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 the Apostle reminds us – quite strongly here – that we are no longer underneath a weight of guilt; we are free from its power to hold us back, to keep us downtrodden, to make us ashamed. Not only are we free from guilt and its power; we are free not to sin. For even as sin gives occasion for grace, God forbid – says Paul – that we would continue in it. For how “can we breathe its air again?” he asks.
I love this image – breathing the dead air of sin. With our fascination with zombies ( in the USA, at any rate ), we likely have a visceral reaction to imagining walking among dead people, breathing the air around them. Don’t we hope to be as far away from that corrupted flesh as possible? I would think so!
“Does it follow that we ought to go on sinning, to give still more occasion for grace? 2 God forbid. We have died, once for all, to sin; can we breathe its air again? 3 You know well enough that we who were taken up into Christ by baptism have been taken up, all of us, into his death.4 In our baptism, we have been buried with him, died like him, that so, just as Christ was raised up by his Father’s power from the dead, we too might live and move in a new kind of existence.5 We have to be closely fitted into the pattern of his resurrection, as we have been into the pattern of his death;[a]6 we have to be sure of this, that our former nature has been crucified with him, and the living power of our guilt annihilated, so that we are the slaves of guilt no longer.[b]7 Guilt makes no more claim on a man who is dead.[c]8 And if we have died with Christ, we have faith to believe that we shall share his life. 9 We know that Christ, now he has risen from the dead, cannot die any more; death has no more power over him; 10 the death he died was a death, once for all, to sin; the life he now lives is a life that looks towards God.[d]11 And you, too, must think of yourselves as dead to sin, and alive with a life that looks towards God, through Christ Jesus our Lord.”
32 Which also spared not his own Son, but betook him for us all, how also gave he not to us all things with him?
33 Who shall accuse against the chosen men of God? It is God that justifieth,
34 who is it that condemneth? It is Jesus Christ that was dead, yea, the which rose again, the which is on the right half of God, and the which prayeth for us [the which and rose again, the which is on the right half of God, the which prayeth for us].”
I admit I’ve never noticed this before – that Paul asks, “Who accuses those whom God has chosen? Who is it that condemns?” And then immediately answers, “It is Jesus Christ, the one who died and rose again and now sits at the right hand of God the Father, who prays for us.”
Jesus condemns us by His death. If there was no condemnation, then He would not have needed to die.
And He justifies us by His resurrection. His resurrection destroys the condemnation.
Therefore, “if God be for us ( the One who was against us ), who now is against us?”
If this doesn’t make your heart soar, nothing ever will.
If we worry a bit more about reforming our wits as we do about reforming our behaviors, we’d be much better off, I believe. God asks us to change our minds; that is literally to allow Him to change the patterns of our thinking. He asks us to allow Him to perform this exacting task through His own Word; but also through the indwelling of His own Holy Spirit, the third Person of the blessed Trinity.
“And do not ye be conformed to this world, but be ye reformed in newness of your wit, that ye prove which is the will of God, good, and well pleasing, and perfect.”
As we allow God to work in us through His Word and His Spirit, we inevitably find our thought patterns change. As our thoughts are changed, so our behaviors follow.
Attempting to achieve change in behavior prior to change in thought is pointless in God’s eyes.
Read the Word. As you read the Word, allow the Word to transform your mind. The rest will follow.
“For [to] me to live is Christ, and to die is winning.”
Now most people know Paul isn’t saying, “I wanna die!” Rather, Paul is saying, “Life is Christ; death is winning.” If you examine Paul’s life, you can readily understand why living for Paul is “Christ.” Paul’s walk is filled with sufferings, thorns in the flesh, and hard hard work for the Lord. He writes frequently about “suffering” for Christ’s sake. No wonder Paul looks forward to dying for to him, death is the end of the struggle and the beginning of eternal glory.
Life is hard, but life is good. Death is harder, and eternal life is best. Why is eternal life best? Nope. Not because of gold streets or shiny baulbs. Eternal life is best because of being in God’s presence, face to face. Fully knowing Him as we are fully known. The end of tears, no fear, no pain.
“They [God’s people] were put to death by stoning; they were sawed in two; they were killed by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated—” (Hebrews 11: 27, NIV)
None of these sufferings matter in God’s presence. Paul likens death to winning a race, crossing the finish line, celebrating the victory, accepting the prize. That’s why he writes, “To die is winning.”
