1 Corinthians 9:22
To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak: I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.
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(22) To the weak.—We can scarcely take this (as some do) to refer to weak Christians, of whom he has spoken in 1 Corinthians 8. The whole passage treats of the attitude which the Apostle assumed towards various classes outside the Christian Church, that he might gain them as converts. The words “I became,” which have introduced the various classes in 1Corinthians 9:20, are here again repeated, and this passage seems to be an explanation and reiteration of what had gone before. “It was to the weak points (not to the strong points) of Jews, proselytes, and Gentiles that I assimilated myself. To the weak ones among all these classes I became weak, that I might gain those weak ones.”

I am made all things to all. . . .—Better, I am become all things to all men that I should save at least some. Although he had thus accommodated himself, so far as was possible, consistently with Christian duty, to the weaknesses of all, he could only hope to win some of them. The natural climax would have been—“I become all things to all men that I might win all.” But the Apostle’s humility could not let him dare to hope for so great a reward as that. All the self-sacrifice he could make was necessary to gain “at all events some,” and that would be his ample reward. The word “save” means “win over to Christianity,” as in 1Corinthians 7:16, and is used here instead of the previous word “gain,” being repeated to prevent any possible perversion of the Apostle’s meaning as to “gaining men.” His subject was not, as enemies might suggest, to win them to himself—but to Christ.

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 the weak; - See the note at Romans 15:1. To those weak in faith; scrupulous in regard to certain observances; whose consciences were tender and unenlightened, and who would be offended even by things which might be in themselves lawful. He did not lacerate their feelings, and run counter to their prejudices, for the mere sake of doing it.

Became I as weak - I did not shock them. I complied with their customs. I conformed to them in my dress, habits, manner of life, and even in the services of religion. I abstained from food which they deemed it their duty to abstain from; and where, if I had partaken of it, I should have offended them. Paul did not do this to gratify himself, or them, but to do them good. And Paul's example should teach us not to make it the main business of life to gratify ourselves, and it should teach us not to lacerate the feelings of others; not to excite their prejudices needlessly; not to offend them where it will do no good. If truth offends people, we cannot help it. But in matters of ceremony, and dress, and habits, and customs, and forms, we should be willing to conform to them, as far as can be done, and for the sole purpose of saving their souls.

I am made all things to all men - I become all things; that is, I accommodate myself to them in all things, so far as can be done with a good conscience. "That I might by all means" (πάντως pantōs). That I might use every possible endeavor that some at least might be saved. It is implied here that the opposition to the gospel was everywhere great; that people were reluctant to embrace it; that the great mass were going to ruin, and that Paul was willing to make the highest possible exertions, to deny himself, and practice every innocent art, that he might save "a few at least" out of the innumerable multitudes that were going to death and hell. It follows from this:

(1) That people are in danger of ruin.

(2) we should make an effort to save people. We should deny ourselves, and give ourselves to toil and privation, that we may save some at least from ruin.

(3) the doctrine of universal salvation is not true. If it were, what use or propriety would there have been in these efforts of Paul? If all were to be saved, why should he deny himself, and labor, and toil, to save "some?" Why should a man make a constant effort to save "a few at least," if he well knew that all were to be saved? Assuredly Paul did not "know" or believe that all people would be saved; but if the doctrine is true, he would have been quite as likely to have known it as its modern advocates and defenders.

22. gain the weak—that is, establish, instead of being a stumbling-block to inexperienced Christians (1Co 8:7) Ro 14:1, "Weak in the faith." Alford thinks the "weak" are not Christians at all, for these have been already "won"; but those outside the Church, who are yet "without strength" to believe (Ro 5:6). But when "weak" Christians are by the condescending love of stronger brethren kept from falling from faith, they are well said to be "gained" or won.

by all means … some—The gain of even "some" is worth the expenditure of "all means." He conformed himself to the feelings of each in the several classes, that out of them all he might gain some.

