Sermon: “All Things to All People” (1 Corinthians 9:19-23)
Listen to the Sermon:
9 Am I not free? Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen Jesus our Lord? Are not you my workmanship in the Lord? 2 If to others I am not an apostle, at least I am to you, for you are the seal of my apostleship in the Lord.
3 This is my defense to those who would examine me. 4 Do we not have the right to eat and drink? 5 Do we not have the right to take along a believing wife, as do the other apostles and the brothers of the Lord and Cephas? 6 Or is it only Barnabas and I who have no right to refrain from working for a living? 7 Who serves as a soldier at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard without eating any of its fruit? Or who tends a flock without getting some of the milk?
8 Do I say these things on human authority? Does not the Law say the same? 9 For it is written in the Law of Moses, “You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain.” Is it for oxen that God is concerned? 10 Does he not certainly speak for our sake? It was written for our sake, because the plowman should plow in hope and the thresher thresh in hope of sharing in the crop. 11 If we have sown spiritual things among you, is it too much if we reap material things from you? 12 If others share this rightful claim on you, do not we even more?
Nevertheless, we have not made use of this right, but we endure anything rather than put an obstacle in the way of the gospel of Christ. 13 Do you not know that those who are employed in the temple service get their food from the temple, and those who serve at the altar share in the sacrificial offerings? 14 In the same way, the Lord commanded that those who proclaim the gospel should get their living by the gospel.
15 But I have made no use of any of these rights, nor am I writing these things to secure any such provision. For I would rather die than have anyone deprive me of my ground for boasting. 16 For if I preach the gospel, that gives me no ground for boasting. For necessity is laid upon me. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel! 17 For if I do this of my own will, I have a reward, but if not of my own will, I am still entrusted with a stewardship. 18 What then is my reward? That in my preaching I may present the gospel free of charge, so as not to make full use of my right in the gospel.
19 For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. 20 To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. 21 To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. 22 To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. 23 I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings. 1 Corinthians 9:1-23
This morning I want to begin with the question, “What is the best way to reach people with the gospel of Jesus?” Now we have a couple of these things probably on our radars. If you were listening to the announcements, for example, you heard that there is a missions meeting right after church. That’s an opportunity to talk about some of the ways that we are partnered with other churches around the globe to share the gospel in places that we personally cannot reach. That’s one way that the church reaches others.
We pray about church planting often. We pray that by God’s grace we would be a church that would be a church planting church. That is a work that God will have to bring about, so we are praying toward it. Those are ways to reach people with the gospel.
Then what? You have home missions and foreign missions. Where do you go from there? Where do individual Christians go from there?
Well you may think perhaps maybe you could make the worship a little bit more interactive to try to reach people. Maybe something that would be so compelling that people coming off the street would want to follow Jesus. Some people would argue that we can do anything in the worship service unless there is a clear statement in Scripture that that sort of thing would be a sin. How we read the Bible, we see that we can only do in worship what God commands to do in worship.
I bring that question up because these are some hard issues. Some says worship service, some says evangelistic outreach tactics, some say a specific program that we should employ. There are all sorts of suggestions and these are really hard questions.
They all come help from a place where all of us want to see people come to know Jesus by faith. The question is how do we do this? Specifically, what methodology you may employ to do this? What can we do? What are we forbidden from doing?
These are hard questions. The basic answer that this passage helps us to see is what we will see in our big idea. Here’s our summary big idea for this passage; Serve all people by all lawful means in order to win some.
That’s the methodology and I hope you heard the word lawful, it’s there because this word lawful comes up a lot in our passage. We’re going to have to unpack what that means as part of our understanding of the limitations and constraints that we can go beyond or that we cannot go beyond depending on which kind of law we are talking about as we think about this methodology.
We’re going to see three parts this morning.
1. The Mark – Where we are trying to go.
2. The Method – How we are going to get there.
3. The Motivation – Why should we want to go there at all?
What is Paul telling us that we ought to want to do?
We see this in verse nineteen,
19 For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. 1 Corinthians 9:19
The mark is clear, the goal is clear, we should want to see as many people as possible come to know Jesus Christ. We should want to spread the gospel as far and as fast as we can so that men, women and children will turn from their sins and look to Jesus in faith so that they may be saved.
Now Paul is saying that he is free, he’s free from all people, not because he’s free not to preach. Paul said in the paragraph that he has an obligation to preach, woe to him if he doesn’t preach the gospel. Even if he doesn’t want to do this, it’s still his stewardship to do so.
