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A sermon written by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr., Pastor Emeritus
and given by Jack Ngann, Pastor
at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Lord’s Day Afternoon, January 2, 2022

“I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some” (I Corinthians 9:22; p. 1219 Scofield).

Some are now saying that this verse shows that the Apostle Paul changed his message to suit certain kinds of people. I cannot agree with that interpretation. I find no basis for it in the New Testament. Wherever Paul went, he preached the same message. To the Jews,

“he preached Christ in the synagogues, that he is the Son of God”
     (Acts 9:20; p. 1161).

To the Gentiles, at Corinth, Paul

“determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified” (I Corinthians 2:2; p. 1213).

So, the phrase, “I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some,” does not refer to him preaching one message to the Jews, and another message to the Gentiles. Wherever he was Paul preached the same Gospel. A quick look through a concordance will prove this to be true. When Paul said, “I am made all things to all men” he could not have meant that he preached what the group to whom he was speaking wanted to hear. In many places the Jews did not want to hear the Gospel. And in many other places the Gentiles did not want to hear it. One time the Gentiles threw him out of the city, stoning him and leaving him for dead. And yet, in both of these circumstances, he could say,

“I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek” (Romans 1:16; p. 1192).

Then, what did he mean when he said, “I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some”? (I Corinthians 9:22; p. 1219). I believe Paul meant,

He tried to fit in as much as possible with the different kinds of people he preached to, in order that he might readily [more easily] win them to Christ (Thomas Hale, M.D., The Applied New Testament, Victor Publications, 1997 reprint, p. 657).

That commentator, Dr. Thomas Hale, is a medical missionary to Nepal. He must know, by first-hand experience, the meaning of what Paul said, “I am made all things to all men that by all means I might save some.” In Nepal, he knows he must adopt some of the culture of the people of Nepal, some of their customs, and even their language, to “become all things” to the natives of Nepal, and yet without copying the sins of their culture.

“I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some”
     (I Corinthians 9:22).

The phrase “by all means” translates one Greek word (pantōs), which is also found in Acts 18:21,

“I must by all means (pantōs) keep this feast that cometh in Jerusalem” (Acts 18:21; p. 1175).

In both cases the word “pantōs” means “at all events…no doubt, surely” (Strong). Thus we should understand that the Apostle means,

“I am made all things to all men, that I might no doubt, surely, at all events, win some” (I Corinthians 9:22).

This verse, I Corinthians 9:22, is sometimes used to show that any “means” can be used in evangelism, and it is used that way by those in the “emerging church” movement today. But that is a misuse of the word “pantōs,” which simply means that Paul would “no doubt” win some. This is brought out by Dr. Henry M. Morris, in his comment on our text,

Paul’s obsession to “gain” people for Christ compelled him to learn how to approach all prospects in terms of their own particular backgrounds and concerns. This can be a great example to modern Christians provided they do not carry it beyond the bounds set by the Apostle. That is, his purpose was always “for the gospel’s sake” (I Corinthians 9:23), and it was vital to him that the Gospel was not “another gospel” and that the Christ he preached was not “another Jesus” (II Corinthians 11:4). Being “made all things to all men” does not involve compromise of God’s truth concerning Christ and His Gospel. People are not really won to the true Christ and His saving Gospel by compromising with the beliefs and behaviors of the ungodly world (Henry M. Morris, Ph.D., The Defender’s Study Bible, World Publishing, Inc., 1995, pp. 1263-1264; note on I Corinthians 9:22).

But the main thrust of our text focuses on evangelism, on saving “some” – “that I might surely save some.” Dr. John R. Rice said of this passage, that it describes Paul’s

Unselfish abandon to the ministry that makes all things secondary to winning souls – all means at any cost to win a soul (John R. Rice., D.D., The Church of God at Corinth, Sword of the Lord Publishers, 1973, p. 94).

