Marriage and Calling - Page 1 of 5 (series: Lessons on 1st Corinthians)

by John Lowe
(Woodruff, S.C.)

December 13, 2012
Commentary on First Corinthians
By: Tom Lowe

Lesson 6.3: Marriage and Calling
Scripture: 1 Corinthians 7.17-24

1 Cor 7.17-24 (KJV)
17 But as God hath distributed to every man, as the Lord hath called every one, so let him walk. And so ordain I in all churches.
18 Is any man called being circumcised? let him not become uncircumcised. Is any called in uncircumcision? let him not be circumcised.
19 Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing, but the keeping of the commandments of God.
20 Let every man abide in the same calling wherein he was called.
21 Art thou called being a servant? care not for it: but if thou mayest be made free, use it rather.
22 For he that is called in the Lord, being a servant, is the Lord's freeman: likewise also he that is called, being free, is Christ's servant.
23 Ye are bought with a price; be not ye the servants of men.
24 Brethren, let every man, wherein he is called, therein abide with God.

In this section, the apostle advises the Corinthian believers to remain in the state and condition they were in when they were saved. The person who becomes a Christian is born again into the kingdom of God, but that does not nullify what they were before they trusted Christ. Jews are still Jews, slaves are still slaves, and married people are still married. There is no special reason why a believer should change his occupation or position in life after they are saved. When applied to marriage, this simply means that there is no reason why a believer should leave his unbelieving spouse. Paul illustrates his point with the rite of circumcision. There is no need for a Gentile convert to be circumcised. On the other hand, there is nothing that could require a Jewish convert to be uncircumcised. In the New Testament, this rite did not benefit or in any way affect the life of faith: “For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision; but faith which worketh by love” (Gal 5:6; KJV). When applied to the question of marriage, there is no reason why the believer cannot remain faithful to his obligation to God, whether he is single, widowed, married to a believer, or married to an unbeliever. The overriding principle is as Paul said, “Let every man, wherein he is called, therein abide with God.” The prescription for peace and holiness is to remain in communion with God. Therefore, even though it means living with an unbeliever, Paul is able to say, “Let every man abide in the same calling wherein he was called.” With the Lord’s help, they can fulfill their calling in a greater way, and glorify God at the same time.

The apostle also builds on the principle stated in verse 7, that is, “Every man hath his proper gift of God, one after this manner, and another after that.”


17 But as God hath distributed to every man, as the Lord hath called every one, so let him walk. And so ordain I in all churches.

But as God hath distributed to every man,
The apostle has introduced a new subject that is somewhat different from what was discussed before, although it is of the same general nature. He had discussed the question of whether a husband and wife ought to be separated on account of a difference in religion. He now says that the general principle stated there should apply everywhere; that men who become Christians should not try to change their condition, or calling in life; but preferably, they should remain in the situation they were in when they became Christians, and by doing so, they would express the excellence of their religion in the life they live, and the wisdom of God, who called them to it. And it implies that God determines a person’s lot in life; whether rich or poor, in a state of freedom or servitude, of learning or ignorance, etc.; that the aim of religion is NOT to interfere directly with this; and that men should endeavor to show the desirability of religion in the particular sphere into which they may have been placed by Divine Providence before they became converted. The phrase, “as God hath distributed," refers to the circumstances into which men are placed within the framework of the social order.

This passage fits well with what goes before, and follows after; it may have reference to every man's individual gift, whether it is continence (self control; having power over sexual desires), or a disposition to marriage. These are given by God to some, and NOT to others, and those who receive them ought to live accordingly; in a married state: those who do Not have them Ought to remain single—“For I would that all men were even as I myself. But every man hath his proper gift of God, one after this manner, and another after that” (1 Cor 7:7; KJV).

Simply stated, the principle expressed here is, “LIVE AS YOU ARE CALLED.”

as the Lord hath called everyone, so let him walk.
“As the Lord hath called everyone,” indicates the condition or circumstances in which any one is when he is called by the Lord to be a Christian: whether married or unmarried; whether joined to a believer or an unbeliever; whether circumcised or uncircumcised; whether bond or free; a servant or a master. “Let every man abide in the same calling wherein he was called…Brethren, let every man, wherein he is called, therein abide with God” (1 Co 7.20, 24; KJV).

God can work in your life now; Don’t think that you can or will walk with the Lord when you’re your lot in life improves or when you have improved yourself; walk for the Lord in the place you are at right now. Accepting the Gospel will not change anyone’s prior conditions and obligations in any way, despite the fact that the holy principles of Christianity were inherently charged with power to destroy many shameful doctrines and traditions of pagan society. "The Gospel, instead of weakening any moral or just political obligation, strengthened them all."

These words of the apostle are a warning about trying to undo the past in regard to relationships. God tells us to repent of whatever sin is present in our lives and then to move on. If you are married to your second wife, after wrongfully divorcing your first wife and after you have become a Christian, don't think you must leave your second wife and go back to your first wife, because you cannot undo the past. You must live in the place and the condition you were in when to Lord saved you. And you can do so, since the rules of Christianity reach every condition. And in every state a man may live in a way that would be a tribute to his Lord. It is the obligation of every Christian to suit his behavior to his condition and the rules of religion, to be content with his lot, and conduct himself in his state and situation in a way that becomes a Christian. “So let him walk” is also a warning to beware of the danger of thinking other people have it better than you, because of their different station in life: but the truth is clear; married, single, divorced, remarried, don't matter nearly as much as a “steady, faithful, and devoted” walk with Jesus right now.

"The Judaizers taught that by embracing the true religion, all former obligations under which the convert lay were dissolved." Any widespread acceptance of such an error would have resulted in social chaos and precipitated even more savage and relentless persecutions against the church; therefore, for both practical and ethical reasons the error had to be struck down.

The principle we get from what Paul has said so far is “YOU CAN LIVE FOR GOD WHERE YOU ARE RIGHT NOW.”

And so ordain I in all churches.
By this, Paul’s message to the Corinthian believers is, “I do not lay on you a burden which others are not called to bear: this is the general rule which, by the authority of God, I impose on every Christian society. What he had said before and what follows is Not any different from the commands and advice he gave to other churches. Therefore, they should not think he was more strict and severe with them, than with other churches; he was consistent in his teaching, his decisions, and his councils and commands, regardless of the church he was addressing.

In regard to marriage, Paul was not only unwilling to break up the conjugal relationship, but it was a general ordinance of his that, after becoming Christians, men should remain in the same social position which they had occupied before. They are not to walk out of their marriage after they have heard and accepted the Gospel. They are to stay married if the unbelieving partner will allow it. This ought to answer the question for “today.” Unfortunately, there are some ministers and evangelists who have advised people who have had a divorce and have remarried to go back to their first mate after they had come to Christ. May I say, I can’t think of anything more tragic than that kind of advice? I know one woman who finally ended up in a mental institution because she followed the advice of some evangelist who told her to leave her second husband and her lovely Christian home and go back to a drunken husband whom she had previously divorced. How foolish can one be? We need to understand what Paul is saying here.

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