in the

Epistles of Paul

Before dealing with Paul’s “if” in chapter 15:2, it may help our purpose to consider first one of the most important conditional passages in the New Testament. Note the flow of Paul’s thought.

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. Moreover, brethren, I would not that ye should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea: And were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea; And did all eat the same spiritual meat; And did all drink the same spiritual drink; for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ. But with many of them God was not well pleased: for they were overthrown in the wilderness. Now these things were our examples, to the intent we should not lust after evil things, as they also lusted. Neither be ye idolaters, as were some of them; as it is written, The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play. Neither let us commit fornication, as some of them committed, and fell in one day three and twenty thousand …… Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come. Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.

 (I Cor. 9:24-27; 10: 1-12)

Does this passage teach conditional salvation? Eternal Security teachers say it does not. Let us see if we can learn its true meaning. First, it is necessary to see that these Scriptures are connected and that they contain a complete thought. If this can be proved, we shall win a major point for conditional salvation. Paul began his train of thought with an illustration from the Olympic games. Athletics was Paul’s favorite illustration in his Epistles. He used it more than any other. He began with the foot race and referred to the strenuous training the athlete endured to win the prize, which was a “corruptible crown.” In Paul’s day, the Olympic athlete subjected himself to 10 months of severe training for the games. If the athlete broke the rules of the contest, he was a “castaway,” which meant rejected. Paul said that he, as God’s athlete, did not run “uncertainly”; nor was he like one who “beateth the air.” He said he kept his body under a severe discipline for fear that he be a castaway, like the athlete in his illustration. Paul, even with the “gift” of continence (I Cor. 7: 7), and all the physical beatings and tortures he endured (II Cor. 11:23-27), spoke of his body as a strong power to be overcome and kept subdued. After all his preaching and labor for Christ he feared being a castaway. It will help much if we can prove the meaning of “castaway.”


We quote the highest authoritative sources. On the meaning of “castaway” (adokimos), Professor A. T. Robertson, the “prince of modern Greek grammarians,” wrote:

It means not standing the test….  Paul means rejected for the prize, not for the entrance to the race. He will fail if he breaks the rules of the game (Matt, 7: 22)…. Most writers take Paul to refer to the possibility of his rejection in his personal salvation at the end of the race…. At the end he has serene confidence (II Tim. 4:7) with the race run and won. It is a humbling thought for us all to see this wholesome fear in- stead of smug complacency in this greatest of all heralds of Christ. The new and highly authoritative A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament says on page 18:  “Not standing the test, then unqualified, worthless, base… disqualified. I Cor. 9:27: a man who is not tempted is unproved.” (their italics). The combined weight of leading New Testament Greek authorities support the view that Paul referred to his salvation when he used the word “castaway” in I Corinthians 9:27.

Dean Alford, noted New Testament scholar, wrote that Paul feared he might be rejected from the prize, and not from the contest altogether, as some commentators make it, “for he was already in it.” Then Alford added: An examination of the victorious combatants took place after the contest, and if it could be proved that they had contended unlawfully, or unfairly, they were deprived of the prize and driven with disgrace from the games. So the Apostle, if he had proclaimed the laws of the combat to others, and not observed them himself, however successful he might apparently be, would be personally rejected as unqualified in the great day. Vincent’s Word Studies in the New Testament says: “Rejected, as unworthy of the prize.” The Amplified New Testament has it: “I myself should become unfit–not stand the test and be unapproved–and rejected (as a counterfeit).” This has the support of The Vocabulary of the Greek New Testament. Greek scholars say this work is the “final court of appeals” on New Testament usage. There are many other supporting evidences. Read again the verses at the beginning of this chapter. I have disregarded the chapter division because it wasn’t there when Paul wrote it. Now see how Paul develops his thought. He told about running the race to obtain the prize. Then, referring to his salvation, he told about his self-denial and rigid bodily discipline. He said he did this because he did not want the great Judge to disqualify him in the end as a castaway, or as one unworthy of the prize. The Olympic contestant was examined by the judges after the race before receiving the prize. This often happens today. A fighter’s purse is held up; winners are stripped of their medals; and others have been banished for life from further participation in athletic contests because they broke the rules. While I write these pages there comes news of a cheating scandal at our Air Force Academy in Colorado. Thirty football players and many others were forced to resign from the Academy because they broke the rules. This often happens in other colleges. There are star athletes disgraced and banished for life for the same reason. They are castaways. This is what Paul feared would happen to him at the Judgment. He would not let the power of sin get its mastery over him. Any uncertainty of reaching the goal for the prize was not distrust of God but distrust of himself. He was sure that God is able to keep that which he had committed unto Him, and in the sure-footed certainty of God’s faithfulness he moved with exerted effort toward the prize.

