Paul showed his willingness to reach all different kinds of people in 1 Corinthians 9. Specifically, if someone was well-versed in the Old Testament law, a Jew, a gentile, or even a weak person, Paul noted that he would adapt to meet that individual’s needs. We lose sight of the profound importance of this basic theological idea. God wants us to always try and reach the lost. It doesn’t matter if they look different than us. It doesn’t even matter if serving someone might make us uncomfortable. The point is that we must adapt and apply scripture in all circumstances. We should be knowledgeable about our faith so that way we can effectively communicate it to others.
Tragically, we often have a “Well… not my problem!” attitude when it comes to worldly problems. We think that as long as we enjoy God’s salvation, there isn’t much more to do. “It’s not my problem… someone else ought to help them!” we usually think to ourselves. We would much rather prefer comfort and security over risking our life, resources, and energy to serve neighbors in need. I mentioned on Sunday how giving rates to charity are usually at 1-3%–which is very disheartening to see our world struggle with. This is just one example of how we might struggle with apathy instead of living out God’s kingdom by being generous with God’s blessings.
Elsewhere in scripture, we find evidence of Paul’s adaptability. Here is a brief rundown of the kind of life Paul led…
- 1 Corinthians 6 talked about a controversy surrounding eating meat sacrificed to idols. While Paul was arguably an “expert” in theology (and personally believed that there are no other gods!), he deliberately chose to minister to “immature” Christians who struggled with meat-eating. Instead of putting them down, he sought to reach them where they were and serve them.
- 1 and 2 Timothy were addressed to Timothy, a young pastor leading the early church. Youth can often be a limiting factor when leading other people, so I imagine Timothy faced a lot of challenges. But Paul sought to provide practical, encouraging advice for this young pastor to evangelize other people. Paul could have looked down on Timothy for his inexperience. Instead, Paul mentored him and by doing so, he helped the church Timothy served.
- Acts 17 tells a remarkable story about Paul preaching to a bunch of pagan philosophers in Athens. During his sermon, Paul doesn’t quote Old Testament prophecy, or even major details about Jesus’ life–Greeks wouldn’t have been familiar with these ideas! Instead, Paul actually quoted their own poetry and philosophy, and argued that God was knowable to these pagans. He proposed a radical thought, that they didn’t need to search anymore for false gods, but pursue Christ. Instead of shaming these pagans in Athens, Paul got down on their level and preached to them in a what they would understand.
- The book of Acts also shares several other sermons Paul preached, too. When Paul was surrounded by pharisees or experts in the Old Testament, he talked about how Jesus fulfilled prophecy and was the true messiah. Again, Paul got on the level of the Jewish leaders in hopes that he might minister to and serve them.
So remember Paul’s example. Use your gifts to reach others. Even when it might seem like a challenge or too far “out there,” remember to always spread God’s kingdom.