|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 21. - To them that are without law, as without law. In other words, I so far became to the heathen as a heathen (Romans 2:12), that I never wilfully insulted their beliefs (Acts 19:87) nor shocked their prejudices, but on the contrary, judged them with perfect forbearance (Acts 17:30) and treated them with invariable courtesy. St, Paul tried to look at every subject, so far as he could do so innocently, from 'their point of view (Acts 17.). He defended their gospel liberty, and had intercourse with Gentile converts on terms of perfect equality (Galatians 2:12). Not without law to God. Not even "without law" (anomos) Much less "opposed to law" (antiheroes), though free from it as a bondage (Galatians 2:19). The need for this qualification is shown by the fact that in the Clementine writings, in the spurious letter of Peter to James, St. Paul is surreptitiously calumniated as "the lawless one." Even the Gentiles were "not without law to God" (Romans 2:14, 15). So that St. Paul is here using language which base opponents might distort, but which the common sense of honest readers would prevent them from misinterpreting.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
To them that are without law, as without law,.... Meaning the Gentiles, who, though they were not without the law of nature, nor without many good civil laws, by which the more cultivated and civilized nations among them were governed, yet they were without the written law of Moses; a description of the Gentiles, usual with the Jews; see Romans 2:12. And to these the apostle accommodated himself, as if he was without the law; by conversing with them without any difference; by eating any sort of food with them; by not circumcising Titus, when the Jews would have had it done; and by resisting Peter, when he, by his example, would have influenced the Gentiles to have lived as did the Jews:
being not without law to God; or "the law of God", the moral law; for though he was delivered from the curse and condemnation of it, and as a covenant of works, and the ministry of it by Moses, yet not from the matter of it, and obedience to it, as a rule of walk and conversation: and therefore his compliance with the Gentiles was not in anything that was contrary to the moral law; nor did he act as one that had nothing to do with that law, "but" as one that was
under the law to Christ, or "under the law of Christ"; that is, the law of love, which obliged him to take every lawful and proper method for the good of such souls:
that I might gain them that were without law; to believe in Christ for life and salvation, and to serve the law of God as in the hands of Christ, the only Lawgiver and King in his church; in testimony of their gratitude to him, for the blessings of grace received by him, without having any dependence on their obedience to it, for acceptance with God.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
21. To them … without law—that is, without revealed law: the heathen (compare Ro 2:12 with 1Co 9:15).
as without law—not urging on them the ceremonies and "works of the law," but "the hearing of faith" (Ga 3:2). Also discoursing in their own manner, as at Athens, with arguments from their own poets (Ac 17:28).
being not without law to God—"While thus conforming to others in matters indifferent, taking care not to be without law in relation to God, but responsible to law (literally, "IN LAW") in relation to Christ." This is the Christian's true position in relation to the world, to himself, and to God. Everything develops itself according to its proper law. So the Christian, though no longer subject to the literal law as constraining him from without, is subject to an inward principle or law, the spirit of faith in Christ acting from within as the germ of a new life. He does not in the Greek (as in English Version) say "under the law (as he does in 1Co 9:20) to Christ"; but uses the milder term, "in … law," responsible to law. Christ was responsible to the law for us, so that we are no longer responsible to it (Ga 3:13, 24), but to Him, as the members to the Head (1Co 7:22; Ro 8:1-4; 1Pe 2:16). Christians serve Christ in newness of spirit, no longer in oldness of the letter (that is, the old external law as such), Ro 7:4-6. To Christ, as man's Head, the Father has properly delegated His authority (Joh 5:22, 27); whence here he substitutes "Christ" for "God" in the second clause, "not without law to God, but under the law to Christ." The law of Christ is the law of love (Ga 6:2; compare Ga 5:13).
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