1 Corinthians 9:21
To them that are without law, as without law, (being not without law to God, but under the law to Christ,) that I might gain them that are without law.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(21) To them that are without lawi.e., the heathen. St. Paul adapted himself to their habits and mode of thought when necessary. He quoted from their literature (Acts 17:28); he based an argument on the inscriptions on their altars (Acts 17:23); and he did not require them to adopt Jewish ceremonies (Galatians 2:9; Galatians 2:11). The parenthesis explains in what sense only St. Paul was “without” the Law, so as to prevent the possibility of this statement being used as a justification of lawlessness. As being one with Christ, he was indeed under the law of God as revealed in the person, work, and teaching of the Lord. (See Galatians 6:2.)

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.To them that are without law - To the Gentiles, who have not the law of Moses; see the note at Romans 2:12, note at Romans 2:14.

As without law - Not practicing the special rites and ceremonies enjoined in the law of Moses. Not insisting on them, or urging them, but showing that the obligation to those rites had been done away; and that they were not binding, though when among the Jews I might still continue to observe them; see the notes at Acts 15; and the argument of Paul in Galatians 2:11-18. I neglected the ceremonial precepts of the Mosaic law, when I was with those who had not heard of the law of Moses, or those who did not observe them, because I knew that the binding obligation of these ceremonial precepts had ceased. I did not, therefore, press them upon the Gentiles, nor did I superstitiously and publicly practice them. In all this, Paul has reference only to those things which he regarded as in themselves indifferent, and not a matter of conscience; and his purpose was not; needlessly to excite the prejudice or the opposition of the world. Nothing is ever gained by provoking opposition for the mere sake of opposition. Nothing tends more to hinder the gospel than that. In all things of conscience and truth a man should be firm, and should lose his life rather than abandon either; in all things of indifference, of mere custom, of prejudice, he should yield, and accomodate himself to the modes of thinking among people, and adapt himself to their views, feelings, and habits of life, that he may win them to Christ.

Being not without law to God - Not regarding myself as being "absolutely" without law, or as being freed from obligation to obey God. Even in all this, I endeavored so to live as that it might be seen that I felt myself bound by law to God. I was not a despiser, and contemner, and neglector of "law as such," but only regarded myself as not bound by the special ceremonial law of Moses. This is an instance of Paul's conscientiousness. He would not leave room to have it supposed for a moment that he disregarded all law. He was bound to God by law; and in the conduct to which he was referring he felt that he was obeying him. He was bound by higher law than those ceremonial observances which were now to be done away. This passage would destroy all the refuges of the Antinomians. Whatever privileges the gospel has introduced, it has not set us free from the restraints and obligations of law. That is binding still; and no man is at liberty to disregard the moral law of God. Christ came to magnify, strengthen, and to honor the law, not to destroy it.

But under the law to Christ - Bound by the law enjoined by Christ; under the law of affectionate gratitude and duty to him. I obeyed his commands; followed his instructions; sought his honor; yielded to his will. In this he would violate none of the rules of the moral law. And he here intimates, that his grand object was to yield obedience to the law of the Saviour, and that this was the governing purpose of his life. And this would guide a man right. In doing this, he would never violate any of the precepts of the moral law, for Christ obeyed them, and enjoined their observance. He would never feel that he was without law to God, for Christ obeyed God, and enjoined it on all. He would never feel that religion came to set him free from law, or to authorize licentiousness; for its grand purpose and aim is to make people holy, and to bind them everywhere to the observance of the pure law of the Redeemer.

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).

It is manifest by the opposition of them that are without law, mentioned in this verse, to them under the law, mentioned in the former verse, that as by the latter the Jews are understood, so by the former the Gentiles are to be understood, who were under no obligation to the observance either of the ceremonial law or judicial law, given to the Jews; the one to guide that nation in the matters of worship till Christ should come; the other to guide them in matters of civil justice, as well as criminal causes, as matters of plea and trespass: so that the term anomoiv here signifieth differently from what it signifieth in many other scriptures; where it signifieth men that live as they list, without any regard to any laws of God or men, as Mark 15:28 Luke 22:37 Acts 2:23 2 Thessalonians 2:8 1 Timothy 1:9, &c. This the apostle makes appear by the next words, where he tells us, he was

not without law to God, but under the law to Christ: though to the Gentiles he behaved himself as if he himself had been a Gentile, that is, forbearing the observances of the Levitical law, to which the Gentiles had never any obligation at all, yet he did not behave himself as one that had no regard to the law of God, that was yet in force and obligatory, but acknowledged himself to be under that, though a servant of Christ’s; so that he abated nothing of his necessary duty, only denied himself in some things as to which the law of God had left him a liberty, both to the Jews and Gentiles, propounding to himself the same end as to both, that is, the gaining of their souls to Christ.

