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Bailey Sadler Class



Study Theme:  Identity: My Life of Faith

What This Lesson Is About:

Week of:

Lesson Title:

This week’s study will focus on how we (believers) can better share the gospel when we step into the shoes of others.


April 23

Life In Christ


April 30

Life in the Church


May 07

Life at Home


May 14

Life at Word


May 21

Life in the Community


May 28

Life on Mission






We can better share the gospel when we step into the shoes of others.


1 Corinthians 9:19-27




Step Into The Shoes of Others To Share The Gospel  (1 Cor. 9:19-23)

Sharing The Gospel Takes Discipline and Self-denial  (1 Cor. 9:24-27)


  While Paul was on his second missionary journey he received a vision to carry the gospel into Europe (Acts 16). Paul landed at Neapolis, went to Philippi, and Thessalonica (all in northern Greece which was called Macedonia). Following this, he traveled to Athens, and then arrived in Corinth about A.D. 50 for a year and a half of ministry there (Acts 18:1-18). Corinth was located on the small piece of land (isthmus) joining northern Greece to southern Greece (today’s canal is less than four miles long). Paul left the infant church and returned to Antioch, his home church (which had sent him out). The next year (about A.D. 52), Paul began his third missionary journey, visiting churches he had previously established and strengthening them. Paul’s headquarters was Ephesus and he likely wrote 1 Corinthians from there about A.D. 55-56 in response to information from visitors from Corinth and under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

In 1 Corinthians, Paul addressed a variety of issues from living a Christian lifestyle in an immoral society to problems in the church. Under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Paul wrote most of 1 Corinthians in response to problems in the church. These included divisions (1 Cor. 1–4), immorality (chapter 5), lawsuits (6:1-11), prostitutes (6:12-20), marriage (chapter 7), and Christian liberty (8:1–11:1).

In discussing Christian liberty, Paul first clarified God’s position on food offered to idols: don’t be a stumbling block to others. In 9:1-18, Paul defended his position as an apostle and to be supported by the Christians at Corinth (though he did not exercise these rights). In verses 19-23, Paul explained his social relationships with people. Finally, in verses 24-27, Paul talked about his self-discipline for the sake of fulfilling his calling. Studying these verses in 1 Corinthians can help us better share the gospel with others.

SOURCE: Advanced Bible Study; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; One LifeWay Plaza, Nashville, TN.


We tend to define people by the demographics of our church and the circle of Christians we regularly encounter. People who match those characteristics certainly need Jesus, but so do people outside our circles. To share Christ with these other people requires us to take the gospel into their culture rather than expecting them to come into ours. This calls for us to step outside our comfort zone, but leading people to know Jesus is worth it.

SOURCE: Life Ventures-Bible Studies for Life; Leader Guide; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; Nashville, TN.


Step Into The Shoes of Others To Share The Gospel  (1 Cor. 9:19-23)

19 Although I am free from all and not anyone’s slave, I have made myself a slave to everyone, in order to win more people. 20 To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win Jews; to those under the law, like one under the law—though I myself am not under the law—to win those under the law. 21 To those who are without the law, like one without the law—though I am not without God’s law but under the law of Christ—to win those without the law. 22 To the weak I became weak, in order to win the weak. I have become all things to all people, so that I may by every possible means save some. 23 Now I do all this because of the gospel, so that I may share in the blessings.









1.   What does it mean to walk a mile in someone’s shoes?

2.   What do you think it means to step into the shoes of another to share the Gospel?

3.   Why do you think people sometimes use their environment or circumstances as a license to break away from their moral restraints?

4.   What is the setting for this week’s study? ( see “The Setting” on pg. 1. )

5.   What does verse 19 tell us about the apostle Paul?  What do you think he meant that He was “a slave to everyone . . . “ ? 

6.   What does Mark 10:45 and Phil. 2:5-8 tell us about our role in sharing the Gospel? 

7.   How would you describe the word “compassion?”  (see Digging Deeper.)

8.   What do you think it means to share the Gospel with compassion?

9.   What are some ways the apostle Paul intentionally found to identify with all people for the purpose of sharing the Gospel? (see Adv. comm., pg. 3, “The word Although . . . “ and “In 1 Corinthians 19:20-22 . . . “  )

10.   How can we walk in the shoes of others without compromising our values?

11.   What are some things that keep us from becoming “all things to all people”?

12.   What people groups did Paul identify in his culture that he sought ways to interact and share Jesus with? (see vv. 20-22; & also see Adv. comm., btm. pg. 3, “In 1 Corinthians 19:20-22 . . . “ )

13.   How did Paul demonstrate that he was concerned about the salvation of the Jews? (see Adv. comm., pg. 4, “In 1 Corinthians 19:20-22 . . . “  )

14.   What did it mean to be “under the law” as opposed to being “without the law”?  (see Adv. comm., pg. 4, “Second the next group  . . . “ & “Third, in verse 21 . . . “ )

15.   In what sense had Paul become weak? (see Adv. comm., pg. 4, “Fourth, in verse 22 . . . “  )

16.   How are we (believers) to determine how we are to identify with those with whom we are at odds because of personal beliefs, prejudices, or other personal criteria?

17.   What part do you think the Holy Spirit plays in our reaching out to those who are difficult for us to share the Gospel?

18.   What do you think it takes for a believer to really focus on sharing the Gospel with those he/she may deem a difficult witness?

19.   The focus of Paul’s ministry was to present the Gospel to everyone regardless of race, gender, socioeconomic status, or religion; how does the focus of your ministry measure up with Paul’s?

20.   How would you describe the rewards of making the Gospel relatable to people who are different than you?


Lasting Lessons in 1 Cor. 9:19-23:

1.  In following Jesus, we should reach out to all types of people, regardless of their similarities and differences to us.

2.  As much as possible, without violating our commitment to Christ, we should identify with all types of people.

3.  3. When we focus on the goal of winning people to Christ, we will become partners in the blessings of the gospel.



Sharing The Gospel Takes Discipline and Self-denial  (1 Cor. 9:24-27)

24 Don’t you know that the runners in a stadium all race, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way to win the prize. 25 Now everyone who competes exercises self-control in everything. They do it to receive a perishable crown, but we an imperishable crown. 26 So I do not run like one who runs aimlessly or box like one beating the air. 27 Instead, I discipline my body and bring it under strict control, so that after preaching to others, I myself will not be disqualified.

1.   Why are discipline and self-control so important in the life of a believer?

2.   Why do you think sharing the Gospel takes discipline and self-denial?

3.   Where do you see the need for discipline and self-control in your life?

4.   What is the importance of self-control? (see Adv. comm., pg. 5, “In the Christian life . . . “ )

5.   What are some practical things you can do to make sure you aren’t disqualified as a witness for Christ?

6.   What was Paul’s purpose in using metaphors in sharing the Gospel?

7.   How would you explain Paul’s connection with athletic games? (see Adv. comm., pg. 4, We know Paul was in Corinth . . . “  )

8.   How would you explain the significance of the phrase “don’t you know” ? (see Adv. comm., btm. pg. 4, “The phrase Don’t you know . . . “ ? )

9.   How would you interpret Paul’s first use of a metaphor using the paragraph that begins “The first metaphor . . . “  in Adv. comm., on btm. pg. 4. )

10.   What is the difference between the crowns of the Isthmian Games and Christian crowns? (see Adv. comm., pg. 5, Athletes exercise . . . “ )

11.   How would you explain the purpose of self-control and discipline in a Christian’s life to a new Christian?

12.   When you think of an champion athlete, do you think their ultimate degree of dedication is that of a slave? Why, or why not?

13.   What do you think it means to limit one’s freedom to become a champion of the Gospel?

14.   Do you think because of who we are in Christ, we have the obligation to become a “slave” for sharing the Gospel?  Why, or why not?

15.   What does Paul tell us regarding the need to practice discipline? (see Adv. comm., pg. 6, Instead of engaging . . . “ )

16.   In what ways can we step in the shoes of others to share the gospel?

17.   What are the rewards of making the Gospel relatable for people?

18.   How would you summarize these verses (24-27)? 

19.   What is the Apostle Paul really telling us as followers of Christ?


Lasting Lessons in 1 Cor. 9:24-27:

1. To live for Christ, we must exercise self-control and discipline.

2. Christian liberty involves the limitation as well as the practice of freedom.

3. When we don’t follow God’s commands, we can disqualify ourselves from the prize.

4. Because of our sin nature, we must discipline our thoughts, our words, and our actions.



  The apostle Paul was passionate in his quest to present the gospel to all people.  What does that mean?  Sharing Christ is serious business!  But the reward is great!  Sometimes sharing Christ means we need to step out of our own personal comfort zones. Jesus calls us to a life of self-denial (Luke 9:23).  He also calls each of us to invest our lives in the most strategic manner possible to accomplish the Great Commission (Matt. 28:18-20).  For some, that will mean walking next door to share Christ; for others, it will mean going to another culture as missionaries.  We need to have the courage to pray for ourselves, for our families, and for our church, that God will help us stop at nothing to see people come to Jesus.  Sharing the Gospel is serious business!  And for us (believers) it should take a high priority in our daily lives.  But does it?  Are we really doing the very best we can in sharing the Gospel?

Where do you stand when it comes to sharing the Gospel?  Is it serious business for you?  On a scale of 1 (not really serious for me) to 10 (seriously looking for opportunities to share), where do you stand when it comes to seriously sharing God’s salvation message?  How did you rate yourself?  Do you need to improve?  If so, do you seriously WANT to improve?  Ask God’s Holy Spirit for help! IF you are really serious, He WILL help you!  Lord, help us all to be a better witnesses in sharing the Gospel!

