I became all things to all men? 1 Cor 9v22

Stephen giving his testimony at his baptism.
Stephen giving his testimony at his baptism.

‘I became all things to all men’

 1 Corinthians 9 v22

Interestingly, when Paul went to the Gentiles, he preached creation first, because they were effectively atheists, and this would have been a stumbling block for them in believing in the resurrection of Christ (Acts 17:16-34). I believe in our current climate in the UK of atheism, this should be a focus of our churches evangelistic ministry.

However, sadly, many churches have either abandoned the Apostle Paul’s example of Evangelism to Gentiles in defending Genesis first, or abandoned Genesis itself by agreeing with Richard Dawkins interpretation that it is just a myth.

I am currently reading Phillip Johnson’s book Darwin On Trial.’ In it he gives a fantastic case against the ‘evidence’ for evolution and astonishingly at one point says ‘that the fossil problem for Darwinism is getting worse all the time.’ He then goes on to discuss his amazement that the scientists discrediting Genesis are still pushing forward like a steam rolling train – with barely anyone challenging them. But if the evidence is getting worse for those who discredit Genesis, and thus discredit the Gospel (John 5:47), what is more surprising is that instead of addressing the real issues that hinder people listening to the Gospel as did Paul in using ‘creation evangelism,’ churches have turned their attention to ‘entertainment’ and ‘friendship’ evangelism in order to gain an ear for the Gospel.

This is justified by ignoring the whole teaching and pattern of evangelism set forth by the New Testament, and by taking one verse out of both its immediate and wider context, where Paul says – ‘I became all things to all men.’ (1 Corinthians 9:22)

Actually, in context, Paul was talking about removing unnecessary offence in the preaching of the Gospel – For instance, when Paul took Timothy to Jerusalem to preach the Gospel, he had him circumcised, because he knew that if Timothy wasn’t circumcised that this would offend the Jews, and thus hinder the preaching of the Gospel to them.

And so we should remove unnecessary offences in the preaching of the Gospel – as long as these are not in contradiction with the Word of God.

But for example, did this mean that Paul became a prostitute to reach the prostitutes, or a thief to reach the thieves? I think there are clear dangers in taking verses out of context, and believe that the verse ‘I became all things to all men’ do not justify all methodologies in evangelism, and must be interpreted in light of the wider context of the NT.

But what about ‘Entertainment’ and ‘Friendship’ Evangelism, such as Fun Days, Quiz’s, and other ‘people pleasing’ events? Do they contradict the wider context of the NT in relation to Paul saying ‘I became all things to all men’?

Yes, I think they do! Look at Galatians 1:10 where Paul is talking about his methodology in evangelism, he says…

‘Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.’

The apostle James further contends… (James 4:4b)

 ‘…don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God?’

 I am personally thrilled that many churches are seeking to reach out to the lost in their communities with the true Gospel; but I believe this desire must be cultivated by the sound understanding and teaching of the Word of God, and not by the marketing and pragmatic approach offered by the world – where ‘results’ are to be gained at any cost.

There are many methodologies for Gospel work found in the NT, where people’s real needs are met – I exhort all churches to begin a study on these, before planning any further unbiblical methodologies for evangelism.

It is my prayer to see biblical results for your churches in evangelism,

Stephen Hanley

(Preacher and Evangelist)

Witnessing on Oxford Road, Manchester
Witnessing on Oxford Road, Manchester

References

https://www.biblegateway.com/

Johnson, P. E. (2010). Darwin on trial. InterVarsity Press.