1 Corinthians 9:20
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;
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(20) And unto the Jews I became as a Jew.—This and the following verses are a categorical explanation of the previous statements. They show in detail both how he became the slave of all and the reward he had in view in doing so.

For example, of St. Paul’s conformity to Jewish law, see Acts 16:3; Acts 18:18; Acts 20:6; Acts 21:26.

To them that are under the law. . . .—Better, To them that are under the Law, as under the Law, not being myself under the Law. These last words are found in all the best MSS., but have been omitted by an oversight of the copyist in the text from which our own translation is made. Those spoken of as “Jews” are, of course, Jews by birth and religion; those “under the Law” are probably proselytes to Judaism. In neither case do they mean Christian converts, for the object of St. Paul’s conduct towards those of whom he here speaks was to win them to the Faith of Christ. He himself was no longer “under the Law” being a Christian (Galatians 2:19).

1 Corinthians 9:20-23. To the Jews I became as a Jew — Conforming myself in all things to their manner of living, so far as I could with innocence. And, inasmuch as in the preceding chapter the apostle directed the Corinthians to comply with the prejudices of their weak brethren, in the affair of meats sacrificed to idols, and declared his own resolution, that if his eating meat occasioned others to sin, he would not eat flesh while he lived; it is therefore probable that his becoming to the Jews as a Jew, implied especially that he observed the distinction of meats enjoined by Moses, while he lived with the Jews in the heathen countries. It may refer also to his circumcising Timothy, to render his preaching acceptable to the Jews. This compliance with the prejudices of the weak he showed only to gain their good-will, and thereby remove their prejudices against himself, and the cause in which he was engaged. For when the Judaizing teachers insisted on the observance of any of the rites of the law, as necessary to salvation, he always resolutely withstood them, as in the case of Titus, Galatians 2:3; Galatians 2:5; Galatians 2:14. To them that are under the law — Who apprehend themselves to be still bound by the Mosaic law; as under the law — Observing it myself while I am among them. As, however, he did not believe the observance of it to be necessary under the gospel, so he did not refuse to converse with those who omitted to observe it; the very thing which he condemned in Peter, Galatians 2:14. To them that are without law — The Gentiles, who did not hold themselves bound to observe Moses’s law; as without law — Neglecting its ceremonies; being not without law to God — But as much as ever obliged to obey its moral precepts; and under the law to Christ — Under an indispensable obligation in duty and gratitude to obey his will in all things, imitate his example, and live to his glory: and in this sense all Christians will be under the law for ever. That I might gain them that are without the law — Might make my ministry more agreeable and useful to such as were Gentiles by birth and education. To the weak — In knowledge, grace, or abilities, or to those whose consciences were uninformed, and therefore scrupulous; I became as weak — I condescended to their weakness by teaching them according to their capacity, 1 Corinthians 3:1-2; bearing with their infirmities, and complying with them in forbearing the use of those things which they, through weakness, scrupled to use. I am made — I became; all things to all men — I accommodated myself to all persons in all indifferent things, as far as I could consistently with truth and sincerity; that I might by all means — Or, if possible; save some — How few soever the number might be. And this I do for the gospel’s sake — To promote its success to the utmost of my ability; that I might be partaker thereof with you — That in consequence of the faithful discharge of my office, I might retain the divine favour and approbation, and be a sharer with you in all its privileges and blessings, in time and in eternity.

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.And unto the Jews - In this verse, and the two following, Paul states more at length the conduct which he had exhibited, and to which he refers in 1 Corinthians 9:19. He had shown this conduct to all classes of people. He had preached much to his own countrymen, and had evinnced these principles there.

I became as a Jew - I complied with their rites, customs, prejudices, as far as I could with a good conscience. I did not needlessly offend them. I did not attack and oppose their views, when there was no danger that my conduct should be mistaken. For a full illustration of Paul's conduct in this respect, and the principles which influenced him, see the notes on Acts 16:3; Acts 18:18; Acts 21:21-27; Acts 23:1-6.