What are the implications of these truths for your life?  THE CHOICE IS YOURS, ISN’T IT!

REMEMBER, the safest place for a believer is in the center of God’s will.


Lesson Outline, Introduction, Discussion Questions, and Conclusion adapted from the following sources:

SOURCE: Life Ventures-Bible Studies for Life; Leader Guide; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; Nashville, TN.

SOURCE: The Herschel Hobbs Commentary; Family Bible Study; by Robert J. Dean; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; 1 LifeWay Plaza, Nashville, TN.

SOURCE: Advanced Bible Study; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; One LifeWay Plaza, Nashville, TN.



Focal Passage from three different translations of God’s Word:

King James Version: 

1 Corinthians 9:19-27 (KJV)

19 For though I be free from all men, yet have I made myself servant unto all, that I might gain the more. 20 And unto the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain the Jews; to them that are under the law, as under the law, that I might gain them that are under the law; 21 To them that are without law, as without law, (being not without law to God, but under the law to Christ,) that I might gain them that are without law. 22 To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak: I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some. 23 And this I do for the gospel's sake, that I might be partaker thereof with you. 24 Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain. 25 And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible. 26 I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air: 27 But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.


New King James Version: 

1 Corinthians 9:19-27 (NKJV)

19 For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win the more; 20 and to the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might win Jews; to those who are under the law, as under the law, that I might win those who are under the law; 21 to those who are without law, as without law (not being without law toward God, but under law toward Christ), that I might win those who are without law; 22 to the weak I became as weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some. 23 Now this I do for the gospel's sake, that I may be partaker of it with you. 24 Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. 25 And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown. 26 Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air. 27 But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.



New Living Translation:   

1 Corinthians 9:19-27 (NLT)

19 Even though I am a free man with no master, I have become a slave to all people to bring many to Christ. 20 When I was with the Jews, I lived like a Jew to bring the Jews to Christ. When I was with those who follow the Jewish law, I too lived under that law. Even though I am not subject to the law, I did this so I could bring to Christ those who are under the law. 21 When I am with the Gentiles who do not follow the Jewish law, I too live apart from that law so I can bring them to Christ. But I do not ignore the law of God; I obey the law of Christ. 22 When I am with those who are weak, I share their weakness, for I want to bring the weak to Christ. Yes, I try to find common ground with everyone, doing everything I can to save some. 23 I do everything to spread the Good News and share in its blessings. 24 Don’t you realize that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize? So run to win! 25 All athletes are disciplined in their training. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize. 26 So I run with purpose in every step. I am not just shadowboxing. 27 I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should. Otherwise, I fear that after preaching to others I myself might be disqualified.


  (NOTE:  Commentary for the focal passage comes from four sources: “Advanced Bible Study Commentary,” The Expositor’s Bible Commentary,Believer's Bible Commentary,” and “The Moody Bible Commentary,” and is provided for your study.)


Lesson Outline — “Life on Mission” — 1 Corinthians 9:19-24



Free To Serve  (1 Cor. 9:19-22)

The Gospel Matters  (1 Cor. 9:23-24)


Advanced Bible Study Commentary: 1 Corinthians 9:19-24

I. Step Into the Shoes of Others to Share Christ.  In the middle of his section on Christian liberty (and his defense of his apostleship, specifically), Paul explained why he had acted one way in one situation and a different way in other situations. Apparently the believers in Corinth, a church plagued by divisions, had either seen or heard about differences in Paul’s behavior in certain circumstances. Paul’s goal was to reach all people with the gospel, and he adapted to each situation while remaining faithful to the message. These verses challenge us to adopt his approach to reaching others with the good news.

Paul may have used verse 19 in both ways, as both a conclusion (to vv. 1-18) and an introduction (to vv. 20-22).

Although I am free from all and not anyone’s slave (see also 19:1). Verse 19 serves as a conclusion to the section before (vv. 1-18) and an introduction to the following verses (vv. 20-23). In these verses, Paul explains his status and his rationale for adapting to different situations for the sake of the gospel. Paul was a Roman citizen from birth (Acts 22:28) and was a slave only to sin (Rom. 6:20). This slavery Paul experienced was prior to his being saved several years after Jesus’ crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension.

The word Although indicates Paul is making a contrast in the sentence. Although Paul was free from all and not anyone’s slave, he said, I have made myself a slave to everyone. Paul voluntarily adopted a new status. Why did Paul make himself a slave to everyone? We find the answer to that question in the last part of verse 19: in order to win more people to salvation in Christ. Although Scripture ends with the words win more people, the words “to salvation in Christ” explain Paul’s motivation for his entire 30-year ministry (beginning about A.D. 34 when Paul was converted and concluding about A.D. 64 when Paul was executed in Rome). Also supporting the words “to salvation in Christ,” the word win (v. 19) is used five times in our verses and stands in parallel (and is further explained by) the word save (v. 22).

Since God directed Paul’s life in this way, shouldn’t we also attempt to step into the shoes of others to share Christ? After all, the main verb in the Great Commission (Matt. 28:18-20), “make disciples,” applies to us as much as it did to Jesus’ disciples. Stepping into the shoes of others certainly helps us better share the gospel.

In 1 Corinthians 19:20-22, Paul explained who the more people are in verse 19. Paul mentioned four groups of people. First, Paul referred to Jews: To the Jews I became like a Jew. Although Paul became a Christian (Acts 9), he never ceased being a Jew. Likely the words I became like a Jew refer to Paul’s behavior when he was present with the Jews. A clear example of this behavior would be Paul’s insistence on Timothy being circumcised (Acts 16:3). Paul cited his motivation: to win Jews. Throughout his life, Paul remained concerned about the salvation of his people, the Jews (treated more fully in Rom. 9–11).

Second, the next group Paul mentioned was to those under the law. Some scholars view this group as further addressing the Jews. However, this address may refer to Jewish Christians (in Judea and throughout the Roman world). Paul’s practice in his travels usually was to go to synagogues first, then to go to the Gentiles in a city. The Book of Acts frequently reported Jewish converts as a result of Paul’s ministry. The end of 1 Corinthians 19:21 indicates that Paul’s purpose was the same as it was with the Jews: to win those under the law. Paul did point out his relationship to the law: though I myself am not under the law. Two of the factions battling for control of the church in Corinth were those who still considered themselves to be under the law and those who considered themselves to be free from the law. In writing as he did, Paul was able to appeal to both groups.

Third, in verse 21, the next group Paul mentioned was To those who are without that law. This referred to those who were Gentiles and who were without the benefits and restrictions of the law. In writing like one without the law, Paul described his actions when he was present with Gentiles. However, Paul immediately pointed out that he wasn’t without God’s law but under the law of Christ. Likely the distinction between God’s law and Christ’s law referred to such matters as dietary restrictions,  clothes, customs, holidays, and the like. Perhaps Paul was thinking about Christ’s law as the law of love. Whatever the case, Paul’s purpose was the same as with the other groups, to win those without the law to salvation in Christ.

Fourth, in verse 22, the next group Paul mentioned was the weak. In Corinth, this group included new converts who abstained from certain foods or practices because it hurt their relationship with Christ. To relate to this group, Paul became weak—in this situation he avoided eating meat—in order to win the weak.

Paul summarized his behavior in this way: I have become all things to all people, so that I may by every possible means save some. This was the focus of Paul’s ministry—to present the gospel to everyone regardless of race, gender, socioeconomic status, or religion. Paul’s example reinforces our application of these verses: to step into the shoes of others to share Christ.

In verse 23, Paul specified his rationale: Now I do all this because of the gospel, so that I may share in the blessings. The word blessings may refer to Paul’s salvation and/or to the salvation of people Paul wins. Paul also may have been thinking of other benefits of salvation. In any case, Paul was able to win many people to the Lord because he related to them so well. One commentator summarized Paul’s mindset as follows: “Every encounter, every personal habit, was now overtly under the control of Jesus Christ as Lord, because the gospel dominated his whole life. He was living his daily life sub specie aeternitatis (i.e. in the light of eternity), and that meant evangelism with integrity, relationships with adaptability, and personal holiness with single-mindedness.”1

II. Sharing Christ Takes Discipline and Self-denial. In verses 19-23, Paul clarified why his behavior was different with one group than with another. Paul also explained his motive: to win people to Christ. In verses 24-27 he used several athletic examples to explain the need for self-control and discipline.

We know Paul was in Corinth during A.D. 51 (Acts 18:1-18), the time when the Isthmian Games were held (every two years). In addition to the racing and boxing Paul mentioned, these games usually included wrestling and jumping, as well as throwing the javelin and discus. There were no rooms for hundreds (or thousands) of athletes at that time, so they lived in tents; Paul’s trade as a tentmaker may have furthered his ability to share the gospel with these athletes. How many times have your skills, your interests, or your hobbies provided you with opportunities to present the gospel?

The phrase Don’t you know points back to a previous discussion (vv. 19-23) and has been used several times in the Book of 1 Corinthians to introduce the application of a biblical truth. Although Paul used the examples of running and boxing, his major point was need for self-control and discipline in living a Christian lifestyle—particularly as it relates to sharing the gospel.

The first metaphor (example) Paul used in verse 24 was a runner in a race: the runners in a stadium all race, but only one receives the prize. In the games, many runners ran; they finished the race, but only one received a wreath as his prize. Today this race refers to the way people live; this race ends at death. Paul’s analogy does break down if applied too literally: more than one Christian (or one group of Christians) will receive the prize. This “prize” is not referring to God’s gift of salvation; Paul is discussing the prize, something you receive on the basis of what you do (as a runner who wins receives the reward). Salvation is a free gift, given by God only to people who trust Him; no one ever earns it (Eph. 2:8-9). A result of this salvation is that God’s people do the good works He has prepared for them to do (Eph. 2:10). What is the prize? In using the word prize, Paul likely is referring to the reward for the good works Christians do after their conversion.