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.

To them that are without law, as without law, (being not without law to God, but under the law to Christ,) that I might gain them that are without law.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
1 Corinthians 9:21. Τοῖς ἀνόμοις] i.e. to the heathen, Romans 2:12. Comp Suicer, Thes. I. p. 366.

ὡς ἄνομος] by holding intercourse with them, giving up Jewish observances, teaching in Hellenic form (as at Athens, Acts 17). Comp Isidor. Pelus, ed. Paris. 1638, p. 186.

ΜῊ ὪΝ Κ. Τ. Λ[1509]] must similarly be regarded not exactly as a defence of himself (Grotius, Rückert), but as arising very naturally from the pious feeling of the apostle, who, with all the consciousness of his freedom of position towards the Mosaic law, which allowed him to be τοῖς ἀνόμοις ὡς ἄνομος, always recognised his subjection to the divine νόμος revealed in Christ. In spite, therefore, of his thus condescending to the ἀνόμοις, he was by no means one without legal obligation to God (no ἄνομος Θεοῦ[1510]), but one—and this is precisely what brings out the absolute character of the opposite—who stood within the sphere of legal obligation to Christ. And Paul was conscious that he stood thus in virtue of his faith in Christ, who lived in him (Galatians 2:20), and in conformity with the gospel, which ruled him as the νόμος τοῦ πνεύματος καὶ τῆς χάριτος (Chrysostom), and was to him accordingly the higher analogue of the venerated ΝΌΜΟς (Romans 3:27), which has its fulfilment in love (Romans 13:10); comp Galatians 6:2. The two genitives ΘΕΟῦ and ΧΡΙΣΤΟῦ denote simply in relation to, in my position towards; they thus give to the two notions ἄνομος and ἜΝΝΟΜΟς their definite reference.

[1509] . τ. λ. καὶ τὰ λοιπά.

[1510] Hofmann’s conjecture, that Paul wrote Θεῷ (following it, however, with Χριστοῦ), has virtually no critical foundation, and is wholly devoid of exegetical basis. Hofmann explains the passage as if he read ἔννομος Χριστοῦ οὐκ ὢν ἄνομος Θεῷ, making Paul say of “his being shut up in the law of Christ, that it made him one who was not without law in his relation to God.”

21. to them that are without law, as without law] Literally, to the lawless, as a lawless man, i.e. to those who had received no external laws or statutes from God. St Paul’s accommodation to the prejudices of Gentiles may be seen in Galatians 2:3; Galatians 2:12; Galatians 2:14.

being not without law to God, but under the law to Christ] Cf. Galatians 6:2 A kind of apology is here made for the use of the term lawless. It was only intended in the sense just explained. Even a Gentile was under some kind of law (Romans 2:14-15), and no Christian could rightly be called lawless, for he was subject to that inward law written in the heart, of which Jeremiah had prophesied (Jeremiah 31:33), even the law of the Spirit of life (Romans 8:2), which, though it had set him free from a slavish bondage to ordinances (Colossians 2:20), had not set him free from the obligation to holiness, justice, and truth which is involved in the very idea of faith in Jesus Christ.

1 Corinthians 9:21. Ἀνόμους) This is here used in that sense, which the meaning of the primitive word precisely produces, as ἀνυπότακτον, Hebrews 2:8.—ὡς ἀνόμος, as without law), by omitting things that may be omitted in regard to things ceremonial.—μὴ ὤν ἄνομος, who am not without the law) Paul was not (anomus) without the law, much less was he (antinomus) opposed to the law.—μὴ ἄνομος, Θεῷ, ἀλλʼ ἔννομος Χριστῷ) Χριστὸς, Θεοῦ ἐστι, 1 Corinthians 3:23 : whence, he who is without the law to God, ἄνομος Θεῷ, is also without the law to Christ, ἄνομος Χριστῷ: he who is under the law to Christ, ἔννομος Χριστῶ, is under the law to God, ἔννομος Θεῷ. Concerning the law of Christ, comp. Galatians 6:2, note. Ἔννομος has a milder meaning than ὑπὸ νόμον.

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. 1 Corinthians 9:21Without law (ἄνομος)

As one of the Gentiles. By intercourse with them, relinquishment of Jewish observances, and adapting his teaching to their modes of thought. See Acts 17.

Under law (ἔννομος)

The expression differs from that in 1 Corinthians 9:20, ὑπὸ νόμον under law, though with only a shade of difference in meaning. Ἔννομος means subject to the law, but in the sense of keeping within (ἐν) the law.

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