Verse of the Day Devotion: 1 Corinthians 9:17
“For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a slave to all, so that I may win more.” – 1 Corinthians 9:17
Paul here in our focus verse is laying out the idea that he is willing to submit himself as a slave to all men so that he can reach as many people as possible for the gospel. He states in this focus verse “For though I am free from all men,” 1 Corinthians 9:17a. He is under no obligation to anyone, he is free from their requirements in regards to religious practices. Although he submits to their practices when it is beneficial to them. “I have made myself a slave to all, so that I may win more.: 1 Corinthians 9:19b.
So, how does he submit to them? He explains this is the next several verses. “To the Jews I became as a Jew, so that I might win Jews; to those who are under the Law, as under the Law though not being myself under the Law, so that I might win those who are under the Law; to those who are without law, as without law, though not being without the law of God but under the law of Christ, so that I might win those who are without law.” 1 Corinthians 9:20-21. In these two verses he is explaining what he means by this. For Jews he acted as Jews, complying with their rites, customs and prejudices as far as he could with a good conscience. He did not attack or oppose their views when there was a possibility his conduct would be taken incorrectly. He did nothing that would insult their beliefs or customs.
Next, he refers to the gentiles who did not have or follow the law of Moses. He acted as though he were not under the law of Moses, but the law of Christ. He did not practice the special rites and ceremonies around them, nor did he insist that they practice them, but showing that the obligation to those rites had been done away; and that they were not binding, though when among the Jews he might still continue to observe them. Theologian Adam Clarke puts it this way. “It is not likely that the apostle could conform himself to the Sadducees; for what success could he expect among a people who denied the resurrection, and consequently a future world, a day of judgment, and all rewards and punishments? He might among the heathen appear as if he were not a Jew, and discourse with them on the great principles of that eternal law, the outlines of which had been written in their hearts, in order to show them the necessity of embracing that Gospel which was the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believed.”
And finally, he states “To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak.” 1 Corinthians 9:22. This refers to weak and inexperienced Christians. He did not want to be a stumbling block to them. Paul gives us an example of how to address them. “Now accept the one who is weak in faith, but not for the purpose of passing judgment on his opinions. One person has faith that he may eat all things, but he who is weak eats vegetables only. The one who eats is not to regard with contempt the one who does not eat, and the one who does not eat is not to judge the one who eats, for God has accepted him. Who are you to judge the servant of another? To his own master he stands or falls; and he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand.” Romans 14:1-4. Paul ends this statement with, “Who are you to judge the servant of another?” Romans 14:4a. It is not our place to condemn the actions of Christian if it is not in and of itself sin. “To his own master he stands or falls; and he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand.” Romans 14:4b It is up to God do decide what is good or bad, right or wrong.
And in the next verse, he says why he does it this way. “I do all things for the sake of the gospel, so that I may become a fellow partaker of it.” 1 Corinthians 9:23. The whole purpose of this is to bring salvation to as many as possible. Note the end of verse 22. “I have become all things to all men, so that I may by all means save some.” 1 Corinthians 9:22b. Paul’s purpose was to present the gospel in such a way that they would not cause any offense but would lead them to Christ. He would not endorse any sinful acts but would help them understand what the path to salvation was. And to offend people may actually close their hearts to the truth rather than open them to the way of Christ and the grace He provides. Let us all work to do the same and bring as many lost souls as possible to Christ. Let us do all things for the sake of the gospel so that our lives will be pleasing to Christ and our fellow man.
William Funkhouser MDiv, ThD, Founder and President of True Devotion Ministries.