To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak; I have become all things to all men, so that I may by all means save some.1 Corinthians 9:22(NASB)
Unlike the apostles who accompanied Jesus throughout His earthly 'pre-Cross' ministry, beginning with the baptism of John, Paul was called to be an apostle by Christ following His 'post-Cross' Resurrection, Ascension, and Glorification. Apostleship was not a matter of personal choice, entitlement, or passing an exam on apostleship! There is, however, a list of criteria in Scripture that established true, biblical apostleship, and there were also certain rights and honours that were granted to the apostles of Christ.
While Paul's doctrine was sound, his presentation was different from the other apostles. He presented his message in a way that appealed to the particular group he was addressing. This caused certain Christians in Corinth to question Paul's claim to be a true apostle of God and in chapter 9, we find him giving a comprehensive defence of his apostolic claims. Not only had he seen the risen Lord Jesus and been commissioned by Him to carry the gospel to unconverted Gentiles, kings, and the people of Israel, but Paul argued that the fruit of his ministry within their church community, should provide sufficient evidence for the legitimacy of his apostolic claims.
The gospel Paul taught was not given to him by the other leaders in the early Church and he was not limited by the authority of the other apostles, because his authority came directly from Christ. This gave Paul immense freedom to share the good news of the gospel of Christ to any person or group, in whatsoever way would help them understand and believe. Paul became "all things to all men" for the sake of the gospel.
If Paul was explaining the gospel to the Jews, he would teach it from a Jewish perspective so that they would understand God's redemptive plan and trust in Christ as Saviour. If he was talking to those who were under the Mosaic Law or constrained by some other form of legalism, he would tailor his teaching to their needs so that they would understand. Similarly, if he was sharing the truth with unbelievers who did not adhere to the Mosaic Law, he would modify his approach to their cultural and conduct so that they would understand the truth and be saved as well.
To an onlooker, it could appear that Paul had reverted to Judaism when he taught the gospel to a Jew while, in reality, he was simply telling the truth in a way that Jewish men would understand and believe. And while teaching a Gentile about the Lord Jesus, Paul's Jewish critics could easily accuse him of despising the Old Testament or even of committing blasphemy - but his motive was to draw whomever he could into the way of truth by meeting them at their particular point of understanding and need.
Paul did not change the message of redemption, nor did he compromise the central doctrine of salvation, but he was prepared to alter his behaviour, adapt a certain convention, or adopt a cultural practice so that some might be saved. Paul's priority was to teach the truth of the glorious gospel of Christ so that men and women everywhere would be saved by grace through faith in Christ for the remission of their sins - to explain it in such a way that whoever he was teaching would hear and believe.
To accomplish this end, Paul met people at their own level of understanding or through their own, familiar cultural viewpoint. Whether he met with the rich or the poor, a Jew or a Greek, Paul adapted his habit to conform to his audience: "To the weak I became weak," he explained, "that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all men, so that I may, by all means, save some."
The doctrine of Christ and the gospel of grace is non-negotiable and must never be tweaked to accommodate carnality or compromise, religiosity, or some pet deviation from the truth. However, it is all too easy to frown on a brother or sister in Christ who is seeking to share the glorious gospel of Christ in a manner that does not meet with our approval or is outside our particular experience or practice.
May we be ready and willing to forgo some of our developed biases and adopt Paul's attitude of becoming all things to all men so that the gospel of grace and Christ's sacrificial offering of Himself on the Cross for the sin of the world, may be shared to as many people as possible - so that by all means, some may be saved for the glory of God.
Heavenly Father, how wonderful to know that there is no one who is excluded from Your offer of salvation, for whosoever will, may come to faith in Christ and be saved through His redeeming blood. I pray that You would give me opportunities to share the good news of the gospel of Christ to people in my corner of the world, and help me to become all things to all men so that by any means some may be saved. Thank You that it is not Your will that any should perish but that all should come to faith in Jesus Christ, in Whose name I pray, AMEN.
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