“Doing it all” to share gospel blessings

Most believers and even many unbelievers with a modicum of biblical familiarity might recognize the apostle Paul’s famous proclamation that “I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some” (1 Corinthians 9:22).

In current evangelical circles Paul’s example is applied to the concept of “contextualization” — just how far a believer may go in looking like the people in a culture in order to gain audience with them, and prayerfully, win them to Christ. It is also appealed to in discussions about “stumbling blocks” — just how far mature believers may go in exercising their liberty in Christ when an immature believer with a weak conscience sees that liberty and is offended.

Neither of those will be addressed here.

This is because in the next verse Paul says “I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings” (1 Corinthians 9:23, ESV). Other versions translate Paul’s reasons as: “that I may become a partner in its benefits” (HCSB); “that I may become a fellower partaker in it” (NASB); that Paul may “share in its blessings” (NLT).

But hasn’t Paul already experienced the blessings of the gospel? At this point, he has already been converted, received special instruction from Jesus himself, and the fruit of his ministry has confirmed the operation of the Spirit within him. Why does he “do all” this — forego payment, give up rights, become all things to all people — in order to “share with them in its blessings”?

What Paul describes here is a gospel that is not individualistic. He proclaims a faith that is not private. Paul describes a faith and a gospel that blesses its adherents in part because it is shared; part of the blessing of the gospel message is that once I am saved I am privileged to tell the gospel to others and play a part in bringing them to faith in Christ. The blessings Paul describes here are the joy of seeing others see the manifold excellence of the Savior and the thrill of witnessing the gospel as the power of God for salvation (Romans 1:16-17).

There is an element here of Paul’s joy in simply increasing the number of people with whom he shares the status of joint-heirs with Christ. Paul does what he does in order to have a bigger faith family.

But the emphasis seems to be that the believer receives blessing in telling others the gospel, and in seeing them come to faith. And this blessing, this joy, is such that it motivates us to drastic, self-less, other-oriented action in order to participate in it.

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