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Verse 19. For though I be free. I am a freeman. I am under obligation to none. I am not bound to give them my labours, and at the same time to toil for my own support. I have claims like others, and could urge them; and no man could demand that I should give myself to a life of servitude, and comply with their prejudices and wishes, as if I were a slave, in order to their conversion. Compare 1 Co 9:1. See Barnes "1 Co 6:12".


From all men. ek pantwn. This may either refer to all persons or to all things. The word men is not in the original. The connexion, however, seems to fix the signification to persons. "I am a freeman. And although I have conducted [myself] like a slave, yet it has been done voluntarily."

I have made myself servant unto all. Greek, "I have enslaved myself (emauton edoulwsa) unto all." That is,

(1.) I labour for them, or in their service, and to promote their welfare.

(2.) I do it, as the slave does, without reward or hire. I am not paid for it, but submit to the toil, and do it without receiving pay.

(3.) Like the slave who wishes to gratify his master, or who is compelled from the necessity of the case, I comply with the prejudices, habits, customs, and opinions of others as far as I can with a good conscience. The slave is subject to the master's will. That will must be obeyed. The whims, prejudices, caprices of the master must be submitted to, even if they are mere caprice, and wholly unreasonable. So Paul says that he had voluntarily put himself into this condition, a condition making it necessary for him to suit himself to the opinions, prejudices, caprices, and feelings of all men, so far as he could do it with a good conscience, in order that he might save them. We are not to understand here that Paul embraced any opinions which were false in order to do this, or that he submitted to anything which is morally wrong. But he complied with their customs, and habits, and feelings, as far as it could lawfully be done. He did not needlessly offend them, or run counter to their prejudices.

That I might gain the more. That I might gain more to Christ; that I might be the means of saving more souls. What a noble instance of self-denial and true greatness is here! How worthy of religion! How elevated the conduct! How magnanimous, and how benevolent! No man would do this who had not a greatness of intellect that would rise above narrow prejudices; and who had not a nobleness of heart that would seek at personal sacrifice the happiness of all men. It is said that not a few early Christians, in illustration of this principle of conduct, actually sold themselves into slavery in order that they might have access to and benefit slaves—an act to which nothing would prompt a man but the religion of the cross. Comp. See Barnes "Ro 1:14".


{a} "servant" Ro 1:14; Ga 5:13

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