1Co 9:19-23 “For though I be free from all men, yet have I made myself servant unto all, that I might gain the more. And unto the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain the Jews; to them that are under the law, as under the law, that I might gain them that are under the law; To them that are without law, as without law, (being not without law to God, but under the law to Christ,) that I might gain them that are without law. To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak: I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some. And this I do for the gospel’s sake, that I might be partaker thereof with you.”
Paul makes it clear in all of his letters that he is not under bondage to any man or any system of men anywhere. He is the prisoner of the Lord Jesus Christ and none other. Yet he here confesses that he has willingly become a servant to all types of people that he might have the opportunity to share the good news of Jesus Christ.
Paul was born a Jew. He was, by his own admission, a dedicated Pharisee. His goal in life was to understand and follow the Law of Moses until the Messiah came. Paul’s expectation of the Messiah was the same as other Jews: He would elevate the Jews to the state of “ruling class.” The conversion experience that occurred on the road to Damascus freed Paul from his desire to rule over others.
By his experience as a Jew, he was able to approach other Jews. He was able to take the scriptures they read every Sabbath in the synagogue and teach them about Jesus Christ. Every time he taught, there were some of the Jews who believed on Jesus and some who wanted to harm Paul for teaching Christ. Still, Paul would willing go the next Sabbath to teach in the synagogue.
Even after they were converted to belief in Jesus Christ, there were some of the believing Jews who still tried to hold onto the law service. Not only did they try to hold to the law, but they wanted to bring the Gentiles under the same bondage of law. Even though Paul was no longer bound by the ceremonial law (and openly withstood those that were) there were times when he yielded to it. He was willing to see Timothy circumcised to win some that were under the law.
Paul willingly declared to his Jewish brethren that since they deemed themselves unworthy of eternal life, he was going to take this message of salvation by grace in Jesus Christ to the Gentiles. He did not come among them making heavy-handed demands that they abandon their ways. Instead he walked among them, observed their customs, and found a way to approach them that they would understand as he did at Mars’ hill (Acts 17:22).
When Paul found himself confronted with believing brethren whose faith was weak, he did not upbraid them for their weakness. Instead, he walked among them as a brother and servant. He was so determined to have an entrance to them that he was willing to abstain from eating meat if it caused his brother to offend.
Paul was truly willing to become all things to all men that he might have the opportunity to present to them the gospel of Jesus Christ. At no time do we have any evidence that Paul condoned or participated in any act that could have been considered criminal or willfully sinful. Neither do we find him taking credit for the belief that some were blessed with as a result of his preaching. Always he showed himself to be under the law of God (“love the LORD, thy God – Mat 22:37”) and under the law of Christ (“as I have loved you – Joh 13:34”).
Finally, Paul did not do any of this for his own benefit. It was not for prestige, material wealth, or self-aggrandizement. His concern was for the spread of the good news that Jesus Christ died on the cross for the sins of His people and arose from the grave on the third day and now sits at the right hand of the Father making intercession for us! His purpose was only to give God glory and edify his brethren.
As ministers of the gospel, we should not try to determine ahead of time whether or not to preach to any particular group of people. We cannot figure out who will hear the truth and who will not. It is not for us to determine if we are “just wasting our time” preaching to people who are already steeped in religious tradition, bound under a legal service, have no idea at all about Jesus, or having an idea are not strong in their understanding of how to serve Him.
May God teach us to be servant of all that through the furtherance of the gospel we might by any means save some!