“…all things to all men…”

To the weak I became weak, to win the weak, I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some. – 1 Cor 9:22 (NIV)

Paul did everything humanly possible to win people to Christ.  Whether they be Jews or people who didn’t know God’s Law (Gentiles), Paul met them where they were.  And yet the Gospel was never compromised.  To the Corinthian church, Paul offers his case and is confident that they will agree with the evidence.

I’m wondering what being “all things to all men” means today.  Webster’s defines “syncretism” as the attempted reconciliation or union of different or opposing principles, practices, or parties, as in philosophy or religion.  Think syncretism might be an issue for the Church today?  How can we do as Paul and at the same time not allow the Church to be infiltrated by the world?

Jesus said, You are the salt of the earth.  But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again?  It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled by men.” Matt 5:13 (NIV)  One of the benefits of salt in the Ancient Near East was preservation.  Jesus was speaking of preserving that which is good.  It’s when the salt becomes insipid that it’s not doing what it’s intended to do.  Scholar Craig Blomberg writes, “Jesus calls his disciples to arrest corruption and prevent moral decay in their world.

What does that look like in our culture?  Hasn’t the Church allowed the world to influence her already?  If so, what does the Bride of Christ need to do to be found spotless?  If not, what is your experience with syncretism between church/world?

How can we say “Amen” to what Paul says to the Corinthian church?


9 Responses to ““…all things to all men…””

  1. I think that if we are not strong in our relationship with God, then we will syncretize with the world because we will not be clear of what is TRUTH.
    In our culture, we tend to “listen” a lot and not “search” – we accept it because the people who are speaking or writing in some book sounds really good, but we do not take time to search it out in God’s Word or in prayer –I remember my dad saying, “People want to live a ‘micro-wave type of Christian life – hurry up and pray, hurry up and read, hurry up and go to church and hurry up and leave…”

    Paul went on to say in the last verse of that chapter that he will discipline his body and keep it under control “lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified”. How we do this, again, is by strengthen our relationship with God, through prayer and reading his Word.

    We can do as Paul today by praying for relationships; relationships with our spouse, kids, co-workers and every day strangers that we encounter. All of these people have different views of life and attitudes and we have to know how it is that we are influencing them – and we have to WANT to influence them so that they too will want a relationship with God.
    That is what we are here to do.

    • YES M! I think you’ve hit the nail on the head. Words like lazy, priorities, and saturated come to mind. We’re too lazy to do the work of discipleship. When we don’t allocate our time, the world will (priorities). And because we allow it to do so, we become saturated with things that are just enough truth to make them sound good.

      Have you ever given your kids medicine that didn’t taste good? Often, parents hide the medicine in something that tastes good just so it will be taken…not much different than what we allow to happen is it?

      Love you!

  2. Larry Lovelace Says:

    Relationships? Can we really be all things to all people without Knowing them?

    • Ahhh, Larry. At it again are you? 🙂 You’re right in a sense. To minister/serve/befriend someone is to know them in more than a surface level. I’m reminded though that Jesus told his disciples if they weren’t well-received to dust their sandals and move on. You and I can’t force relationships on anyone. I must be open to your investment. For you, the same applies.

      Love ya man!

      • Larry Lovelace Says:

        I pray that God will never let me give-up! We need to allow God to do what we can’t. But at the same time, we should allow ourselves to help those who help themselves, and never give-up on the people we love! My loved ones never gave-up on me! “Love thy neighbor as you love yourself!” Do we really ever give-up on ourselves? Most of us don’t as long as we are still breathing!

  3. We can’t be all things, but we can open our hearts to listen to what God wants us to be to all people. It may just be a smile and a sincere “How are you doing today?” and really listening for that reply. My fondest memories of are strangers who out of the blue laid their hands on my shoulder and prayed with me. I will never forget them. They were actually were everything I needed at that moment.

