19 Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible.20 To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews.To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law.21 To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law.22 To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some.23 I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.
Paul had a fine example of how to become all things to all people so that by all possible means he might save some. Of course his example is our example — the person of Jesus Christ.
Jesus’ first transformation was in becoming an infant and growing up into a full-fledged human male, becoming like us, in other words. A slightly later transformation was in becoming a well-educated religious scholar ready to debate and educate His elders in the temple. Yes, Jesus became a Bible Scholar! A later transformation was in becoming like a sinner by joining in the revelry of sinners inside the home of a tax collector — no, He did not sin, but He was not afraid or leery of being seen with sinners. Yes, Jesus became a partygoer!
Paul took Jesus’ example to heart. Paul deliberately did not disassociate himself from others. He did not shun people because they were not Christian, or because they did not fully understand their freedom under Christ, or that they were Jews in lock step with the law, or that they persecuted him for being different from them. Rather he associated himself with all types of people and made himself similar to them in order to gain their respect, their trust, perhaps even their friendship and so save some of them.
Paul is warned by the Holy Spirit to expect hardships and prison. He writes:
“But I dread nothing of these, neither I make my life preciouser than myself, so that I end my course [the while I end, or fulfill, my course], and the ministry of the word, which I received of the Lord Jesus, to witness the gospel of the grace of God.” (WYC)
“But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God.” (KJV)
“But I count my life of no value to myself, so that I may finish my course[with joy] and the ministry I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of God’s grace.” (HCSB)
However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me —the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace. (NIV-1984)
I love the Wycliffe Bible translation! Note that Paul is not testifying about the gospel of the grace of God, but he is witnessing the good news firsthand. He is not counting his life so precious that he dreads imprisonment or hardships. Rather he determines not to “end his course” before he finishes “the ministry of the Word, which [he] received of the Lord Jesus.”
Perhaps the other translations miss this subtlety only slightly — that Paul does not testify about the gospel; but rather witnesses it himself. What Paul works to complete is “the ministry of the Word” which is certainly more than telling others the good news. Paul determines to consider his life worthless in comparison to his calling — for to Paul, to live is Christ and to die is Christ.
“God made Him — [that’s Jesus, His Son who is also fully God] — who had no sin —[a man who is perfect, without blemish, totally pleasing to God] — to be sin– [to become sin itself] — for us —[that’s those who believe the good news]–, so that in him —[in Jesus’ accomplished redemptive work] — we might become the righteousness of God — [holy and blameless in God’s sight.]”
Paul writes to the church at Philippi, “I am sure of this, that He who started a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” The good work, I believe, to which Paul refers is their partnership with him in grace. These brothers and sisters in Christ partner with Paul to establish and defend the gospel. And God “carries it on to completion.” God has not begun this good work to see it fail.
Paul exhorts, “Just one thing: live your life in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or am absent, I will hear about you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind, working side by side for the faith of the gospel, not being frightened in any way.” (Philippians 1:27-28)
Paul calls them and us to stand together in “one spirit, with one mind, working side by side for the faith of the gospel” and to do so without fear. He reminds, “If God is for us, who is against us? He did not even spare His own Son, but offered Him up for us all; how will He not also with Him grant us everything? Who can bring an accusation against God’s elect? God is the One who justifies. Who is the one who condemns?” (Romans 8:31-34)
Paul testifies of God’s message to him. God says to Paul, “I send you to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, from the dominion of Satan to God, so that, by trust in Me, they may obtain forgiveness of sins, and a place with those whom God has made His own.” From the mouth of God, His own Word succinctly states the good news — the gospel.
Notice God creates a place for His own. Notice God calls His own by sending someone — a specifically selected someone — “to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light.” Notice God makes people His own, saying: “By trust in Me, they obtain forgiveness of sins.”
Jesus says, “I Am the vine, and you are the branches. He who dwells in Me, as I dwell in Him, bears much fruit; for apart from Me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5)
Those seven words [in the English translation, anyway] hold the essence of our reliance upon God. “Apart from Me you can do nothing,” says Jesus. “Nothing.” Even our trust in God comes from God, as a gift. The news is good — God saves us of His own free will.
“[God’s] invisible attributes, that is to say His everlasting power and deity, have been visible, ever since the world began, to the eye of reason, in the things He has made.” Therefore, maintains Paul, people are without excuse. People deliberately choose to ignore the obvious evidence for the existence and preeminence of God, and worship created things instead — things which include animals, spirits and even their very selves.