He says in verse seventeen he wants the reward, the reward of the joy of seeing Jesus glorified as people come to love him, adore him and worship him. So, what he says in verse nineteen is that he is free from having to charge for all this. No one is paying his salary; he is working for himself to support his needs so that he can be free. How does he use his freedom? To make himself a servant of everyone.
The way that Paul uses his freedom is to serve all people. He takes all this freedom; he packages it up and uses it to expand the ways that he could become a servant to those around him so that he might win more of them to the gospel.
Of course, Paul has in mind the examples of the Christ to whom he preaches in Philippians 2:5-7 Paul wrote,
5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. Philippians 2:5-7, ESV
Even as we sang, he became poor and he became a servant for us. So, by Paul following in those footsteps, becoming a servant of all, he hopes to win more of them.
That’s about all I will say about the goal. The goal is pretty clear, it is going to come up again throughout this passage. We have to understand a little bit where Paul wants to go, or we won’t be able to understand how he wants to get there. We have to understand the mark, the goal, if we want to understand what Paul is willing to do and what he is not willing to do.
So that brings us to the second section, 9:20-22, where we consider this question of what can we do and what can’t we do. Well, as we consider what the scriptures tell us that should inform the how, the methodology, of how we go about sharing the gospel of people to see them come to Christ.
The word the Bible uses again and again to describe what requirements we have, what duties we have, and what we are forbidden from doing, is law. God gives us a law. He doesn’t just sort of give us a gospel and say just share it however you want. He is saying I want you to understand that I have given you duties. I have constrained the way in which you might be able to do this. I have a specific way in which I want you to live and this is my law to you.
But the complicated thing as we start to talk about the law of God is that the Bible uses the word law in so many different ways and in so many different places and times. I hope you grabbed a copy of the printout of chapter nineteen of the Westminster Confession of Faith. It’s on the law of God. If you didn’t pick it up, I encourage you to grab it later today and potentially spend some time reading. It it’s one of the best statements about all the ways in which the Bible is talking about the law.
I’m giving you a summary of this. The Westminster Confession of Faith, our doctrinal statement, is what our church confesses that the Bible teaches about a lot of subjects. Here especially in chapter nineteen we’re going to the question of the law because we cannot have a one-size-fits-all, flat one-dimension definition of the word law. Otherwise we’ll get into some real questions when we see Paul in the same stretch of verses both saying that he is not under the law and say that he is under the law. How do we make sense of this?
You have to have a nuanced understanding of what the word law is. The Westminster Confession of Faith chapter nineteen is really helpful for that. We’re not going to go line-by-line through that. I would encourage you to read it and especially to look at the proof texts that are there to show you where those doctrines are coming and supported from in the scriptures. It tell you why we confess this about the law of God.
I’m going to give you a summary. Now you might not think my summary is that much shorter than the Westminster Confession or with the Bible has, but I’m going to give you something of a summary here. There are actually three issues that we need to think. Under each of these three issues there are three aspects that we need to think about, so nine things. I’m sorry it’s the best I could do, I worked on this a long time.
The first issue we have to deal with is that there are three kinds of law in the Bible. There is what is called the moral law. This is God’s timeless, enduring, perfect rule of righteousness. This is what God revealed to Adam in the garden from the beginning and what God still requires of us today. This is summarized most efficiently in God’s Ten Commandments. That’s the moral law, it has ongoing, enduring significance to us.
The second kind of law is the ceremonial law, you read about this is paragraph three of Westminster chapter nineteen. The ceremonial law has to do with aspects of the worship of the Israelites; the temple, the priesthood, the sacrifices, the festivals. It also has to do with specific rules and duties for their daily living; circumcision, various kinds of purifications, food laws that they had to observe. Those are the ceremonial laws that were given under the old covenant to Israel.
Then also with ceremonial laws we also have the civil laws. Civil laws deal with laws that any kind of nation might implement in their nation. The same kind of subjects that the United States might take up, or the state of Nebraska might take up, or the city of Omaha might take off.
One example, we read a civil law quoted earlier in this passage. It came in 9:9, “You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain.” It’s a civil law, it’s dealing with the daily to day life of their civil affairs.
Moral, civil and ceremonial. Moral is timeless and enduring. What scripture teaches that the purpose of the ceremonial and civil law was not for this timeless, enduring kind of a law. Rather it had a specific purpose which was to point forward to the coming of Jesus Christ.
