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All Things To All People

Perhaps no passage in Holy Scripture has been explained away like I Corinthians 9:19-23 (NIV), particularly part of verse 22: “I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some.” Doesn’t that make Christianity random or haphazard–not methodical or sure? Isn’t Paul saying, “Whatever?” There’s no way he could have meant that–not like it sounds.

It’s a bit risky to isolate one thing that Paul wrote. After all, he wrote a lot–to different people for different reasons. But what Paul wrote in I Corinthians 9 was solidly Paul. It went to the heart of his ministry.

Paul wasn’t saying, of course, that anything goes. In almost every letter he wrote, he didn’t hesitate to condemn sin. He was also a chief apologist for the teachings of Jesus. Paul was the person in the early church largely responsible for spreading the good news, winning new converts, and establishing churches. Though we usually associate Paul’s ministry with the Gentiles, he also preached to the Jews.

How was he so successful in converting to Christ people coming from such different extremes? The text in I Corinthians 9:19-23 answers the question: “I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews…To those not having the law I became like one not having the law…so as to win those not having the law.” So, he had become all things to all people–to bring them Christ’s salvation. He added an exclamation point in verse 23: “I do all this for the sake of the gospel…”

And what Paul wrote in I Corinthians 9:19-23 wasn’t some one-off statement unrelated to his other teachings. It fit squarely within his overall message.

There’s more to come.

4 comments… add one
  • Lorraine Lynch May 23, 2016, 11:42 AM

    Johnny, this is such big subject, it is hard to put it all into words. I love the study, and I am thinking about how to say what I think in a few words. You know me, that would be quite hard. L

    • John B. Phillips May 23, 2016, 11:52 AM

      L, this is a big subject. I believe I could keep writing a while longer, but I’m not sure it would really add anything. I have appreciated your thoughts and look forward to any additional comments you have. Thanks and best. J

  • Lorraine Lynch May 16, 2016, 12:24 PM

    Keep it coming, Johnny. Love this.

    • John B. Phillips May 16, 2016, 8:34 PM

      Thank you, L. When I was first thinking about this, I thought I’d have a couple of posts. Now I’m thinking it will take all week. I keep re-reading scripture I’ve known about for a long time, and then I’ll read something I don’t ever remember reading. We’ll see how it works out.

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