For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win the more; 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; to 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; 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. Now this I do for the gospel’s sake, that I may be partaker of it with you.
1 Corinthians 9:19-23
History and Context:
1 Corinthians was written by Paul while he was in Ephesus around 54 AD. In Acts 18 we see the funding of the church in Corinth. Paul spent 18 months there as he established the church. This letter is mainly a response to a letter which Paul recieved from the Corinthians. He says that some of what he heard about the church made him feel 'uneasy' (1 Corinthians 1:11; 5:1) and so he wanted to address these issues. He also answered questions which were presented in the letter. Corinth was a trade city that was known for being very corrupt. As people converted to following Jesus, they often did not realize that they had to leave their corrupt ways behind. Paul is mainly addressing a group of high status men who have become Christians but left their lives unchanged.
This passage comes directly after Paul's self defense of his calling, actions, and authority. He relates the difficulty of reaching various groups of people and how he has had to adapt to each culture in order to reach the people of that culture. He never compromised his morals or his message but he adapted to the culture of those to whom he was preaching. To those who were under the law, he also became under the law, to those who were not under the law he became as one who was not under the law, but he kept the realization that he was still under the law of Christ. He adapted to each person's situation and came to their level so that he could save them.
We like to preach to everyone th same. When we are sharing the Gospel, we tend to share it in the way that is easiest and most comfortable for us and expect people to accept it, but sometimes we have to learn to better understand where they are and bring it to them so that they can understand it. We need to learn to listen and adapt. Speak in a language that your listener will understand, but more importantly learn to understand them.
Lord, help me to understand the people you send me to. Help me to have wisdom in the words and methods that I use to bring your Gospel to the people. Thank you Lord, Amen!