Summary: In our lesson today, Paul teaches that Christians should retain the place in life assigned to them by the Lord.
We continue our study in The First Letter of Paul to the Corinthians in a series I am calling Challenges Christians Face.
One of the challenges that Christians face is the issue of marriage. Let’s learn about this in a message I am calling, “Live As You Are Called.”
Let’s read 1 Corinthians 7:17-24:
17 Only let each person lead the life that the Lord has assigned to him, and to which God has called him. This is my rule in all the churches. 18 Was anyone at the time of his call already circumcised? Let him not seek to remove the marks of circumcision. Was anyone at the time of his call uncircumcised? Let him not seek circumcision. 19 For neither circumcision counts for anything nor uncircumcision, but keeping the commandments of God. 20 Each one should remain in the condition in which he was called. 21 Were you a slave when called? Do not be concerned about it. (But if you can gain your freedom, avail yourself of the opportunity.) 22 For he who was called in the Lord as a slave is a freedman of the Lord. Likewise he who was free when called is a slave of Christ. 23 You were bought with a price; do not become slaves of men. 24 So, brothers, in whatever condition each was called, there let him remain with God. (1 Corinthians 7:17-24)
A woman was once asked why she wanted to divorce her husband. She said, “When I got married I was looking for the ideal. Instead it became an ordeal. So now I want a new deal!”
Sadly, too many married people feel like that after a while.
When Sylvester Stallone was making one of his Rocky movies, right after one of his fight scenes, he said, “You know, boxing is a great sport as long as you can yell, ‘Cut!’” Many people feel that way about marriage—it’s a lot of fun as long as you can yell “Cut!” and can get out of it when it’s beating you up too badly.
Many people, including Christians, struggle with marriages that end up in divorce. According to Richard Fowler of the Minirth-Meier Counseling Clinic, the divorce rate for Christians is only ten percent below that for non-Christians.
The Christians in Corinth wrote to Paul about singleness, marriage and divorce. Apparently, some of them who were married wanted to get out of their marriages, supposedly because they thought that they could be more holy as single people rather than as married people. Some of them thought that their marriages were a hindrance now that they had reached a higher level of spirituality.
And so the apostle Paul wrote instructions to them about singleness, marriage, and divorce. And although it appears that the apostle Paul was digressing from the topic in today’s text, he was in fact continuing with the same topic. He was instructing Christians to retain the place in life assigned to them by the Lord.
So, in our lesson today, Paul teaches that Christians should retain the place in life assigned to them by the Lord. Let’s notice how Paul developed his teaching outline:
1. The rule stated (7:17a, 20, 24).
2. The universality of this rule (7:17b).
3. The illustrations of this rule (7:18-24).
4. The meaning of this rule (7:19, 21).
5. The application of this rule.
I. The Rule Stated (7:17a, 20, 24)
First, let’s look at the rule stated.
Paul in fact stated the rule three times. Notice:
• Verse 17a: “Only let each person lead the life that the Lord has assigned to him, and to which God has called him.”
• Verse 20: “Each one should remain in the condition in which he was called.”
• Verse 24: “So, brothers, in whatever condition each was called, there let him remain with God.”
Now, we may ask the question: “What ‘call’ of God is being referred to?” Most Bible commentators indicate that the “call” here refers to the call to salvation rather than the call to vocation.
So, what Paul was saying is that when God called a person to himself in salvation, he should remain in the condition in which he was when God called him to salvation.
Therefore, the rule is simply this: Christians should retain the place in life assigned to them by the Lord.
Some of the Corinthians were trying to get out of their marriages, and Paul was saying that now that they are saved they should remain in their marriages. They should not try to get out of their marriages just because they had now become Christians.
Now, you remember that Paul had previously said (in verse 15) that if the non-Christian spouse no longer wanted to be married that the Christian should let the non-Christian spouse leave the marriage.