1 Corinthians 9:19-23
February 6, 2000
“Being All Things To All People”
continue a reading series in our Epistle lesson, which contains St. Paul’s
instruction to us concerning Christian living. The issue in the Corinthian
congregation was the eating of meat that had been sacrificed to idols. Some
believed that if you eat a burger you were communing with an idol since most of
the meat sold in Corinth came from pagan temples. Their contention was that
eating the meat makes idol worship legitimate. Others said “the idol is not
real, so how could I commune with something that does not exist?
I am free in Christ, so my eating should not offend you!”
True, eating meat sacrificed
to an idol is not an issue anymore. But there are well meaning Christian who can
become just as offended concerning a whole number of issues. For example,
certain well meaning Christians have suggested the targeting and boycotting of
certain companies and businesses that engage in purported unwholesome practices.
They would argue that if you do not take your business elsewhere you are
condoning and consequently joining in that company’s sin. What is the
Christian to do?
On a personal level there are
well meaning Christians who would argue that Christians are not to engage in
certain behaviors. “Don’t smoke, drink
or chew, or date any gal that do!” is an old yarn, that has been used to
suggest that Christians are to refrain. How
do we respond to such practices such as the playing of cards, playing the
lottery, or holding a wedding during the season of Lent for example? Are these
practices that are to be strictly forbidden? How do we respond?
License…Freedom from sin verses Freedom to sin.
Where do we go with these
issues? In our text for this
morning St. Paul gives us some practical advice on our Christian living as he
encourages us to be all things to all people.
Jesus Christ, the Son of God,
has set us free from our sin. Every last one of our sins has been forgiven –
period! The sins we commit today and tomorrow and the rest of our lives have
been forgiven – period! This fact, however, sometimes gives people the wrong
idea. They will say, “Let’s go out and sin all we want - because our sins
are all forgiven!” This sort of
thinking turns “liberty” into “license”. We are forever free from sin
but that freedom does not make us free to sin. We can’t go out and sow our
wild oats and then pray for crop failure! We can not have the attitude that we
can sin all we want because God is a forgiving God.
We are called to become all
things to all people according to St. Paul. What does that mean? Before we can
help people, we must understand their needs. First, we must accept them as
persons in need of God’s forgiveness. Before
we can win people for Christ, we must identify with them in their situation. We
simply cannot win people to Christ unless we first become their friends. Paul
gives us the motivation for our behavior. We
are to become one with people…
 We do this first by sacrificing personal
freedom to be the people’s servant. Listen
to verse 19 of our text for this morning…
“Though I am free from all men, I have made myself a
slave to all that I might win the more…”
I am free in Christ, and under
that freedom, I am at liberty and no one should judge me. Yet, Paul will tell us
that he willingly makes himself a slave, he abandons that liberty so that he can
win others for Christ. The issue is
not my freedom and my liberty. Paul makes that point clear.
You are free. No one is to
judge you with respect to your observance of certain actions, practices, or
behaviors. Yet to win even more people for Christ I make myself a slave. I
restrict my Christian liberty for the sake of winning more for Christ. This is
not something that is forced upon me like another law. I do this willingly, of
my own accord. Paul says, “I make myself a slave…too win the more”
 To become one with people I identify with
people. Listen to verse 22 of our text for this morning
“To the weak, I become weak, that I might win the
weak I gave become all things to all men that I might by all means win some.”
Why do we refrain when there is freedom? I do this
because there are others who might be weak in their faith.
There are some, which might not understand. There might be some, which
would put themselves under undue duress and pressure. So as to not mislead them
I become weak. Paul reminds us that when comparing another person to our
personal freedoms and liberties I give up my personal freedom so that the faith
of another might have the opportunity to grow.
Since Paul was not paid for his work, he was not obligated to any person. He could speak freely the truth of God without fear of personal consequences. This enabled him to identify with every class and condition of people. His goal for doing so was to “win” people to faith in Christ. The simple truth is that we cannot win people to Christ until we first win them to ourselves. If they do not like the witness, they will not like the witness’ Christ!
By being all things to all people I am motivated by the gospel. Listen finally to verse 23
“I do it all for
the sake of the gospel that I might share in its blessings’
This is what motivates us into action. We do what we
must for the sake of the gospel. We will not allow anything to stand in the way
of the gospel. Therefore when we must choose between personal freedom and the
opportunity for the gospel to take root, we will willingly give up on our
personal freedom so that something better and longer lasting can flourish.
Out of necessity we are called upon to share Christ with all that we
meet. Every single one of us is a “witness”. To win such people for Christ
we must first identify with them. We are not obligated to any, but for the sake
of the gospel we make ourselves to be all things to all people. If this means
giving up our Christian liberties we do so, so that some might be saved.
How will this be applied to your life? That’s how the sermon is to be lived in your life starting today. May the Lord enable you to become all things to all people in the hopes that we might win some for the kingdom. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.
+ Soli Deo Gloria+