And unto the Jews I became as a Jew
That is, in religion; or with respect to some religious observances peculiar to the Jews, for he himself was really a Jew by nature; who became as one unto them in this sense, when he for their sakes circumcised Timothy at Derbe, or Lystra, purified himself at Jerusalem, shaved his head at Cenchrea, observed their sabbath, and abstained from some sorts of food forbidden in the law; and his end in so doing was, not to confirm them in such usages, but that he might hereby have the greater influence over them, and by little and little bring them off of these things, or, as he says,
that I might gain the Jews;
bring them over to Christ, and off of a dependence on their own righteousness, for justification before God:
to them that are under the law, as under the law;
the Vulgate Latin version adds, "when I was not under the law", and so the Alexandrian copy and some others; by whom seem to be meant the same persons as before; though some have thought that the Samaritans are intended, and others the Sadducees: but if any as distinct from the former are designed, they should rather seem to be the converted Jews; who though they believed in Christ, looked upon themselves to be still under the law, and therefore observed it; with whom the apostle on certain occasions complied, as if he was under it too, that he might have the greater share in their affections and credit; hoping in time that by such means he might be able to prevail upon them to relinquish these things, and wholly attend to the Gospel and ordinances of Christ, or, as he says,
that I might gain them that are under the law;
meaning the Jews, who were observers of the law of Moses.