How Cells Help Us Understand the Church

(system) #1

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at

(Richard Wright) #3

Hello Andy,

I enjoyed the article, but do believe that you quoted 1 Corinthians 9:22 out of context:

There are clear advantages to this approach, in the sense that often one or a few can go places and do things that a large group cannot. The challenge is for those folks to be flexible and able to do many jobs, because they are all that there is. The apostle Paul captured this idea when he wrote “I have become all things to all people” (1 Corinthians 9:22).

You’re claiming that Paul’s famous, “all things to all men” admonition refers to having different roles in a church. I don’t think that’s what he means and here is the passage in context verse 19b-22:

I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some.

It seems like Paul being all things to all men was for non-believers, to help as many of them as possible become Christians.

(Andy Walsh) #4

Thanks for the comment. I agree that Paul is talking about his relationship to those who are not (yet) followers of Jesus.

I was attempting (perhaps not successfully) to draw a distinction between the early church context in which Paul was writing and our present context. In order for the early church to fulfill its purpose – which includes calling people from all over the world to follow Jesus, the part Paul is talking about here – the relatively few members of that church would have to fill a variety of roles. Hence Paul needing to become ‘all things to all people’; he was one of the only missionaries to all those people.

At the same time, it doesn’t appear to me that Paul is providing a command or instruction for all believers in all circumstances. In the present era, particularly for those of us in settings with large Christian communities, there is less of an individual need to be all things to all people when trying to call others to follow Jesus with us. As long as the church collectively is exhibiting the same variety of approaches that Paul personally modeled, then the needs of all people can still be met.

And so in quoting Paul, I was trying to provide a flavor of what he thought it took for the early church to fulfill its purpose, rather than what he thought it took for himself to relate to others in the church.