To those that are under the law - This I understand as another form of saying that he conformed to the rites, customs, and even prejudices of the Jews. The phrase "under the law" means undoubtedly the law of Moses; and probably he here refers particularly to those Jews who lived in the land of Judea, as being more "immediately and entirely" under the law of Moses, than those who lived among the Gentiles.

As under the law - That is, I conformed to their rites and customs as far as I could do it. I did not violate them unnecessarily. I did not disregard them for the purpose of offending them; nor refuse to observe them when it could be done with a good conscience. There can be no doubt that Paul, when he was in Judea, submitted himself to the laws, and lived in conformity with them.

That I might gain - That I might obtain their confidence and affection. That I might not outrage their feelings, excite their prejudices, and provoke them to anger; and that I might thus have access to their minds, and be the means of converting them to the Christian faith.

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."

The ceremonial law died with Christ, Ephesians 2:15,16, wherefore Christians were not obliged to the performance and observation of it after the death of Christ; but it pleased God for a time to indulge the Jews in the observance of those rites, until they could clearly see, and be fully persuaded of, their liberty from it, with which Christ had made them free; and it was some good time before all those, who from Judaism had turned to Christianity, could be thus persuaded, as we may learn from Galatians 4:21, they desired to be under the law. To such, saith the apostle,

I became as a Jew, that is, I observed some rites which the ceremonial law (peculiar to the Jews) required; an instance of which we have, Acts 21:23-26, where we find Paul purifying himself (according to the rites of the ceremonial law) with four men which had a vow upon them. The Jews before Christ’s death were

under the law; many of them, though converted to the Christian religion after the death of Christ, apprehended themselves under the law, not as yet seeing the liberty with which Christ had made them free: saith the apostle, I, knowing the will of God, for a time, that the Jews should be indulged as to their weakness,

became as one of them under the law, that I might gain them, that is, reconcile them to the Christian religion, and in some measure prepare them for the receiving the gospel. We have an instance of this in Paul’s practice, Acts 16:3, where he circumcised Timothy, because his mother was a Jewess, that he might not irritate the Jews in those quarters, nor estrange them from the doctrine of the gospel. In all this Paul did nothing that was sinful, but only determined himself as to the liberty which God had given him, when he might do or forbear, either doing or forbearing to do, as he saw the one or the other made most for the honour and glory of God in the winning of souls.

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.

And unto the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain the Jews; to them that are under the {p} law, as under the law, that I might gain them that are under the law;

(p) The word law in this place must be limited to the ceremonial Law.

1 Corinthians 9:20. Explanation in detail of the preceding verse (καί epexegetical).

To the Jews Paul became as a Jew, i.e. in his relations to the Jews, whom he sought to convert, he behaved in Jewish fashion, observing e.g. Jewish customs (Acts 16:3; Acts 21:26), availing himself of Jewish methods of teaching, etc., in order to win Jews. Jewish Christians are not included here (Vorstius, Billroth); for these were, as such, already won and saved.

τοῖς ὑπὸ νόμον] to those under the law; not really different from τοῖς Ἰουδαίοις, save only that they are designated here from their characteristic religious position, into which Paul entered. The universal nature of the expression is enough of itself to show that Judaizing Christians cannot be intended; nor proselytes,—although they are by no means to be excluded from either category,—because they, too, would not have their specific characteristic brought out by ὑπὸ νόμον. The very same reason holds against the supposition that the rigid Jews, the Pharisees, are meant. The first of these three views is taken by Theodoret, the second by Theodore of Mopsuestia, Grotius, Mosheim, al[1505]; Theophylact is undecided which of the two to prefer, comp also Chrysostom; Lightfoot and Heydenreich adopt the third.