We’ve been seeing this a lot since we’ve talked about the ceremonial laws that Paul has been discussing in 1st Corinthians. These gave a picture of what God’s righteousness and holiness looks like, and especially what God’s Messiah looks like. So, the purpose of the pictures is to point to a person.
So once the person of Jesus Christ came, accomplished he came to accomplish, died, rose again and ascended back into heaven, then those laws were no longer important. Christ abrogated them, he abolished them, he filled them. So, he set them aside, not because they were bad, but because their purpose was no longer need. So, three kinds of laws. We will get into those as they come up in this passage.
The second aspect that we have to deal with are the three uses of the law. When you’re dealing with the moral law, God’s timeless, enduring law, the Bible talks ways we interact with the moral law. The first use is to use the law as a mirror. So, you hold up the law to your face and as you look into the law you see you as you really are, not as you think you are but you as you really are. You see that you are guilty, and you are condemned by the righteousness of God. Most importantly you see a need for a righteous savior, Jesus Christ the righteous. The first use of the law to show you your own sin and to point you to Christ.
The second use of the law is not a mirror but a restraint. For those who don’t want to follow God, the wicked as the Bible calls them, the existence of the law forms some kind of restraint that keeps people from doing all of the evil that they might otherwise do.
The third use of the law is for believers. Originally when you first came to the law and saw you as you really are in the mirror of the law, the perfect rule of righteousness, you realized that you are condemned. Now if you listen to that message and you turn to faith in Jesus Christ something changes. You no longer relate to God’s perfect, timeless moarl law yourself, alone in your sin.
In Christ while you have failed at the law, Christ fulfilled the law. He did not to set it aside as he did with the ceremonial law but he fulfilled it so that his perfect righteousness can be counted toward us. When you come to the law, you’re not kind of hoping that you can obey it well enough to be justified on the basis of your own law keeping.
You come as one who is already kept the law, not in you but because you are in Christ. When you come to the law you are not seeing the law has an enemy condemning you, but as a friend who guides you, to teach you a life that is pleasing to God. That is the third use of the law, as a guide to show believers how to live in a way that pleases God. So, three kinds of law and three uses of the law.
Finally, we come to our passage specifically. Paul is bringing up three questions of the application of the law as we think through the methodology of how we do evangelism, of how we share the gospel with people. He’s asking questions about the law in 9:20-22 and he’s asking three questions.
He says what do you do if you’re trying to share the gospel with a person and there comes a situation or an event or circumstance where the old ceremonial law has bearing on what you’re doing, on how you observe this. Do you follow that ceremonial or do you not? In which cases do you do which? What do you do in cases where there was a law that has now been abolished and fulfilled in Christ?
The second question is what do you do when you try to share the gospel with someone and you have an idea for how to do a evangelism that bumps up against God’s moral law? Is there ever a time or situation or circumstance where it’s okay for you to fudge a little bit on the moral law of God for the sake of the greater good of sharing the gospel? That is the second question, what do you do when there is a moral law?
The third question is what do you do in cases where you bump up with a situation where there actually was never a law on the books about what that person is dealing with, but where their conscious is stricken not by God’s law but by the weakness of their own conscious.
What do you do when there was a law but it’s been fulfilled? What do you do when there is a law, the moral law in Christ? What are you doing there was never a law, in the case of the consciences of the weak? Believe it or not that will make this much simpler as we go through this.
20 To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. 1 Corinthians 9:20
In verse twenty first question that Paul is asking is what do you do when there was a ceremonial law on the books? Paul gives two different answers and the two different answers depend upon the person you are trying to reach.
He says in verse twenty, “To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews.” Okay, what does that mean? Paul goes on to explain that those under the law, he’s talking about the Jews and he’s not talking about how they’re under the moral law. It’s very clear, by the fact that he says he is not himself under the law anymore, he’s not talk about the moral law but the ceremonial law.
To those under the ceremonial law, I became as one under the ceremonial law. Though not being myself under the ceremonial law that I might win those under the law. He’s saying if you’re dealing with Jews, you’re trying to reach Jews and they’re coming up on questions about circumcision and food laws, Paul is saying those questions do not affect my salvation anymore. I am not saved by how well I keep those laws, but here’s the issue, they might be saved by the fact that I am willing to observe the laws, even though I’m not under them, for the sake of building bridges and not putting up hindrances that prevents me from getting the gospel to them. If that’s the case, if circumcising Timothy as Paul does for the sake of reaching Jews, then I’ll do it.
