Contextualization: Becoming All Things To All

Following Newbigin And Cultural Embodied Gospel and Paul: The Missionary And Contextualizer, Becoming All Thing To All is a third article in this series that explores the question of Contextualization viz., “the attempt to communicate the message of the person, works, Word, and will of God in a way that is faithful to God’s revelation, especially as put forth in the teaching of Holy Scripture, and that is meaningful to respondents in their respective cultural and existential contexts.”(Hesselgrave & Rommen 2003: 200).

In 1 Corinthians 8-10 we can see Paul’s description of a cross-cultural mission that could be summarized by 9:22-23[1] viz., all for the sake of the gospel, Paul became all things to all people, that by all means he might save some.

In the cultural context of those outside the law, Gentiles, Paul became as one of them as he became a Gentile, outside the law. Whereas in the cultural context of those who are under the law[2], Jews, Paul became under the law, a Jew. Streett explained that “being a Jew to the Jews (1 Co 9:20), Paul had Timothy (who was half-Jewish) circumcised for the sake of contextualized witness to Jews.” (Streett 2007: 1650).

Pratt correctly captured Paul’s cross-culture missionary attitude when he explained that “[t]his diversity required great flexibility from Paul because he wanted to win those under the law and to win those not having the law.(Pratt 2000: 150)

From Paul, we observe culturally embodied Gospel that’s stumbling block is on the Gospel message of the crucified God and not in his manner or method to which he communicated it in a cultural context he found himself in.

We can thus deduce from 1 Corinthians 8-10 that contextualization aims at removing the stumbling block on the manner or method(2 Cor. 6:3) to which redemptive drama, God sending His Son to live and die in our place, too which is communicated yet retains its offends  to the Jewish(1 Cor. 1:23) and its foolishness of a crucified Christ “to those who are perishing”(1 Cor. 1:18)

Next: Contextualization: Seasoning With Salt

Question: What are the limits,if any, of becoming all things to all people?

[1]  The passage’s context is the discussion whether or not Christians should eat meat sacrificed to idols.

[2] Torah: Laws of Moses


David J. Hesselgrave and Edward Rommen, (2003) Contextualization: Meanings, Methods, and Models. Pasadena: William Carey Library

Streett, R. Alan, “What is the Christian Identity Movement?”  Cabal, T., Brand, C. O., Clendenen, E. R., Copan, P., Moreland, J., & Powell, D. (2007). The Apologetics Study Bible: Real Questions, Straight Answers, Stronger Faith . Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.

Pratt, R. L., Jr. (2000). Vol. 7: I & II Corinthians. Holman New Testament Commentary; Holman Reference (150). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.