Next, in the movement of Paul’s thought, watch as he goes from “castaway” to “moreover”: …lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway. Moreover, brethren, I would not that ye should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea.  (I Cor. 9:27; 10:1)

This connective, “moreover,” proves there is here a unit of thought. Paul thus gives us “ensamples” of what he meant by castaway. Leading Greek authorities agree that the full meaning of castaway is expressed in the connective force of “moreover.” The famous Baptist scholar, Professor A. T. Robertson, wrote:

Moreover (for), Paul appeals to the experience of the Israelites in the wilderness in confirmation of his statement concerning himself in 9:26, and as a powerful warning to the Corinthians. Moreover (for) …introducing an illustration of rejection by God, and thus connecting what follows with the close of the last chapter. It is possible that I may be rejected, for the Israelites were. Moreover (for). It serves to explain, make clear, illustrate, a preceding thought or word: for, that is, namely; so that it begins an exposition of the thing just announced.

Moreover (for)…a conjunction used to express cause, inference, continuation, or to explain. (my italics) The Expositors Greek Testament is an authoritative work by 17 distinguished Greek scholars. In Volume 2, page 857, it says of this “moreover” in relation to “castaway”. The Apostle has just confessed in warning others, his own fear of reprobation. That this is no idle fear the history of the Old Testament plainly proves. All the Israelite fathers were rescued from Egypt, and sealed with the ancient sacraments, and virtually partook of Christ in the wilderness; but, alas, how few of those first redeemed entered the Promised Land!

The reader can further verify the meaning of “moreover” (Gr. gar) in The Vocabulary of the Greek New Testament, Moulton & Milligan, page 121; A Manual Greek Lexicon of the New Testament, Abbott-Smith, page 88.


Paul said the Scriptures about Israel’s “ensamples” were written “for our admonition.” The Israelites were tested and rejected. This is the whole point of Paul’s warning about “castaway.” There is much in the Bible about God’s testing and proving His people. God proves that He might approve. That which is genuine passes the test, but the counterfeit breaks down under the test. The illustration of the testing of coins and metals in relation to Christians has considerable importance in the Bible. An example is I Peter 1:7. Christians may sometimes fail in a test but it is the exception and not the rule. This was true of Abraham and David. God proved the Israelites many times before rejecting them. He brought them to the bitter waters of Marah, “and there he proved them.” They murmured against God and Moses. When they desired the fleshpots of Egypt, God said He would “prove them, whether they will walk in my law, or no.” Moses told them at Sinai: “God is come to prove you.” He also told them that God led them for 40 years in the wilderness “to prove thee, to know what was in thine heart, whether thou wouldest keep his commandments, or no.” (Ex. 15:25; 16:4; 20:20; Deut. 8:2; Judg. 2:22). Paul emphasized that the Israelites were tested through fleshly desires and pleasures. They “lusted … sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play”; and they committed fornication. Satan has more success with these temptations than with anything else. Paul told these Corinthians, “Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates [counterfeits]?” (II Cor. 13:5). In “examine” and “prove” there is the idea of proving to determine whether persons are worthy to be accepted or not. Those that endure the proving are accepted as genuine, and those that do not are rejected as counterfeit. This was true of Israelites in the wilderness provings. Those who failed the testings were rejected as counterfeits. Jeremiah said the Jews in his time were counterfeits. “Reprobate [counterfeit] silver shall men call them, because the Lord hath rejected them” (Jer. 6:30). They were castaways.