21 To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. 1 Corinthians 9:21
Then he comes to another thing, not everyone is a Jew. What about those outside the ceremonial law? To those outside the ceremonial law, I became as one outside the law. Then he says this, “not being outside the law of God” and here’s what we’re saying what are you talking about all these laws, well I just explained that so hopefully you took some good notes.
Not being outside the law of God, but being under the law of Christ; just said that parenthetical statement aside, we will come back to it. “For those outside the law I became as one outside the law”, skip the parenthesis, “that I might win those outside the law”.
He’s saying okay for the Jews, those who are under the law, who still believe that they must keep the ceremonial law, I observe those laws, no questions asked. But to those who never had those laws, they were never circumcise, they never followed food laws or stuff like that, I became as one who didn’t care.
I ate whatever they ate. I didn’t worry about whether everyone around me was circumcised. If anyone ever said that someone had to be circumcised in order to become a Christian, I reacted strongly against that idea. We are only saved in Christ; we don’t have to obey these things anymore. For the sake of getting the gospel the Gentiles, I became as one outside the law.
So, if the question is what do you do in a situation where you’re bumping up against the ceremonial law, the question isn’t whether your salvation is at stake Paul is saying. The question is, what barriers do you need to put up with or what barriers do you need to ignore in order to get the gospel to people. The ceremonial laws don’t matter one way or another. Circumcision doesn’t matter,
19 For neither circumcision counts for anything nor uncircumcision, but keeping the commandments of God. 1 Corinthians 7:19, ESV
Food laws, 1st Corinthians 8:8
8 Food will not commend us to God. We are no worse off if we do not eat, and no better off if we do. 1st Corinthians 8:8, ESV
It doesn’t matter either way. Figure out whatever is going to get the gospel to these people and put up with the rules or get rid of them one way or the other.
Paul then says something more, and this gets to the second question. What about the moral law? What about that time timeless, enduring, perfect rule of God’s righteousness? Well this is what Paul says in that parentheses in verse twenty-one.
He says I am acting as one outside of the law, but not being outside the law of God. I’m not outside the law of God. The moral law is binding on me still. What Paul is saying is in the course of our evangelism, we can’t ignore the rule of righteousness that God has given us in his moral law, as summarized in his Ten Commandments.
So if you want to put other gods before Christ in order to reach people with the gospel, the moral law says no. You want to worship God in a way that he has not appointed, especially by using carved images, the moral law says no. You want to take God’s name in vain because you think it will help you get credit with the people you are trying to reach, the moral law says no. You want to break the Sabbath in order to reach someone extensively, the moral law says no. Dishonor your parents, no. Murder someone, no. Commits sexual immorality, no. Steal something, no. Bear false witness in some sense, no. Covet, no.
The moral law is clear and is still binding. Paul is clear in saying whatever flexibility I have to reach people with the gospel, that flexibility ends when I come up against the moral law of God.
But then he goes on. He says it’s not the law of God, he says I want to tell you what kind of a law this actually is. I’m not outside the law of God, but I am under the law of Christ. What does he mean there? He’s talking about the third use of the law.
Again, not the first use where you look to the law and you actually see the mirror of the law showing you how sinful you are. He is saying I’m not looking at the law in that sense, I’m looking at it as someone who is in Christ, someone who is trusted in Christ. As someone who is in Christ in the sense that Christ has already fulfilled the law.
So, when I’m talking about being under the law of Christ, I’m talking about looking at the law by the third use of the law; as a friend, as a guide. Teaching me how to please Lord in the way that I do evangelism. So, when we come up to the moral law, we must do what the moral law says not what we can imagine that might fudge the rules.
Well, the third question; what do you do in cases where there is no law, has been no law on the books?
22 To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. 1 Corinthians 9:22
Paul picks up in verse twenty-two. Paul is talking specifically now about those whose consciences were weak about eating meat sacrificed to idols. In 1st Corinthians eight Paul said there, and he has more still stay, look there’s no law on the books against eating meat. God hasn’t forbidden you from eating meat.
Understand in the situation we are talking about meat that has been sacrificed to idols, to false gods. Now again strong Christians with good consciences understand those idols do not represent true gods. So, there’s no god somewhere out there that owns this meat.
So, technically in some sense maybe you could eat this meat, although he has more to say about that in the next chapter. Here’s the issue when weak people, people with weak consciences, it’s bringing everything back from their former lifestyle where they were a living idolatrously. It was a part of their worship, a part of the way that they lived in rebellion against God. To eat this meat is not just to fill their bellies, it brings back everything about their lives lived in rebellion to the Lord.
