What does 1 Corinthians 9:21 mean?
ESV: To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law.
NIV: 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.
NASB: to those who are without the Law, I became as one without the Law, though not being without the law of God but under the law of Christ, so that I might gain those who are without the Law.
CSB: 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.
NLT: 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.
KJV: 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.
Verse Commentary:
Paul is describing how he, as a free person, has placed himself under the authority of all men in hopes of winning some to faith in Christ. In the previous verse, he wrote that he became as a Jewish law-follower to win some of them. Now he writes that he became as one outside of the law in order to win some of those people, as well.

Paul has written much in Galatians and Romans about freedom in Christ, including the freedom from following the law of Moses (Romans 10:4). Paul continued to participate in aspects of Jewish religious life, but he also demonstrated freedom in Christ to the Gentiles. This came by participating in some things forbidden for followers of the law of Moses. Beyond that, he made clear to Gentiles that it was unnecessary for them to follow the law in order to be acceptable to God. Salvation is only possible through faith in Christ.

For one who had been a Pharisee and a "Hebrew of Hebrews" (Philippians 3:5–6) to live outside the law of Moses required enormous confidence in the grace of God through faith in Christ. Paul's demonstration of this confidence showed the Gentiles the sincerity of his teaching.

Still, Paul adds that he remained under the authority of law of Christ; the law of self-sacrificing love for God and others (Mark 12:30–31). Every Christian is under that law. As such, it is more important to consider the needs of others than to demand whatever we think we are entitled to.
Verse Context:
First Corinthians 9:19–23 describes how Paul has made himself a slave to everyone. He limits his own rights and freedoms in order to connect with others. He becomes ''all things to all people'' so that some will be won to faith in Christ. He becomes as a Jewish person under the law to win law-following Jewish people. He becomes like a person not under the law to win others, such as Gentiles. He even becomes weak for the sake of the weak. He does all of this for sake of the gospel, encouraging others to do the same.
Chapter Summary:
Paul encourages Christians to willingly give up their ''rights'' for the good of those who are weak in their faith. Paul shows that he, too, has given up his rights, including the right as an apostle to receive financial support from those he serves. Instead, he boasts that he serves the Corinthians without any compensation, even at great cost to himself. Paul describes himself as an athlete competing for the prize of a crown in eternity. His point is for believers to pursue godliness, and the good of others, with that kind of commitment.
Chapter Context:
First Corinthians 8 ended with Paul's declaration that he would give up his right to eat any meat rather than cause a brother in Christ to stumble. He shows in this chapter that he is already giving up his right as an apostle to be financially supported by those he serves. He doesn't want anything to get in the way of anyone believing the gospel. He limits his freedoms further by becoming all things to all people to win some for Christ. He disciplines himself like an athlete in training, to get a prize and to avoid being disqualified. The next passages will expand on this idea of distinguishing what is ''allowed'' from what is ''best.''
Book Summary:
First Corinthians is one of the more practical books of the New Testament. Paul writes to a church immersed in a city associated with trade, but also with corruption and immorality. These believers are struggling to properly apply spiritual gifts and to resist the ungodly practices of the surrounding culture. Paul's letter gives instructions for real-life concerns such as marriage and spirituality. He also deals with the importance of unity and gives one of the Bible's more well-known descriptions of love in chapter 13.
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