|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
9:15-23 It is the glory of a minister to deny himself, that he may serve Christ and save souls. But when a minister gives up his right for the sake of the gospel, he does more than his charge and office demands. By preaching the gospel, freely, the apostle showed that he acted from principles of zeal and love, and thus enjoyed much comfort and hope in his soul. And though he looked on the ceremonial law as a yoke taken off by Christ, yet he submitted to it, that he might work upon the Jews, do away their prejudices, prevail with them to hear the gospel, and win them over to Christ. Though he would transgress no laws of Christ, to please any man, yet he would accommodate himself to all men, where he might do it lawfully, to gain some. Doing good was the study and business of his life; and, that he might reach this end, he did not stand on privileges. We must carefully watch against extremes, and against relying on any thing but trust in Christ alone. We must not allow errors or faults, so as to hurt others, or disgrace the gospel.
Verse 20. - Unto the Jews I became as a Jew. When, for instance, he circumcised Timothy (Acts 12:3) and probably Titus also (Galatians 2:3; see 'Life of St Paul,' 1. 412, sqq.); and he was continuing this principle of action when he took the vow of the Nazarite (Acts 21:21-26), and called himself "a Pharisee, a son of Pharisees" (Acts 23:6). To them that are under the Law. That is, not only to Jews, but even to the most rigorous legalists among the Jews. It should be carefully observed that St. Paul is here describing the innocent concessions and compliances which arise from the harmless and generous condescension of a loving spirit. He never sank into the fear of man, which made Peter at Antioch unfaithful to his real principles. He did not allow men to form from his conduct any mistaken inference as to his essential views. He waived his personal predilections in matters of indifference which only affected "the infinitely little."
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
And unto the Jews I became as a Jew,.... That is, in religion; or with respect to some religious observances peculiar to the Jews, for he himself was really a Jew by nature; who became as one unto them in this sense, when he for their sakes circumcised Timothy at Derbe, or Lystra, purified himself at Jerusalem, shaved his head at Cenchrea, observed their sabbath, and abstained from some sorts of food forbidden in the law; and his end in so doing was, not to confirm them in such usages, but that he might hereby have the greater influence over them, and by little and little bring them off of these things, or, as he says,
that I might gain the Jews; bring them over to Christ, and off of a dependence on their own righteousness, for justification before God:
to them that are under the law, as under the law; the Vulgate Latin version adds, "when I was not under the law", and so the Alexandrian copy and some others; by whom seem to be meant the same persons as before; though some have thought that the Samaritans are intended, and others the Sadducees: but if any as distinct from the former are designed, they should rather seem to be the converted Jews; who though they believed in Christ, looked upon themselves to be still under the law, and therefore observed it; with whom the apostle on certain occasions complied, as if he was under it too, that he might have the greater share in their affections and credit; hoping in time that by such means he might be able to prevail upon them to relinquish these things, and wholly attend to the Gospel and ordinances of Christ, or, as he says,
that I might gain them that are under the law; meaning the Jews, who were observers of the law of Moses.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
20. I became as a Jew—in things not defined by the law, but by Jewish usage. Not Judaizing in essentials, but in matters where there was no compromise of principle (compare Ac 16:3; 21:20-26); an undesigned coincidence between the history and the Epistle, and so a sure proof of genuineness.
to them that are under the law, as under the law—in things defined by the law; such as ceremonies not then repugnant to Christianity. Perhaps the reason for distinguishing this class from the former is that Paul himself belonged nationally to "the Jews," but did not in creed belong to the class of "them that are under the law." This view is confirmed by the reading inserted here by the oldest manuscripts, versions, and Fathers, "not being (that is, parenthetically, 'not that I am') myself under the law."
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