So Paul in 8:13 says
13 Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble.
1 Corinthians 8:13
Now Paul explains to us why in 9:22. To the weak I lived according to their rules. I played according to their laws; not a law on their books but a law on their conscious’. I lived according to that so that I might win them to Christ.
So here’s the rule, if you want to summarize all of it, it’s love. The law is love. The law of Christ is the law of love. Not necessarily the way that our culture defines love or the way we might define love in the selfishness of our hearts, but love as God revealed in his perfect rule of righteousness.
I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. 1 Corinthians 9:22b
That’s Paul’s methodology. But you might look at this and you might say, that’s incredibly complicated. You mean I have to think that through every time I talk to somebody about the gospel? Why would he want to do this? Why would he want to complicate his life so much? Look at what Paul says in verse twenty-three,
23 I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings. 1 Corinthians 9:23
Paul wants to share the blessings of the gospel. You might say Paul, you are an apostle, I think you get a free pass on this point. You’ll get the blessings of the gospel. What Paul is about to say is in fact no this is not guaranteed.
27 But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified. 1 Corinthians 9: 27, ESV
Paul recognizes the hypothetical possibility that he might preach a big gospel and yet fail to enter into its blessings. What does that mean? There are two things you can rule out in this. The first thing that this doesn’t mean is that Paul saying that there’s something left for him to do to earn his salvation. God’s done his part now I’ve got to do my part over here to make sure that I earned this. That’s not what he saying, the scriptures everywhere declare that righteousness comes by grace through faith.
Well then, the second thing that we can rule out is that Paul is saying that he could lose his salvation. However, the scriptures also testified that he who began a good work in us will be faithful to complete it one day. When Christ saves us he will finish the job. Those whom God calls God will persevere all the way to the end. That’s not what Paul is talking about.
Paul is saying, in fact he’s recognizing this, and this is healthy, just thinking about this is one of the ways that God keeps us safe, is that we need to recognize that it is possible for people to believe that they believe, to think that they believe and yet to be mistaken about it. Where they’ve never actually trusted in Christ, even though they might say they do. Maybe they preach a big gospel, ministers are not exempt from this. Or maybe they’re in the same church hearing the sermons week after week, but every time the Word is washing over them, they’re not growing in more love and trust of Jesus.
In fact what the Word is doing, because of the sin in their hearts, it’s hardening them against the gospel, against wanting Christ as they grow hardened in their despising of the gospel. Paul is saying I want to stay as far away from that it’s possible. I want what I’m preaching to be what I am depending on and trusting in. I want to trust in Jesus. Understand that we are given this gospel, not so that we can give lip service to it, but so that we can trust in it. Even demons trust that this is true and they shutter.
We are called to trust that the blessings of Christ God has given in love for us, that’s the difference. Paul is saying he wants to depend upon that and as an act of dependence upon that he wants to see everyone else hear the gospel and be enticed to the Gospel of Jesus through his ministry. The mark, the method, the motivation.
Well, how do we apply this? Three applications as we consider this.
1. The first is what Paul said verse nineteen, use your freedom to serve others, “For though I am free from all I have made myself a servant to all.” Paul doesn’t us his freedom for his own benefit or pleasure, he uses his freedom to serve others. Paul wrote the same thing elsewhere in Galatians 5:13 -14,
13 For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. 14 For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Galatians 5:13 -14, ESV
You got the summary of God’s righteous rule in the Ten Commandments. Then you have a summary of that summary in this one statement, “you shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
So how do you use your freedoms? We talked about this even this year. How do you use your time? How do you use your talents? How do you use your treasures? These gifts that God has given to you, resources that God has given to you to expand your freedom. Are you using those freedoms to serve yourself or are you using those for the sake of others? For the sake of seeing other people come to know Jesus and for the sake of building up the body of Christ. Are they for you or are they for others?
This is a question of the mark, the goal that you are pursuing. Is your goal really to see as many people come to know Jesus as possible? If you say yes to that question, then ask yourself how does your life reflect that answer? That’s the first application, use your freedom to serve others.
2. Here’s the second application, keep the law of Christ. What Paul laid out in 9:20-27 is a methodology where he’s saying he’s willing to do anything it takes, anything lawful that it takes to see people to come to know Jesus. If it’s something that he has to observe the ceremonial law one day and let it go in the other, he’s willing to do it because those things don’t matter, only Christ does.
