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That many may be won

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So that I may win many

19   Denn wiewohl ich frei bin von jedermann, hab' ich mich doch selbst jedermann zum Knechte gemacht, auf daß ich ihrer viel gewinne.
20   Den Juden bin ich worden als ein Jude, auf daß ich die Juden gewinne. Denen, die unter dem Gesetz sind, bin ich worden als unter dem Gesetz, auf daß ich, die, so unter dem Gesetz sind, gewinne.
21   Denen, die ohne Gesetz sind, bin ich als ohne Gesetz worden (so ich doch nicht ohne Gesetz bin vor GOtt, sondern bin in dem Gesetz Christi), auf daß ich die, so ohne Gesetz sind, gewinne.
22   Den Schwachen bin ich worden als ein Schwacher, auf daß ich die Schwachen gewinne. Ich bin jedermann allerlei worden, auf daß ich allenthalben ja etliche selig mache
23   Solches aber tue ich um des Evangeliums willen, auf daß ich sein teilhaftig werde.

In 1 Korinther 8 zeigt Paulus uns dass unser gute Verstand nicht genug ist. In unserm Eifer, andere zu Christus zu bringen beduerfen wir auf alle Faelle auch viel Liebe.

which we have already seen, the apostle has shown us that we have no right to injure another person's faith by the exercise of our liberty. We have no right to make it difficult for a brother or sister in Christ to grow spiritually because of what we do. If we do that, the apostle says, we not only sin against our brother, but we sin against Christ, for the essence of the Christian spirit is being willing to adjust to the needs of someone weaker than you.

Now, in Chapter 9, the apostle is dealing with the difficulty that some would have with this view. There were in Corinth, as I am sure there are here this morning, people who said, "Well, I am not going to give up my rights as a Christian to be free to drink, or to attend various places of amusement, because some legalistic brother is injured or hurt by what I am doing." There were many who were willing to rebel there. They said, in effect, "We are too mature; we are to advanced in our knowledge of Christian doctrine to make that kind of adjustment ." In Chapter 9, the apostle uses himself as an example of this. He says:

Am I not free? Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen Jesus our Lord? Are not you my workmanship In the Lord? If to others I am not an apostle, at least I am to you; for you are the seal of my apostleship in the Lord. {1 Cor 9:1-2 RSV}

For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a slave to all, that I might win the more. {1 Cor 9:19 RSV}

"I am free," he says, "I am an apostle. I have knowledge beyond anything you have. But that does not mean that I demand my rights. No, I am glad to give them up, freely, willingly, that I might win the more."

To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews; {1 Cor 9:20a RSV}

He was willing to go back under the old restrictions that he had been brought up in, all the old limitations of ritual and ceremony and outlook, in order to move back in alongside his Jewish brethren and be understood by them. He was willing to live again as a Jew when he was with them.

To those under the law I became as one under the law -- though not being myself under the law -- that I might win those under the law. {1 Cor 9:20b RSV}

To those who were still under dietary restrictions and various limitations on their activity, Paul says he was willing to do the same, though, he says, he was not himself under the law.

To those outside the law [i.e., the Gentile world] I became as one outside the law -- {1 Cor 9:21a RSV}

"When I was with them I ate their food, even food offered to idols. It did not bother me. I did not feel any restrictions, because I was trying to reach these people." Then, lest they misunderstand the implications of being outside the law, he adds,

-- not being without law toward God but under the law of Christ -- {1 Cor 9:21b RSV}

-- which is the law of love, the law of freedom. So never lawless, nevertheless he became as outside the law with those who lived that way in order that he might win them to Christ.

To the weak I became weak. {1 Cor 9:22a RSV}

He adjusted to the conscientious scruples of those who did not yet have liberty to do some of the things that he felt free to do. What a picture! What an example!

I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some. {1 Cor 9:22b RSV}

That is the great verse in which the apostle declares this spirit of selfless accommodation to where people are. That is what ought to characterize the Christian approach. We should be willing to set aside our own personal desires in order that we might win a hearing and open a door for a witness about the Lord. He never denied principle, never compromised in the realm of immorality, but nevertheless adjusted to the outlook of those with whom he was. Then once again you get the reason for it in Verse 23:

I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings. {1 Cor 9:23 RSV}

The gospel -- the good news that God has given to us without any merit on our part. To give it without expecting anything in return, that is the character of the gospel. Paul says he enjoys the exquisite pleasure of giving without thought of return.

For many years, as our family was growing up we would have the Christmas tree at Christmas with all the presents around it. Everybody in the family would look forward to that time. The presents kept growing, and we would wait for Christmas Eve to come when the family would open the gifts. When the magic moment came we would all gather in the living room, and after reading the Christmas story together we would begin with the children's gifts. Elaine and I would have gifts in that pile, but, if we had our way, we would just leave them there until all the others were opened. Perhaps we would even forget to open them ourselves. What we were after was not the gifts that were waiting for us -- those were of minor significance -- what we wanted to see, our reward, was the joy on the faces of our children when they opened their gifts. Every Christmas I felt amply rewarded for whatever the gifts may have cost in terms of money or struggle. I saw the joy and happiness light up my children's faces when they were surprised by getting something that they long hadanted and did not know they were going to get. That is what Paul is saying. What a joy to go about and give people things for which you do not demand anything in return. That is the Christian spirit.

I want to close with these words of C. S. Lewis. I think they are significant, and pertinent to this issue:

To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will certainly be rung, and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully around with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. The only place outside heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers and perturbations of love is hell.

The apostle is saying that to demand your rights is to condemn yourself to emotional poverty, because that is all you will get -- your rights. Jesus said it best, "It is better to give than to receive," {cf, Acts 20:35}.

9:19–23 I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win the more: Paul put his ministry of the gospel above his personal desires. He was willing to conform to the customs of other people, whether Jew or Gentile, in order to bring them to Christ. For example, in order to relate to the Jews in Jerusalem he made a Nazirite vow in the temple (Acts 21:23, 24). Around those who were under the Law—the Jews—Paul obeyed the Law. Around those who were outside the Law—the Gentiles—Paul did not observe Jewish custom. Paul clarified this, however, lest anyone misunderstand his actions. He obeyed God’s law through obedience toward Christ (v. 21). This was a broader law than the Mosaic legislation; this was the fulfillment of Christ’s will (see 11:1; Rom. 13:8; Gal. 6:2).

9:19–23 I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win the more: Paul put his ministry of the gospel above his personal desires. He was willing to conform to the customs of other people, whether Jew or Gentile, in order to bring them to Christ. For example, in order to relate to the Jews in Jerusalem he made a Nazirite vow in the temple (Acts 21:23, 24). Around those who were under the Law—the Jews—Paul obeyed the Law. Around those who were outside the Law—the Gentiles—Paul did not observe Jewish custom. Paul clarified this, however, lest anyone misunderstand his actions. He obeyed God’s law through obedience toward Christ (v. 21). This was a broader law than the Mosaic legislation; this was the fulfillment of Christ’s will (see 11:1; Rom. 13:8; Gal. 6:2).

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