Freedom for change
February 7, 2021
1 Corinthians 9:16-23
New International Version
16 For when I preach the gospel, I cannot boast, since I am compelled to preach. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel! 17 If I preach voluntarily, I have a reward; if not voluntarily, I am simply discharging the trust committed to me. 18 What then is my reward? Just this: that in preaching the gospel I may offer it free of charge, and so not make full use of my rights as a preacher of the gospel.
19 Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. 20 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. 21 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. 22 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. 23 I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.
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In these verses, in which kerdainō appears five times, “winning” or “gaining” people for the gospel is the dominant motif; it is the governing focus of Paul’s life in response to his call. Irony abounds. The one who most exemplifies freedom in Christ and who has no choice but to preach the gospel as he is called to do has freely chosen to enslave himself to all for the sake of the gospel (9:19, 23). As Paul depicts his evangelistic efforts, his voluntary slavery to all involves a fundamental and exemplary accommodation to people as and where he finds them. To Jews, to those “under the law,” Paul became as a Jew, as one under the law, though he is quick to remind his readers that he, the one who advocates living “as if not” (7:29–31), is not under the law—but all of this was for the sole purpose of winning, gaining for the gospel, the ones to whom he accommodates (9:20).
Notes from Point 1
Notes from Point 2
Notes from Point 3
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 J. Paul Sampley, “The First Letter to the Corinthians,” in New Interpreter’s Bible, ed. Leander E. Keck, vol. 10 (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1994–2004), 907.