Marriage and Calling - Page 3 of 5 (series: Lessons on 1st Corinthians)

by John Lowe
(Woodruff, S.C.)

care not for it:
Do not be troubled by it, and uneasy with it; do not be anxious; but bear the yoke patiently, go through your servitude cheerfully, and serve your master faithfully; do not look upon it as an objection to your calling, a contradiction to your Christian liberty, or as a rebuke of your profession of faith in Jesus Christ. Do not let your status as a slave cause you anxiety and distress; do not think it is disgraceful, do not let it get you down; but be content in the lot in life where God has placed you. If you can, obtain your freedom in a proper way; but if you cannot do it don’t let it become a subject of painful reflection. Strive to show the Christian spirit in the sphere of life where God by his providence has placed you, and show that you are able to bear the sorrows and endure the drudgery and hard work that is your humble lot in life; and above all else, submit to the will of God, and you will advance the appeal of the true religion. Do your duty while you are in that calling, and always demonstrate the spirit of a Christian. This duty was often imposed on those who were servants, or slaves:
• “Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ” (Eph 6:5; KJV).
• “Servants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh; not with eyeservice, as men pleasers; but in singleness of heart, fearing God” (Col 3:22; KJV).
• “Let as many servants as are under the yoke count their own masters worthy of all honour, that the name of God and his doctrine be not blasphemed” (1 Tim 6:1; KJV).
• “Exhort servants to be obedient unto their own masters, and to please them well in all things; not answering again” (Titus 2:9; KJV).
• “Servants, be subject to your masters with all fear; not only to the good and gentle, but also to the forward” (1 Peter 2:18; KJV).

This duty of the slave is meant to show the spirit of a Christian, even in the midst of degradation and injury, just as it is required of a Christian, who is injured in any way, to bear it in a manner that complements a follower of the Lord Jesus. Nor does this passage prove that a slave should not desire freedom if it can be legally obtained, since this is assumed in the following clause. Every human being has a right to desire to be free, and to seek liberty. But it should be done, in accordance with the rules of the Gospel, so that the Christian religion is not dishonored, others are not injured, and the foundations of society overturned.

but if thou mayest be made free,
“But if thou mayest be made free,” can be expressed as if it is in your power to become free. That is, if your master or the laws set you free; or if you can purchase your freedom; or if the laws can be changed in an accepted manner; or if freedom can be obtained in any manner that is not sinful. In many cases a Christian master might set his slaves free; in others, perhaps, the laws might do it; in some, perhaps, the freedom of the slave might be purchased by a Christian friend. In all these instances it would be good to embrace the opportunity of becoming free, because a man who is free is in a better situation, since he has more leisure to serve Christ. The apostle does not speak of insurrection, and the whole scope of the passage is against an attempt on their part to obtain freedom by force and violence. But this may have been the thing feared the most throughout the Roman Empire, since slaves greatly outnumbered freedmen. The apostle clearly teaches them to remain in their condition, to bear it patiently and submissively, and while in that state to bear their hard lot in life with a Christian spirit, unless their freedom could be obtained without violence and bloodshed. And the same duty is still binding. As evil as slavery is, the Christian religion requires patience, gentleness, and self-control; not violence, war, insurrection, and bloodshed.

Christianity would teach those who are masters to be kind, tender, and gentle; to liberate their slaves, and to change the laws so that it may be done everywhere. It would not teach the slave to assault his master, and bathe his hands in his blood; to break up the affairs of society by violence; or to dishonor his religion by giving into his feelings of revenge, or by acts of murder.

What Paul has said in regard to literal slavery, can be applied spiritually. We should never allow ourselves to be put under the inappropriate control or influence of others. We should not even follow good men slavishly. Do not say, “I am of Paul; I am of Apollos; I am of Calvin; I am of Wesley.” Do not follow the man instead of his Master. “I will follow anybody if he goes Christ's way, but I will follow nobody, by the grace of God, if he does not go in that direction." (Spurgeon)

use it rather.
The Greek says, "But if even thou mayest be made free, use it," and the context (considering verses 20, 21, and 22 together) favors this view. This advice is not absolute, seeing that the spirit of the Gospel is against slavery. What is advised here is, contentment in one's existing condition (see 1Co 7:24), even though it may be an undesirable one, since all external inequalities of life are compensated for by our union with Christ (see 1 Co 7:22). Do not become overly impatient to cast off your condition as a servant by unlawful means (see 1 Pe 2:13-18); for example, Onesimus ran away from Philemon to gain his freedom (see Phm 10-18). The precept found in 1 Co 7:23 declares, "Become not (according to the Greek) the servants of men," implies that slavery is abnormal: “For they are my servants, which I brought forth out of the land of Egypt: they shall not be sold as bondmen” (Le 25.43; KJV). Men stealers," or slave dealers, are classed in 1 Ti 1:10, with "murderers" and "perjurers: “For whoremongers, for them that defile themselves with mankind, for menstealers, for liars, for perjured persons, and if there be any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine.” NEANDER, GROTIUS and some others explain the verse this way, "If called, being a slave, to Christianity, be content--but yet, if also thou canst be free (as a still additional good, which if thou canst not attain, be satisfied without it; but which, if offered to thee, is not to be despised), make use of the opportunity of becoming free, rather than by neglecting it to remain a slave." I prefer this view, since it is more in line with the tone of the Gospel.

Morgan gave his explanation for the passage: Brethren, let each one remain with God in that calling in which he was called: This principle applies across a broad spectrum: married, unmarried; circumcised, uncircumcised; slave, free. We can seek God's best and be used by Him right where we are."Marriage may be a distraction. Sorrow may become a distraction. Joy may become a distraction, or commerce, or the world. Then we are to turn our back upon all these things."

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.

For he that is called in the Lord,
The call that the apostle makes referenced to is not an external call that can be heard, but an internal call issued by Jesus Christ and brought to bear on the heart of a sinner by the Holy Spirit; an internal, special, powerful, evangelical, and saving call by the grace of God. And it may be said to be, “in the Lord”, either because it is issued by him, he is the cause of it, his grace sets it in motion, and its objective is His glory; or because it is the result of being in him and united to him, since persons are first in the Lord, and then called by him; or because they are called into fellowship and communion with him. It is all true, and it agrees with the sense of the text; seeing that anyone who is effectively called by grace, is called by the Lord, and by virtue of being chosen in him, and being in union to him, they can partake of all the blessings of grace and glory that are with him.

As for the man who is a slave, when he is converted to the Christian faith, he is the Lord's freeman; his condition as a slave does not nullify any of the privileges to which he is entitled as a Christian: on the other hand, all free men, who receive the grace of Christ, must consider themselves the slaves of the Lord, that is, his real property, to be employed and disposed of according to his godly wisdom. They will certainly discover that regardless of their lot in life, the service they render to their Master will be perfect freedom.

being a servant,
He is a slave in a natural and civil sense when he is called; but, when he is converted he becomes a slave in a spiritual sense.

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