1 Corinthians


6. Eating food offered to idols, 8:1-11:1

iii] Proclaiming the good news


In dealing with the subject of eating food / meat offered to idols, Paul has sought to establish "the principle that love sets bounds to Christian freedom", Glad, Paul and Philodemus. In chapter 9, Paul lays out "a personal example of subordinating rights for the good of the whole", "Whereas v1-18 focus largely on the strategy and personal example of foregoing the right to substance", v19-23 "show that standing in solidarity with the other, as against autonomy or self-affirmation, lies at the heart of the gospel", Thiselton.


i] Context: See 8:1-13. In v19-23, Paul develops the principle of becoming all things to all sorts of believers for the purpose of securing their eternal salvation.


ii] Background: See 8:1-13.


iii] Structure: Proclaiming the good news:

The third step in Paul's argument against eating idol food.


For the sake of the gospel,

a believer should share the condition of their fellows.

Argument (Garland suggests that it is chiastic):


A. I made myself a slave to all in order that I might gain more, v19.


B. I became to the Jews a Jew, in order that I might gain Jews, v20a.


C. To those under the law as [one] under the law .... to gain those under the law, v20b.


C1. To those outside the law as [one] outside the law .... to gain those outside the law, v21.


B1. I became to the weak, weak, in order that I might gain the weak, v22a.


A1. I have become all things to all persons in order that I might in all circumstances save some of them, v22b.


iv] Interpretation:

In this passage Paul develops the principle of becoming all things to all sorts of believers for the purpose of securing their eternal salvation.


The example Paul provides, namely, refusing to exercise his rights so as to not undermine the salvation of a brother in the Lord, "implies that they (his readers / the strong) should imitate him in his all-consuming concern to save others", Garland. "Paul insists that it has always been his policy not to aggravate others, whether Jews or Gentiles, the motive being that he seeks to win them for Christ", Maylor. This motive should infuse the Corinthians as well. So, in this passage Paul "presents himself as a model for the Corinthian community; through faith he is free and subject to no one, but in love he is a slave, who has freely become all things to all people in the hope of saving some of them", Fitzmyer.


v] Exposition: A simple exposition of this passage may be found in the linked pew-level Sermon Notes.

Text - 9:19

Free from all - a slave to all, v19-23: i] Paul's chiastic argument - solidarity with the other for the sake of their salvation, v19-22. The principle upon which Paul acts is a simple one. For the sake of a brother's eternal salvation, he is willing to put aside his personal privileges, rights etc., even his greatest privilege, his independence. Although Paul is a slave to no man, he is willing to become a salve to a brother struggling with their faith.

gar "-" - for. Introducing a causal clause explaining why Paul has "not used any of these rights", v15, because although he is free, v1, he has followed the pattern of Christ and made himself a slave of others. The NIV takes it as more explanatory than causal.

wn (eimi) pres. part. "though I am [free and belong to no man]" - being [free from all men]. The participle is adverbial, probably concessive, as NIV, "although"; "though I am free from anyone's control", Goodspeed. The participle, taken as concessive, prompts a contrastive "yet"; "though I be free from all men, yet have I made myself servant unto all", AV; "but", REB.

eleuqeroV adj. "free" - Predicate adjective; the position is emphatic: "I am free.", CEV.

ek + gen. "and belong to" - from. Here expressing separation; "though I was not a slave to any human being", NJB.

pantwn adj. "no man / no one" - all. Paul is free from pantwn, "all", but a servant of pasin, "all". Who are the "all"? Salvation is at the heart of Paul's willingness to be a slave of all, although it is not overly clear who the all are. Many commentators see them as unbelievers, as evidenced by Paul's willingness to adopt Jewish practice when evangelizing Jews. Yet, the context of this passage implies that they are believers, and that Paul is addressing behavior which may undermine a believer's faith. If eating food offered to idols has the potential of undermining a person's faith, then Paul won't eat temple-food. Paul behaves this way for the sake of the gospel, so that all who have put their trust in Jesus will share in its promised blessings, v23.

edoulwsa (doulow) aor. "I make [myself] a slave" - i enslave [myself]. "I put myself into slavery", Thiselton.