God tests everyone. All must be proved to determine if they are worthy to enter the Kingdom of God. Paul told the Corinthians to test themselves–as metals are tested–to see whether they “be in the faith.” If they were reprobates, Christ was not in them, because Christ is not in counterfeits. Here are the opinions of two high ranking Greek authorities for Paul’s truth about reprobates: Unless indeed ye be reprobate…. Paul challenged his opposers in Corinth to try themselves, to test themselves, whether they were “in the faith.”… Such tests can be made, unless, alas, they are “reprobate” (adokmoi), the very adjective that Paul held up before himself as a dreadful outcome to be avoided, I Cor. 9:27….the false hearted and those who belong to God only in semblance and in sow…being proved or tempted, they will appear to be what they have always been. (his italics)

Some Calvinist writers make Paul’s “castaway” to mean: “To put on the shelf.” Cracked pots were put on the shelf, and Paul did not want to be a cracked pot on the shelf. These writers give no proof for this because they have none, and it is easy to refute: Paul’s “ensamples” from Israel’s apostate history were not cracked pots on the shelf. They were evil covenant breakers whose carcasses fell in the desert and who shall never enter God’s rest. Greek professor Kenneth Wuest, of Moody Bible Institute, translated “castaway” like this: “lest … I myself should be disqualified (from further Christian service).” This is not a true translation. In the Appendix of this book there are listed eight world-wide adopted rules of interpretation. In the rule of definition I quoted Professor Wuest: “The content of meaning in these words is not to be determined by each individual expositor … to do so would be a method of interpretation (that is) a most vicious thing.” It surely is a most vicious thing.


The false teaching in Christian Science, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Unity, Higher Liberalism, and many others is the result of this most vicious thing. “Sin,” as defined by Mrs. Eddy, is an “illusion.” To Fosdick, “damnation” is “that old hell” that no intelligent person can believe. “Born again” is stripped of all its glory by some. With others, “everlasting life” means what these words mean but “everlasting punishment” does not, and so on down the line. They are all dangerous distortions of Bible words. Professor John H. Wigmore, one of America’s famous legal authorities, wrote about this vicious method of interpretation in his textbook, Wigmore on Evidence. 


Professor Wigmore called some interpreters “word-magicians,” and said that if these interpreters can make words mean what they want them to mean, then there is no need for rules of interpretation. He then asks: “What is the standard of interpretation?” “In what sources is the standard to be found?” And on page 523, he has the Rule Against Disturbing a Plain Meaning. I have quoted leading legal authorities because in this book we have based our arguments on God’s covenants, and covenants are legal transactions. Therefore, the same interpretive laws that apply to other covenants also apply to God’s covenants. Search the history of false doctrines and you will find these word-magicians everywhere. To prove the meaning of “castaway” we quoted ten Greek works holding the highest authoritative positions. They are standard sources of evidence. We proved the meaning by the rule of definition, and by the rule of context, and by the rule of usage and also by other rules in the Appendix. Our interpretation satisfies all the rules. Professor  Wuest’s  translation violates them all. Dr. James Moffatt , translator of Moffatt’s Translation of the Holy Bible, wrote this about “castaway” in I Corinthians 9:27: [Castaway] “conveys a serious idea…this is borne out by the following warning, (10:1-11…the latter illustration from Israel with the desert sacraments broadens the range of disqualified. To be disqualified is the opposite of securing one’s share in the final salvation…. The whole context and illustration is about salvation.

John Calvin wrote concerning this passage: Paul says…there is no point of difference between the Israelites and us, which would put our whole situation in a different category from theirs. Therefore, because he [Paul] intended to threaten the Corinthians with the same vengeance which befell the Israelites. … [Paul said] Therefore, you should be afraid, because the same thing threatens you. Jude uses the same argument in his letter.'” Going now to I Corinthians 15: 1-2, we read: Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. Here “if” carries the same conditional force as all the other ifs we have seen. “The salvation of the readers depends on their holding fast the word preached” (Vincent’s Word Studies). The Greek text reads here: “…the gospel… by which ye are being saved.”


The Expositors Greek Testament says: “saved (sozesthe) affirms a present, continuous salvation, cf. Rom. 8:24; Eph. 2:8.” Dr. Robertson in his Word Pictures in the New Testament wrote: “Condition of first class…. Paul holds this peril over them in their temptation to deny the resurrection.”