18 Flee ye fornication; all sin whatever sin a man doeth [all sin whatever a man shall do], is without the body; but he that doeth fornication, sinneth against his body.
19 Whether ye know not, that your members be the temple of the Holy Ghost, that is in you, whom ye have of God, and ye be not your own?
20 For ye be bought with great price. Glorify ye, and bear ye God in your body.
If you believe preachers in the pulpit, fornication ( that’s sexual intercourse outside of marriage ) is rampant. Almost everyone fornicates, again if you believe the men who stand up each Sunday and declare that sexual sins are the most difficult and the most frequent sins committed in and by the body of Christ ( uh, that’s the church ). Not hard to see why preachers preach this — it seems to be true.
Our culture no longer expects people to remain committed to one another. Marriage is now a convenience. No longer do two people promise to love and cherish one another until death even if they say these words. These words ( that’s “until death do us part” ) don’t mean the same thing as they meant for earlier generations. Instead, people decide to give up on their marriages because they are no longer convenient, no longer passionate, no longer easy, or because love has failed them.
But, God says “love never fails; love never gives up; love keeps no record of wrongs.” Remember?
The interesting part of these verses that Paul writes to the Corinthians, a church filled with Christian failures, is: “Bear you God in your body.” Ponder this command. You are purchased at great cost to God. You belong to Him, not to your self. You hold the Holy Ghost or Spirit within you. You actually carry God in your body.
Imagine God in your body. Imagine your body as a temple of the Lord God Almighty.
“For the LORD is our judge, the LORD is our lawgiver, the LORD is our king; he will save us.”
You may hear certain Christians pronounce that God is Judge, God is Lawgiver, God is King; but they seem to forget that God is Savior. They conveniently forget that God’s plan is to save us. God’s intention is not to condemn, but to forgive. He comes to seek and to save what is lost. He sows seed in order to nurture it into growth, to ensure that growth is healthy and whole.
Paul writes, “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” (Romans 8:1, KJV)
Walking after the flesh is being under Law; walking after the Spirit is being under Grace. Grace is not, and never has been, an excuse for sin. Grace is God’s gift to a dead world.
“I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.”
What’s my prize? I used to buy Crackerjacks and open the box primarily for the little plastic prize sealed in cellophane – a small compass, a tiny magnifying glass, a delicate necklace.
What’s my mark? I used to run the 50 yard dash in third and sixth grades. I remember the command, “On your mark, get set, go” before taking off as fast as I could possibly dash.
What’s my high calling? Pressing forward? Seeking God in Christ Jesus? Is this the prize I was hoping for when I opened the Crackerjacks’ box? Is this the mark where I waited before the race? Am I understanding anything?
I guess it’s not my high calling; it’s God’s. His high calling is fulfilled in His Son, Jesus Christ. Press on to take hold of Him, for He does not fail. He does not break. He does not disappear. He is the mark; He is the high calling; He is the prize.
“And to Him that is mighty to do all things more plenteously than we ask or understand, by the virtue that worketh in us [after the virtue that worketh in us], to Him be glory in the church, and in Christ Jesus, into all the generations of the world of worlds [into all the generations of the worlds of worlds]. Amen.”
God is mighty. He is capable. He does “all things more plenteously than we ask or understand.” Almost goes without saying that we do not understand God. His thoughts are not like our thoughts; His ways are not like our ways. How many times do we fall into the trap of believing otherwise?
Jesus says for us to seek, for then we find. Paul says we don’t even know what to pray, so the Holy Spirit prays for us.
How can anyone think we are saved by anything we do? Rather, God declares His own virtue works in us to the praise of His glory.
“God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:19, KJV)
As many parents know, provoking a child is not a good idea. Children are notoriously incapable of handling parents’ emotional outbursts in that children barely handle their own emotions. A screaming parent is likely to trigger a scream in return. Paul, who is not a father, writes:
“And, [ye] fathers, do not ye provoke your sons to wrath; but nourish ye them in the teaching and chastising of the Lord.”
Recall how the Lord Jesus teaches in the synagogue at twelve — He teaches with authority. Recall how the Lord chastises the woman at the well — He chastises with gentleness and even good humor.
Jesus nourishes; and gains obedience and loyalty through love.