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.
Thoughts for Today:It was probably a great surprise for the Jews to find out they were not actually a part of the spiritual children of Abraham. Paul wrote in Galatians 3:16: "The promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. Scripture does not say 'and to seeds,' meaning many people, but 'and to your seed,' meaning one person, who is Christ." He continues this thought in verse 29: "If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise." In other words, God's promise was to Abraham and his singular "seed," or descendant -- that is Jesus Christ alone.
We find in the Old Testament, God's people were justified by their faith in His promises regarding the coming Messiah. However, after the death and resurrection of Jesus, New Testament believers are justified only by faith in what Jesus has already done: His sacrifice for our sin. As a result, no one becomes an heir of God's promises through their ancestry. This would prove to be an incredibly difficult message for the Jewish people to hear and comprehend.
Like the Jewish people, Paul was a direct descendant of Abraham, and therefore would be considered a "natural" Jew. However, a "true" Jew (by the New Testament definition), is a person who has the faith of Abraham. Romans 4:16: "Therefore, the promise comes by faith, so that it may be by grace and may be guaranteed to all Abraham's offspring--not only to those who are of the law but also to those who have the faith of Abraham. He is the father of us all." In our passage today, when Paul says, "I became like a Jew to win the Jews," he is saying he uses all his knowledge of Jewish laws and practices to relate to the non-Christian Jews. In other words, he lives in a way so as to not offend them by what he does. However, if they reject the Gospel Message, then so be it. At least he knows it wasn't because his physical actions turned them away.
Questions to Ponder:Paul's message to us today is simple: Don't let the Gospel message be rejected before it is heard because of our actions. Have you considered how your lifestyle or dress may offend others? Are you a proper witness? How will you apply today's passage for God's glory?