To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak; to those that I observed weak in knowledge and faith, who had not such a firm persuasion of the lawfulness of some things, (suppose circumcision, purifyings required by the law of Moses, &c.), I became as weak, that is, I yielded to them; and the things being to me matters of liberty, which I knew I might do, or not do, and be no transgressor of God’s law, they being not able to comply with me, I complied with them, abating my liberty to gratify their consciences; though I knew that it was weakness in them, yet I indulged it, and made my more knowledge serve them in their weakness, so that I might not lose them.

I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some; thus, that I might be an instrument in any degree to save them, according to the various persuasions of several Christians I behaved myself towards them; doing nothing to gratify them, by doing of which I knew, or had the least jealousy, I should offend God; but not refusing any thing, either as to doing or forbearing, (which by the law of God I saw I might do or forbear), where I saw the least hopes, by such doing or forbearing, to do the souls of those good, in order to their eternal salvation, with whom I was, and for whose sake I so did, or forbore any thing. Oh the humility and charity of this great apostle! What an example hath he set to all! For none can pretend to a greater superiority over men, as to spiritual things, than he unquestionably had.

To the weak became I as weak,.... That is, to weak Christians, who were weak in faith, and had not such clear knowledge of Gospel liberty, and therefore scrupled the eating of some sorts of meat, and particularly meats offered to idols; and the apostle so far consulted the peace and edification of these weak brethren, and so far complied with them, and became as one of them, that, rather than offend them, he determined to eat no meat while the world stood:

that I might gain the weak; promote their edification and welfare, who otherwise might be stumbled, be in danger of falling from, and laid under a temptation to desert the faith of the Gospel:

I am made all things to all men; which is to be understood, as in all the other instances of his being so, not in cases and things criminal and sinful, contrary to the moral law, and the dictates of his own conscience, subversive of the Gospel of Christ, and of the order and discipline of it, but in cases and things of an indifferent nature:

that I might by all means save some; that is, that he might be the means of saving some of Jews and Gentiles, and of all sorts of men; by preaching the Gospel of salvation to them, and by directing them to Christ, the only Saviour of lost sinners; thus he explains what he means by so often saying that he might gain them.

To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak: I am made all things to {q} all men, that I might by all means save some.

(q) In matters that are indifferent, which may be done or not done with a good conscience. It is as if he said, I accommodated all customs and manners, that by all means I might save some.

1 Corinthians 9:22. The ἀσθενεῖς are Christians weak as yet in discernment and moral power (1 Corinthians 8:7 ff.; Romans 14:1; Romans 15:1; Acts 20:35; 1 Thessalonians 5:14). The terms κερδήσω and σώσω are not inconsistent with this view, for such weak believers would, by an inconsiderate conduct towards them, be made to stumble, and would fall into destruction (1 Corinthians 8:11; Romans 14:15). To understand the phrase as denoting non-Christians from their lack of the higher powers of Christian life, especially of strength of conscience (Rückert, de Wette, Osiander, Hofmann), is against the formal use of οἱ ἀσθενεῖς, and cannot be justified by Romans 5:6. Comp also 2 Corinthians 11:29.

Ὡς ἈΣΘΕΝΉς] “perinde quasi simili tenerer imbecillitate,” Erasmus, Paraphr.

τοῖς πᾶσι Κ.Τ.Λ[1513]] to all (with whom I had to do) I have become all, have suited myself to them in all ways according to their circumstances. Comp as regards πάντα γίνεσθαι,[1515] the passages cited in Kypke, II. p. 215 f., and observe the perfect here at the close; comp Colossians 1:15.

Paul did not need to say to his readers that in this whole picture of his ΣΥΓΚΑΤΆΒΑΣΙς he is expressing no mere men-pleasing or anti-Christian connivance at sin, but the practical wisdom of the truest Christian love and self-denial in the exercise of his apostolic functions; he trusts them to understand this from their knowledge of his character. Comp also Galatians 1:10; Galatians 2:3-5. This practical wisdom must be all the more regarded as a fruit of experience under the discipline of the Spirit, when we consider how fiery and decided his natural temperament was. And who can estimate how much he achieved by this method of working! Comp Neander in opposition to Rückert’s unfavourable judgment. Augustine puts it well: “non mentientis actus, sed compatientis affectus.”

