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. This is my defense to those who would examine me. Do we not have the right to eat and drink? Do we not have the right to take along a believing wife, as do the other apostles and the brothers of the Lord and Cephas? Or is it only Barnabas and I who have no right to refrain from working for a living? .... (vs19) For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. 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. To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings.
In my last post on 1 Corinthians 8 (you can read it here), I discussed the freedom that believers have in Christ and how not to exercise that freedom. Paul continues his theme on freedom in chapter 9. And it is here I believe he gives an example of how we can best use our freedoms to the glory of God.
Before I get into the part of the passage I would like to highlight today, there is an entire 19 verses I chose to skip. In this part of the passage Paul discusses the rights of life and apostleship that he sets aside to better serve the Corinthian church. Remember this is a church that is divided specifically over their "favorite" teachers. Paul here is reminding them that he does not come to them in order to gain anything, but even to the point of laying aside his own rights, he serves them for the sake of the gospel. It is on this note of service, that we pick up in verse 19.
"Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible" As counter intuitive as it may sound, the correct way to use our freedom in Christ is to make ourselves slaves. "To those under the law I became like one under the law....to those not having the laws I became like one not having the law..." Paul was no longer held to the Mosiac laws. He could eat what he wanted, work on the Sabbath, wear what he chose. But when around those bound to the law Paul walked according to the law. Likewise, Paul still held to the moral standard of God. But when he was around those who lived according to the world's standards he did not snatch every opportunity to point out their sin but rather lived alongside them as in the world but not of it. He did this not to be fickle or "liked" by everyone but rather he says, "I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some."
This concept is much easier to picture in some sort of foreign mission field. Do not live in a way that offends the very people you are trying to reach with the gospel. For example when going down to lead a worship service in Mexico, all the girls on the team wore skirts. Even though it is completely except able to wear jean in our church, to the people in that church culture it would have been offensive. And in Thailand when offered a pipe by the head of the household as a show of hospitality my leader would not turn it away because he does not smoke. It would be a massive affront. You and I may not face situations like this every day in the U.S., but how do we walk among our friends?
"I do all this for the sake of gospel, that I may share in its blessings." In 1 Peter 3:18 it says, "For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God" Christ laid down His life to bring His people back to God. To draw us to Himself. The goal of the gospel should change how we handle our freedoms. May we live not for ourselves but for the sake of all men that they would come to know the same freedom we do in Christ. May we use our freedom serve His kingdom for our good and His glory.