I received the following question:
1 Cor 9
19. For though I be free from all men, yet have I made myself servant unto all, that I might gain the more.
20 And unto the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain the Jews; to them that are under the law, as under the law, that I might gain them that are under the law;
21. To them that are without law, as without law, (being not without law to God, but under the law to Christ,) that I might gain them that are without law.
22. To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak: I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.
23. And this I do for the gospel’s sake, that I might be partaker thereof with you.
Would you please explain this passage? When Mid-Acts is presented with evidence that Paul was still operating under the Kingdom program during the Acts period, they use this passage to explain away things such as Paul preaching to the Jews, Paul performing signs and wonders, and Paul taking a Nazirite vow.
Thank You for your help,
Of course. This passage is a favorite of those who want to justify all kinds of things. Some will say that they should drink with the drinkers, party with the partiers, gamble with the gamblers, and do every sort of out-of-control or worldly thing just to get in good with people in order to win them to Christ. I even read one girl who promoted “missionary dating” and suggested believers should be willing to sleep with their unsaved boyfriends or girlfriends, all for the purpose of winning them to Christ. She said it hadn’t really worked yet, but the boyfriend she was sleeping with at the time said it was interesting and he was thinking about it. (!) Yet this is not the point of what Paul is saying. Paul was not a Jesuit, and he did not believe that the ends justify the means. We cannot do God’s work using wicked methods.
While the mid-Acts people you are talking about are not saying anything quite as drastic as what some say, as I pointed out above, they are basically making the same argument: that Paul was faking it and doing things he didn’t believe in, things that were not right or correct, all for the purpose of winning people to Christ. Yet this again is not what Paul was saying. The fact is that Paul did not have to pretend to be a Jew. He was a Jew. In a way he had been separated from his own people in order to be a representative of Christ, yet he was still a Jew in reality, and so he could act like a Jew among Jews and not be faking anything. He was a Jew, and could act like one. He was also under the law. He took vows, kept feasts, and circumcised. He was not only going to fulfill a Nazirite vow himself, but was going to pay the considerable costs to help four other people fulfill one in Acts 21, all in order to prove he did not teach that the Jews among the nations should stop circumcising their sons and keeping the law. Therefore, Paul could act as one under the law since he was under the law. Yet for those without law, Paul could act like he was outside the law of Moses. Why could he do this? Would he not be faking something that was not true? No, indeed. For really when one stepped out of Israel, one stepped outside the place where the law truly could be kept. One could not keep the feasts, make the sacrifices, and follow the law in all its commandments as long as one was not in the land God gave to Israel. Therefore as long as Paul was outside the land, he could not really keep the law either. It was not that he was lawless, for he was under the law, the very rule, of Christ, since he was acting as His representative. Yet if he needed to eat with Gentiles and maybe come in contact with unclean things, he could do that, for really all the Jews outside the land were not strictly keeping the law, and Christ had forgiven them for all such breaches. Therefore Paul could become as outside the law since, in reality, he really was, at least as long as he was outside the land. To the weak Paul could become weak, since he was weak in the flesh, though of course he was strong as iron in the Spirit. Therefore, in all these things, Paul was not being a hypocrite. He was not acting as something that he was not. He was manifesting different realities to different people.
Therefore, this does not mean that Paul was faking it, lying, acting as a hypocrite when he acted like a Jew under the law. He was a Jew under the law. When he acted as not under the law, he was not being a hypocrite either, since Christ had freed him of the necessity of keeping the law as long as he was outside the land. He was not acting worldly when really he wasn’t (as if one even could do such a thing!). He was not acting like a law-keeping Jew when really he had given up on the law and taught against it. He did not teach against it, as Acts 21:20-26 clearly shows.
I pray this helps.