What was the great object of Paul’s ministry? What was the main thing that he attempted to do? He says it was to “save some.” We must never forget that the main purpose of every Christian’s life is to “save some.” Our purpose must not be learning the Bible for the sake of learning. It seems today that many people think the great object of a church is to educate people about the Bible. Yes, we need to learn the Bible. But what is the reason for learning it? For many, it is only learning for the sake of learning. But if we think like that we have made a serious mistake. Jesus did not come to teach the Bible to Christians. He came “seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10). And Christ has sent us to do the same thing. The purpose of every Christian and the business of everyone in church is the salvation of souls, “that I might by all means save some” (I Corinthians 9:22).

In his sermon, “Saving Souls: Our Main Business,” Spurgeon said,

If you or I, or any or all of us will have spent our lives merely in amusing, educating, or moralizing men, when we come to give our account at the last great Day, we will be in a very sorry condition…Of what avail will it be to a man to be educated when he comes to be damned? Of what service will it be to him to have been amused when the trumpet sounds, heaven and earth are shaking, and the pit opens wide her jaws of fire and swallows up the soul unsaved? Of what [use] will it have been to have [taught a man to be moral] if he is still on the left hand of the Judge, and if “Depart from me, ye cursed” (Matthew 25:41) will [be said to him at the end]? Blood red with the [soul murder] of men’s souls will be the skirts of professing Christians, unless the end and aim of all their work has been to “save some”…

Oh! I beseech you…Throw your whole strength in the name of Christ, and by the power of the Eternal Spirit, into this object: if by any means you may “save some”…that they may be delivered “from the wrath to come” (I Thessalonians 1:10) [in Hell]…

They called Mr. Whitefield’s chapel at Moorfields, “The Soul Trap.” Whitefield was delighted and said he hoped it would always be a soul trap [a trap to catch men’s souls and save them]. Oh, that all our places of worship were soul traps, and every Christian a fisher of men…

“that [we] might by all means save some”
     (I Corinthians 9:22).

What did Paul mean by saying that he desired to “save some”? What is it to be saved? Paul meant…that some should be born again, for no man is saved until he is made a new creature in Christ Jesus. The old nature cannot be saved, because it is dead and corrupt…A new nature must be implanted in us by the power of the Holy Spirit, or we cannot be saved…“Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3). This, then, is what Paul meant [when he said “save some”] that men must be new creatures in Christ Jesus, and that we may never rest until we see such a change worked in them. This must be the object of our teaching and our praying, indeed, the object of our lives, that “some” may be regenerated [born again].

“I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some” (I Corinthians 9:22).

It is our prayer that you will be saved. Only very reluctantly do people see that they are either saved or lost. Only by the work of the Holy Spirit will you see how wasted your life is, and how horrible your future will be, if you are not saved. Only by the work of God’s Spirit will you be convinced and convicted of your sin. Only by the work of God in you will you repent and come to Christ. Only by God’s grace will you be united with Jesus who is now in Heaven. Only by the power of the Holy Spirit will you come to Jesus and be washed clean from your sins by His Blood.

Lord, now indeed I find
     Thy power, and Thine alone,
Can change the leper’s spots
     And melt the heart of stone.

For nothing good have I
     Whereby Thy grace to claim –
I’ll wash my garments white
     In the blood of Calvary’s Lamb.

Jesus paid it all,
     All to Him I owe;
Sin had left a crimson stain,
     He washed it white as snow.
(“Jesus Paid It All” by Elvina M. Hall, 1820-1889).

“I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some”
     (I Corinthians 9:22).

You don’t have to know much about the life of the Apostle Paul to realize that saving “some” was his main object. As Dr. Morris said, “Paul’s obsession” was to “save some.” Paul does not speak here of just talking to people. He speaks here of actually saving “some.” To do that you must have the power of God on your evangelism. Jesus said, “without me ye can do nothing” (John 15:5). Without God's power your soul winning will really win very few souls to Christ. Pray for God to empower you to do personal evangelism this coming year.

So little time! The harvest will be over.
     Our reaping done, we reapers taken home.
Report our work to Jesus, Lord of harvest,
     And hope He’ll smile, and that He’ll say, “Well done!”
Today we reap, or miss our golden harvest!
     Today is given us lost souls to win.
Oh then to save some [lost souls] from the burning.
     Today we’ll go to bring some sinner in.
(“So Little Time” by Dr. John R. Rice, 1895-1980).