Paul also contends that “[we] therefore have no defence — [we] who sit in judgment , whoever [we] may be — for in judging [our] fellow-man [we] condemn [ourselves], since [we], the judges, are equally guilty.” (Romans 2:1)
Remember, “there is no just man, not one; no one who understands, no one who seeks God. All have swerved aside, all alike have become debased; there is no one to show kindness; no, not one.” (Romans 3:10-12)
The extraordinary news — the very good news — is that “quite independently of the law, God’s justice has been brought to light. The Law and the prophets bear witness to it: it is God’s way of righting wrong, effective through faith in Christ for all who have such faith — all, without distinction. For all alike have sinned, and are deprived of the divine splendour, and all are justified by God’s free grace alone, through His act of liberation in the person of Christ Jesus.” (Romans 3:21-25) Amen. Hallelujah.
“All will be brought to life in Christ,” writes Paul. “But each in his own proper place.” (1 Corinthians 15:23) “Christ was raised to life — the firstfruits of the harvest of the dead.” (1 Corinthians 15:20) Later, “at His coming, those who belong to Christ” will be raised. And at the end of time, all will rise to stand at the judgment where God the Father will “abolish every kind of domination, authority, and power.” And, then — finally — He will “put all enemies under His feet; and the last enemy to be abolished is death.” (1 Corinthians 15:25,26)
“Therefore, my beloved brothers, stand firm and immovable, and work for the Lord always, work without limit, since you know that in the Lord your labour cannot be lost.” (1 Corinthians 15:58)
“God makes the wisdom of this world look foolish.” (1 Corinthians 1:21) “The world fails to find Him by its wisdom, and [God] chooses to save those who have faith by the folly of the Gospel.” (1 Corinthians 1:22) “The Word [doctrine] of the cross is sheer folly to those on their way to ruin, but to us who are on the way to salvation it is the power of God.” Paul therefore says that he “declares the attested truth of God without display of fine words or wisdom.” He “resolves that while [he] is with [the Corinthians] [he] will think of nothing but Jesus Christ — Christ nailed to the cross.” (1 Corinthians 2:1,2) “The gospel [he] proclaims does not sway [them] with subtle arguments.” Instead, “it carries conviction by spiritual power.” Therefore, “faith [is] built not on human wisdom but upon the power of God.” (1 Corinthians 2:4,5) Paul “speaks God’s hidden wisdom, His secret purpose framed from the very beginning.” (1 Corinthians 2:7-8) This wisdom is “revealed to us through the Spirit.” (1 Corinthians 2:10) “This is the Spirit we receive from God, and not the spirit of the world.” (1 Corinthians 2:12)
Paul tells us our faith comes through the Spirit of God, through God’s wisdom which appears to be “sheer folly” to the world. The spirit of the world leads people “to ruin” while the Spirit of God leads those who believe to “salvation.” No fine words or subtle arguments are necessary because the Spirit we receive is directly from God. Paul calls this Gospel “the attested truth of God” which is “Christ nailed to the cross.” This Gospel is God’s “secret purpose framed from the very beginning.”
“[We] are God’s garden. Or again, [we] are God’s building.” And, “there is no other foundation beyond that which is already laid; [Paul] means Jesus Christ Himself.” (1 Corinthians 3:9,10,11)
“We, however, possess the mind of Christ.” (1 Corinthians 2: 16)
Having the mind of Christ, we “have the Spirit” of God. ” ‘Things beyond our seeing, things beyond our hearing, things beyond our imagining, all prepared by God for those who love Him,’ these it is that God reveals to us through the Spirit.” (1 Corinthians 2: 9 – 10)
The Spirit of God knows “the depths of God’s own nature.” (1 Corinthians 2: 11)
If we possess the Spirit of God, then we “can judge the worth of everything.” (1 Corinthians 2: 15) As we judge the worth of everything, we are not “subject to judgment by [our] fellow-men.” (1 Corinthians 2: 16) No one of the world, that is — is able to advise us.
Rather we must be advised by one who “declares the attested truth of God… of nothing but Jesus Christ — Christ nailed to the cross… the Word… the gospel [which] sways [us not] with subtle arguments; [but with] conviction by spiritual power. so that [our] faith might be built not upon human wisdom but upon the power of God.” (1 Corinthians 2: 1 – 5, selected)
And without the Spirit of God, a person “refuses what belongs to the Spirit of God; it is folly to him; he cannot grasp it, because it needs to be judged in the light of the Spirit.” (1 Corinthians 2: 14)
Hence, our salvation is by the will of God our Father who generously gives us His Holy Spirit so that, by grace, we may discern the truth — the good news that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, dies for us — once for all. He lives eternally at the right hand of His Father where He always intercedes for us. This is the mind of Christ — He is our Savior.