Friday, 19 September 2014
…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. 1 Corinthians 9:22
So far, Paul has shown himself to be accommodating to others who viewed their faith differently than he did. He has identified himself as a servant to all, as a Jew, as one under the law, and as one without the law (meaning the Law of Moses, and thus implying a Gentile). He now, despite his vast knowledge of what it means to be a Christian, says that “to the weak I became as weak.” This is certainly referring back to those he spoke of in 1 Corinthians 8. There he referred to believers lacking proper knowledge on certain issues.
An example of such a lack of knowledge might be eating pork. When someone didn’t understand that eating pork was acceptable, he wouldn’t have thrown it back in his face by having a pork-chop in front of him. Whatever the person’s weakness, he would have made himself like them. He explained the need for this in that chapter with these words –
“And because of your knowledge shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ died? 12 But when you thus sin against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ. 13 Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never again eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble.” 1 Corinthians 8:11-13
He took his role as an apostle seriously and meant to never harm someone who viewed their position before the Lord differently. This included those weak in the faith. And the reason for this was “that I might win the weak.” To him, having the superior knowledge was of less immediate importance than demonstrating love to the one lacking knowledge. That person could later be properly instructed and also grow in his knowledge if he wasn’t first chased away by Paul’s actions.
And so having described several different categories of people, he sums up his accommodations by saying, “I have become all things to all men.” As long as it wasn’t improper or harmful, Paul would work within the parameters he had been granted as an apostle in order to bring others to faith or to build others up in their faith. All of this was done with the noble cause “that I might by all means save some.”
This final thought is tagged on to show that his adjustments were for a right and noble purpose, not to simply be a man-pleaser, something that he knew would lead very quickly to heresy. He even states this explicitly in Galatians 1 after speaking of exactly that scenario –
“For do I now persuade men, or God? Or do I seek to please men? For if I still pleased men, I would not be a bondservant of Christ.” Galatians 1:10
In all ways, Paul knew that the purity of the gospel was paramount, and yet within that purity there was room for accommodation. He always attempted to find that right and untainted balance as he walked through the life of his apostleship.
Life application: “Knowledge puffs up, but love edifies.” These words of Paul should be remembered by those who have the greater knowledge. In exercising love while instructing in right doctrine, the immature Christian will be built up in his faith and in his heart as well.
Heavenly Father, I look back on my early days as Your child and remember the passion I had – for You, for Your word, and for sharing the wondrous message of grace that I had received. Since then, I’ve grown in many ways, but has my passion in any of these areas cooled? Lord, search me out and ignite any flame which has died down. How much more should I love You now that You have carried me along life’s path! How much more should I desire Your word, now that I have learned how to properly handle it! And how much more should I burn to share the gospel when I see how it has changed and shaped me! Return me to a longing desire to exalt You, O God! Amen.