Summary: In order to reach people with the truth of the Gospel, we must be willing to accept 1) Self-Denial (v.19-23) and be willing to practice 2) Self -Control (v. 24-27)
After any election, like the recent municipal one, newly elected counselors have a particularly hard calling. They realize that not everyone voted for them yet they must work on behalf of everyone.
In Corinth, Paul had the difficult task of working in two distinct cultures: that of Jewish Christians who lived by the Mosaic law, and that of Gentile Christians who were free from the law of Moses. He had to preach the gospel to both groups while trying to bring them together in one community of believers and serving as a faithful pastor to those Christians who had weak consciences. (Kistemaker, S. J., & Hendriksen, W. (1953–2001). Exposition of the First Epistle to the Corinthians (Vol. 18, p. 304). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.).
In any environment where we work with people we have to deal with various and often competing sensibilities and expectations. How do we bridge these factors while accomplishing tasks and achieving objectives? Riding rough shot over these factors results in conflict and division. Paul has a better approach.
In 1 Corinthians 9 Paul restates (v. 15) and then continues to illustrate the principle that love limits Christian liberty. In order to reach people with the truth of the Gospel, we must be willing to accept 1) Self-Denial (v.19-23) and be willing to practice 2) Self -Control (v. 24-27)
In order to reach people with the truth of the Gospel, we must be willing to accept:
1) Self–denial (1 Corinthians 9:19–23)
1 Corinthians 9:19-23 For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings. (ESV)
The primary purpose of Paul’s not taking full advantage of his Christian liberty was that [he] might win more. He deeply believed that “he who is wise wins souls” (Prov. 11:30) and was willing to do anything and to sacrifice anything to win people to Jesus Christ. As far as his rights were concerned he was free from all, but because of his love for all people he would gladly limit those rights for their sakes. He had, figuratively, become a servant/slave to all. He would modify his habits, his preferences, his entire life–style if any of those things caused someone to stumble, to be offended, or to be hindered from faith in the Lord. I have made myself a servant/slave is only two words in Greek (edoulôsa, “I enslave,” and emauton, “myself”). That word for enslavement is very strong. It is used to describe Israel’s 400–year experience in Egypt (Acts 7:6), the marriage bond (1 Cor. 7:15), addiction to wine (Titus 2:3), and the Christian’s new relationship to righteousness (Rom. 6:18). It was not a small or easy thing that Paul enslaved himself to all. Jesus himself is the paradigm for such servanthood. Free, in order to become slave to all—this is surely the ultimate expression of truly Christian, because it is truly Christlike, behavior (Fee, G. D. (1987). The First Epistle to the Corinthians (p. 426). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.).
Paul’s willing adjustment of his living in order to identify with those to whom he witnessed was part of what today we call preevangelism. What he did in this regard was not a part of the gospel; it had nothing to do with the gospel. But it helped many unbelievers to listen to the gospel and be more open to receive it.
• There are times when we consider eternity, people we care about, or the coming judgment that we think about the salvation of others. It is entirely different thing when we would take any biblical measure to win them to Christ. Being far from a casual or part time endeavor, soul winning must be a continual, committed, endeavor if it is to be successful.
To illustrate his voluntary slavery Paul mentions three ways, starting in verse 20, in which he had adapted, and would continue to adapt his living in order to help others be more receptive to Christ. Each of these illustrations, like the statement of the principle itself (v. 19), ends with a purpose clause (“that I might/may …”) indicating his great desire to win people to Christ. To the Jews I became as a Jew. First, within scriptural limits he would be as Jewish as necessary when working with Jews. In Christ he was no longer bound to the ceremonies, rituals, and traditions of Judaism. Following or not following any of those things had no affect on his spiritual life. But if following them would open a door for his witnessing to Jews, he would gladly accommodate. What had once been legal restraints now had become love restraints. His motive was clearly to win Jews to salvation in Jesus Christ. Christ became what we are, he was made what we are, he was sent into our condition, in order that we might become what he is. Paul, in turn, became what the men and women to whom he was proclaiming the Gospel were, in order that he might gain them for the Gospel (Garland, D. E. (2003). 1 Corinthians (p. 436). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic.).