Previously, Paul had discussed his work (1 Cor. 3:10-15) and distinguished it from salvation (see especially v. 15). Paul compared a successful Christian life to the discipline of running. Believers can and do fall into sin along the way, get lazy or distracted, and miss many of the rewards that could have been theirs. In 1 Corinthians 3:10-15, Paul compared our works to constructing a building; some barely pass inspection!

Through Paul, God reminds readers that everyone who begins the race (life) doesn’t win the prize. In the same way, every person who appears to begin the Christian life does not endure to the end; put another way, baptism doesn’t guarantee salvation (though every true Christian should be baptized and will be saved). Jesus said “everyone who endures to the end will be saved” (Matt. 10:22, NLT). Further, as Jesus concluded His Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5–7), He warned against false prophets (7:15-20) and false Christians (vv. 21-23). A common theme in these warnings is those who claim salvation when they do not live in God’s ways demonstrate they are not saved. Though only God knows about a person’s salvation, Jesus’ words in the Matthew’s

Gospel specify God’s criteria for judgment—the obedience that comes from faith.

Does this mean that Christians can lose their salvation? “If you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Rom. 10:9). Absolutely not: “God’s gracious gifts and calling are irrevocable” (Rom. 11:29).

Scholars debate how to understand Jesus’ parable of the soils (Matt. 13:1-9) in light of our focal verses from 1 Corinthians 9. Though some scholars believe the parable of the soils (or sower) refers to salvation, other scholars understand it to refer to the same things Paul describes in 1 Corinthians: good works after salvation.

First Corinthians 9:24 concludes with God’s command: Run in such a way to win the prize. As Christians, we must live in ways that will, in the end, result in our being given the prize. Paul would later tell the Philippians, “I pursue as my goal the prize promised by God’s heavenly call in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:14). Paul had already received salvation; now he was pursuing the Lord and the Lord’s calling on his life.

In verse 25, Paul elaborated on how we run to receive that prize. Pointing back to the athletes, Paul wrote, Now everyone who competes exercises self-control in everything. Even those who are not athletes understand the importance of self-control. We understand that we all have the same need for self-control, athlete or not (though, unfortunately, we don’t always exercise it properly).

In the Christian life, self-control is one aspect of the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23). Because of our sin nature, self-control

is essential to living as God desires. When Christians fail to practice self-control in everything, their I nfluence is harmed, their witness fails, Christ is not lifted up, people are hurt, and sinners are not brought into relationship with God through Jesus Christ. Unfortunately, most of us have witnessed this far too many times in the conduct of Christians and Christian leaders. Satan tempts God’s people to abandon self-control and instead pursue their own selfish desires (Jas. 1:14-15; 4:1-10).

Athletes exercise self-control to receive a perishable crown, but we an imperishable crown. The crown in the Isthmian Games was a wreath of an evergreen plant, usually pine, that would fade and wilt after several days. Conversely, in heaven everything is perfect and imperishable. The Christian’s crown will never fade away because it is not a part of this world where people and things grow old and fade away. Many New Testament scholars view the crown of verse 25 as another way to refer to the prize of verse 24.

Verse 26 begins with the word So, which lays the foundation for Paul’s statement in the remainder of the verse: I do not run like one who runs aimlessly or box like one beating the air. Picture a runner who does not know where the finish line is or a boxer who shadowboxes instead of aiming to connect with an opponent’s head or body. As long as we focus on the goal of living in a way that brings people to Christ, we will not live aimlessly.

Instead of engaging in the foolish actions of running aimlessly or beating the air, verse 27 specifies Paul’s conduct: I discipline my body and bring it under strict control. In the same way that athletes practice self-control and discipline, Paul worked to bring his body under strict control. What Paul referred to in this verse is the fact that even after we become Christians, temptation repeatedly uses our desires to lead us into sin (Jas. 1:14-15). We have a choice: either we can present our bodies to sin “as weapons

for unrighteousness” or we can offer ourselves “to God …as weapons for righteousness” (Rom. 6:13).

Paul continued verse 27 by giving his rationale: so that after preaching to others, I myself will not be disqualified.

Paul knew that he could lose his influence if he failed to practice self-control and discipline. Likewise, we must remember and apply this truth to how we live.

“[The] Christian life involves the limitation as well as the enjoyment of freedom.” 2 We are called to enjoy our freedom in Christ and to put it to good use for the spread of the gospel.

SOURCE: Advanced Bible Study; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; One LifeWay Plaza, Nashville, TN.

The Expositor’s Bible Commentary New Testament:  1 Corinthians 9:19-24

Paul: subjection of self for others and to meet God’s approval (9:19-27)

9:19.  Going beyond his right to financial support, the apostle now discusses other areas of life in which he had forfeited his right to freedom in order to win more to Christ. His statement is a strong one: “I am free from all men, but I have enslaved (edoulosa, aorist) myself to all.”

9:20.  In discussing his self-sacrificing concern in vv. 20-23, Paul mentions three groups—the Jews, the Gentiles, and those whose consciences are weak. For the Jews’ sake Paul became like a Jew. That is, when necessary and regarding indifferent matters, he conformed to the practice of Jewish law (Acts 16:318:1821:20-26) to win the Jews. “Those under the law” need not be taken as a separate group such as proselytes to Judaism, but as reference again to Jews—those to whom Paul accommodated himself. In the parenthetical phrase “though I myself am not under the law,” Paul means that in his freedom he was not obligated to practice such Jewish laws as their rigorous ceremonial washings.

9:21.  For the Gentiles “without the law,” those who did not have any written revelation from God (Rom 2:12), Paul says he became like one not having the law and took his place in their culture in order to reach them (cf. Gal 2:11-21). But he hastens to correct any misunderstanding: he counts himself still under God’s law, and even more, under Christ’s law.

9:22.  Those with a weak conscience (1Cor 8:9-12) he also wants to be sure to win (v. 22). He becomes “weak”—that is, he refrains from exercising his Christian freedom, and acts as they do respecting these indifferent things. He has forfeited his freedom for the sake of all, that by all these means some may be saved.

9:23.  Paul does all this for the sake of the gospel that he might be a co-sharer (synkoinomos, “communion,” “fellowship”) with the gospel, sharing in its blessings personally and in seeing others come to Christ.

9:24-27.  By way of practical application, Paul now gives a strong exhortation for Christian self-denial, using himself as an example and employing athletic figures familiar to the Corinthians at their own Isthmian athletic games, which were hosted every other year by the people of Corinth. The particular events he refers to are running and boxing.

24, 25. Paul assumes their common knowledge (ouk oidate, “don’t you know”) of the foot race in the stadium. Every one of them should run as these runners do, with all-out effort to get the prize. By the words “strict training,” Paul refers to the athlete’s self-control in diet and his rigorous bodily discipline. He observes that the athletes train vigorously for a “corruptible crown”—a laurel or celery wreath that would soon wither away. But the Christian’s crown, eternal life and fellowship with God, will last forever (Rev 2:10).

26, 27.  Paul says of himself that he does not contend like an undisciplined runner or boxer. He states that he aims his blows against his own body, beating it black and blue (hypopiazo; see the same word in Luke 18:5). The picture is graphic: the ancient boxers devastatingly punishing one another with knuckles bound with leather thongs. And so by pummeling his body, Paul enslaves it in order to gain the Christian prize. The ancient keryx was the herald in the Greek games who announced the rules of the contest, but the Christian herald—i.e., preacher—not only announces the rules but “plays” in the game as well. Paul had not only to preach the gospel but also to live the gospel. As Hodge has said (in loc.), Paul here acts on the principle that the righteous can scarcely be saved, though he also stresses that nothing can separate the Christian from God’s love (Rom 8:3839). The Christian, confident of God’s sovereign grace, is nevertheless conscious of his battle against sin.


In Paul’s time many of the structures dedicated to the ancient gods had been restored and were in use again in worship of the gods and were no doubt evident to the visitor to Corinth. These included the archaic temple of Apollo, built about 550 B.C., seven of whose columns are still to be seen today. Nearby, on the north slope of the hill, was the shrine to Athena, the Bridler. It had been built to commemorate Bellerophon’s harnessing of the winged horse, Pegasus, who was caught with Athena’s help, when he was drinking at the fountain of Peirene at Corinth. Bellerophon (a local mythical hero) then used Pegasus in slaying the Chimaera (a she-monster with a lion’s head, a goat’s body, and a serpent’s tail). This well-known story led to the winged horse’s becoming the emblem used for hundreds of years on Corinthian coins. Poseidon, the sea-god, also had his shrine and fountain at Corinth, though his chief cultic place in this area was at Isthmia about seven miles to the east. (For location of places mentioned, see map, p. 187).

A short distance west of the archaic Apollo temple stands a stone-cut fountain house. Here, according to Greek myth, the Corinthian princess, Glauke, the bride of Jason, threw herself into the fountain waters at a time when her body was being destroyed by the poisoned robe given to her by Medea, the sorceress from the Black Sea area. In vengeance, Medea killed her own sons born of Jason. Close by was a statue of Terror, in the form of a woman, which was in existence in Paul’s day, when images of baked clay were evidently thrown into the Fountain House of Glauke. This ceremony is believed to be a development from earlier human sacrifices made there by the Corinthians. The goddess Hera was worshiped in connection with this festival and a small temple of Roman times with colonnaded court near the Fountain of Glauke is identified as that of Hera.