  4. Leah Alexander Says:

    By chance was Paul in prison at this time? I can’t recall. I will look it up in the Bible in awhile, but I’ve gotta get outside with the kids right now.
    I ask because I have something to share with you about my problem that fits nicely with your current topic. 🙂

  5. Leah Alexander Says:

    Yesterday I vented in a public arena because I needed insight. I have prayed, I have done what I know the Lord has said in His word. I even had the answer to this because I’ve lived it all of my life, but I’m exhausted. I get frustrated. None of my friends or family knew exactly what to say. However, my friends and family never fail to pray. Therefore, the Lord did give me an answer.
    It fits nicely with this topic. It’s one of those things I know, but must be renewed on during times of narcissict attacks. 🙂
    We can’t always avoid or walk away. We can be the salt. We can be all things spiritually for the person. We can do what is right, but some people are just not going to go away or do things right themselves. In those cases this is what the Lord showed me.
    1 Corinthians 1:31 Therefore, as the Scriptures say, “If you want to boast, boast only about the Lord.”
    Sometimes the Lord blesses us with situations where there is no doubt for us or any other person that it is He alone who gets the glory. Sometimes our paths don’t cross over into something like mission work-maybe we get to sit in our comfy pews or be at the pulpit. But that doesn’t mean that God won’t allow us to be there for an unsaved person or a sad believer. Whether we are the missionary or the brother or sister in the church Paul’s words in the verse you share applies.
    This is a summary of what my Christian family did yesterday that I believe is relevant to what Paul says in that verse.
    Some agreed they too were human and feel frustrated at times. 🙂 I’m not alone. I needed that, they were that for me-human.
    Another reminded me of the confession of the Lord’s word I had made earlier in the day. Stupid narcissits tend to cause distractions and detours so this was important. That friend knew I knew, but had gotten distracted for a moment. A reminder is sometimes enough. He gave me what I needed because from his situation he knows sometimes we just need renewal of thoughts.
    Another one, one who much like Paul has the authority to correct and straighten out fellow believers started with a reminder, but when he realized it wasn’t something that was cut and dry simple like that and he knows I own a Bible and read it often etc he knew he didn’t need to give a sermon or give me scripture, I needed understanding and renewal-that means that prayer was best. So he prayed. Job would have been blessed to have him among his friends during his trials.
    They all prayed.
    Of course I knew the answer because the Lord has shown me before, but I needed the reminder and I needed to understand.
    Therefore, to sum it up-Paul didn’t just mean those who have never been saved, but those who are saved and could lose hope. It’s all people. We must be what is needed at the time to uplift them. In the end it’s all God’s plan and it is His glory alone. That is something we must remember in all things. Why we do it. Escape clauses do not always fit. There will be times of enslavement like the OT and there will be prisons like the NT, but circumstances and people are not more powerful than Our Savior.
    Not one of the ones who came to help yesterday would say he or she was the one who fixed my problem. Each would praise the Lord for his strength and wisdom. That was Paul’s purpose-to God be the Glory. It’s His plan so keep moving, keep being what God sent you to be. If at times that means being weak when you’re strong and have authority just let go of an ego and be there because your presence and your prayers are going to be His will and He will receive the glory. The fellow believer or a new one will be renewed and uplifted and will walk the path he/she is given.
    We need compasssion and understanding, but we don’t truly need to know the person because if we are who God has created us to be then that is going to be what the person needs at the time. We just must yield to His spirit and trust so He can use us. We are not becoming all things to all people by our own understanding and wisdom, but by God’s understanding and wisdom. Paul knew that and done that.
    As for the salt portion-too saltly is bad too so becoming “weak” means that Paul didn’t add more than he needed. He became what the Lord guided him to be at any given time and no more. Sometimes Christians will try to pound it in a person like they truly understand when they don’t. I was blessed yesterday because not one person did that to me, but it happens.

  6. Excellent thoughts here, nmpreach! Love the way you frame the problem, I don’t think I’ve thought of it exactly in that way.

    I go to an answer you already know. It is that created aspects of humanity and the world are good, and indeed redeemable. While the sin of the world system in terms of the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life are all not redeemable, but are part and parcel of the sin that must be put away, and is indeed crucified with Christ.

    So we certainly need discernment from the Spirit to know how to be all things to all people without compromising the very faith we want to share with them.

    I’ve heard it expressed in terms of how God has already been working among a people. How God is working to make himself and the gospel known. Preparing the way for the messengers and the message of the good news in King Jesus.

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