pasin dat. adj. "to everyone" - to all men. Dative of indirect object / interest, advantage, "for all"; "I have made myself everyman's slave", Barclay.

iJna + subj. "to [win]" - that. Introducing a purpose clause; "in order to win", Barclay.

kerdhsw (kerdainw) aor. subj. "win" - [that] i might gain, make a profit. Possibly in the sense of "win disciples", "converts", Weymouth, as is the view of most commentators, but also possibly "secure the standing of a brother before God." Given that the context is about leading a brother / sister astray, it seems likely that Paul retains the context of the Christian fellowship and declares his willingness to forgo his own rights and behave in either a Jewish Christian way, or a Gentile Christian way, for the sake of preserving a brother / sister's faith, and thus "gain / secure" the brother, rather than lose them. "So that I might keep safe as many believers as possible for eternity."

touV pleionaV (poluV) comp. adj. "as many as possible" - the more. The adjective serves as a substantive. "All the more", NRSV, follows the Greek, but the sense is probably "as many people (believers!) as possible", TEV.


With Jewish believers Paul affirms his Jewishness, his submission to the Mosaic law. He does this, even though he now knows that law-obedience is not the way a child of God progresses his Christian life. Of course, the law was never designed to facilitate the promised blessings of the covenant, but it was commonly believed that it did serve this end. There is no gain for Paul in his submission to Mosaic law, but there is gain for a weaker brother or sister, someone, for example, who still has a deep-seated belief in the existence of pagan gods and of the sin of idolatry. Such a person could easily think they were worshipping another god while eating consecrated food at a pagan feast. Paul is quite willing to abstain, rather than undermine the faith of his weaker brother, and thus secure ("win") the eternal salvation of his legalist brother ("those under the law").

kai "-" - and. Here probably epexegetic; "that is ....."

toiV IoudaioiV (oV) dat. "to the Jews" - [and] to the jews. Probably a dative of reference / respect, "with respect / regard / regard to Jews", or possibly association, "when I am with Jews", CEV. Paul probably has in mind Jewish Christians and this is why he further spells out what he means in the phrase "those under the law." This view is not widely held.

wJV aor. mid. "[I became] like" - [i became, made] as [a jew]. Comparative. "I behaved like a Jew", REB, is probably what Paul is saying, although "to the Jews I made myself a Jew", NJB, is safer. Paul's affirmation of inconsistency, or better, adaptability, has been the subject of much ethical debate. Was Peter's alignment to the "judaizers", as recorded in Galatians 2, an example of "become all things to all men", and if so, why is Paul so critical of Peter's behavior? Love is probably the arbiter of inconsistency, rather than apostolic authority, given that Paul, as with all believers, is "subject to a higher consistency", Bruce. The aorist is best translated as a simple present tense; "with Jewish believers I behave like a Jew."

iJna + subj. "to [win the Jews]" - that [i might gain jews]. Introducing a purpose clause. Again, Jewish believers are in mind, of not losing them for eternity by means of selfish behavior.

toiV dat. artic. "to those" - to the ones. The article serves as a nominalizer turning the prepositional phrase uJpo nomon, "under the law", into a substantive, "those under the law." Dative of reference / respect, or association, as above.

uJpo + acc. "under" - under [law]. Here expressing subordination; "under the authority of." "Those under the authority of the law" are probably nomist believers, most being converted Jews, who still find it necessary to subject themselves ("under") to the Mosaic law, certainly the moral law, but also possibly cultic and, given the context, food laws.

wJV "like [one under the law]" - as [under law]. Comparative. Paul is making the point that, although in Christ, he is no longer subject to the law, that he is free of the law, yet for the sake of a brother's eternal salvation, he is willing to live as if he were a person subject to the law, live "like a man who accepts the law", Barclay, eg., for the sake of a Jewish believer he won't eat idol-food.

mh w]n (eimi) "though [I myself] am not [under the law]" - not being [myself under law]. The participle is adverbial, concessive, as NIV. In this aside, Paul reminds his readers that he is not a nomist, ie., he does not view the Mosaic law as the means of progressing his Christian life, making him more holy and so providing for him a greater portion of God's promised blessings. Yet, not all believers fully understand the extent of the righteousness that is theirs in Christ, and so, for this reason, "love sets bounds to Christian freedom." "I stand free from it", Phillips.

iJna + subj. "so as to" - that. Introducing a purpose clause.

kerdhsw (kerdainw) aor. subj. "win [those under the law]" - [the ones under the law] i might gain. Here with the sense "to avoid, to cause not to occur" = "to avoid the loss of those [still] under the authority of the law." Translations which use a word like "gain / win" are obviously prompted by the view that Paul is referring to unconverted Jews here rather than nomist Jewish believers.