Apollo was also worshiped at another place besides the archaic temple of Apollo. This shrine, located near the Fountain of Peirene in the northeast section of the excavated area of Corinth, was the Peribolos sanctuary of Apollo with its large paved court and colossal statue of the god in the center.

Other remains of the Roman period found in the Corinthian excavations include those of the temple of Aphrodite-Tyche (Venus-Fortune); a Pantheon, or “temple of all the gods,” a temple of Heracles (the Greek mythical hero famous for achieving “The Twelve Labors”); and a temple of Hermes (Mercury, the messenger of the gods). Besides these, there were the temple to Octavia, (the deified sister of the Emperor Augustus) and the temple of Jupiter Capitolinus (Zeus Koryphaios). Some distance from the marketplace, to the north, was the temple of Asklepios, the god of healing, to whom terra cotta likenesses of the diseased parts of the body were offered by those who were afflicted with these sicknesses. Some of these terra cotta likenesses are on display today in the Antiquities Museum at Ancient Corinth. Paul may have had in mind such sicknesses affecting the perishable human body as represented by the clay likenesses of these diseased parts when he declared to the Corinthians the truth of God’s triumph over decay and death when at the resurrection the Christian dead “will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed” (1Cor 15:52; cf. also vv. 53-55).

On the top of the Acrocorinth (the rocky pinnacle) behind ancient Corinth was the famous temple of Aphrodite (Venus) in whose service were one thousand prostitute slave priestesses. On the Acrocorinth’s north slopes facing the city were other temples, such as that in honor of the Egyptian gods, Isis and Serapis. The worship of these gods probably started at Corinth either in the Hellenistic period (c.330 to 63 B.C.) or in the Roman period, after the city was founded as a Roman Colony in Caesar’s time. (See Broneer, “Corinth,” pp. 83-88.) On the Acrocorinth’s north slopes was the temple of the goddess Demeter that had been in use from c.600 B.C. to A.D. 350. This structure contained a number of dining rooms, which may account for Paul’s warning about not being a stumbling block by “eating in an idol’s temple” (1Cor 8:10; see Henry S. Robinson, “Excavations at Corinth, 1961-1962,” in AJA, 67, [1963], pp. 216, 217; Miriam Ervin, “Newsletter from Greece,” AJA, 74 [1970], pp. 267, 268; and Nancy Bookidis,  Hesperia, 28 [1969], No. 3, pp. 297-310).

With such idolatry and other pagan practices dominating the life and culture of Corinth, no wonder Paul was so concerned for Christians not to be reckless in exercising their freedom to eat meat sold in butcher shops after it had been offered to some idol and consecrated in pagan worship in the city. Also, that is why Paul disciplined himself (1Cor 9:19-27) in refraining from eating meat sacrificed to idols or in doing any other thing by which he would disappoint the Lord or offend his brothers in Christ.

SOURCE: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary Old Testament; Frank E. Gaebelein; General Editor; Zondervan Publishing House; A Division of Harper Collins Publishers


Believer's Bible Commentary: 1 Corinthians 9:19-24

In verses 19-22, Paul cites his example of the waiving of legitimate rights for the gospel's sake. In studying this section, it is important to remember that Paul does not mean that he ever sacrificed important principles of the Scripture. He did not believe that the end justified the means. In these verses he is speaking about matters of moral indifference. He accommodated himself to the customs and habits of the people with whom he worked in order that he might gain a ready ear for the gospel. But never did he do anything which might compromise the truth of the gospel.

9:19. In one sense he was free from all men. No one could exercise jurisdiction or compulsion over him. Yet he brought himself under bondage to all people in order that he might win the more. If he could make a concession without sacrificing divine truth he would do it in order to win souls to Christ.

9:20. To the Jews he became as a Jew, that he might win Jews. This cannot mean that he put himself back under the Law of Moses in order to see Jews saved. What it does mean might be illustrated in the action which Paul took in connection with the circumcision of Timothy and Titus. In the case of Titus, there were those who insisted that unless he was circumcised, he couldn't be saved. Realizing that this was a frontal attack on the gospel of the grace of God, Paul stoutly refused to have Titus circumcised (Gal. 2:3). However, in the case of Timothy it seems that no such issue was involved. Therefore, the apostle was willing that Timothy should be circumcised if this would result in a wider hearing of the gospel (Acts 16:3).

To those who are under the law, as under the law, that I might win those who are under the law. Those who are under the law refers to the Jewish people. But Paul had already spoken of his dealings with the Jews in the first part of the verse. Why does he then repeat the subject here? The explanation that has often been offered is that when he speaks of Jews in the first part of the verse, he is referring to their national customs, whereas here he is referring to their religious life.

At this point a brief word of explanation is necessary. As a Jew, Paul had been born under the law. He sought to obtain favor with God by keeping the law, but found that he was unable to do so. The law only showed him what a wretched sinner he was, and utterly condemned him. Eventually he learned that the law was not a way of salvation, but only God's method of revealing to man his sinfulness and his need of a Savior. Paul then trusted in the Lord Jesus Christ, and in so doing he became free from the condemning voice of the law. The penalty of the law which he had broken was paid by the Lord Jesus on the cross of Calvary.

After his conversion, the apostle learned that the law was not the way of salvation, nor was it the rule of life for one who had been saved. The believer is not under law but under grace. This does not mean that he can go out and do as he pleases. Rather, it means that a true sense of the grace of God will prevent him from even wanting to do these things. Indwelt by the Spirit of God, the Christian is raised to a new level of behavior. He now desires to live a holy life, not out of fear of punishment for having broken the law, but out of love for Christ, who died for him and rose again. Under law the motive was fear, but under grace the motive is love. Love is a far higher motive than fear. Men will do out of love what they would never do from terror.

Arnot says:

God's method of binding souls to obedience is similar to His method of keeping the planets in their orbits—that is, by flinging them out free. You see no chain keeping back these shining worlds to prevent them from bursting away from their center. They are held in the grip of an invisible principle.... And it is by the invisible bond of love—love to the Lord who bought them—that ransomed men are constrained to live soberly and righteously and godly.

With that brief background in mind, let us now get back to the latter half of verse 20. To those who are under the law, as under the law, that I might win those who are under the law. When he was with Jewish people, Paul behaved as a Jew in matters of moral indifference. For instance, he ate the foods which the Jewish people ate and refrained from eating such things as pork which were forbidden to them. Perhaps Paul also refrained from working on the Sabbath day, realizing that if he did this, the gospel might gain a more ready hearing from the people.

As a born-again believer in the Lord Jesus, the Apostle Paul was not under the law as a rule of life. He merely adapted himself to the customs, habits, and prejudices of the people in order that he might win them to the Lord.

9:21. Ryrie writes: Paul is not demonstrating two-facedness or multi-facedness, but rather he is testifying of a constant, restrictive self-discipline in order to be able to serve all sorts of men. Just as a narrowly channeled stream is more powerful than an unbounded marshy swamp, so restricted liberty results in more powerful testimony for Christ.

To those who are without law, Paul acted as one without law (although he himself was not without law toward God, but under law toward Christ). Those who are without law does not refer to rebels or outlaws who do not recognize any law, but is a general description of Gentiles. The law, as such, was given to the Jewish nation and not to the Gentiles. Thus when Paul was with the Gentiles he complied with their habits and feelings as far as he could possibly do so and still be loyal to the Savior. The apostle explained that even while he thus acted as without law, he was nevertheless not without law toward God. He did not consider that he was free to do as he pleased, but he was under law toward Christ. In other words, he was bound to love, honor, serve, and please the Lord Jesus, not now by the Law of Moses, but by the law of love. He was "enlawed" to Christ. We have an expression "When in Rome, do as the Romans do." Paul is saying here that when he was with the Gentiles, he adapted himself to their manner of living as far as he could consistently do so and still be loyal to Christ. But we must keep in mind that this passage deals only with cultural things and not with doctrinal or moral matters.

9:22. Verse 22 speaks of those who are weak or overscrupulous. They were excessively sensitive about matters that were really not of fundamental importance. To the weak, Paul became as weak, that he might win them. He would be a vegetarian if necessary rather than offend them by eating meat. In short, Paul became all things to all men, that he might by all means save some. These verses should never be used to justify a sacrifice of scriptural principle. They merely describe a readiness to accommodate to the customs and habits of the people in order to win a hearing for the good news of salvation. When Paul says that I might by all means save some, he does not think for a moment that he could save another person, for he realized that the Lord Jesus was the only Person who could save. At the same time it is wonderful to notice that those who serve Christ in the gospel are so closely identified with Him that He even allows them to use the word save to describe a work in which they are involved. How this exalts and ennobles and dignifies the gospel ministry!

Verses 23-27 describe the peril of losing one's reward through lack of self discipline. To Paul the refusal of financial help from the Corinthians was a form of rigid discipline.

9:23. Now this I do for the gospel's sake, that I may be partaker of it with you. In the preceding verses Paul had been describing how he submerged his own rights and desires in the work of the Lord. Why did he do this? He did it for the gospel's sake, in order that he might share in the triumphs of the gospel in a coming day.

