Sunday’s sermon is one of my favorites because of the context and the practical theology that’s found in 1 Corinthians 7:17-24. With the exception of the cultural issues of circumcision and bondservants, the text is chock full of practical thoughts. So, in this version of musings, I’d like to hit on several of those, while trying to hit the issues of marriage/singleness a bit more fully.
From the Cutting Room Floor:
- This text shows us the redemptive power of Jesus on our everyday lives. I think you’ll notice throughout this text the emphasis on “right where you are” or “stay put”. Those phrases/ideas give me the assurance that God doesn’t expect or call all of His people to vocational ministry jobs…for a reason. ALL of God’s people are in ministry, at one level or another. And when Jesus enters our lives, he doesn’t expect us to move, change locations/jobs/spouses/etc., to be better Christians or be more acceptable to God. Our status before God is based on Jesus’s work on our behalf and Jesus’s power helps us live faithful Christian lives, right where we are.
- Primarily, this text is dealing with two questions: “should a Christian divorce their non-Christian spouse?” and “is it more holy to be single?” And so, this text basically says this: since you’re bought with a price and you belong to God, conduct yourself like a Christian in your marriage or your singleness. Your holiness is based on God’s purchase of you, through Christ, not your marital status. Further, if you’re married to a non-Christian, God will give you the strength, grace, and power to be a faithful representative of Jesus in your home. And if you’re single, God will give you all you need to be faithfully committed to Christ. If your non-Christian spouse leaves you, then you’re free from that marriage. And if you’re single and God provides for your a Christian spouse, you’re free to marry. But neither marriage nor singleness is what defines you…being bought with a price and belonging to God, defines you.
- Many have blamed Paul for not being socially sensitive enough about bondservants and the cultural issue of slavery. Some of this is due to the fact that in this culture, slavery was not the same and some of it was due to the fact that slavery was a culturally accepted norm.
- However, I would argue that Paul actually does address how masters should treat their servants and how servants should respond to their masters in Ephesians 6 and Colossians 3. Paul’s reasoning throughout his writings is that Christian “masters” and Christian “servants” should not allow their social status of “master” or “servant” to define them, but they should respond as Christ-followers. Paul would’ve heartily agreed with Wilberforce and others who sought to abolish the dreadful slave-trade in the Western world in the 1600’s-early 1900’s.
- Let me add to this and this is something that might be a challenge for us to understand…Paul’s concern was to never take his eye off the ball of the how the gospel impacts our lives, our churches, and how we interact with the world. Part of me has wondered through the years, if Paul’s written silence on social issues, is because that Paul is doggedly central on the gospel’s impact on peoples’ lives in their homes, churches, and how they deal with others. In our world…if the church is not socially attune, people call it out of step, disobedient or not relevant to our current times. Sadly, and history will back this…when the church makes social issues the central issue, it inevitably drifts to theological liberalism. Check the 1920’s for this. So, does this mean the church should ignore these issues? Not at all. But, we must be very careful to not make them the central issue. For instance, take the text from Sunday…that text is not about whether slavery is a good or bad social construct…it’s about being so identified with Jesus’s purchase of us, that we can be “free”, no matter where we are. So, if we make the socially unjust issue of slavery the point of the text, we miss the heart of what God is saying to us. I hope this makes sense. Social justice issues are implications of the gospel, but they are not the gospel. A compelling example of this is William Wilberforce, who was the leader to abolish slavery in England. He was an elected political official, put there by God and was equipped/discipled by other pastors to help him see the issues correctly. I think this shows the churches role in this…we equip our people, who are in all walks of life (some in politics) to help open their eyes to the implications of the gospel everywhere.
- Some might ask, is there ever a time for me to leave my post/assignment that God has given me? And the obvious answer is yes.
- In the context of marriage: if your non-Christian spouse leaves you, God frees you from the marital obligations of that marriage and sets you free to remarry a Christian.
- In the context of singleness: if God brings you a Christian person that you both sense that the Lord has brought you together, you’re free to leave your singleness to be married. This should be obvious.
