Online Bible Commentary
All Things to All Men
1 Corinthians 9:19 For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win the more; 20 and to the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might win Jews; to those who are under the law, as under the law, that I might win those who are under the law; 21 to those who are without law, as without law (not being without law toward God, but under law toward Christ), that I might win those who are without law; 22 to the weak I became as weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some. 23 Now this I do for the gospel's sake, that I may be partaker of it with you. (NKJV)
The writer of 1 Corinthians is the apostle Paul. He wrote this letter to the church at Corinth, Greece during his third missionary journey. The church was established by Paul during his second missionary journey when he ministered in Corinth for a year and a half during A. D. 51-52.
Paul wrote this letter during his two year and three-month ministry in Ephesus, Asia in A. D. 54-56. It was actually his second letter to the church (1 Cor. 5:9). However, the first letter obviously was lost. The purpose of this letter is to emphasize that Jesus is our Lord and Master.
In the previous passage Paul addressed the Lord’s position on the payment of financial compensation to those who preach the Gospel. Those who preach the gospel are entitled to be financially supported by those to whom they preach.
As for himself personally, Paul stated that he would not accept regular compensation for himself because of his own personal circumstances. Because of his past life as a Jew who persecuted Christians Paul did not want anyone to question his motives for now preaching for the Gospel that he previously preached against.
Now, in this passage Paul begins by stating that because he does not accept regular compensation, he is not beholding to any man, he is “free from all men” (v. 19a). In other words, Paul is not a slave to any man, but he is a willing “servant to all” men in the hope that he “might win the more” to Christ (v. 19b).
This statement defines the motive of Paul; to win more people to Christ. His goal is that more people would become Christians. Next, Paul shares with us how he sought to accomplish this goal.
He “became as a Jew, that I might win Jews” (v. 20a). Paul complied with Jewish customs and traditions so long as they did not violate Christian principles. For example, he circumcised Timothy (Acts 16:3) so that Timothy could better relate to Jews, but he refused the circumcision of Titus (Gal. 2:3) because it distorted the Christian principle of salvation by grace, not works.
Next, Paul states that he became like Gentiles, “those without the Law”, in order to win more of those people to Christ (v. 21a). Paul describes himself as one “not being without law toward God, but under law toward Christ” (v. 21b). In other words, he was like the Gentiles in not being under the Jewish law, but he did place himself willingly under the law of Christ, he obeyed the commandments of Christ.
Not only did Paul become as Jews and Gentiles in order to win more to Christ, he also “became as (the) weak” that he “might win the weak” (v. 22a). The “weak” refers to those, whether Jew or Gentile, who may be overly concerned with other matters, such as dietary matters. Again, Paul would comply as much as possible with their beliefs without violating any Christian principles.
In conclusion, Paul became “all things to all men, that I might by all means save some” (v. 22b). He would do anything possible, without violating his Christian principles, in order to “save some”. He knew that he could not save all non- believers. There would be some people who would not accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior and would not become Christians.
Paul also knew that he actually did not save anyone. The Holy Spirit convinces and converts people to become Christians. He uses men and women to plant and water the Gospel, the word of God, and He then saves those who accept Jesus.
Paul does this “for the gospel's sake, that I may be partaker of it with you” (v. 23). He became all things to all men for the sake of the Gospel and to share in the triumphs of the Gospel.
We Christians should follow the example set by Paul in telling others of Christ. We should be involved with the culture to the extent that we can come in touch with the unsaved wherever they are in life. However, we should never violate our Christian principles in doing so.