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Home The Light Articles from 2011 That I might by All Means Save Some

That I might by All Means Save Some

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One does not need to read the apostle Paul's letters for an ex­tended time in order to recognize his driving desire and zeal to preach the gospel. As a redeemed servant of Christ, miraculously turned from his persecution of the Christian Way to follow Christ, Paul pursued his duty to teach the lost. Jesus had said of Saul, "...he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gen­tiles, and kings, and the children of Israel: for I will shew him how great things he must suffer for my name's sake" (Acts 9:15-16). Paul would forever recognize the grace of God in his life. "But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me" (1 Co­rinthians 15:10). Paul felt the desire to spread the gospel so strongly that he "fought with beasts at Ephesus," was beaten with scourges five times to the legal limit, was beaten three times with rods, was imprisoned, was stoned and left for dead. He suffered shipwreck three times, once being in the water a day and night. He was let down over the wall in Damascus in order to save him from arrest and  perhaps save his life. Accompanying these events, he was often hungry, thirsty, weary, in pain, cold and poorly clothed. From this abbreviated list of sufferings of the apostle, we can comprehend his statement to the Corinthians, "...for necessity is laid upon me; yea, woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel" (1 Cor. 9:16).
Writing to the church of the Thessalonians, Paul reminded them that he was "bold in our God to speak unto you the gospel of God with much contention" (1 Thessalonians 2:2). There was great opposi­tion to the gospel at Thessalonica. Previously, Paul had been "shame­fully entreated" at Philippi. Yet when the opportunity came to teach the gospel at Thessalonica, he did so. It is interesting to note that Paul was "bold in our God" to teach. His bold­ness came not from his ego or pride. He stressed that he taught them the "gospel of God." The opposition, or "contention," came from those who opposed the gospel, and Paul ear­nestly contended (Jude 3) in face of their opposition.
The description of Paul's efforts among the Thessalonians is informa­tive and serves as a model for our efforts today. He was bold. He was bold in the Lord. He was bold in teaching the gospel in the face of opposition. Yet, Paul did not use worldly means to "win the debate." He did not use deceit, uncleanness or guile to convince people of the gos­pel's truth. Often men will claim godliness in their efforts but worldliness creeps into their words and mes­sage. Just observe the media shows being passed for evangelism today. Be assured that the apostle Paul held the gospel of the Lord in the highest esteem. "But as we were allowed of God to be put in trust with the gos­pel, even so we speak; not as pleas­ing men, but God, which trieth our hearts" (1 Thessalonians 2:4).
Paul continues to remind the Thessalonians that he and his com­panions did not come to them with flattering words or covetousness (v.5). He and his companions were not seeking glory and honor from them. These teachers of the gospel were not seeking worldly gain (v.6). They had one goal. He writes, "We preached unto you the gospel of God" (v.9).
What was the demeanor of these preachers among the Thessalonians? "We were gentle among you, even as a nurse cherisheth her children: so being affectionately desirous of you, we were willing to have imparted unto you, not thalso our own souls, because ye were dear unto us" (1 Thessalonians 2:7-8). We must not miss the tenor of these thoughts. Paul has been writing of boldness in teaching the gospel of the Lord. He has been writing of oppositions and contentions. Now he writes of gentleness and affection toward these brethren. Isn't this a contradiction? Clearly not. Paul would always meet opposition to the gospel strongly and boldly. Yet, he would labor patiently, affectionately, kindly, and lovingly to bring people to Christ. We would be well served to notice and follow this great ex­ample.
The following may be a bit long for an article, but please take account of the full statement by the apostle. "Ye are witnesses, and God also, how holily and justly and unblameably we behaved ourselves among you that believe: as ye know how we exhorted and comforted and charged every one of you, as a father doth his children, that ye would walk worthy of God, who hath called you unto his kingdom and glory" (1 Thessalonians 2:10-11). Is there any doubt that Paul's necessity was to save men's souls? Is there any doubt about his love, care and concern for those he taught? There are times for "conten­tion" against opposition and error, and there are times for affectionate desire toward souls struggling for salvation.
The apostle wrote similarly to the Corinthians. We noticed 1 Corinthi­ans 9 where Paul wrote of the neces­sity to preach the gospel. Apparently, Paul's detractors criticized him for his manner of teaching to the Corin­thians. His words are intriguing and instructive. In verse 19 he writes, "...yet have I made myself servant unto all, that I might gain the more. We know that Paul is not saying that he will preach whatever is necessary to convert his audience. He is saying that he is the servant to all in order to bring them to the gospel. He is not the overlord, superior and conde­scending. He made himself a servant "that I might gain the more."
In the next verses, he explains his meaning. To the Jews he honored Jewish sensitivities. To those who were strict in the law, he honored their sensitivities. Why? "So that  I might gain them" Paul says. To those not under the law, he did not injure their sensitivities by insistence on them following the old ceremonial law. To the weak, he conducted him­self meekly and patiently that he might not drive them away by ap­pearing hostile and arrogant.
When we look at these words, we must not be misled to think that Paul was abandoning doctrine and truth just so he could get people to "ac­cept" the gospel. That assumption is false and similar to many very popu­lar "evangelists" in our time. The apostle said plainly that he was "... not without law to God, but under the law to Christ" (v.21). In the matter of lawful or unlawful, right or wrong, righteous or unrighteous, the apostle would scrupulously follow the law of Christ. In matters and manners where he could adapt to the people to whom he spoke, he would willingly do so "that I might by all means save some" (v.22).
There IS "law" to God and Christ. It is codified for us in the New Testa­ment. Paul asserts that he was not without law to God but was under law to Christ. He would not violate that law given to him. Within the framework of the law to Christ, he would be "made all things to all men, that (he) might by all means save some." This method, if you will al­low that word, is easily seen in the New Testament. Jesus spoke differ­ently to the Pharisees than to the common people. Paul wrote differ­ently to the Romans and Hebrews than he did to the Corinthians and Ephesians. He always spoke the truth. Likewise, he always spoke and wrote appropriately for the condition and needs of his listeners and read­ers. Why? Not because he was soft or weak but that he might by all means save some!
Today, those wonderful servants who travel to foreign lands recognize the need to be aware of the nuances of the people they address. Our brothers teach the gospel, but there is no doubt they become aware of cul­tural, linguistic, and familial differ­ences. To be effective teachers of the gospel, they must be cognizant of those differences. We recognize such differences within our own country. We are not long associated with brethren from other sections of the United States before we see minor variances in language, custom, etc. (We all know those people from Texas are different!) I am sure each evangelist can recall a story of such variances. We can  even see this within our home congregations. Each one in our congregation has a different back­ground, upbringing, and pool of ex­perience. Each one comes to Christ from a different place. As local teachers, we have a responsibility to be sensitive to that fact. Paul wrote, "And this I do for the gospel's sake, that I might be partaker thereof with you" (1 Corinthians 9:23); different people, different  backgrounds  yet being called by and being obedient to the same saving gospel. We are par­takers together of the gospel's bless­ing and saving message.
In 1 Timothy 4:16, Paul exhorted the young man Timothy to "take heed unto thyself, and unto the doc­trine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee." Therefore, I would never suggest that we should violate the law of Christ in order "to reach" the wayfaring soul. However, by example, the apostle Paul shows us that he was willing to adapt him­self to meet the needs of the hungry souls he so greatly desired to bring to salvation. We must work to do the same so that we "might by all means save some." - P. O. Box 841, Princeton, TX 75407t
 

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