Some would say that Paul preached and wrote some harsh stuff. In Galatians, for example, he dished out curses, warnings, and condemnations. He was writing to people who had already accepted Christ, but he was perplexed by what had happened to them. Was someone trying to pervert the gospel of Christ? “You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you?” (Galatians 3:1, NIV) Paul was hardly reticent about holding converted believers to the truth. Christianity was new. Holding the church together was difficult. Paul knew that very well, since when he was named Saul, he did all that he could to destroy it.
But when Paul had his conversion experience on the road to Damascus, everything changed for him. His acceptance of Jesus as Lord and Savior placed him on a new life-long mission. He had found a new ardor, full of Christ’s love and God’s grace. Because of the salvation he had been given, he wanted to share it. He began traveling and preaching and doing everything he could to lead others–anyone and everyone–to Jesus.
It’s easy to see, then, why he became all things to all people, using all possible means, to save others. (I Corinthians 9:19-23) He wanted to bless others as he had been blessed.
In Acts 17, we see how becoming all things to all people served Paul well in fulfilling his mission. Instead of pouncing on the Athenians for their various objects of worship, he commended them for being religious and used the inscription “TO AN UNKNOWN GOD” on one of the objects as an opportunity to teach them about the one true God. And he did it in such a way that they wanted to hear more on the subject.
Paul would continue to reach out to people in a way that interested them in hearing more, rather than forcing them to do the opposite.
Tomorrow, more of Paul being all things to all people.