- What about leaving the job or town you’re in? What about leaving the college you’re attending? How do you decide if the Lord is moving you or putting in another place of assignment? Well, a lot could go in to this, but I don’t think the Lord is silent on these issues, so here are some ways that I’ve tried to govern myself by through the years:
- I ask for wisdom from God and believe that according to James 1:5-6, He’s going to give me wisdom.
- I ask God to direct me from His written word. In this, I’m praying that the Lord would show me clear commands, guiding principles, and even show me my heart motivations, through His word.
- I ask for input from those closest to me…obviously, Jill is at the top of this list and then our elders, who are my closest friends.
- And then I look at my circumstances and situation I find myself. For instance, it might be that your current job is not paying the bills, which could be an indication that you need another job or an additional job. It might be that God is giving you a new child and you realize that your one bedroom apartment isn’t going to cut it. Things where your situation has changed are often indicators of God changing our assignment. But…when God is changing our assignment, He never violates His principles, commands, or His promises. So, selling drugs is not a good secondary job to pay the bills:). Neither is going into bad debt.
- And then finally, I make the decision and act in faith believing this with my whole heart…if my heart is before the Lord and my desire is for Him to be honored in my life, He will meet me wherever I land. I’m fully convinced of this. God is THAT good to His people.
- Let me say one last thing before I post some quotes that I loved from others on this text: It is remarkably clear in Scripture that God maneuvers His people around for the purpose of advancing the gospel. He’ll use the persecution in one city to move them out to other cities. He’ll use job changes, school opportunities, and financial challenges to get the gospel to go from one place to another, through His people. The biggest issue for us as Christians is to embrace this fact…if you call yourself a Christian, God has given you an assignment to represent Him no matter where you are.
Quotes that captured me:
- “The key point is not “staying as you were” but that Christians can fully serve Christ as Lord in whatever situation they find themselves. Nevertheless, every Christian must remain open to the question: Does the call of God direct us to be here or elsewhere in a new situation?” Thiselton, A. C.
- “Secular” questions about jobs, careers, and positions usually find expression in terms of self-fulfillment, self-advantage, status, and self-promotion; more “Christian” attitudes explore vocation. Issues of vocation need to be restored to Christian reflection.” Thiselton, A. C.
- “God’s call to be in Christ (cf. 1:9) transcends all such settings, thus making them not so much unimportant per se, but basically irrelevant in terms of ultimate realities. Thus one should not seek change for its own sake, since one’s relationship with God has nothing at all to do with where a person is in terms of one’s social setting, but altogether with who one is in whatever setting one is found.” Fee, G. D.
- Important note on slavery in Fee’s commentary: “This imagery, of course, must be understood in light of Greco-Roman slavery, not that of more recent American history. Slavery was in fact the bottom rung on the social order, but for the most part it provided generally well for up to one-third of the population in a city like Corinth or Rome. The household slave had considerable freedom and very often experienced mutual benefit along with the master. The owner received the benefit of the slave’s services; and the slave had steady “employment,” including having all his or her basic needs met—indeed, for many to be a slave was preferable to being a freed person, whose securities were often tenuous at best. But the one thing that marked the slave was that, in the final analysis, such a person did not belong to oneself but to another; that alone is Paul’s point with this imagery.” Fee, G. D.
This week, we’re going look at the “present distress” coming to Christians at that time and being led by the Spirit. We’ll be looking at 1 Corinthians 7:25-40.
From the Cheap Seats:
- Thank you, Tampa Bay Rays…all of Major League Baseball applauds you.
- I’m not trying to be weird here, but having sports announcers in the stands to socially distance from the players, while having camera-people and mic-people standing within 6-feet of the player, doesn’t make any sense to me.
- The Dodgers made Globe Life Field (Texas Rangers new ballpark) look small. Huge bombs hit. The reason this is so important is because this new park in Arlington, is a pitcher’s park, meaning, it plays big.
- There is nothing like a Game 7…
- Ruben Dias…welcome to Man City. And Virgil Van Dijk…that is not good for Liverpool.
To watch or listen to the sermon described in this post, please click here.