Russell and Duenes

1 Cor 7:17-24 – Remain Where You Were Called

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I chose to pass over 1 Cor 7:10-16 because those verses deal specifically with exhortations to those who are married and perhaps consider it “better” to get out of their marriages. The issues are not irrelevant to our discussion here, but don’t deal directly with the issue of singleness v. marriage. They do, however, provide the basis for Paul’s statement in v. 17: “Only let each person lead the lifethat the Lord has assigned to him, and to which God has called him. This is my rule in all the churches.” In other words, if you were married when called by Christ, don’t seek to end your marriage because you think this will be more “spiritual” and allow for greater devotion to Christ. Fee comments,

“Under the rubric ‘It is good not to have relations with a woman,’ they were seeking to change their present status, apparently because as believers they saw this as conforming to the more spiritual existence that they had already attained. Thus they saw one’s status with regard to marriage/ celibacy as having religious significance and sought change because of it. Under the theme of ‘call’ Paul seeks to put their ‘spirituality’ into a radically different perspective…That is, the call to Christ has created such a change in one’s essential relationship (with God) that one does not need to seek change in other relationships (with people). These latter are transformed and given new meaning by the former. Thus one is no better off in one condition than in the other” (307) [emphasis mine].

We note that Paul, even here, does not offer an absolutist perspective on this. He says that if one was a slave when Christ called him, he should “not let it trouble [him].” However, “if you are able also to become free, rather do that.” In other words, if freedom from slavery were to become an option, then one should avail himself of serving Christ as a freedman. Fee again, “Paul’s point, then, is not that one must stay where one was when  called. Rather, it is precisely as the imperative in this verse implies: Whatever your situation was at the time of your call, don’t let that become a concern to you. One’s calling in Christ raises one about that urgency” (318).

Thus, the Corinthians should certainly not end their marriages because of an erroneous belief that returning to singleness would be better Id. Rather, they, and we, should seek to be content in whatever our situation, and we ought to serve the Lord with devotion in it. This really is the central point overall, and a radically freeing one. We often feel that we must put ourselves in a “better” position to serve Christ, whether it be a “better” living situation or a “better” job or a “better” spouse or a “better” church. (Fee, 321-22). Paul is not saying that one is compelled to stay in absolutely every situation he was in when called, but rather is saying that, whether one does so or not, one’s ability to honor Christ fully is not hindered. Id. As long as we are abiding in Christ in our current situation (cf., John 15), we can be spiritually fruitful Id. This should be clear in our minds as we get to the main thrust of Paul’s view on singleness and marriage in the next verses.

-D

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Written by Michael Duenes

January 11, 2012 at 4:37 am

Posted in Duenes, Theology

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