With those not subject to the law of Moses, Paul lives like a person who has little interest in the regulations of the Mosaic law. Paul can live flexibly with the Mosaic law since he knows that although it still serves as a guide to the life of faith and a reminder of the need for grace, it can no longer condemn, it can no longer curse us. Those "not under the law" are probably Gentile believers. Paul probably includes in this group the Corinthian libertines, those believers who have found freedom in Christ, but who have forgotten to nurture the fruit produced by faith, namely, love. Although Paul may, at times, live like a person who has no interest in the law of Moses, that doesn't mean he lives in sin. A believer is subject to Christ, "under legal obligation to Christ", Barrett. Our legal obligation is one of faith, one of trust in Christ, and it is through faith that we walk by the Spirit rather than gratify the desires of the flesh.

toiV anomoiV adj. dat. "to those not having the law" - to/with/for the lawless ones, without the law. Dative of interest / reference, or association, as above. The adjective serves as a substantive. Obviously, all people are under some kind of law, even if only the conscience, so here the ones without law are those without the Mosaic law, those outside / not subject to the Torah. As already noted, it is more than likely that Paul is referring to Gentile believers rather than Gentiles in general; "with Gentile believers, I behave like a person who has no interest in the law of Moses."

wJV "I became like" - like, as. Comparative.

mh w]n (eimi) "though I am not [free from God's law]" - not being [lawless, without the law]. The participle is adverbial, concessive, as NIV; "although I am far from disregarding the law of God", Barclay.

qeou (oV) gen. "God's [law]" - of god. The genitive may be treated as adjectival, possessive, or ablative, source / origin.

all (alla) "but" - Adversative; "being on the contrary", Cassirer.

uJpo "under" - The preposition uJpo, expressing subordination, is assumed from v20.

annomoV adj. "[Christ's] law" - lawful [of christ]. Predicate adjective. As with "God's law", the genitive, "of Christ", is likely functioning adjectivally, limiting the law in mind. It can be classified as possessive, "the law which belongs to Christ / is associated with him / of his making", but possibly ablative expressing source, "comes from Christ". Usually understood as "the law of love." If this law is the law of love then the phrase would have the same meaning as in Galatians 6:2, in the terms of "bear one another's burdens." In the context of the issue of eating food associated with idols, "love sets bounds to Christian freedom." A more general understanding may apply, so "a code of precepts to which a Christian man is obliged to conform", Dodd. It is possible that the genitive "of Christ" is objective, giving the adjective the sense "pertaining to legal status /in law", so producing the translation: "under legal obligation to Christ", Barrett. Yet, if there is a legal obligation it is more likely to be faith than obedience. So, Christ's law may well be "the law of faith" (whose faith: ours, Christ's, or both ours and Christ's?). Anyway, genuine faith produces love, compassion.

iJna + subj. "so as to [win]" - that [i may gain the ones without law]. Introducing a purpose clause, as for v20.


With the "weak" brother, Paul happily becomes "weak". These law-bound believers tend to think that their holiness is progressed by obedience to the law of Moses. With these puritan believers, Paul adjusts to their pietism, rather than allow his freedom to offend and thus undermine their weak faith. Paul is willing to adjust his behavior so as not to undermine their eternal standing.

toiV asqenesin adj. dat. "to the weak" - to the weak, vulnerable, insecure, inferior ones. Dative of reference / respect, or association, as above. The identification of "the weak" is particularly important for an understanding of this passage, but given that we have little to go on, much is speculation. These notes take the view that they are nomist Christians, many being converted Jews, not only unable to easily slip into eating a nice piece of pork, or meat consecrated to a pagan idol, but actually feeling defiled before God if they do eat. In a sense, they are defiled if they eat against their better judgment and so Paul is concerned that their faith is not undermined.