9:24. Doubtless as the apostle wrote the words found in verse 24, he was reminded of the Isthmian games that were held not far from Corinth. The Corinthian believers would be well-acquainted with those athletic contests. Paul reminds them that while many run in a race, not all receive the prize. The Christian life is like a race. It requires self-discipline. It calls for strenuous effort. It demands definiteness of purpose. The verse does not, however, suggest that in the Christian race only one can win the prize. It simply teaches that we should all run as winners. We should all practice the same kind of self-denial that the Apostle Paul himself practiced. Here, of course, the prize is not salvation, but a reward for faithful service. Salvation is nowhere stated to be the result of our faithfulness in running the race. Salvation is the free gift of God through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

9:25. Now Paul changes the figure from running to wrestling. He reminds his readers that everyone who competes in the games, that is, wrestles, exercises self-control in all things. A wrestler once asked his coach, "Can't I smoke and drink and have a good time and still wrestle?" The coach replied, "Yes, you can, but you can't win!" As Paul thinks of the contestants at the games, he sees the winner stepping up to receive his prize. What is it? It is a perishable crown, a garland of flowers or a wreath of leaves that will soon wither away. But in comparison he mentions an imperishable crown which will be awarded to all those who have been faithful in their service to Christ.

We thank Thee for the crown

Of glory and of life;

'Tis no poor withering wreath of earth,

Man's prize in mortal strife;

'Tis incorruptible as is the Throne,

The kingdom of our God and

His Incarnate Son.

—Horatius Bonar

9:26. In view of this imperishable crown, Paul states that he therefore runs not with uncertainty, and fights not as one who beats the air. His service was neither purposeless nor ineffectual. He had a definite aim before his eyes, and his intention was that his every action should count. There must be no wasted time or energy. The apostle was not interested in wild misses.

9:27. Instead, he disciplined his body, and brought it into subjection, lest when he had preached to others, he himself might be rejected or disqualified. In the Christian life, there is a necessity for self-control, for temperance, for discipline. We must practice self-mastery.

The Apostle Paul realized the dread possibility that after he had preached to others, he himself might be disqualified. Considerable debate has centered on the meaning of this verse. Some hold that it teaches that a person can be saved and then subsequently lost. This, of course, is in conflict with the general body of teaching in the NT to the effect that no true sheep of Christ will ever perish.

Others say that the word translated disqualified is a strong word and refers to eternal damnation. However, they interpret the verse to mean that Paul is not teaching that a person who was ever saved could be disqualified, but simply that one who failed to exercise self-discipline had never been really saved in the first place. Thinking of the false teachers and how they indulged every passion and appetite, Paul sets forth the general principle that if a person does not keep his body in subjection, this is proof that he never really was born again; and although he might preach to others, he himself will be disqualified.

A third explanation is that Paul is not speaking here of salvation at all but of service. He is not suggesting that he might ever be lost, but that he might not stand the test as far as his service was concerned and might be rejected for the prize. This interpretation exactly fits the meaning of the word disqualified and the athletic context. Paul recognizes the awful possibility that, having preached to others, he himself might be put on the shelf by the Lord as no longer usable by Him.

In any event, the passage is an extremely serious one and should cause deep heart-searching on the part of everyone who seeks to serve the Lord Christ. Each one should determine that by the grace of God he will never have to learn the meaning of the word by experience.

SOURCE: Believer's Bible Commentary; by William MacDonald; Copyright © 1995, 1992, 1990, 1989 by William McDonald. Database © 2014 WORDsearch.

The Moody Bible Commentary: Philippians 4:10-20:

9:19-23. In vv. 19-22, Paul provided personal illustrations of 9:18 (he did not make full use of his rights). Win (v. 19) means "to acquire by investment or gain," and appears to be synonymous in this context with save (v. 22; cf. also 1Pt 3:1). Jews (v. 20) looks at Jewish people from the standpoint of their ethnicity, and under the Law from the standpoint of their religion. For not being myself under the Law, see the comments on Rm 6:14; 7:1-4. Those... without law (v. 21) refers to Gentiles. While Paul was no longer under the 613 commandments of Moses, he was under the law of Christ (v. 21) (cf. the comments on Gl 6:2). The weak (v. 22) were not weak Christians (cf. 8:9-13), but non-Christians (Rm 5:6), whether Jews or Gentiles, that Paul was trying to win to Christ just as in vv. 20-21. Paul practiced "contextualization," never changing the contents of the gospel but adapting its communication to the culture of his audience. This remains the model for missions and evangelism today. To become a fellow partaker of the gospel (v. 23) means that Paul did not want to be alone in possessing and enjoying the benefits of the gospel. He intended to take as many people as possible with him to heaven. Fellow partaker means "one who shares mutually with another a possession or relationship," with the emphasis on what both have in common. Paul did not mean that he hoped to obtain salvation by evangelizing people, which is salvation by works and an unlikely reading of this verse.

9:24-27. Paul sets up an analogy between the need for surrendering one's rights for the sake of others and athletic competition. Paul may have had in mind the Isthmian Games, held every third year in Corinth, second in prominence only to the Olympic Games in Athens. Contestants had to provide proof that they trained for ten months, had to exercise in the gymnasium for the 30 days before the games started, and only then could they compete. Only the winners received a reward, a perishable wreath (v. 25) which, in the first century, was made of celery and would wilt as soon as it was awarded. Paul never just ran laps or slapped at the air (v. 26). Everything he did was calculated to make gains for the gospel. The Greek word translated discipline (v. 27) means "to deliver a knock-out blow." Make it my slave may reflect the practice of the victor leading his beaten opponents around the arena amidst the applause of the spectators. Paul determined to subdue his body (who he was inside and out) to be most effective in serving the Lord. So that... I myself will not be disqualified does not mean that Paul feared losing his salvation if he did not adequately control himself. The disqualification here refers to forfeiting the chance to serve effectively in the great gospel mission. Effective service involves self-surrender, self-control, and self-sacrifice, and none of these typified the Corinthian believers. Self-indulgent Christians should not expect to be effective in serving the Lord.

SOURCE: The Moody Bible Commentary; by Michael Rydelnik and Michael Vanlaningham; © 2014 by The Moody Bible Institute of Chicago. Database © 2015 WORDsearch.



COMPASSION To feel passion with someone, to enter sympathetically into their sorrow and pain. Compassion in English translations represents at least five Hebrew and eight Greek terms. Chamal means “to regret,” “be sorry for,” “grieve over,” or “spare someone.” Thus the rich man “refrained” (NIV) from taking his own sheep and took the poor man’s (2 Sam. 12:4). Pharaoh’s daughter “had pity” on the baby Moses (Ex. 2:6). David spared Mephibosheth for Jonathan’s sake (2 Sam. 21:7). Often it expresses God’s anger and decision no longer to show mercy and pity (Zech. 11:6). Beyond this the Bible points to God’s plans to again have compassion for His people (Joel 2:18; compare Mal. 3:17; Gen. 19:16; 2 Chron. 36:15; Isa. 63:9).

Chen represents what is aesthetically beautiful. It means then to possess grace and charm and to be gracious. God looked to pour out a spirit of grace or “compassion” (Zech. 12:10 NRSV) on His people so they would mourn for the one they pierced. Bildad told Job to “implore the compassion of the Almighty” (Job 8:5 NAS).

Chus is an emotional expression of crying and feeling with someone who is hurting. With the emotion goes the intent to help. God could forbid Israel to have such pity (Deut. 7:16). God refuses to have pity on a disobedient people (Ezek. 5:11). God’s history had been a history of compassion in which He did not destroy His people (Ezek. 20:17). God’s people should pray for Him to “spare” them (Joel 2:17). Jonah had “compassion” (Jonah 4:10 NAS) on a plant but did not want God to have compassion on a city (Jonah 4:11). Nehemiah asked for “compassion” (Neh. 13:22). Chus most often appears in Hebrew in a formula which may be translated, “Do not let your eye cry over, or have regrets over” something.

Nichum or nocham means to “be sorry for,” “regret,” “comfort,” “console.” It is more than emotion. It includes a will to change the situation. Thus God “was sorry” He made people (Gen. 6:6 NAS). Still God acted to preserve human life (Gen. 8:21), for He identifies with human weakness. In His basic nature He does not “change His mind” (1 Sam. 15:29 NAS), translating Hebrew nicham. Still Scripture describes times when Yahweh “repented” (Ex. 32:14; 2 Sam. 24:16; Jonah 3:10 as examples). In His freedom God can announce one set of plans, see the response and weakness of the people affected, and decide not to carry out the plans. Thus Hosea 11:8 concludes, “my repentings are kindled together” (KJV) or “all my compassion is aroused” (NAS). At another time God can say, “I will have no compassion” (Hos. 13:14 NAS).

Racham is related to the Hebrew word for “womb” and expresses a mother’s (Isa. 49:15) or father’s (Ps. 103:13) love and compassion, a feeling of pity and devotion to a helpless child. It is a deep emotional feeling seeking a concrete expression of love (Gen. 43:14; Deut. 13:17). This word always expresses the feeling of the superior or more powerful for the inferior or less powerful and thus never expresses human feeling for God. The word seeks to bring security to the life of the one for whom compassion is felt. The majority of Bible uses of racham have God as subject. Compare Hosea 2:4,23; Zechariah 1:16; 10:6. God “has compassion on all he had made” (Ps. 145:9).

The New Testament builds on the Old Testament understanding of God’s compassion. The central New Testament words are eleeo and splagxnizomai. The first—eleeo—is used in the Greek Old Testament to translate most of the Hebrew words listed above. It represents the emotion aroused by another person’s undeserved suffering or pain. It is something an orator tries to kindle in an audience or a lawyer seeks to elicit from a judge. Jesus commanded the Pharisees to learn God’s desire for compassion (Matt. 9:13; 12:7). Jesus said even slaves should practice compassion as He taught Peter about forgiveness (Matt. 18:33). God showed compassion in healing the demoniac (Mark 5:19). Christians need to show compassion to those who waver or doubt (Jude 22). God’s commands for compassion from disciples finds its roots in the nature of God, who is full of compassion (Eph. 2:4; 1 Pet. 1:3).

