1 Corinthians 7:17-24
Your Social Status Doesn’t Matter
As much in need of correction as the Corinthian church was, I credit them with at least this much: they were trying to figure out how to apply the gospel to their lives, though they were going about it the wrong way and incorporating pagan ideas from their past lives into their thinking (e.g., that the body is evil and serves only to imprison the soul). Shedding the lies we believed as unbelievers while under the influence of the world is one of the main tasks of a believer when he comes to saving faith, and indeed is a lifelong venture. It can be very difficult and requires good Bible teachers and wise brothers and sisters in the faith to disciple us in the task.
The gospel finds us all in various social positions. Where the gospel finds a woman today in a working class neighborhood in Chicago is different from where the gospel finds a farmer in Kansas or an Arab in Israel. Each of these people will have different jobs, different family situations, and different social arrangements. And although we are all to pursue godliness in our lives whatever our social status, Paul makes it clear here that that social status itself is quite irrelevant. The Corinthians were making much over whether a believer should marry or not. Paul basically answers, “It doesn’t matter.” Well, specifically, he says, “In whatever condition each was called, there let him remain with God.” Yet, if a slave my gain his freedom, then gain it. And in tomorrow’s passage, if one who is unmarried wishes to marry, then marry, but if not, don’t. Are you circumcised, good; if not, that’s good, too. What God does desire is that if you are married, that you have a godly marriage, that if you are not married, that you use your singleness to God’s service and glory, that if you have a job, that you do it as unto the Lord, that if you are retired or disabled that you use your discretionary time for the Lord. If you are rich, be rich unto the Lord and share; if you are poor, be poor unto the Lord and pray. Wherever we find ourselves, we are to be there for the Lord and for His service.
Christians often struggle with majoring on minors and minoring on majors; the Corinthians were doing this here, not that a decision whether or not to marry is a minor thing, but that the major thing is what we shall do with that decision for the Lord’s service. Once again Paul reminds these Corinthians, “You were bought with a price” (6:20). Even a slave in the lowest social condition, as many early Christians were, is God’s free man, and a free man God’s slave. We make too much of this world and our social status; it means nothing to God. It’s what we do for the Lord with that status that matters.