Pr. Todd Wilken's pick for blog (post) of the week




1 Corinthians 9:22 has to be one of the most abused Scriptures today. Typically, it is abused by those who promote "Contemporary Worship (CW)" forms and Church Growth principles. When asking  proponents of CW why we must change the traditional liturgy, 1 Corinthians 9:22 is cited in support of their contention that the church must be permeable to the culture around us, i.e. we must become "all things to all people." I'll be honest and confess that when I hear somebody misuse this Scripture like that my nerves are grated upon. I wonder, "Do these people read?" The context of 1 Corinthians 9:22 is about Paul not abusing his Christian freedom and going so far as giving up his rights (see verse twelve) for the sake of the Gospel which he proclaimed as an Apostle. Paul is clearly addressing the "weak" (perhaps Judaizers?) at the Corinthian church as well as those who were invoking their Christian liberty to eat meat sacrificed to idols. According to chapter ten verse twenty three Paul is certainly writing to correct those holding the erroneous view that they can do anything they want, since "All things are lawful" to them as Christians. Under inspiration of the Holy Spirit Paul wrote that not all things are "helpful" or "build up" (1 Corinthians 10:23).

To illustrate the above point further, during the time of Paul, Corinth was the capital of the Roman province Acacia. Even-though the city was already quite old by Paul's time, it was still a bustling city which boasted of temples to Aphrodite, Poseidon, Apollo, Hermes, Venus, Isis, and Demeter, to name a few of the "gods" worshipped in this pagan Roman city. The reputation of Corinth's licentiousness was infamous even for the pagan world of the time and enough so for it to become the byword for "evil living" in the Greek language, korinthiazesthai. When Paul wrote, "I have become all things to all people" he surely did not mean to say that he, himself, had been "Corinthianized" in order to proclaim the Gospel. In other words, Paul didn't go "undercover" so that he could "save some." We know this to be true from the following,

"19 What do I imply then? That food offered to idols is anything, or that an idol is anything? 20 No, I imply that what pagans sacrifice they offer to demons and not to God. I do not want you to be participants with demons. 21 You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons. You cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons. 22 Shall we provoke the Lord to jealousy? Are we stronger than he (1 Corinthians 10:19-22)?"

The above Scriptures takes apart any pragmatic ideas that the ends justify a practice, as some would interpret 1 Corinthians 9:22 to mean.. Paul did not participate at the table of pagan rituals in the name of "reaching the unchurched" and he strongly condemns such participation as partaking with demons, something he demonstrates isn't neutral, or free, to the Christian to do when he asks the rhetorical questions, "Shall we provoke the Lord to jealously?" and "Are we stronger than he?" The obvious response should be, "no!" It is evident that Paul did not mean with "I have become all things to all people" that he had given up any of the traditions and truths he learned from Christ and the other Apostles in order to "win some to Christ." In sum, 1 Corinthians 9:22 is taken out of its proper context when used in defense of overturning the liturgy in order to introduce new worship forms.