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"Walking Where You Were Called"
1 Corinthians 7:17-24
Wednesday AM Bible Study
July 25, 2007
Theme: The believer is to walk with God in that situation in life in which he or she was called.
Paul had been dealing with the subject of divorce and remarriage in verses 10-16. He was writing to Christians in Corinth who had come to Christ from a variety of different backgrounds and experiences; and this presented the practical problem of what to say to those who come to Christ from checkered marriage histories. Some had been divorced; some had remarried. Some had divorced and remarried several times. Some were widowed. Some were married to an unbeliever. What should they do? Should they try to 'unscramble the egg'?
Paul answers that question in this passage. Praise God; we don't have to try to 'unscramble the egg'; but rather, are to learn to walk with God in the 'scramble' that He has called us in. Paul teaches this by drawing upon the broad principle--one that has broad application to those who are made "new creations" in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17).
I. THE PRINCIPLE STATED (vv. 17, 20, 24).
A. The basic principle is that the believer is to "walk" (as a habit of life) in that temporal situation of life in which God's call came to them. A man or woman is to ""remain" in the same "calling" (or life situation) in which he or she was "called". The "call" being described here is God's 'effectual call' of a man or woman to salvation in Christ.
B. This principle is mentioned three times in this passage; and each mention of it contributes an insight to our understanding of it.
1. We should assume that God has sovereignly worked to "distribute" or "assign" the situation in life in which each one of us has been called (v. 17). God calls some while in this situation, others while in that. It can safely be assumed that God's hand was on that person even before the call--placing them in the situation in which He wished to call them.
2. We are not to consider that God's call of salvation necessarily requires us to leave that temporal situation ("the calling") in which we were called by God's grace to salvation (v. 20). Of course, if the situation is, by definition, sinful, then we would by necessity have to leave it. But if it isn't a situation that is clearly a sin, it's God's will that we "remain" in it until clearly led to do otherwise.
3. We are to remain "with God" in that situation of life in which we were called (v. 24). We should know that He is with us in it; and that we are to worship Him in it, fellowship with Him in it, obey His commandments in it, and "walk" with Him in it. God gives us the privilege of being His witness in that situation, and to serve Him and walk with Him in it.
C. Paul says that this is a principle with broad application. He says "And so I ordain in all the churches" (v. 17). This isn't something particular only to the Corinthians. It is something for us as well.
II. THE PRINCIPLE ILLUSTRATED (vv. 18-19; 21-23).
A. To illustrate this principle to the Corinthians, Paul draws upon two common "life situations" that serve as broad examples in two main areas of life. First, Paul draws upon an example from a temporal religious situation (vv. 18-19).
1. He describes a situation in which someone was called to faith in Christ while "circumcised". This may be a reference to actual physical circumcision; but it also may speak in a broad manner of those who live under the full spectrum of Jewish ceremonial observances. It is not required of them, after coming to Christ, that they now either become physically "uncircumcised" (such a thing is described in 1 Maccabees. 1:15), or perhaps to renounce all Jewish patterns of life. He also describes a situation in which someone was called to faith in Christ while "uncircumcised"; and likewise stresses that it isn't necessary for such a person to now be circumcised or begin to observe Jewish ceremonial laws. (See Acts 15). If they were "uncircumcised" when called, they should stay "uncircumcised". And if they were "circumcised" when called, they shouldn't seek to undo their circumcision.
2. The important thing in the call to Christ is not the outward patterns, but rather the obedience from the heart to the commandments of God. Circumcision is a symbolic expression that, in and of itself, is "nothing". And the act of "uncircumcision" is, in and of itself "nothing" The important thing is a genuine faith in God and a desire to be obedient to His commandments.
B. Second, Paul draws upon an example from a temporal social situation (vv. 21-23).
1. He describes a situation in which someone was called to faith in Christ while a slave. Such a person is urged not to let it trouble them, or to be concerned about it. They are not out of God's will if they are under the authority of a human master; but are rather urged, since they were called in that situation, to walk with God faithfully in that situation (Eph. 6:5-8; Col. 3:22-25; 1 Tim. 6:1; 1 Pet. 2:18). But Paul also urges that, if such a person can be made free, they should make use of the opportunity. In such a case, the God who called them while in slavery is now sovereignly calling them to a new situation in life in which to live out the implication of their call in Christ.
2. Either situation can be seen as God's will for that person who is called to Christ. On the one hand, if they are called while a slave, they are made into Christ's "freedman". On the other, if they are called while "free", they are made into Christ's "slave". Paul stresses that, in either situation, that person has been "bought at a price" (v. 23; see also 6:20)--that is, the price of Christ's own life--and therefore are not to think of themselves ultimately as 'under' or 'over' other men, but always ultimately only under servitude do Jesus Christ.
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So then, if someone was called by God while in an unbelieving marriage, and are now living as a believer married to an unbeliever, they are not to seek to change end their marriage. They should stay in the situation in which they came to Christ, and allow God to work through them in it. If they came to Christ while widowed or unmarried, they don't need to rush into a marriage in order to be in God's will.
God has graciously and sovereignly chosen to call us in these situations, and commands us to now walk with Him in them so that we may be His lights shining in that place that we've been called.
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