πάντως] in any case (comp on 1 Corinthians 9:10, and Plato, Phaedr. p. 266 D; 2Ma 3:13; 3Ma 1:15; the reverse of οὐδαμῶς, Plato, Soph. p. 240 E; comp the frequent phrase ΠΆΝΤῌ ΠΆΝΤΩς, Stallbaum, a[1521] Plat. Phaed. p. 78 D). Should the apostle in every case, in which he adapted himself as described in 1 Corinthians 9:19-22, save some,—that is, in the one case of accommodation these, in the other those, but in all some,—there would result the πλείονες of 1 Corinthians 9:19, whom it was his design to win as there summarily set forth.

ΣΏΣΩ] make them partakers in the Messianic salvation, 1 Corinthians 7:16, 1 Corinthians 10:33; Romans 9:27, al[1522] Not different in substance from ΚΕΡΔΉΣΩ, but stronger and more specific, as was suitable in expressing the final result. Comp 1 Timothy 4:16.

[1513] .τ.λ. καὶ τὰ λοιπά.

[1515] Not to be confounded with the expression πάντα γίνεσθαί τινι, which means instar omnium fieri alicui, as in Xen. Ephesians 2:13; comp. Locella in loc., p. 209.

[1521] d refers to the note of the commentator or editor named on the particular passage.

[1522] l. and others; and other passages; and other editions.

22. To the weak became I as weak] i.e. by an affectionate condescension to their prejudices (ch. 1 Corinthians 8:13; cf. Romans 15:1; 2 Corinthians 11:29).

I am made (literally, become) all things to all men] Not in the sense of sacrifice of principle, but by the operation of a wide reaching sympathy, which enabled him, without compromising his own convictions, to approach all men from their most accessible side. See notes on 1 Corinthians 9:20-21, and ch. 1 Corinthians 10:32.

1 Corinthians 9:22. Τοὺς ἀσθενεῖς, the weak) The article is not added to Ἰουδαίους, nor to ἀνόμους. It is added to ἀσθενεῖς, because he is chiefly speaking of them, 1 Corinthians 8:7 : all these are easily gained, if they be rightly treated.—γέγονα, I am become) When the verb is thus put [in the Perf. middle, a tense almost present in meaning], the transition is easily made from the past ἐγενόμην to the present ποιῶ.

Verse 22. - To the weak. His whole argument here is a plea for condescension to the infirmities of weak converts. A similar condescension to their prejudices might be necessary to win them to Christianity at all (1 Corinthians 8:13; "We that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves," Romans 15:1). St. Paul often touches on our duties to weak brethren (1 Corinthians 8:7; Romans 14:1; 1 Thessalonians 5:14; Acts 20:35). All things to all men. He repeats the same principle in 1 Corinthians 10:33, "I please all men in all things, not seeking mine own profit, but the profit of many, that they may be saved;" and once more, at the end of his course (2 Timothy 2:10). This condescension laid him open to the malicious attacks of religious enemies (Galatians 1:10). But not on that account would St. Paul ever be led to abandon the fruitful aid of that universal sympathy and tolerance which is one of the best tests of Christian love. That I might by all means save some. He adds this explanation of the motive of his condescension to various scruples συγατάβασις) lest any should accuse him of men pleasing, as some of his Galatian opponents had done (Galatians 1:10). In his desire to win souls he acted with the wisdom and sympathy taught by experience, suppressing himself. 1 Corinthians 9:22Weak

In faith and christian discernment. Compare 1 Corinthians 8:7 sqq.; Romans 14:1; Romans 15:1; 1 Thessalonians 5:14.

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