All things to all people

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How did you first hear of God’s love for you? Thank God for people who were prepared to make sacrifices so that you could be brought into God’s family.

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Bible passage 1 Corinthians 9:19–27

 19Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. 20To 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. 21To 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. 22To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some. 23I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.

 24Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.

 25Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. 26Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. 27No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.

New International Version (NIV) Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society

Audio Bible passage

The audio version of the passage is taken from the Contemporary English Version (CEV).

Explore the Bible

Changing message methods
Paul did not change his message as he spoke to different groups of people – earlier in this letter (1:23) he states that his message is Christ crucified, even though that message is difficult for both Jews and Gentiles to accept. However, here he explains that his methods of sharing that message vary depending on who he is trying to reach.

More than just altering his methods, Paul alters his lifestyle so as not to get in the way of the message being heard and considered. In Acts 21:26, we see him practising Jewish customs, even though he was aware that these customs were not necessary as part of his Christian discipleship.

Using freedom
He is able to voluntarily do this because he is certain of his freedom in Christ. As he says in Romans 8:1,2, ‘There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because ... the law of the Spirit ... has set you free from the law of sin and death.’

He chooses to use his freedom to work hard, and to submit himself to other people’s expectations, in order that some people might be saved.


Think of a family member or close friend who does not know Jesus – what would you be willing to give up, or to do, so that they might hear the gospel? Pray that God would give you motivation and opportunity to share his love with them.

Esther Bailey

Deeper Bible study

‘My every sacred moment spend in publishing the sinners’ friend.’ (Charles Wesley, 1707–88, ‘Give me the faith’, Hymns & Psalms, 767)

Paul continues the theme of voluntarily relinquishing his rights in order to fulfil the mission God has given him, of proclaiming the gospel. He realises, though, that to be effective in the evangelistic task one cannot adopt a one-size-fits-all attitude. The gospel message he is free to proclaim has to be applied and packaged in the language and the context of his hearers, so Paul explains that, because of his rootedness in Christ, he is able to be flexible in his evangelistic approach and relate the gospel to the place in which he finds himself.

He isn’t promoting pure situational ethics, where we make up codes of conduct based on culture alone as if there were no absolutes; neither is he suggesting that there are no timeless fundamentals of the gospel that transcend time and place. However, for the gospel to take root in individual lives it has to be made known in the language and setting people understand. The message of the gospel remains constant, but the messenger chooses to give up his/her rights, and possibly comforts, to reach more people.

Paul goes on to speak of the need for training if he is to be ready to fulfil his role as Christ’s messenger. How such training is needed today! Not just in practical tips for ministry and discipleship, helpful though such resources may be, but a vigorous regime of prayer, fasting, fellowship and engagement with Scripture, that we might be fit and ready wherever we are placed, so that ‘by all possible means I might save some’ (v 22). Our reward for submitting to such a training regime and being ready to serve the cause of the gospel is one that will last for all eternity (v 25).

Gareth Higgs

Finishing the race

The Christian life is often compared to a race, and not a 100 metres sprint! It’s more like a marathon as we are called to choose the way of Christ again and again over many years and in many different situations.

Sometimes we behave as if starting the race, when we come to faith, is the only landmark in the course. But the apostle Paul wants us to see the importance of finishing well, so that we have added rewards in heaven to the salvation with which we started.

Listen to this monologue, ‘Finishing the race’, written by Andrew Lane.


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May the words of my mouth
Tim Hughes & Rob Hill
Copyright © 2005 Thankyou Music
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  • Song: Nothing but the blood
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  • Copyright: Copyright © 2004 Thankyou Music
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  • Rachael Hampton | Tuesday, 23 January 2018

    Every New Year our grandaughter swims in the Pier to Pub, a gruelling race in the cold ocean below Melbourne. She has often been kicked in the face, shoved, and otherwise deliberately hindered by other racers. Not how we behave towards each other in our Earth to Heaven race. For the athlete, discipline is everything. How much more will we make quality, deliberate decisions about caring well for our bodies, souls and spirits because we house and host the very Person and presence of God Himself, as Paul goes on to say in 6:19-20. Discipline, and giving up of rights and preferences becomes an honour and a privilege when seen this way. Lord, help me to do better at this!

  • Sue Hanson | Tuesday, 23 January 2018

    I am with Rachael in this. Paul says of all sinners he is the worst. Jesus got it right in every way and as we read the epistles we tend to think Paul had it right too. But he tells us he struggles too. To love the people we don't "like" and care for them is not easy when sin is always the easy road to follow.

  • Gilvin Crisifeca | Wednesday, 24 January 2018

    v 26 No one can function on this planet without a body. It’s our “earth suit.” However, it also is our biggest liability. If we let our physical senses dictate to us so that we live indulged lifestyles, the power of God will never be a constant characteristic of our lives. The flesh and the Spirit war against each other so that we cannot do the things that we would (Galatians 5:17). I love the reply a minister once said to a parishioner when asked of him 'Do you have the Holy Spirit' to which he replied 'No madam, I am a Spirit and I have a body.'

  • Jack Russell | Wednesday, 24 January 2018

    What you wrote Gilvin reminds me how I was approached in an Anglican church by someone who said "do you consider your self an Anglican to which I responded "no, I consider myself to be a person of faith that is currently using Anglicanism ad an expression of that faith". Sue I think you have hit on an important point and reading your comment brings thoughts to me of a speech I listened to of Martin Luther King in which he talked of love being powerful and it not being about liking someone or what they do. Also to take comfort in any undeserved suffering in that it is redemptive. Rachael the discipline you talk of - when I read that with the giving up of rights and honour I think of this in a military way then my thought goes to the armour of God - salvation, faith, Spirit, truth, and the readiness to share the good news of the gospel of Jesus. And here is the good news uttered by Paul, that he will have a share in the blessings through being all things to all men. Well on the surface that might fly in the face of what I have said about myself and if I wanted to please everyone. to have everyone's approval I would be an ice cream seller. However, I don't think what Paul is talking about is pleasing everyone. In Athens when he spoke of the "unknown god" some followed him, others rejected him probably due to their livelihoods being adversely affected by the truth he spoke. And we know that he is not motivated by people's approval from his opening in the book of Galatians. So what is it that Paul means in this case to be all things to all men? Well it seems, does it not that he would be culturally and religiously sensitive, not doing anything that would step over people as Rachael talks of with the race and deliberate hindrance of others in order to get ahead or like Sue says when sin is the easy road to follow. This is not always about feeling safe and comfortable and Paul pulls no punches in what it means for him with surrendering his rightful position for something greater, a sharing of blessing. It takes a strong faith to be like that.

  • Angela Munday | Wednesday, 24 January 2018

    God cannot love us anymore than He does right now! We cannot work for what has already been freely given to each one of us through His grace and love; it is ours. May our earthly bodies cooperate with our spirit within us so that God is honoured in all situations and places....."to bring many to Christ." ( verse 19 )

  • Jean MacKenzie | Wednesday, 24 January 2018

    I'm finding today's message challenging as I question the way I use my time, but the commentaries and comments are most helpful today. Thank you Esther Bailey, Gareth Higgs, Rachel, Sue, Gillian, Jack and Angela. Andrew Lane's monologue is going to stay in my mind for a very long time too.

  • Barbara Sabin | Wednesday, 24 January 2018

    O for a heart of compassion, Moved at the impulse of love, Lost ones to bring to thy footstool, Thy gracious riches to prove!

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