1 Corinthians 9:19-22 says,
“Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.”
Paul’s strategy for sharing the gospel of grace sprung from the freedom that grace produced in his life.
“Though I am free and belong to no one…” (1 Corinthians 9:19)
That is a statement of freedom!
What did Paul mean by this?
Paul was free from the control of any religious or spiritual organization.
He was free from meeting the expectations of its leaders.
He was free from needing to fulfill its spiritual disciplines so he could stay in fellowship with God and grow close to God.
He was free from having to follow the organization's spiritual formulas so he could stay forgiven by God, stay right with God, and pray to God.
He was free from seeking experiences to prove the validity of his faith to its leaders.
He was free from having them approve his doctrine.
He was free from having to please them with what he taught.
He was free from their external pressures to conform to their practices.
Grace freed Paul.
All that God freely did for him in Jesus freed Paul.
Through faith in Jesus, Paul received all of God’s forgiveness, entered into continual fellowship with God, was declared righteous by God (right with God), grew in his relationship with God, was at peace with God, was no longer under the law of God, was under no condemnation, and now called God his loving Father.
There were no works needed to obtain any of these, nor were there any works needed to maintain them.
They were all free and simply received by faith in Jesus.
Paul now rested in the grace of God, the gospel, the finished work of Christ.
Freed by grace from the control of any religious or spiritual organization, from any religious or spiritual leader,
Paul now was compelled to share the good news of grace with others so they could experience what he experienced...the transforming power of God’s grace in their lives (2 Corinthians 4:15).
Even though Paul was spiritually freed by grace, he made himself a slave to others (1 Corinthians 9:19) so he could reach them with grace...the good news about all God did for them through Jesus.
He wanted to “win” (19) them to the grace of God given to them in Jesus.
What did Paul mean by “I have enslaved myself to everyone”? (19)
Paul explains what he meant in verses 20-22.
Even though Paul was free from the religious and spiritual leaders that once controlled him and from having to meet their expectations and pursue their experiences, Paul chose to be controlled by the unbelievers he was seeking to win to Jesus.
When Paul was with the Jews, he practiced Jewish law.
When Paul was with the Gentiles, he followed their cultural norms.
When Paul was with the weak, those who were believers but still practiced the law of Moses, he abided by the law.
In doing this, Paul was simply doing what any strategically- minded missionary would do, respect the culture he was in for the purpose of cultivating relationships so he could communicate the good news of God’s grace to people with the goal of seeing them experience the grace of God through faith in Jesus
We see in verse 21 that Paul was motivated to share the grace of God with people because of the love of Jesus for people.
Even though he was freed from God’s law (the old covenant, the Mosaic law, the Ten Commandments), he was not freed from Christ’s law, which is to love others as Christ has loved us (21).
The love of Christ compelled Paul (2 Corinthians 5:14).
He was convinced that Christ died for al (2 Corinthians 5:14).
Therefore, he wanted to reach all people with the good news of grace (2 Corinthians 4:15).
Because of the love Paul had for people, which was compelled by Christ’s love, and the grace of God freely given to him and others through Jesus, Paul chose to follow the customs of unbelievers when he was in their cities and communities so he could win them to Jesus, even though he was not personally under their customs.
Paul did not attack their religious beliefs or practices.
He simply announced the good news of grace to them, and in doing so, some would voluntarily lay down their false beliefs and religious practices as they came to faith in Jesus.
So Paul’s strategy for sharing God’s grace with people was simple:
Freed by grace and compelled by the love of Christ and the grace of God, Paul conducted himself according to the customs of the community he was in, cultivated relationships with unbelievers, so he could communicate the good news of God’s grace to them, with the goal that some would come to faith in Jesus and experience the life-changing power of grace.
By doing this, Paul would share in the blessings of the gospel...or bask in the joy of seeing people experience the life-changing power of grace through faith in Jesus.