ΜῊ ὪΝ ΑὐΤῸς ὙΠῸ ΝΌΜΟΝ] although I myself (for my own part) am not, etc., a caveat very naturally arising from his consciousness of the high value of his freedom as regards the law, Galatians 2:19. There is no proof of any apologetic design here (in reference to such as might have said: Thou must do so and so, Rückert). Paul did not add any remark of this kind in connection with the preceding clause, because in respect of nationality he actually was an Ἰουδαῖος.

τοὺς ὑπὸ νόμ.] The article denotes the class of men in question.

[1505] l. and others; and other passages; and other editions.

1 Corinthians 9:20-22. This gain of his calling P. sought (1) among the Fews, and those who with them were under law (1 Corinthians 9:20); (2) amongst the body of the Gentiles, without law (1 Corinthians 9:21); (3) amongst the weak believers, who were imperilled by the inconsiderate use of liberty on the part of the stronger (1 Corinthians 9:22 a). Each of these classes the Ap. saves by identifying himself with it in turn; and this plan he could only follow by keeping clear of sectional obligations (1 Corinthians 9:19). Ed[1375], coupling 1 Corinthians 9:20 b and 1 Corinthians 9:21, distinguishes three points of, view—“race, religion, conscience”.—“I became to the Jews as a Jew,” for Paul was no longer such in the common acceptation: see note on ἐλεύθερος (1), also Galatians 2:4; Galatians 4:12; for evidence of his Jewish conformity, see Acts 16:3; Acts 18:18; Acts 21:23 ff.; also the speeches in Acts 13:16 ff; Acts 12:1 ff; Acts 26:2 ff.; and Romans 1:16; Romans 9:1 ff; Romans 11:1; Romans 15:8, for his warm patriotism.—τοῖς ὑπὸ f1νόμον enlarges the category τ. Ἰουδαίοις by including circumcised proselytes (see Galatians 5:1-3); and ὡς ὑπὸ νόμον defines Paul’s Judaism as subjection, by way of accommodation, to legal observance, to which the ptpl[1376] phrase (wanting in the T.R.), μὴ ὢν αὐτὸς ὑπὸ νόμον, intimates that he is no longer bound in principle—μὴ with ptp[1377] implying subjective stand-point (“not being in my view”), and αὐτὸς denoting on my part, of and for myself (cf. Romans 7:25). P.’s self-denying conformity to legal environment brought on him the reproach of “still preaching circumcision” (Galatians 5:11).—In relation to Gentiles also he takes an attitude open to misunderstanding and which he wishes to guard: “to those out-of-law (τ. ἀνόμοις) as out-of-law—though I am not out-of-law in respect of God, but in-law (ἔννομος) in respect of Christ”. ἄνομος was the Jewish designation for all beyond the pale of Mosaism (see Romans 2:9-16, etc.): Paul became this to Gentiles (Galatians 4:12), abandoning his natural position, in that he did not practise the law of Moses amongst them nor make it the basis or aim of his preaching to them; see Acts 14:15 ff; Acts 17:22 ff. He was ἄνομος therefore, in the narrow Jewish sense; not so in the true religious sense—“in relation to God”; indeed P. is now more than ὑπὸ νόμον, he is ἔννομος Χριστοῦ (= ἐν νόμῳ Χριστοῦ; cf. Galatians 6:2, Romans 3:27; Romans 3:31; Romans 8:2)—non existens exlex Deo, sed inlex Christo (Est.). The Christian stands within the law as entering into its spirit and becoming one with it in nature; he is “in the law of Christ” as he is “in Christ” (cf. Galatians 2:20, 2 Corinthians 5:17). This νόμος Χριστοῦ P. expounds in Romans 12, 13 (esp. 10), Colossians 3, Ephesians 4:20 to Ephesians 5:9, after John 13:34, Matthew 5:7, etc. Its fulfilment is guaranteed by the fact that it is “the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1 ff.), who “dwells in” the Christian (1 Corinthians 3:16), operating not as an outward yoke but an implanted life.—ἵνα κερδάνω τ. ἀνόμους follows τ. ἀνόμοις ὡς ἄνομος after the μὴ ὢν parenthesis, in the manner of the two ἵνα clauses of 1 Corinthians 9:20 (κερδάνω and κερδήσω are the Attic and non-Attic forms of the 1st aor[1378] sbj[1379]).—Describing the third of his self-adaptations, P. resumes the ἐγενόμην of the first, coming home to the situation of his readers: “I became to the weak (not as weak, but actually) weak (see txtl. note), that I might gain the weak”. So well did he enter into the scruples of the timid and half-enlightened (see e.g. 1 Corinthians 8:7; 1 Corinthians 8:10, Romans 14:1 f.), that he forgot his own strength (1 Corinthians 8:4, Romans 15:1) and felt himself “weak” with them: cf. 2 Corinthians 11:29, τίς ἀσθενεῖ, καὶ οὐκ ἀσθενῶ;

