Tuesday, April 1, 2008
Becoming All Things To All Men?
1 Corinthians 9:22b says, “I have become all things to all men, so that I may by all means save some.” This is probably the second most misquoted, misinterpreted, and misapplied Scripture in all of the Bible in the day in which we live following closely behind Matthew 7:1 – “Do not judge lest ye be judged.” Today’s so-called “Church Growth Experts” have used 1 Corinthians 9:22 in an ungodly and unchristian manner. We have been told that you have to be like the world to win the world – which is the apostate’s interpretation of 1 Corinthians 9:22. They tell us that we should “drink a beer with Bubba”; mix cussing with the content of our preaching; that in our cultural awareness we need to parade before the Church those whom the world esteems; that we are to be relevant and tell people what they want to hear and not what God has said; and that if it works it must be right. If you think that I am lying then just take a close look at the methods and the messages of the “Purpose Driven, Seeker-Sensitive, and Emergent Church” philosophies.
Dear friends, men may build their churches with a tolerance for sin, but the Lord builds His Church based on truth and purity – “Husbands love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless” (Ephesians 5:25-27).So what does it mean to “become all things to all men, so that we may by all means save some” and how do we do it? I want to make four observations from Acts 16:1-5 to show the biblical principles of what it means to become all things to all men:
I. Becoming all things to all men means - Preferring the Right Man (Acts 16:1-2)
A. Paul chose Timothy - a disciple! Timothy was a disciple who knew the cost of discipleship (see 2 Timothy 3:10-11).
B. Timothy was well spoken of by the brethren! He was not a successful worldly leader well spoken of by the world; he was not a successful religious leader well spoken of by the world and all opposing view-points; and he was not esteemed as wise or noble or strong. The Church has no right to prefer and parade those whom the world esteems as successful as a means of saving some because that is not God's way (see also 1 Corinthians 1:26-31).
II. Becoming all things to all men means - Practicing the Right Method (Acts 16:3)
A. Timothy had a Jewish mother and a Greek father. All the Jews in those parts knew that Timothy's father was a Greek. In order to minister to those Jews, Timothy needed to become a Jew because of his Jewish heritage. Paul took him and circumcised him. Paul was becoming all things to all men the right way by preferring the right man and practicing the right method - "For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a slave to all, so that I may win more. To the Jews I became as a Jew, so that I might win Jews; to those who are under the Law, as under the Law though not being myself under the Law, so that I might win those who are under the Law" (1 Corinthians 9:19-20). Timothy was circumcised not to be saved (he was a disciple) but to serve.
B. Titus was a Greek - "But not even Titus, who was with me, though he was a Greek, was compelled to be circumcised" (Galatians 2:3). Titus was a Greek and Paul would not have Titus circumcised because it was not necessary for his salvation or his service. To minister to the Greeks, Titus did not need to be circumcised which would have offended the Greeks – “To those who are without law, as without law, though not being without the law of God but under the law of Christ, so that I might win those who are without law” (1 Corinthians 9:21). Paul practiced the right method. His major concern was that he would cause no hindrance to the gospel of Christ (1 Corinthians 9:12) and this he did by becoming all things to all men (1 Corinthians 9:22) neither compelling the Jews to forsake their heritage nor the Gentiles to become Jews and he said, “I do all things for the sake of the gospel, so that I may become a fellow partaker of it” (1 Corinthians 9:23).
III. Becoming all things to all men means - Preaching the Right Message (Acts 16:4)
A. Paul was delivering the decree that was decided upon in Jerusalem and it was an affirmation of the Gospel of Grace. The Gentiles did not have to be circumcised in order to be saved! They were saved through the grace of the Lord just like the Jews - "But we believe that we are saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, in the same way as they also" (Acts 15:11).
B. The message of the Gospel of grace includes the exhortation to live by love. The Gentiles were not to engage in activities that would offend the Jews - (see Acts 15:19-21, 28-29).
IV. Becoming all things to all men means - Producing the Right Ministry (Acts 15:5)
A. "So the churches were being strengthened in the faith." Preferring the right man, practicing the right method, and preaching the right message strengthens the church in the faith – not in the flesh!
B. "And were increasing in number daily." Strengthening the church in the faith produces the right ministry – “and were increasing in number daily” (true converts). Why did the church increase in number daily? Because her members were strengthened in the faith and shared the gospel with their families, friends, and neighbors.
Conclusion: Preferring the right man, practicing the right method, and preaching the right message will produce the right ministry – true converts!
But let me add a warning on the other side of this truth – a “church” that is strengthened in the flesh will increase in number daily (false converts) and may be held up as a model to follow deceiving herself and many others.
Preferring the wrong man (someone well spoken of by the world), practicing the wrong method (being like the world to win the world), and preaching the wrong message (turning the grace of God into licentiousness), will produce the wrong ministry (strengthening apostates in the flesh – false converts).