The Thirteenth in a Series of Sermons on 1 Corinthians
Paul does not give us the specifics, but he speaks as though the Corinthian church is in the midst of some sort of serious crisis. While Paul has spoken in some detail about the pressing issues facing this church–the love of pagan wisdom, the rampant sexual immorality, the fact that Christians were suing each other in secular courts and failing to discipline erring members–Paul now speaks of unspecified dire circumstances confronting the Christians in Corinth. This crisis is the reason why Paul urges the members of this church to devote themselves to solving this crisis, and why in the meantime the Corinthians should remain in their current social status until things are resolved.
As we saw last time, Paul is responding to a letter from the Corinthians in which they asked the apostle a number of specific questions about marriage and celibacy. In the opening part of chapter 7, Paul discusses marriage and the question of what to do when one party to the marriage becomes a believer while the other party remains an unbeliever. Paul now moves on to address a Christian’s social status at the time of their conversion. Three times in balance of chapter 7, Paul affirms the general principle “stay as you were when called.” The issues here are very practical. When someone becomes a Christian, they are now a bond-servant of Jesus Christ. How does this relate to their social standing? If they are uncircumcised, do they now submit to circumcision to avoid conflict with Jews? Should Gentiles begin to live as Jews? Should Jews seek to undo their Jewishness? Do the limits placed upon slaves by their masters infringe upon their freedom (standing) in Christ? What should slaves do once they become Christians? Must they stay slaves, or is slavery incompatible with Christianity? And then what about young women, betrothed to be married–what to do about them in the midst of the current crisis?
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