1 Corinthians 9:24—Does Paul encourage or discourage running to obtain a spiritual goal?

Problem: In this text, the apostle encourages the believer to “run in such a way that you may obtain it.” However, in Romans, Paul informs us that “it is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy” (9:16).

Solution: The first passage is speaking about rewards which do depend on our works (cf. 1 Cor. 3:11ff and 2 Cor. 5:10), while the last passage is speaking about salvation which is by grace and not by works (Rom. 4:5; Eph. 2:8–9; Titus 3:5–7).

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This excerpt is from When Critics Ask: A Popular Handbook on Bible Difficulties (Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books, 1992). © 2014 Norman Geisler and Thomas Howe. All rights reserved. Used by permission. Click here to purchase this book.