[1375] T. C. Edwards’ Commentary on the First Ep. to the Corinthians.2

[1376]tpl. participial.

[1377] participle

[1378] aorist tense.

[1379] subjunctive mood.

1 Corinthians 9:22 b sums up (in the pf. γέγονα of abiding fact replacing the historical ἐγενόμην, and with the objective σώσω for the subjective κερδήσω) the Apostle’s conduct in the various relations of his ministry: “To all men I have become all things, that by all means I might save some”.—On πάντως, which varies in sense according to its position and context, see 1 Corinthians 9:10, 1 Corinthians 5:10; here it is adv[1380] of manner to σώσω, omni quovis modo. “That in all this description of his οἰκονομία or συγκατάβασις P. sets forth no unchristian compliance with men, but the practical wisdom of true Christian love and self-denial in the exercise of his office, this he expects will be self-evident to his readers, so well acquainted with his character (2 Corinthians 1:12 ff; 2 Corinthians 5:11). This kind of wisdom is so much more manifestly the fruit in P. of experience under the discipline of the Spirit, as his temper was the more fiery and uncompromising” (Mr[1381]); “non mentientis actus, sed compatientis affectus” (Aug[1382]). This behaviour appeared to his enemies time-serving and duplicity (2 Corinthians 1:12; 2 Corinthians 4:2; 2 Corinthians 12:16, Galatians 1:10).

[1380] adverb

[1381] Meyer’s Critical and Exegetical Commentary (Eng. Trans.).

[1382] Augustine.

20. unto the Jews I became as a few] As in Acts 16:3; Acts 18:18; Acts 21:26; Acts 23:6; Acts 26:4-6; Acts 26:22; Acts 26:27. Some of these passages, though they refer to events which occurred after these words were written, are none the less useful as illustrations of St Paul’s principle of action.

1 Corinthians 9:20. Ὡς Ἰουδαῖος, as a Jew) in regard to those things which are not defined by the law; for as under the law follows, although even those, who observed the laws of Noah, might have been called men occupying a place midway between the Jews under the law and men without the law.—ὡς ὑπὸ νόμον) μὴ ὢν αὐτὸς ὑπὸ νόμον is subjoined in the oldest copies.[79] It was an omission easily made in others from the recurrence of the word νόμον.—τοὺς) The article seems to be put here not so much for the sake of emphasis as of necessity, as ὑπὸ under follows.

[79] And, therefore, both in the margin of the 2d ED. it is elevated from the mark γ to the mark β, and in the Germ. Vers. it is inserted in the context.—E. B. These words, μὴνόμον, are read in ABCD (A) G fg Vulg. Theb. But Rec. Text omits the words with Memph. Syr. and Orig. 1,391 c; 3,515 f, 4,166 d.—ED

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." 1 Corinthians 9:20Them that are under the law

The distinction between this class and Jews is differently explained. Some, Jews, viewed nationally; under the law, viewed religiously. Others, Jews by origin, and Gentile proselytes. Others understand by those under the law, rigid Jews, Pharisees. The first explanation seems preferable.

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