egenomhn (ginomai) aor. "I became [weak]" - Punctiliar action.

iJna + subj. "to [win]" - that [i might win, gain the weak ones]. Introducing a purpose clause, as above.

gegona (ginomai) perf. "I have become" - Paul uses the perfect tense "to stress the lasting effect of his condition", Fitzmyer. Barclay's "behaved" for "became" in v20 is well expressed in the perfect tense by the NJB: "I accommodated myself to people in all sorts of different situations."

panta (paV) adj. "all things" - The NIV brings out Paul's play on the word "all", although the CEV's attempt carries the nuance better; "I do everything I can to win everyone I possibly can." Yet, as noted above, "win" is off the mark; "I do everything I can to keep my brothers and sisters safe in the Lord."

toiV pasin dat. "to all men" - to all the ones. Dative of indirect object / interest, advantage / reference. Paul is gathering together all the different groups he happily adjusts to. This is indicated by the presence of the article. "To all the lot of them", BDF.

iJna + subj. "so that" - that, in order that. Here introducing a purpose clause.

pantwV adv. "by all possible means" - by all means. "At least / by all means", BAGD. Possibly "in all circumstances", "in one way or another", REB.

swsw (sozw) aor. subj. "I might save [some]" - Phillips stays with "win"; "rescue", Barclay; "bring some to salvation", NJB. The sense of "convert" is dominant with commentators, but again, Paul is most likely thinking in terms of securing the eternal inheritance of a believer.


ii] The punch-line, v23. "I do all this for the gospel; I want to play my part in it properly", Phillips.

dia + acc. "for the sake of" - [and i do all things] because of, on account of / for the sake of, for the benefit of. The primary meaning expresses cause, the reason for, so "because of", or a little lighter, "on account of." The reason Paul is driven to be "all things to all men" is because the gospel drives him to this end. Knowing Christ prompts him to love. Most translators opt for the prospective sense "with a view to", "for the sake of": "for the gospel's sake", TEV, the sense being "to help the good news about Jesus to spread", TH; to facilitate "the progress of the gospel", Fee. The primary sense is best. The motivator of Paul's inconsistent behavior, his "all things to all men", is the compelling power of the gospel; "on account of the gospel", Thiselton.

ton euaggelion (on) "the gospel" - the important message from god. "The important message from God."

iJna + subj. "that" - Possibly introducing a final clause expressing purpose , "in order that", or a consecutive clause expressing result, "with the result that / so that", or better, an epexegetic clause, "namely"; see autou below.

sugkoinwnoV (oV) "[I may] share" - [i may become] a participant together, a sharer together, a partner. Predicate nominative. The prefix sun adds the sense "with", "that I may share with you; "with others", NJB, Williams, Bruce; "share in its blessings along with the rest", Goodspeed. The gospel compels Paul's inconsistent behavior, the purpose of which behavior is the creation of an inclusive Christian fellowship, "joint partaker thereof", RV, rather than an exclusive Christian fellowship, as practiced by the Corinthian libertines.

autou "in its blessings" - of him / it. "A fellow partaker of Christ", or probably better, "a fellow partaker of the gospel." The genitive is usually treated as verbal, objective, but it may express association, so "with / in", "fellow participants with it", ie., sharing in the work of evangelism - although a dative would be expected. On the other hand, the genitive may be taken as adjectival, partitive, denoting Paul's share / participation in "it", namely, the gospel. If the sense is "participation in the benefits of the gospel", what benefits are envisaged? Most commentators opt for the blessing of salvation, "the eschatological goal", Fee. The only problem is that this seems a rather mercenary move by Paul, given that only a moment before he described his motivation as "that I might by all means save some" and "I do it all for the sake of the gospel." Is his behavior now motivated by the need to save his own skin? We are on safer ground if we understand the hina clause as epexegetic, taking an active sense, "everything I do, I do on account of the gospel, namely, the evangelistic work of the gospel", rather than a passive sense, "for the blessings / benefits of the gospel." "I have, in short, been all things to all sorts of men that by every possible means I might win some to God. I do all this for the gospel; I want to play my part in it properly", Phillips.


1 Corinthians Introduction



[Pumpkin Cottage]