Splagxnizomai is related to the Greek noun for inward parts much as Hebrew rachemim. Here is located the center of personal feelings and emotions. Before Christ’s appearance the Greeks apparently did not use this word to speak of compassion and mercy, it being more closely related to courage. It is not clear when the shift in meaning to compassion occurred. Some of the apocryphal Jewish writings before Christ do use the term to mean mercy. In the parable of the unforgiving servant, the master had compassion and forgave the servant’s debt (Matt. 18:27). The prodigal son’s father had compassion on him (Luke 15:20). The Good Samaritan had compassion for the injured traveler (Luke 10:33). Jesus had compassion on the crowds (Mark 6:34). People needing help asked Jesus for compassion (Mark 9:22; compare Matt. 9:36; 20:34). Paul saw compassion as a quality expected of believers (Phil. 2:1; Col. 3:12). Paul said he related to his readers in the compassion of Christ (Phil. 1:8), that is, the quality is not an achievement by the believer but a result of being in Christ. The love of God dwells only in those who are compassionate to a person in need (1 John 3:17; compare Eph. 4:32; 1 Pet. 3:8). Compassion finds its source in God’s compassion (Jas. 5:11). In compassion He has provided salvation and forgiveness (Luke 1:78).

Oiktiro is related to lamentation and grief for the dead and came to mean sympathetic participation in grief. Such sympathy or compassion stands ready to help the one who has suffered loss. In the Greek Old Testament translation oiktiro translates words related to chen and racham. Paul taught that God is the Father and source of compassion (2 Cor. 1:3; compare Jas. 5:11). He has total freedom in exercising compassion (Rom. 9:15). Humans can sacrifice themselves for God’s causes only because God has sacrificed Himself in mercy (Rom. 12:1; compare Luke 6:36; Phil. 2:1; Col. 3:12).

Sumpatheo means to suffer what someone else suffers. It came to mean to suffer with, alongside, to sympathize. Peter listed it among the basic Christian virtues (1 Pet. 3:8). Having come to earth and endured all kinds of human temptations, Jesus exercises sympathy for our weaknesses (Heb. 4:15). The writer of Hebrews could recall his readers’ experience of having sympathy for and thus helping others imprisoned for their faith (Heb. 10:33-34).

Metriopatheo refers to the ability to be moderate in emotions or passions. An Old Testament or human minister realizes personal weaknesses and thus moderates personal anger at another’s weaknesses (Heb. 5:2).

SOURCE: Holman Bible Dictionary; General Editor, David S. Dockery; Holman Bible Publishers; Nashville, Tennessee.



Pauls Use of Analogy

By Timothy N. Boyd

Timothy Boyd is pastor, First Baptist Church, Mulvane, KS.


N WRITING HIS EPISTLES, the apostle Paul had a hard task to accomplish.  He had to find a way to communicate spiritual truth in a way that would be understandable to those who would read the letters.  Like Jesus before him, Paul used the language of analogy to give his readers a point of reference by which to grasp spiritual meanings.  When reading Paul’s writings, one catches the echoes of various aspects of everyday life in the first century.  References to athletic events, the marketplace, a scene from the public  courts, or an allusion to family life all enhance Paul’s letters.

An analogy basically is any word picture of something familiar and understandable that describes something unknown or difficult to understand.  It does this by drawing similarities between the two things.  An analogy also is a commonplace image that describes something beyond normal experience.

Before looking at specific examples of analogy in Paul’s writings, it is helpful first to examine in a general way how he used the device.  Most Pauline analogies are used in such a way that only one part of the comparison is intended to bring a truth into greater clarity.  Therefore, we used different elements from the same analogy in different contexts.  Occasionally, the apostle even would use the same analogy differently within the same context.  Thus it is essential that the reader be alert for changes in the usage of analogies.

Some of the word pictures Paul used also are found in secular literature.  The “body” analogy mentioned above is found in several instances in pagan literature.  Even though Paul may have consciously borrowed these and perhaps others for which we do not have a surviving source, he did not always use them in exactly the same way that the pagan sources used them.  Similarly, other New Testament writers used Greek words taken from secular contexts and infused with Christian meaning.

In many of his analogies, Paul used word pictures in a deliberately inaccurate fashion.  For example, in 1 Corinthians 9:24 he woas not necessarily concerned with presenting elements in a foot race in exactly the way they might occur in real life.  Apparently the reason for adjusting many of these analogies was to mold them to the needs that he had in illustrating a spiritual truth.

When Paul used pictures, he did not necessarily feel obligated to fully develop the picture or carefully apply it to the situation.  There were times, however, when Paul did seem to go to lengths to completely and systematically employ an analogy.  Then at other times, rather than using only one analogy, Paul would include several figures within a specific discussion, intermingling the analogies to explain the concept.

Paul used analogies in much the same way we do.  His analogies brought pictures to his mind that he found useful in explaining his faith in Christ and his practice as a Christian.  This method came to Paul a naturally as it comes to us.  We constantly use analogical language without giving it a second thought.

One of the most familiar images Paul used is that of the “body.”  The strongest presentation of this analogy comes in 1 Corinthians 12:14-27.  The “body” is one of those analogies in which more than one element is applied to the illustration.  For example, Paul used the element to the body’s oneness to emphasize the unity of the church.  At the same time he used the different parts of the body to illustrate the diversity in the church.  The “body” is also an instance in which Paul used traditional materials.  Several Hellenistic writers used this same word picture.  The most familiar came in a fable by Menenius Agrippa in which he compared the state serving the rest of society to the stomach serving the others parts of the body.2

In chapter 12 Paul attempted to resolve a problem in the Corinthian church where some of the members attached special importance to the gift of tongues and looked down on those who did not possess this particular gift.  Paul was trying to show the Corinthians how people with varying experiences should relate to each other in the congregation.  He also wanted the church to understand that all of the gifts of the Spirit are needed in the church.

The “body,” therefore, was used to show that the church is a unit composed of diverse members.  It also was used to show the proper relationship between the gifts.  Although the body is a unit, it has many members that perform different functions to support the overall life of the body.  Paul intensified the emphasis on the members of the body by personifying each of them.

Paul imagined the foot, the ear, the eye, and the head speaking as persons.  Obviously, this would not happen in reality.  However, for Paul’s purposes, this literary device sufficed to teach the truth he wanted to emphasize.  The foot says, “Because I am not a hand, I am not a part of the body.” (1 Cor. 12:15, NASB).3  Paul pointed out that the foot is indeed a part of the body and should not feel left out because it is not something else.  In the same way, the ear should feel excluded.  The obvious point is that one should not consider himself or herself any less a part of the church because he or she does not have a particular gift.

In his analogy, Paul had the eye say to the hand, “I have no need of you” (NASB).  He then taught that the eye cannot say this because this is patently untrue.  Similarly, the head cannot reject the feet because they are necessary.  Paul’s point was that in the church every gift is needed.  He went on to point out that even those parts of the body that seem weaker than other parts are absolutely necessary for the wholeness and completeness of the body.  Paul used this word picture in Romans 12:3-8 to demonstrate again that believers all have a function to perform to make the church complete.

In Ephesians and Colossians Paul further extended the “body” analogy by identifying the church with the body of Christ.  In this form of the analogy he asserted the lordship of Christ by using the head of the body to refer to Christ.4 
Thus, Paul changed his basic usage to meet this particular need for clarity.

As noted above, Paul drew the “body” analogy from traditional sources.  He also tapped various elements of his culture with which readers would be able to identify.  The field of sports provided several images.  In 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 he used images of the foot race and boxing to emphasize that the achievement of goals, self-discipline, and the willingness to persevere are important.  These are the concepts that Paul wished to apply to the spiritual life.

In the race image Paul focused on the reality that all who participate must run the race.  Yet for Paul, the idea that there is only one winner in this kind of race did not apply to the Christian life.  All those in the Christian life who run to finish or “win” will receive the victor’s prize.  This analogy is a good example of where the reader must be careful not to apply the comparison in detail.

In verse 25, Paul emphasized that self-discipline is required to those who run-in the race.  Thus in the Christian life self-control is required to achieve the end of the course.  Paul took the analogy past the foot race, however, when he pointed out that the reward of the Christian life is not a “perishable wreath” (NASB) but eternal life.

In verse 26, Paul combined the images of boxing and the foot race to show the importance of achieving the goals of Christ.  In a foot race one should run with the intention of reaching the finish line ahead of the others.  Although human works do not secure a place in God’s kingdom, one should live for Christ as though the goal of achieving that place depended upon performance and striving.  In boxing one does not merely swing through the air.  Rather one tries to hit the opponent.  Again, the Christian does not live an aimless life.  The Christian strives to emulate the Lord in every action of life.  Paul extended the boxing analogy into verse 27, but he changed the emphasis.  Instead of the opponent, he spoke of fighting against his own body.  Obviously, in boxing we would not pummel our own bodies.  Yet, spiritually this imagery is very apt because our greatest opponent to achieving the goal of Christlikeness is our own fleshly nature.

Another significant analogy Paul used is “sleep” as signifying death.  This word picture is one that Paul borrowed directly from Christ Himself.  In the account of Jairus’ daughter (Matt. 9:24), Christ told those present that the girl was not dead, merely sleeping.  Some interpreters feel this means the girl was merely in a coma.  However, this would make Christ’s actions almost meaningless in that context.  It is more likely that He was saying something about what death becomes in the presence of the Son of God.  For both Christ and Paul, comparing death to sleep was more than just a metaphorical statement.  It described what the Lord has done about death through His sacrifice on the cross.

