Oct 13, 2008

Weak & Strong Brothers I


"For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a slave to all, so that I may win more. To the Jews I became as a Jew, so that I might win Jews; to those who are under the Law, as under the Law though not being myself under the Law, so that I might win those who are under the Law; to those who are without law, as without law, though not being without the law of God but under the law of Christ, so that I might win those who are without law. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak; I have become all things to all men, so that I may by all means save some." ( I Corinthians 9: 19-22 NASB)

These verses help us to identify the class of people whom Paul, in I Corinthians, identified as being "weak"; And, conversely, in doing so, they also help us to identify the class of people whom Paul called "strong." The "strong" are they who have been "saved" and "won" to Christ by the preaching of the gospel and faith in it. But, the "weak" are they who are NOT saved, but lost, and who have NOT been "won" to Christ, people who have NOT been converted, people who are NOT Christians.

It is therefore a great error to identify the "weak" with those who are saved, with those who are converted Christians. Yet, this is the predominant view, even among the authors of the leading commentaries.

The verses cited above, from Paul in the ninth chapter of his first epistle to the Corinthians, disprove this theory. I have therefore placed them in the beginning of this exposition, and put the verses in the forefront; And, my thesis is simply this - "the weak are the non-Christians, or the lost, while the strong are the Christians, or the saved."

The term "weak" is a term appropritate for all those who are lost and without Christ. The term "strong" is a term appropriate for all those who are saved and possessed of Christ.

In this exposition, I shall show further exegetical and syntactical reasons for identifying the "weak" with the Pagan, or non-Christian, and "strong" with the Christian. But, these reasons will only confirm what is plainly stated by Paul in the verses above. The "weak" are such who need to be "won" to Christ, who need to be "saved."

Once in a public debate with an Arminian on "once saved always saved," he tried to make the "weak brothers" out to be Christians, or saved people. When I cited the above words to him, he responded - "well, it just shows that the weak were those who were once saved and lost their salvation."

His response at least was an admission that the "weak" are they who are not saved. Yet, he had already argued that "weak brothers" meant "weak Christians," or saved people who are in error in certain points of doctrine.

Of course, the "weak" are not those who were once saved and then lost their salvation, and not those who were once Christian and then recanted. First, the general context of scripture is against such a view, it teaching rather that all the truly saved remain saved. Second, the context of the epistle demonstrates that the "weak" are not those who were saved and lost it, but persons who were never saved, and never converted to Christ.

Why do all, or nearly all, the major commentators err in identifying the "weak brother" with a saved, born again, Christian? Why when there is very little evidence for this conclusion? Why when the apostle says just the opposite?

These and other questions I will be answering in forthcoming chapters in this series.

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