Wednesday, 17 September 2014
…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; 1 Corinthians 9:20
This verse begins to explain his previous verse where he said, “I have made myself a servant to all.” He will defend this thought for three verses and give a summary in the fourth. As a “servant to all, he showed himself to the Jew as becoming as a Jew. He did this, as he says, “that I might win Jews.” In Philippians 3:4, 5, he says this –
“If anyone else thinks he may have confidence in the flesh, I more so: circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews.”
Paul was neither overly proud of his Israelite heritage, nor did he run from it. He held it in its proper place and to those around him, he lived as a Jew so that they could see there was no conflict between his national status and his faith in Christ. If through such a presentation of his life and heritage he could convince some that his Christian faith was the right, natural, and logical path for the Jew, then he was willing to use that approach.
But there was another aspect of him which he addresses in this verse. He goes on to say that “to those who are under the law” he became “as under the law.” And again, he gives the same reason, “that I might win those who are under the law.” Continuing on in Philippians 3:5, 6, he said –
“…concerning the law, a Pharisee; concerning zeal, persecuting the church; concerning the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.”
Not only did he conduct himself in a way where he continued to live faithfully within his national heritage, but he did it as one who was obedient to the religious heritage of that national identity as well. There were many observant Jews in his time. They lived under the Law of Moses and followed the edicts of those placed above them.
Likewise, some of them lived within the strictest sects of the faith, as Pharisees or Sadducees. These people were those who were considered by others as the epitome of righteousness within the society at that time. Regardless of whether this was actually the case, because Paul originally came from them, he had the ability to demonstrate his obedience to the Law of Moses while at the same time showing that it in no way conflicted with his faith in Christ.
Unlike Peter who was actually unfaithful to the real principles of freedom in Christ while being observant as a Jew, Paul was able to work within both realms without showing any contradiction or hypocrisy between the two. And how could he do this? He gave up his freedoms in order to be a servant to all. This is exactly what his previous many verses were leading up to which concerned his true apostleship and the fact that though he deserved recompense for it, he didn’t use that right. He was a man who meticulously fit his life into every category he could in order to win some to Christ.
Life application: In Paul’s time, some Jews viewed themselves from a point of national identity. Others viewed themselves from a point of religious identity. This is still true today within the Jewish race. Should you have the chance to talk to a Jew, be he an observant Jew or a “national Jew” you can still show, directly from the Bible, that there is no conflict between their Jewish connection and the truth of Christianity. It can be extremely difficult to change their thoughts on this for many reasons, but it is possible. More than anything else, prayer and patience is needed. One cannot force Christianity onto another, but through the word of God, through a loving attitude, and through heartfelt prayer, it can come about.
Heavenly Father, Your word is a word for all people. It is the message of hope and reconciliation for both Jew and Gentile, for men and women, for young and old, and for the smartest person or the one lacking any education at all. It is one that can touch any and all who are willing to set aside their pride and humble themselves before the One who came to grant peace and reconciliation between You and us, our Lord Jesus. Help me to tactfully and wisely handle this word so that those I meet along the way will see the glory of Jesus and call out to Him in faith. Amen.