This can be seen in 1 Corinthians 15 where Paul used this metaphor for death while discussing the resurrection.  In verses 6, 18, and 51 Paul used sleep to mean death.  From these examples it can be seen that Paul used the analogy of sleep to take our understanding of death in a different direction.  In light of what Christ has done, death is no longer a final event.  Paul spoke of Christ conquering death; and because of this, death no longer has an absolute hold on people.  The image of sleep proves to be a very adequate image to convey this new truth.  In the same way that we fall asleep and awake with the  dawn, now when we as believers go through the experience of death we merely fall into a state akin to sleep, awaiting the coming of Christ.

We must be careful at this point not to imply that this analogy of death describes the state of our existence during the time between the moment of death and resurrection of the dead.  There are some who believe that this image of sleep implies that those who are dead will enter a sort of soul sleep or a state of unconsciousness.  This would seem to be pushing the metaphor much farther than Jesus or Paul intended.  Indeed, the idea of soul sleep would seem to contradict such things as Christ’s promise to the thief on the cross that he would join the Lord in paradise that very day.

Another analogy was Paul’s use of “burial” to illustrate the meaning of baptism.  In Colossians 2:12 and Romans 6:4 Paul wrote of believers who have been “buried with him [Christ} in baptism.”  In both of these passages baptism is compared to burial.  Closely connected with this idea are the analogies of the Christian’s “death” to self and “resurrection” with Christ.

The biblical mode of baptism allows for an apt comparison of burial with baptism.  This would imply that baptism at this point in church history still was done exclusively by immersion.  The deviations of sprinkling and pouring were still in the future.  In death the body was placed in a grave and sealed from view.  In baptism the body is placed beneath the water and removed from view.  The theological meaning of this comparison is important.  For Paul there was a symbolic burial going on in ht baptismal act.  In baptism the “’self’ that was subject to sin is ‘buried.’”5  Thus the old, carnal man, having died at the conversion of the person to Christ, figuratively is buried through baptism.

Because this analogy is tried so closely to the experience of Christ, the idea of the resurrection never is far from this imagery.  It is difficult to separate the death and the resurrection in the redemptive work of Christ.  Similarly, in baptism the convert is “buried” (immersed), but also “raised” immediately to a new life in Christ.  In Romans 6:5 Paul wrote, “For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall be also in the likeness of His resurrection” (NASB).  It seems clear that one who shares baptism/burial with Christ emerges from the waters of baptism “in the likeness of His resurrection.” In Colossians 2:13 Paul presented the same idea in a slightly different way, “And when you were dead . . . He made you alive together with Him” (NASB).

Paul’s usage of this analogy has tremendous interpretive impact in the area of Christian ethics.  According to this image, the old person has been put away through the burial of baptism and the new person has come forth from the water.  Thus, a sinful life-style is inconsistent with this new image.  The new person is to live in the likeness of Christ.  Christians no longer are slaves to sin since the old has been put off.  This image means the Christian must live consistently with the confession of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

As these examples demonstrate, analogical language was a powerful tool in Paul’s hands.  Through images from everyday life he communicated the truth of the gospel and deepened the theological understanding of his readers.  For that reason we still describe the mysteries of God through these same analogies.                      

1.  Adapted from H.M. Gale, The Use of Analogy in the Letters of Paul (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1964), pp. 223-31.

2.  Ridderbos, Paul, An Outline of His Theology, trans. DeWitt (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publ. Co., 1975), p. 370, note 26.

3.  From the New American Standard Bible, Copyright © The Lockman Foundation, 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977. Use by permission. Subsequent quotations are marked NASB.

4.  See Ephesians 1:22-23; 4:12,15-16; 5:23; Colossians 1:18,24.

5.  Gale, p. 179.

SOURCE: Biblical Illustrator; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; Nashville, TN 37234; Vol. 43, No. 3; Spring 2017.

Races, Running, and Marathons

By Michael Priest

Michael Priest is pastor, Bartlett Baptist Church, Bartlett, Tennessee.

THIS SUMMER HUNDREDS of thousands of people will gather at the Beijing National Stadium and other sites through China for the 2008 Summer Olympics.  Cheering spectators will watch an estimated 10, 500 highly trained athletes take part in 302 different events.  The sheer mass of humanity in Beijing for the Olympics coupled with the incredible hours of worldwide televised coverage of the Games is ample evidence that people of every ethnicity and culture love sports.

While sports have an international appeal in our age, this has not always been the case, especially during the New Testament era.  Even though the New Testament is sprinkled with athletic imagery, for two primary reasons the Jews of antiquity were not particularly fond of sports.  First, most ancient sporting events were dedicated to Greek or Roman gods and involved prayers and sacrifices to these gods.  No devout Jew would participate in such an event lest he violate the Law.  Second, at least in the Greek Games, the athletes competed completely nude.  This too was offensive to Jewish sensibilities.1

While Romans enjoyed sporting events, their games were somewhat different from the Greed games.  The Romans built massive amphitheaters that provided the setting for the crude and deadly gladiatorial games.  They also entertained themselves with chariot racing.  For these races, the Romans built massive circuses capable of holding upwards of 255,000 people.  Professional teams organized and raced competitively for money, but also in hopes of earning the favor of the emperor.2

The Greeks, however, may well be the inventors of many of the sporting events we enjoy today.  By Paul’s time over three hundred Greek-influenced athletic contests took place in stadiums every year, but four of the competitions rose to the top and were highly esteemed: the Isthmian, Nemean, Pythian, and Olympic Games.  These four became known collectively as the Panhellenic (meaning “all Greek”) Games.  At all four of these Games, athletes competed in the two hundred, four hundred, and fifteen hundred meter runs.  They also competed in the combat sports of boxing and wrestling and the pankration, a combination of both boxing and wrestling.  Possibly the most demanding even of the Panhellenic Games was the pentathlon, which consisted of the long jump, javelin and discus throws, footraces, and wrestling.  As previously stated, the athletes competed completely nude, primarily because they did not want to carry the added weight of clothes or be hindered in movement by binding garments.  Athletes who competed in any of these events spent many months in strenuous training and unlike our modern Olympics, in the end, only one competitor won a prize.3

Interestingly, today many people associate the modern 26.2-mile-long marathon with the ancient Greek games, but in fact, this race was not a part of the games.  Even though lengthy running events were a part of the ancient competitions, no race of marathon proportion existed.  The first event called a “marathon” took place in 1896 at the first modern Olympic Games in Athens, Greece, and was run to commemorate the feat of an honored Greek hero.  In 490 BC, an overwhelming horde of Persians invaded Greek’s eastern coast on the plains of Marathon.  In an unexpected turn of events, the Greeks overwhelmed their enemy, killing 6,400 Persian troops while losing only 192 of their own men.  According to legend, Pheidippides, a Greek soldier and a runner-messenger, at the command of his general, ran 25 miles from Marathon to Athens bearing the news of the Greek victory.  Exhausted from both the battle and the 25-mile run from Marathon to Athens, Pheidippides delivered the message, “Rejoice. We conquer!”  Then he collapsed and died.  Organizers of the 1896 Athens Games believed a race to commemorate the run of Pheidippides would add local interest to the Games.  Thus was born the marathon.4

Even though the Jews generally disdained sporting events, the sporting culture had a tremendous influence on Jewish moralists and writers.5 In fact, first-century Jewish writers commonly used metaphorical language from the sporting world.  Therefore, not surprisingly Paul and other biblical writers readily turned to boxing, wrestling, and running to illustrate points they were making.  Paul, in 1 Corinthians 9:24-27, wrote, “Do you not know that the runners in a stadium all race, but only one receives the prize?  Run in such a way that you may win.  Now everyone who competes exercises self-control in everything.  However, they do it to receive a perishable crown, but we an imperishable one.  Therefore I do not run like one who runs aimlessly, or box like one who beats the air.  Instead, I discipline my body and bring it under strict control, so that after preaching to other, I myself will not be disqualified.”6 Because of the influence of the Greek Games, the Corinthians knew many runners stood ready at the starting line, but only one received the laurel crown of victory.  They also understood that competitors were people of self-control.  They knew of the discipline required to train for the Greek Games.  Paul used terms from the arena that his Greek readers would have easily understood.

In Philippians 3:12-14, Paul wrote, “Not that I have already reached the goal or am already fully mature, but I make every effort to take hold of it because I also have been taken hold of by Christ Jesus.  Brothers, I do not consider myself to have taken hold of it.  But one thing I do: forgetting what is behind and reaching forward to what is ahead, I pursue as my goal the prize promised by God’s heavenly call in Christ Jesus.”  The goal Paul wrote of was actually the goal marker or finish line at the end of a race.  The word “pursue” comes from a Greek word that would describe the sheer determination of an athlete as he was mustering every ounce of strength to be the first to reach the goal.  The phrase “God’s heavenly call” (or “the high calling of God,” KJV, emphasis added) contains two Greek words that literally mean “upward call.”  Here Paul painted one of the most beautiful pictures of the victorious Christian life, and his imagery comes from the Greek Games.  In the infield of the stadiums, the organizers of the Games built a high platform upon which the game officials sat.  On the last day of the Games, the winner of each event was called up to the top of the platform.  Once there, the presiding official announced the name of the winner and the city he represented, and then presented him with the winner’s prize.  Paul had this concluding ceremony in mind when he wrote of the “upward call.”7

In Hebrews 12:1-2, the biblical writer once again used running imagery when he wrote, “Therefore since we also have such a large cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us lay aside every weight and the sin that so easily ensnares us, and run with endurance the race that lies before us, keeping our eyes on Jesus, the source and perfecter of our faith, who for joy that lay before Him endured a cross and despised the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of God’s throne.”  The image is clear.  Just as a runner sheds his clothes for the race, so the Christian must shed anything that will hinder him or her.  Just as a runner paces herself and presses on through the pain, so the Christian must press on with tireless persistence to reach the finish line, which is Jesus Himself.

