1 Corinthians 9:19–27 (NKJV)
19 For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win the more; 20 and to the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might win Jews; to those who are under the law, as under the law, that I might win those who are under the law; 21 to those who are without law, as without law (not being without law toward God, but under law toward Christ), that I might win those who are without law; 22 to the weak I became as weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some. 23 Now this I do for the gospel’s sake, that I may be partaker of it with you.1 Corinthians 9:19-23
Paul moves into a discussion of servanthood in verse 19. He has just finished stating that his refusal to receive pay for his ministry has made him beholden to no one. Now he says that despite this freedom, he has willingly made himself a servant to all, so that he might win more. He talks about how he identifies with various groups in an effort to alleviate their resistance to the law. He uses his life experiences and associations to help Jews see Christ as the Messiah, to help Gentiles see Him as their salvation as the one true God, to help the weak see Him as strong and empowering. He states in a well-known phrase, “I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.” Paul used creative and practical measures to reach into the deep corners of society to win the lost to Christ.
24 Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. 25 And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown. 26 Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air. 27 But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.1 Corinthians 9:24-27
Paul then shifts gears and dives into a discussion of the need for diligence and excellence in ministry. Paul shows his competitive side here, but with good reason. Paul perceives that some who are not passionate about serving God may need encouragement in this area. Paul leads by example. His urgency concerning ministry, evangelism, and the coming of the Lord lead him to have high standards for himself and others. He sees the prize before him and strives to obtain it. He tempers, or disciplines, himself. He runs with certainty, he strikes blows against the enemy with certainty. He disdains failure and strives for excellence. He also calls those in his care to the same level of excellence. His motivation is not to be better than everyone else. His motivation is to be the best he can be. We all should strive for the best we can offer Christ. Give Him your best, for you always receive His best. Run well, be creative, reach out to others in a way that touches their soul. One size does not fit all when it comes to methodology. One gospel saves all, but can be presented in many creative ways. Reach inside and find your place of excellence and win a harvest. Eschew complacency and reach up for the best you can offer God and a harvest of lost souls. This is the standard. This is the goal.
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