On this “believed in vain,” Dr. James Moffatt wrote in his commentary on First Corinthians that Paul said we are not saved “‘by random impulse.’ Paul calls it ‘futile make-believe’ … ‘light half- believers.’ “And John Calvin in his commentary on this verse, wrote: “If ye hold fast, except ye believed in vain. These two conditional clauses have a sharp sting in them.” So, in this Scripture we see another condition for salvation: We must believe Bible doctrines–as taught by Paul. It isn’t necessary to deal with all Paul’s ifs, but we quote two or three more before passing to other Epistles. And you…hath he reconciled…to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight: If ye continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel. (Col. 1:21-23)


The Greek text expresses a continuous process. The Colossians would be presented to the Lord in holiness provided they continued in the faith. That is the only way the holiness could be accomplished. Holiness, or sanctification, is a major Bible doctrine and is given much importance in relation to salvation, as you can see in these texts. The Holy Spirit is grieved that this truth is largely neglected by ministers and Christians today. Notice this “present” in other texts: For I am jealous over you with godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ. Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, That he might present it to himself a glorious church. (Eph. 5:25-27) Whom we preach, warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom; that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus. (Col. 1:28) Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy. (Jude 24) Paul, in Ephesians 1:4, 5, has holiness connected with predestination.

According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will. “Chosen…that we should be holy…without blame…in love…predestinated.., good pleasure of his will.” If you pluck “predestinated” out of these texts and detach it from “holy without blame…in love,” you have a distortion.


Predestination does not stand alone in the Scriptures. It has conditional connections. If it is disconnected from some of its conditions, why not also disconnect it from the conditions of “repent and believe”? Chosen to be holy and without blame was part of the predestinated plan. When God determined the end, He also determined the means to reach the end. Paul’s Jewish “ensamples” were chosen to be “a peculiar people unto himself” (Deut. 1:2), but they became lustful and disobedient and did not reach the Promised Land–the covenant objective—because they violated the conditions necessary to reach the objective. God chose His people–picked them out–to be His adopted children in Christ. Without the Calvary-Christ, there is no election. They were picked out to be holy and blameless. This was the “good pleasure of his will”–His sovereign will. These predestination truths stand in strong opposition to the predestination teaching which says that God had made special provision to save those who continue in sin. Paul told the Colossians the sovereign will and purpose would be accomplished “if ye continue in the faith…and be not moved away from the gospel.” Paul has another “if” in I Timothy 5:8. Some who professed salvation had neglected to provide for their families and parents. Paul said: But if any provide not for his own, and specially those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.


We have seen some who claim salvation, with fine homes and good salaries, push off their aged parents on others for care. And it has been sickening to hear these and others say, when told of their Scriptural responsibilities: “We are saved by faith, not by works.” Claim what they will, Paul said they are worse than infidels. In I Timothy 4: 16, Paul told Timothy to do something for his salvation and the salvation of others. Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee. It was by continuing in the doctrines of Christ and by doing them that Timothy and his hearers would be saved. We agree with Calvin’s comment on this text: True, it is God alone that saves; and not even the smallest portion of his glory can lawfully be bestowed on men. But God parts with no portion of his glory when he employs the agency of men for bestowing salvation. Salvation is of the Jews. But Paul warned the Corinthians of Jews who were not saved. “The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play.” They were “castaways.” Paul, a Jew, said he brought his body under subjection to God’s conditions for salvation. He said the Jewish castaways are our “ensamples,” and the history of their lustings was written for “our admonition.”


Paul obeyed God’s salvation conditions to avoid the dreaded end of being a castaway. The Jews Paul warned about would not have been castaways if they had done what Paul did. Two of the original number–Joshua and Caleb–were not castaways. God had a remnant of two. Out of a 40-year massive covenant operation, God had two men who had “wholly followed the Lord.” They had fulfilled the covenant condition to reach the covenant objective. The condition was to wholly follow the Lord. God said: “Surely none of the men that came up out of Egypt …shall see the land which I sware unto Abraham…because they have not wholly followed me: save Caleb…and Joshua…for they have wholly followed the Lord” (Num. 32:11, 12).



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