So as you enjoy the upcoming 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, as you marvel at world-class runners, remember the biblical writer’s call to every believer in Jesus to shed any hindrance, take to the track of life, and run with endurance and determination to become like Jesus.

1.  Everett Ferguson, Backgrounds of Early Christianity, 2nd ed. (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1993), 91-92.

2.  Ibid;, 93-94.

3.  Walter E. Henderson, Jr., “The Athletic Imagery of Paul,” Theological Educator 56 (Fall 1997): 31; 1 Cor. 9:24.

4.  Hal Higdon, Marathon: The Ultimate Training Guide (n.p.: Rodale, 1999), 5-6.

5.  Ferguson, 92.

6.  Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations in this article are from the Holman Christian Standard Bible.

7.  Gerald F. Hawthorne, Philippians,  vol. 43 in Word Biblical Commentary,  gen. eds. David A. Hubbard and Glenn W. Barker (Waco: Word Books, Publishers, 1983), 154.

SOURCE: Biblical Illustrator; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; Nashville, TN 37234; Vol. 34, No. 4; Summer 2008.


By A. O. Collins

A. O. Collins is chairman, department of Christianity and philosophy, Houston Baptist University, Houston, Texas


here are three kinds of farm tools, the voiceless ones (wagons and plows), the inarticulate ones (oxen and mules), and the speaking ones (slaves.)” In this manner Cato described the status of slaves among Romans, advocating that they be discarded like other objects when they became old, worn out, or diseased.1

Slavery was an integral part of many ancient cultures, but it reached its widest use in the period just preceding and during the Roman Empire. At the beginning of the first century, slaves made up at least half of the population. By the century’s end, the city of Rome had 400,000 slaves, one-third of the populace. Many households had several slaves, and a wealthy master might have as many as a thousand, so many that the did not recognize them all.

The campaigns of Caesar Augustus supplied thousands of slaves, and the institution of slavery grew rapidly. Caecilius, in the time of Aufustus, claimed in his will that he owned 4,116 slaves. In one transaction, Caesar sold 63,000 Gauls into slavery. Josephus (Wars 6.9.3) states that Titus brought 97,000 Jewish slave-captives from Jerusalem in AD 70. In Rome, slaves became so numerous that the senate voted down a proposal requiring them to wear distinctive garb, for fear that their numerical strength would become too apparent.

Slaves were procured in many different ways. Sometimes, of necessity a person offered himself for enslavement to pay debts, or he turned over one or more of his children in payment. At the market slaves were sold or exchanged for other slaves, cattle, or other property. Slaves were given as gifts to relatives and friends or passed from one generation to another through inheritance. Many slaves were house-born; and within some households, slave breeding became a specialized practice in which intelligent, muscular males were mated with healthy females to produce superior working stock.

After soldiers were defeated and slaughtered in war, their wives and children were brought to Rome as slaves. Through piracy and kidnapping, professional slave dealers captured people from Syria, Asia Minor, and the Greek islands, importing them for the Roman market. Astute contractors provided slaves for the specific needs of public officials and households, whether it be for entertainment, unique skills, or other purposes. While prices for slaves varied from 300 sesterces for a farm worker to as much as 700,000 for a grammarian, the average price was about 4,000 sesterces.2

Roman law gave the master complete power over the life and death of his subjects. A slave could not own property; he was property. Although he could acquire goods, legally everything belonged to his master. He could not be accused of stealing because, technically, anything taken merely was displaced among the master’s holdings. A slave could neither sue nor be sued. No legal marriage existed, only cohabitation. Mates could be separated and off-spring taken at the will of the master.

In Rome, 80 percent of the industry and retail trade was carried out by slaves. Freedmen and public slaves, nearly all of Syrian and Greek origin, provided most of the government clerical work, managed the imperial palace, and held important cabinet positions.

Highly educated slaves, more intelligent than their masters, monopolized the medical, financial, and literary fields, serving as research aids, financial secretaries, agents, tutors, copyists, librarians, and philosophers. Among renowned Roman slaves were Epictetus, Terence, and Andronicus.

In Roman households, a slave headed the work force and was responsible for day-to-day activities. A domestic slave always was at his master’s side, at his elbows when he ate, at each leg when he dressed, assisting him with his bath, beside him at the market, constantly present. Slave companions were chosen for their skill at remembering names, physical appearance, or social charm. A slave’s ability to cook, serve, or groom endeared him to his master. Slaves guarded the master’s wealth, and sometimes other slaves guarded the slave guards. In wealthy households, a Greek pedagogue was the first companion of a young child and became his mentor, instructing him in manners, literature, and the arts.

Besides personal servants, the master secured attractive young boys as cupbearers. Dwarfs, giants, or deformed individuals were prized curiosities. Dancers, musicians, mimics, actors, and clowns provided entertainment.

In rural areas, where they worked on construction projects and on extensive country estates, slaves were treated the worst. Food was bare subsistence. At night, they slept on work camps, often chained. Old and weak slaves often were abandoned.

Some prisoner-of-war slaves were put into gladiator training schools and prepared for public spectacles. They were forced to fight one another, thrown to wild animals, or dressed as animals to have dogs turned on them. The night before gladiatorial contests, they were “honored” with a banquet, looked over by the fans and gamblers, and bets were wagered on the outcome.

As the first century progressed, treatment of slaves improved. They were accepted as part of the extended family, enjoyed comfort, security, and permanent employment. On certain occasions, such as the Saturnalia festival, slaves temporarily were freed and their masters served them briefly. Favorite slaves were treated well, received gifts, advanced from one position to another, and even could possess a slave of their own.

In the country, punishment for light offenses consisted of limited rations, extra labor, fines, or confinement. Flogging was common, as was branding with an iron. In more serious cases, a slave might be placed on a torture rack or thrown into a dungeon. Records exist of punishment by being thrown into a fishpond to the eels and being burned collectively in a pit. Mutilation, such as cutting out the tongue or cutting off hands, sometimes was practiced.

Household slaves generally were punished with extra work or denial of food. In severe cases, they were sent to country to work in the quarries, mines, or farms at more strenuous tasks.

Runaway slaves were put into chains or put to death as a lesson to potential offenders. If a slave owner was murdered, every slave in the household was held responsible. About the time of Paul’s Letter to Philemon (AD 61), Pedanius Secundus had been killed by a slave, and all 400 of his slaves then were executed, considered guilty for not preventing his death.

Freedom from slavery always was possible through any one of several means. Rich men often secured slaves, set them up in business, and allowed them to keep part of their earnings, or they permitted slaves to farm a portion of the estate. Eventually, when slaves accumulated savings, they bought freedom. At times it was to the advantage of the owner to liberate the slave, use the money to purchase another, and continue control over the new freedman as a client.

In other circumstances, freedom was earned by dedicated service to the master. Faithful slaves occasionally were released when they became old or too weak to work. A master, on his deathbed, often granted freedom to dutiful slaves as one last noble gesture.

Slavery, by its very nature, became a moral poison in Rome society. Intelligent people uprooted from land and family and forced into servitude could not be content forever. Masters, dependent on the skill and labor of others, naturally felt threatened. Clever slaves resorted to fraud, trickery, flattery, and other means to get what they wanted. Even the master’s children became tools in the hands of unscrupulous slaves, who contaminated them with their immoral teachings and habits.

In conquering others, Rome had been conquered. The saying arose, “So many slaves so many enemies.” Conditions became so volatile that more and more stringent laws had to be passed to deal with the dissidents.

Slavery was accepted as part of the social fabric of the first century. People in general thought no more of having slaves than our generation thinks of having employees or domestic servants. A slave’s welfare and treatment depended on his relationship with his master. The Greek word doulos, translated “slave” or “bondservant,” carried the idea of commitment, resting on one’s dependence on his lord, and the master’s claim upon the subject’s loyalty. In this respect, the term came to be used of the relationship of the Christian to Christ, and Paul probably called himself a doulor of Christ (Rom. 1:1; Phil. 1:1).

Often the question is asked, “Why was slavery not condemned in the New Testament?” Some people have argued that because early Christians expected the imminent end of the age they felt there was no need to challenge the institution of slavery. While that may be true, the conflict between the Christian view of the worth of the individual and the practice of slavery was not ignored completely. Slaves were attracted to the new religion because in Christ one found a new sense of worth and self-respect. Recognizing that he was a being of worth in the sight of God and other Christians, he realized that his social status was secondary. In Christ, he was free.

Paul encouraged Christian masters to be considerate and slaves to be obedient (Eph. 6:5-9; Col. 3:22 – 4:1). In his letter to Philemon, Paul asked, not demanded, that because of their common brotherhood in Christ, Onesimus be received not merely as a slave but as a brother “both in the flesh, and in the Lord” (Philem. 16). Some scholars suggest that Paul’s payment to Philemon was an indication that he expected Onesimus to be set free. Although it would take centuries for the thrust of the Christian gospel to be understood properly, ultimately it has led to the general rejection of slavery in most of the world.                                                               Bi

1.  Quoted by Bart Winer, Life in the Ancient World (New York: Random House, 1961), p. 177.

2.  The modern equivalent of 4,000 sesterces would be between $320 and $400.

SOURCE: Biblical Illustrator; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; Nashville, TN 37234; Spring 1988




 (13.129) What is the Answer To & Where in The Bible is This Week’s Trivia Question Found: Who built a temple for Baal in Samaria?  Answer Next Week:

Last Week’s Question: What army was defeated when an angel of the Lord struck down 185,000 soldiers? Answer: Assyria’s; 2 Kings 19:35.