19 “For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win the more; 20and 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; 21to 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; 22to 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. 23Now this I do for the gospel’s sake, that I may be partaker of it with you.”
Paul now moves from the subject of giving up his right to financial support to giving up cultural rights.
Six times in this paragraph, Paul states his desire to reach the lost. He reaches the lost by adapting his methods according to the group he tried to reach. This is the principle of expediency.
For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win the more;
Paul was free in two areas: as a Roman citizen, he was a free man, and as a Christian, he had freedom in Christ (Ga 5:1), so he was free from Jewish laws, for example. He waived his freedom to reach people with the gospel. Since Paul did not receive remuneration for his ministry, he was free from criticism from those without Christ. Although he was free in Christ, he made himself a slave to all in method.
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;
The principle of accommodation is good if it is restricted to a method, but if applied to truth, then it is evil. In his approach to Jewish people, Paul accommodated himself to Jewish customs and dietary laws. He had no obligation to keep the Mosaic Law (Ro. 6:14), but he chose to keep it for the Jew’s sake.
to those who are without law, as without law
As with the Jews, Paul adapted his methods to the Gentiles when he was with Gentiles. They did not have written revelation, so he ate what they ate. He did not follow kosher rules when he was with them. “Without law” does not mean that Gentiles have no law but that they do not follow the Mosaic Law.
(not being without law toward God, but under law toward Christ), that I might win those who are without law;
In any case, Paul was always under the authority of God. He was under a new law – the Law towards Christ, the principle of grace.
to the weak I became as weak, that I might win the weak.
The “weak” are those with overly scrupulous consciences.
I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.
Paul adapted himself to the scruples of other people by selfless accommodation to their bias. He put aside anything that might hinder an effective gospel witness. He exercised expediency of communication without deceit or compromise.
Now this I do for the gospel’s sake, that I may be partaker of it with you.
The overarching principle that guided his conduct towards those without Christ was the gospel. Paul wanted to be a “partaker” of the gospel with the Corinthians. “Partaker” conveys the idea of co-partner. The idea is that he wanted to share the gospel blessing with the Corinthians when they did not know Christ.
If we love the lost, we will be flexible in ministry to establish rapport with those without Christ.
The principle of expediency recognizes that all people are different. There is not just one way to win people to Christ because they are all different. We use the right kind of bait for the right kind of fish. We reach the lost on their ground, not ours. We come to people at their point of interest and approach them on their accessible side. By this, we establish rapport with them so that they can hear the gospel without encumbrance.
The principle of accommodating ourselves to the lost so that we might win them is a principle of love for the lost. Evangelism is painful at times but waiving our rights puts us in a place of blessing. We find blessing in giving more than in receiving. Living in light of eternity is always more fulfilling than living for self.
We should take note of a word of caution about the principle of accommodating ourselves to people to win them to Christ. The idea is not “When in Rome, do as the Romans do.” Some use their freedom as an excuse to indulge themselves in life. That is a compromise of self-indulgence. We do not lower our standards, but we waive our privileges.