Q: What does it mean when the Apostle Paul said in 1 Corinthians 9:22b, “I am made all things to all men, that I might be all means save some?”
A: The Apostle Paul made this statement in light of sharing the Gospel. He confirmed this in 1 Corinthians 9:23a when he stated, “And this I do for the gospel’s sake.” When you read the Scriptures before 1 Corinthians 9:22, the apostle stated in 9:19, that he made himself a servant to all that he might gain the more, and in 9:20 he stated that he became as a Jew that he might gain the Jews, and he subjected himself to the law so that he might gain those who are under it, and that to those who were not under the law, he revealed that he was free from the law so that he might gain them (9:21).
We see these practices in the life of Paul when you read the book of Acts. He used his Jewish roots, even to the point of fulfilling purification rights to reach the Jews with the Gospel, as well as his citizenship as a Roman to reach the Gentiles (Acts 13:1-5; 21:21:39; 22:6-30). As you study Paul’s approach to others with the Gospel in the book of Acts, you will find that he gave his testimony five times, and each time his testimony was geared towards the group he was speaking to. Paul’s example shows us that for the sake of the Gospel he was willing to become a servant of all. In other words, he was not a servant to all, but a servant of all. He did not serve man’s whims or abide by man’s rules or ideas because he was a true servant to the Lord of lords. As the Lord’s representative and servant, Paul was willing to find places where he could identify and agree with a person regardless of his or her background in order to point him or her to his or her need of salvation.
The important aspect of Paul’s example was that he went as far as he could without compromising his testimony and walk. In other words, he did not come into agreement with wrong spirits, conduct himself in unbecoming ways, or become involved in questionable practices that would end in him becoming a stumbling-block to others (1 Corinthians 9:24-27, 10:17-33; 2 Corinthians 6:14-18). It is clear that the Apostle Paul did not become “one of the guys” to win people to Christ; rather, he found a place of agreement so that he could use it as an opportunity to point individuals to Christ.
I say this because there are those who are using Paul’s words to act like, live like, and conduct themselves as the world in order to supposedly “win” people to Christ, when in reality they are simply hiding their own worldliness and rebellion, while excusing the fact they are living like the devil. However, those who are seeking to be saved from the world will see such attempts as hypocritical, which will become a stumbling block to them, rather than an attraction.
As Christians we are to attract the seeking soul to Jesus and that simply means lifting Him up in sincerity. Those seeking a real solution to the hopelessness that abounds are looking for the real thing, not someone who can be made into “one of the guys.” They are seeking the great physician because their soul is heavy laden with sin, guilt, and hopelessness. They are seeking light to penetrate the darkness created by their spiritual state. They are seeking a reality of God that will bring saneness to their insane worlds.
The Apostle Paul always wore his Christianity with great honor and dignity. He considered himself an ambassador of Christ inviting the lost, poor, hungry, and thirsty to become citizens of the kingdom of God (2 Corinthians 5:19-20). Clearly, he was not representing himself nor was it really his responsibility to get people saved. (John 6:44.) All he could do was find the key, the open door, and the opportunity to point people to Jesus, while giving the Holy Spirit the opportunity to bring conviction to lost souls, turning the key of their hearts toward repentance and salvation, while opening the door for them to hear the glorious invitation of Jesus Christ in John 7:37-38, “If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink. He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.”