He wants to fulfill the law of Christ; the law of Christ is the law of love. A moment ago, I read Galatians 5:14, that the whole law the whole moral law is fulfilled in one word, “you should love your neighbor as yourself”. Well a just a few versus later is the only other time in the New Testament where we read this phrase, “the law of Christ”.
Here’s what Paul writes in Galatians 6:2,
2 Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. Galatians 6:2, ESV
The law of Christ is the law of love. That’s what Jesus taught on the night before his betrayal in John 13:34,
34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. John 13:34, ESV
Paul wrote this in Romans 13:8-10,
8 Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. 9 For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law. Romans 13:8-10, ESV
Not the fulfilling of the first use of the law. You can’t try to keep those commandments in order to be saved, to be justified by your keeping of the commandments. But love is the fulfilling of the third use of the law, where you recognize that only Christ can and has fulfilled this in my place on my behalf. But in Christ through faith, I see the law not as an enemy, but as a friend teaching me to love in the way that Jesus loved.
This means two things. Number one we must let God define love, not our culture. If you went out here from today and talked with your neighbor, talked to the co-worker in the office, and you said hey I heard a sermon this morning or this weekend and it was about the fact that we should love one another. I don’t care who it is that person is probably going to say fantastic, we all do need to love, that’s an excellent message.
Then if you say here’s what love means as it’s defined in the Bible the Old and the New Testament, they’re going to say no you’re a bigot, you are a hater, you’re oppressive, you’re backwards, you’re foolish. In fact the more that we say that the scriptures tell us what is truly love, and not what is love warped by sin, we will be marginalized. We will be hated and opposed because the Bible’s vision of love cannot stand with the culture’s vision of love.
It should not surprise us that the world hates us.
Here’s the second application, it’s maybe a little more subtle, little more challenging. We must let God define love, not our own personal preferences. You see it’s one thing to talk about the culture out there and aren’t they terrible, yes, yes, yes. Understand this is about me, this is about my heart. In my heart I have so many ways of thinking that I know just the right way of fudging God’s law.
I think myself wiser than God so often, and you do too because all of us are infected with this corruption of original sin. We think we’re so much wiser, and kinder, and more loving than God. I know you said this, but it’d be better if I did it like this. I know you’ve commanded that, but honestly what’s the big deal?
We think of God as too strict, too narrow, too boring. we may not say that out loud, but our actions too often reflect that mind set in our hearts. When Paul says that he’s willing to do all things, he is not in the least justifying sin. Sin is defined by love, love is defined by the moral law which is revealed in the scriptures. He is saying this is what I do because this is love and this is what people need to know. Keep the law of Christ, in Christ, by faith, through grace.
3. The third application is this, live to share in the blessings of the gospel. Let me be 100% clear there is nothing you can do to earn or merit the blessings of the gospel. The gospel comes by the free grace of God through faith. You can’t earn it, you can’t increase it, you can’t diminish it. God isn’t waiting for you to add your part, even just 1%, to what Christ has done for you.
The gospel announces that Christ died for guilty sinners who are entirely helpless, dead in our sins and trespasses, non-response toward the God who was speaking to us. But Christ died that while we were unrighteous and ungodly, so that he might bring us to faith in the power of his Holy Spirit.
This is not a message of live to earn the blessings of the gospel. Instead the call of verse twenty-three, “I do it all for the sake of the gospel that I may share with them in its blessings.” If you want to share in it’s blessings, the word of the gospel is believe in Christ for your salvation.
We have to ask what kind of faith? The scriptures tell us that while faith alone saves, saving faith, true, active, living saving faith is never alone. If you have dead faith that doesn’t produce little bit of love defined by the law, then you haven’t actually experienced true faith. Again, even the demons believe in this way, they believe that is true but it doesn’t change anything, they shutter, James 2:19.
Now these works the works that we do, the works of love we do as we try to fulfill the law of Christ according to the third use of the law. Not to save ourselves, but as an act of thankful responsive, gracious love toward God. These don’t earn us anything, but they are the fruits in the consequence of our salvation.
Brothers and sisters, the question we have to ask ourselves is do I really believe in the Lord Jesus? Maybe this is the first time you’ve heard that Christ died for your sins. You have a vague awareness of the Christmas story, but you don’t know what that baby came to do. Jesus Christ came to die in your place because you are a guilty sinner before him. Jesus Christ came so that you could be saved by grace through faith, not of yourself it is the gift of God. Not of yourself, not the works of law, so that no one can boast. But he did this for the good works that God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. So that you could live just laid out according to the law.