All Things To All People

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Paul loved people. Like I said last week, this is very clear. We can clearly see his love in his evangelism. In 1 Corinthians 9:22b Paul wrote, “I have become all things to all people, so that I may by every possible means save some.” This is the one thing that remains unclear to me. What did Paul really mean when he said, “I have become all things to all people”?

In his examples leading up to this he said he became “like a Jew”. He said he became “like one under the law” and also “like one without the law”. What does this mean in practical terms? And maybe what is even more unclear, what would, could or should this look like today? If the greatest command is to love God, and the second is to love everyone (Mark 12:28-34), then wouldn’t whole heartedly obeying the great commission be our highest priority? Obeying God is definitely a way we show our love to Him, and can anyone else think of a better way to show love to a neighbor than him or her to Christ?

So I ask again, what did Paul really mean when he said, “I have become all things to all people”? He didn’t change the content—did he change the delivery? I assume he changed the words he used to explain things, the examples he gave, and the style of his presentation. Is that all this phrase means? I don’t think so. I think he also stripped down the gospel to the bare essentials—not only simplifying it, but also bringing the gospel to where his hearers were—and I don’t mean “where” in a sense of physical location (though he did go everywhere). I mean for the uneducated I think there was very little he wanted them to learn. And for the Gentile I think he didn’t even mention the word “Messiah”. I am not sure he worried about making Jews stop adhering to the old law, anymore than he required Gentiles to learn any of it. And yet, even with all of these fine conclusions, assumptions, and reasoning’s—I am still unclear about how to apply this statement to my own life and to my preaching.

I know this an uncomfortable end to my article—but sometimes, like everyone else I suppose—I come away from scripture with more questions than answers.

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