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Summary: To reach our postmodern culture we need to be like Paul and give up our freedom to live safely inside of our own culture and become all things to all people so that we might win some to Christ.

Becoming all Things to Win Some

1 Corinthians 9:19-23

Online Sermon: http://www.mckeesfamily.com/?page_id=3567

Freedom is a privilege that comes with great responsibility. In Him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible (Colossians 1:16). Humanity was created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27) with an amazing gift called free will. While God has given us the right to do anything we want, including disobeying Him, He expects us to be like Jesus and do His will. Since it is God’s will that none should perish (2 Peter 3:9), we are called to preach the Gospel message to everyone we meet. By the power of His matchless grace, God has produced in our hearts a burning passion for the salvation of others. To reach them will not be an easy task! The diverse cultural backgrounds of our North American culture often mean that using a “canned” approach to spread the Gospel message is going to produce little or no fruit. To reach our postmodern culture we need to be like Paul and give up our freedom to live safely inside of our own culture and become all things to all people so that we might win some to Christ.

SURRENDERING FREEDOM TO BECOME A SLAVE

To be effective in evangelism for Paul meant that the salvation of others was more important than claiming, possessing and preserving his own rights. In the ancient Greek and Roman world of Paul’s time the principle distinction made by law persons was that all human beings were either free or slaves. Being born a Roman citizen, Paul was not “owned” by anyone. Paul was so interested in putting away anything that might hinder the Gospel of Christ (1 Corinthians 9:12), that he also chose to not take a wife or any payment for his ministry endeavors. After all, in Paul’s time the more you paid a speaker the more one could boast ownership over that person. Even though Paul went through great efforts to maintain his freedom from others owning him, he chose to become a slave to all cultures everywhere. For a person to become a slave in Paul’s day meant giving up one’s identity, a social death, in which the person becomes a surrogate body for the slaveholder. For Paul this denying of self was necessary to emulate the pattern of Christ who emptied Himself (Philippians 2:7) and became a slave to all! Paul denied self by adapting his personal behavior and methods of preaching to three particular groups of people: the Jews under the law, those not having the law and the weak.

Jews Under the Law

20 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), so as to win those under the law.

Since a slave was expected to adjust to the cultural family they served, when in the presence of the Jews Paul chose to take on their law observing patterns. Even though Paul was called as an apostle primarily to the Gentile people (Galatians 2:8), he made it his custom to speak at the synagogue of each town that he entered (Acts 17:2). To keep from hindering the Jewish people from embracing the Gospel message, Paul chose to follow all 613 commandments of the Torah while in their presence. While following these commands was not strenuous for he who once considered himself faultless in regards to legalistic righteousness (Philippians 3:6), Paul tells the church of Corinth that as a new man (2 Corinthians 5:17; Galatians 2:20) he no longer related to God by following the law of Moses but instead through grace and faith in the atoning sacrifice of Christ. Though he was free from legalism (Galatians 2:4-5), Paul subjected himself to the scruples of the Jews when in their presence so that he might win some of them to Christ (Romans 1:16)!

Those not Having the Law

21 To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law.

Paul also accommodated himself to the Gentiles so that he might in turn win some of the to Christ. While many Jewish Rabbis such as Hillel made the law no more a burden than necessary to the Gentiles to win people for Judaism, Paul went further and did not try to bring the them under the Jewish law at all! When he was in their presence Paul did not observe the ceremonial laws of the Jews but instead was known to sit, eat and follow their traditions. Since “not having the law” in the LXX usually meant “evil” or “wicked” Paul had to be carful to not give the Corinthians the impression that he was “lawless” which would imply that he practiced idolatry, sexual immorality and greed when evangelizing. To keep from being called an advocate of libertinism (1 Corinthians 6:12-20), Paul says that while he is no longer under the authority of the law he still governs his evangelism efforts in accordance with the law of Christ! While becoming all things to the Gentiles often meant participating in their festivals to create rapport with them, Paul refused to mimic any of their sins.

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