is its inclusion in a letter from Paul to the Christians in Corinth, the church there being comprised of mostly Gentile Believers. Leading up to the passage on which this study is focused, beginning in verse 16, we find Paul discussing the fact that he found common ground with all types of people so that they might be won to salvation in Jesus. The verses following this passage, in Chapter 10, speak of additional things Paul wants the Corinthian Christians to avoid. He also wants them to know that the temptations which seize them are common to all people and that God will ‘make a way out, so that you may be able to bear it (v. 13).’ The central passage of this OP, verses 9:23-27, is taken from the Interlinear Bible with the definitions of the original Greek shown, Strong’s numerical indices are included for transparency, so that a complete understanding of what Paul means becomes readily available.
9:23. “And I do this for the gospel that I might (1410 to be able or possible) become a fellow-partaker (4792 to convey together, ie. to collect or bear away in company of others) of it. V. 24. Do you not know that those running in a stadium indeed all run, but one receives the prize (1017 an award)? So run that you may (1410 to be able or possible) obtain (2638 take eagerly, seize, possess). V. 25. But everyone striving (75 literally, struggling to compete for the prize; figuratively, contending with an adversary) in all things controls (1467 be temperate; exercise self-restraint in diet and chastity) himself. Then those [who compete in the stadium] truly (3303 affirmation/concession (in fact)) that they may (1410 to be able or possible) receive (2983 to take or get hold of) a corruptible (5349 decayed, perishable) crown (4735 a chaplet as a badge of royalty, a prize in a public game or a symbol of honor), but we an incorruptible (862 undecaying, immortal). V. 26. So I run accordingly (5106 true now), not as uncertainly; so I fight (4438 box as a contender), as not beating (1194 thrashing) air; V. 27. but I buffet (5299 subdue) my body (4983 the body as a sound whole) and lead it captive (1396 enslave), that proclaiming (2784 heralding divine truth of the gospel) to others I myself might not become rejected (96 unapproved, worthless or castaway).”
Subbing in the definitions of the original Greek gives this reasonable understanding of Paul’s message: And I do this for the gospel that I possibly collect the company of others of the gospel. Don’t you know that those running in a stadium indeed all run, but one receives the award? So run that you are able to possibly seize/possess [the award]. But everyone struggling to compete for the award or contending with an adversary in all things exercises self-restraint in diet and chastity. Then those [who compete in the stadium] in fact that they possibly take hold of a perishable prize from their public game, but we an immortal [badge of royalty]. So I run true now, with certainty; I box as a contender, not as one thrashing air; but I subdue my whole body and enslave it, that while heralding the divine truth of the gospel to others I myself not possibly become unapproved or castaway.
Using the analogy of a stadium competition, Paul clearly states that everyone runs (he’s talking to Christians), but not everyone wins (he’s still talking to Christians). In verse 27, he states that he subdues his body, so that he doesn’t become unapproved or castaway from salvation. This is Paul, the APOSTLE Paul, saying that he understands he can be found unapproved and, hence, castaway from salvation, the reward for which Believers run in the struggle against our adversary, Satan. No, we are NOT slaves to sin, but only because we struggle against it. A slave is someone who doesn’t struggle, someone who submits as Christians are to submit to Jesus.
This passage overtly teaches that OSAS is not a biblical doctrine. If it stood alone, it teaches the truth of conditional salvation. I mean if salvation weren’t conditional, we wouldn’t need faith in Jesus in the first place, would we and the Calvinists would be right? Horror of horrors! However, when combined with some other two dozen scriptures which teach the same truth, arriving at an OSAS doctrine is only possible two ways; First, by completely eliminating or dismissing these scriptures as if they aren’t canonized and were never part of the Bible. Two, to do such verbal/grammatical/extra-biblical gymnastics so as to render them useless and other as God intends. Any ‘doctrine’ which fails to include everything the Bible says about its given subject matter will undoubtedly be heretical. Calvinism isn’t the only heresy against which we need to guard.
Does OSAS have the implications of Calvinism? You might be telling yourself, “OSAS” isn’t a salvation defining aspect of scripture.” Well….yes it is! If a Believer operates under the impression that they can never forfeit their salvation, they are going to be far less concerned with obedience to Jesus. How do I know? I know because we’re talking about people! Have you met people? People are by human nature, lazy, selfish and rebellious. OSAS lulls Believers into a false sense of security, hence the warning of this passage and all the others which ARE canonized and ARE part of the Bible, like it or not.
Are those who hold to an OSAS doctrine going to be concerned with sin in their life? Are they inclined to listen to the conviction of God’s spirit when He tells them they’ve sinned? Will they concern themselves with repentance and the requirement from God to ask Him for forgiveness? Why would they? I mean, their salvation is UNCONDITIONALLY preserved, so they believe.
But the Bible doesn’t teach this. If OSAS were true, then sound Biblical doctrine, all those verses which serve as a warning to the complacency inherent in OSAS would NOT be in the Bible. Believers can’t logically rail against Calvinism while holding onto one of its tenets! What hypocrisy! A scaled down heresy is still heresy!
After all, if Paul was concerned about being castaway, who are we to be unconcerned? Are we so righteous, with a legacy so great, that Paul is but our shadow?