1 Corinthians 7:17-24. Only let each person lead the life that the Lord has assigned to him, and to which God has called him. This is my rule in all the churches.18 Was anyone at the time of his call already circumcised? Let him not seek to remove the marks of circumcision. Was anyone at the time of his call uncircumcised? Let him not seek circumcision. 19 For neither circumcision counts for anything nor uncircumcision, but keeping the commandments of God. 20 Each one should remain in the condition in which he was called. 21 Were you a bondservant when called? Do not be concerned about it. (But if you can gain your freedom, avail yourself of the opportunity.) 22 For he who was called in the Lord as a bondservant is a freedman of the Lord. Likewise he who was free when called is a bondservant of Christ. 23 You were bought with a price; do not become bondservants of men. 24 So, brothers, in whatever condition each was called, there let him remain with God.
So here’s one of the most important truths we must grasp concerning our union with Christ: “To live is Christ” does not change your earthly situation. Nor, does it make changing your earthly situation your highest objective. In fact, in whatever condition each was called, there let him remain with God. Your situation is an opportunity.
We’ve already seen Paul applying this to widowhood, singleness, and marriage. He will also mention circumcision (religious upbringing) and slavery (social status) above. But to be clear, Paul is not simply saying “always stay as you are.” No. The single Christian can get married. The married Christian can become single (divorce in the case of abandonment, see 7:12-16). The slave should gain their freedom if possible.
What Paul is saying is that the Christian, indwelt by Christ, can do all things through Christ (Philippians 4:13). You can thrive in whatever earthly circumstance you find yourself. Single or married. Slave or free. Churched or unchurched. It doesn’t matter. Christ can live out his life through you in any reality. So changing your situation is not your primary objective as a Christian. Your primary objective is to image Christ.
There is a trap that many of us fall into every day. We are easily discontented with our current reality so we seek to change it in the name of self improvement. But in the process are we failing to see the opportunity God has given to us in the moment? Is our desire for “greener grass” really just a grasp for power or control? This is what we see happening in Corinth. Much of what Paul is still combating in this letter is really the Corinthian’s desire to prove their “spirituality” or their desire to gain a higher social status. Or just a desire for something “more.”
- A Christian widow getting married? Not if it’s just to gain status.
- Divorcing a non-Christian spouse? Not if it’s just to prove your spirituality. If they will stay, then stay married.
- Gentile believer getting circumcised? Not if only to fit in with the spiritual Jews.
- Jewish believer surgically covering up their circumcision (yes that was a thing)? Not if it’s only a way to gain influence in the Gentile market place.
And then there’s slavery. We will return to that topic tomorrow for there is much to think through together.
“To live is Christ” is contentment. It is knowing that in whatever situation I am in I can serve Christ because Christ is serving me from the inside out. Union with Christ is never the minimizing of a hard circumstance, but it is hope and joy within that circumstance. It is seeing life as opportunity, not biding time until the next big thing appears. The Kingdom is in you. Bring it to the world wherever you may be.
“To live is Christ” also eliminates all envy and contempt. Union with Christ makes the slave and the freedman equal in Christ. Circumcised and uncircumcised. Single and married. All can rejoice because they are both elevated and humbled by Christ.
Do you tend to make the best of things or do you spend most of your time thinking about “what might have been?” Are you able to pursue the important thing in life (imaging Christ) over the “urgent” thing in life (changing a circumstance)? How does your union with Christ empower you to use your current situation for his glory and honor? Do you tend to envy other people’s situations or look down on others because of their situation? Are you finding that you are able to see all Christians as equal in Christ?