What Does It Mean To Be a Castaway? A Breakdown Of 1 Corinthians 9:27



“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.” (1Co 9:27)
Was Paul saying in this verse that he is careful so as not to lose his salvation? Is he saying that after preaching to others, there is a probability that himself could be cast out of heaven? What does it really mean to be a castaway?
The above questions always arise whenever 1 Corinthians 9:27 is read. When read on its own, one would think that verse is saying a Christian can lose his salvation if he or she does not guard it jealously. So you find Christians who still believe somewhere in their minds they could end up in Hell even after they have been “genuinely” saved and helped others receive the same salvation through preaching. When read out of context, that is what this verse seems to be saying.
However, to truly get Paul’s message in that verse, we will have to study it in context by looking at the whole chapter closely. That is the only way we can truly arrive at what it means to be a “castaway.”
From verse 1 to 14 of that 1 Corinthians chapter 9, we see Paul talking about his rights to eat and drink, get married and be well taken care of by the Corinthian church whom he had given his all to minister to spiritually. It wouldn’t have been a crime if he had exercised these rights since it was the Lord Jesus who had ordained it. He made it that those who commit their lives to ministering to the spiritual needs of the church would have their material needs taken care of by the church. And other apostles like Peter were already enjoying these rights.
From verse 14 to verse 23, we see that Paul has used none of these rights when dealing with the Corinthians. He ministered freely and worked with his own hands to meet his needs. He did this so he wouldn’t be an extra burden to the church or abuse his rights and make it difficult for people of all levels, cultures and tribes to relate with him.
When he is with the Jews, he acts like the Jews and when he is with the Gentiles, he acts like one. Not in a sinful way though. He related with all kinds of people so he could win them for Christ. (Now pay real attention from here)
From verse 24 to 27, Paul goes deeper to shed more light on the real reason he hasn’t been using any of those rights and has been mixing with all calibres of people to preach the gospel.
“Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain. And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible. 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.” (1Co 9:24-27)
From verse 24, he uses the race in the Old Olympic games of his day to explain his reason. He says though a lot of people run that race, only a few receives the prize. He says these people all do it to obtain a crown that cannot last forever. But Christians actually receive something better. He calls it an incorruptible crown, which has the ability to last forever. And the way to receive this is by your efforts to be consistent and focused in expanding the kingdom of God while keeping your body under control.
So what is that prize we shall receive? Is it Salvation? Not at all. Since the Bible is clear that Salvation is not a reward for the good we have done but a gift of God’s grace received through faith.
“For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.” (Eph 2:8-9)
The prize he is talking about there is the rewards we shall receive at the judgement seat of Christ, after we have all gone to Heaven by faith in God’s grace for salvation. The reward is for the good works we did while on earth. How we lived our lives and what we did with the resources God gave to us.
“For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.” (2Co 5:10)
If our works are found to be worthless or have no real value before Christ, then we shall be disqualified from receiving a reward from Him in Heaven even though we are saved already and will not go to Hell anymore.
That disqualification is what Paul calls to be a “castaway.” It doesn’t mean you will be cast out of Heaven. No! It simply means you will have no reward there.
So to be a “castaway” in 1 Corinthians 9:27 simply means to be disqualified from receiving a reward at the judgement seat of Christ where our lives and works will be judged.
I hope this blesses you. Let me know if it does.
Glory to God!

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