December 13, 2012
Commentary on First Corinthians
By: Tom Lowe
Topic #6: Questions Concerning Marriage, 1 Corinthians 7.1-7.40



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.

18 Is any man called being circumcised? let him not become uncircumcised. Is any called in uncircumcision? let him not be circumcised.

Is any man called being circumcised?
This is the first application of the principle laid down inverse 17: “as the Lord hath called every one, so let him walk.” The application he makes relates to “circumcision,” and so he states, “Let every man remain as he is, circumcised or uncircumcised.” That is, if any man that is a Jew, who has been circumcised in his infancy, is called by the grace of God, and there were many in those days, and many of them were in the church at Corinth. Circumcision can be thought of as a sort of initiation ceremony of the Jewish religion. Paul was a Jew by birth and he must have participated in this ritual, but it will become clear that he no longer believed circumcision was necessary. For example, he said, Was anyone called while circumcised? Paul is saying that if you were circumcised when you became a Christian, fine. If you were not circumcised when you became a Christian that is fine also. Those things do not matter. What matters is serving the Lord right where we are at right now. “Circumcision is nothing and uncircumcision is nothing, but keeping the commandments of God is what matters.

let him not become uncircumcised.
This could not be literally done in Paul’s day; but with the medical knowledge we have today I believe it can be done, and probably has already been done by a degenerate element of society. The apostle refers here to certain efforts which were made to remove the marks of circumcision which were often attempted by those who were ashamed of having been circumcised. There were also some Christians with excessive hatred for the Jews who chose to remove the marks of circumcision. Macknight related how "Apostate Jews (by such action) supposed that they freed themselves from their obligation to obey the Law of Moses."  "Some Jews, out of fear of Antiochus, made themselves uncircumcised (1 Maccab. 1:16). The practice is often alluded to by Jewish writers, and is described by them (1 Mac. i. 15 and Cels. de Med. 7.25). It would not be good manners or proper for me to relate the process to my readers, so I have provided the sources, and you can look it up yourself.

Is any called in uncircumcision? let him not become circumcised.
That is, if a Gentile who was never circumcised is called by grace, let him not submit to circumcision, which has been abolished, and is entirely unnecessary as far as salvation is concerned. The Judaizing Christians opposed this particular teaching by the apostle; but Paul when speaking about them said, “And certain men which came down from Judaea taught the brethren, and said, Except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved” (Ac 15.1; KJV). “But there rose up certain of the sect of the Pharisees which believed, saying, That it was needful to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the law of Moses” (Ac 15.5; KJV). And then Pail replied, “Forasmuch as we have heard, that certain which went out from us have troubled you with words, subverting your souls, saying, Ye must be circumcised, and keep the law: to whom we gave no such commandment” (Ac 15.24; KJV). Actually, circumcision is not only unnecessary; it is hurtful and destructive if done on account of it being a necessary element of salvation, because it makes men debtors to do the whole law, and Christ of no consequence. 

It does not matter whether a man is a Jew or Gentile; if he happens to be a converted Jew, he should not feel ashamed, and wish he was uncircumcised. Or, if he is a converted Gentile, he is not under an obligation to be circumcised, but, if for some reason he wants to have the mark of the people of God, he can be circumcised, it is alright.

Paul has expanded the application of this principle, “as the Lord hath called every one, so let him walk.” It applies to other relationships in life. For instance, if when you are converted you belong to the circumcised, that is, if you are an Israelite, don’t try to become a Gentile. If you are a Gentile, don’t try to become an Israelite. Circumcision or uncircumcision is no longer important. Obedience to Christ is the issue now. The Israelite and the Gentile are one in Christ.

The whole point here is that in whatever state you find yourself when you accept Christ, stay right there. I have known many businessmen who get into some Christian organization after their conversion, and the next thing I know they come to me and say that they are thinking of giving up the business and going into full–time Christian work. My friend, if you are a successful businessman, God may have given you a gift to minister in that particular area. He may not intend for you to change and go into full–time Christian work. Let’s go on and listen to what Paul says.

19 Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing, but the keeping of the commandments of God.

Circumcision is nothing,
Circumcision is nothing, given that it has no bearing on a man’s salvation. “For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision; but faith which worketh by love” (Gal 5:6; KJV). By the dispensation of the Gospel all legal observances, which were once essential to salvation, are done away with; and uncircumcision, or the Gentile state, contributes as much to salvation as circumcision or the Jewish state, since they are both equally useless; and now nothing matters in the sight of God except  faith. “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature” (Gal 6:15; KJV). Under the dispensation of the Gospel, of which Christ is the head, neither circumcision—nothing that the Jew can boast of, and nothing that the Gentile can do, amounts to anything at all—There is nothing that either one can contribute to the salvation of their soul.

Circumcision is of no consequence, because, at the present time, it is not what God requires; and a mere external rite can be of no consequence one way or the other. God requires something entirely different now--The heart is everything; and that is what God demands. “But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; AND CIRCUMCISION IS THAT OF THE HEART, IN THE SPIRIT, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God” (Romans 2:29; KJV).

“CIRCUMCISION OF THE HEART” is that circumcision which is acceptable to God, and it meets His requirements for today, and is that which is accompanied with holiness of heart; with the cutting off of sins; and with a pure life. The objective of circumcision, as given to the Jews, was to be a sign of separation from the heathen world, and of consecration to the holy God. And this objective implied the repudiation and forsaking of all sins; or the cutting off of everything that was offensive to God. This was a work chiefly assigned to the heart. This concept was often stated and enforced in the writings of the Old Testament: “Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart, and be no more stiffnecked” (Deut 10:16; KJV). Here is plain proof from God himself that this precept concerned spiritual things, and that it was not about the cutting away of a piece of flesh that was the object of the Divine commandment, but the purification of the soul, without which all traditions and ceremonies are of no avail. Loving God with all the heart, soul, mind, and strength; the heart being circumcised to enable them to do it, was, from the beginning, the all in all, purpose, and fulfillment of the whole law.

 “IN THE SPIRIT” is an expression explaining further what he had just said about circumcision. It does not mean by the Holy Spirit, but that the work was to take place in the soul and not in the body only. It was to be an internal, spiritual work, and not merely an external service.

and uncircumcision is nothing,
The Jews would definitely give an “amen” to this line, because to them circumcision was everything. They say, “The holy blessed God rejects the uncircumcised, and brings them down to hell; as it is said: “Son of man, wail for the multitude of Egypt, and cast them down, even her, and the daughters of the famous nations, unto the nether parts of the earth, with them that go down into the pit” (Ezek 32:18; KJV). And Isaiah said, “Therefore hell hath enlarged herself, and opened her mouth without measure: and their glory, and their multitude, and their pomp, and he that rejoiceth, shall descend into it” (Isaiah 5:14; KJV); that is, those that do not have the law of circumcision; as it is said in Psalms 105:10: “And confirmed the same unto Jacob for a law, and to Israel for an everlasting covenant.”  The gist of what they said is that hell has been enlarged so it can hold all those who are not circumcised. But as the apostle said “Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing. The next line tells us what is important to God.

but the keeping of the commandments of God.
This is the reason why circumcision and uncircumcision should be treated with indifference. They are nothing; they have no influence either favorable or unfavorable on our relationship to God. No man is made better or worse for being either circumcised or uncircumcised. The Gospel has raised men above all such things. Paul says here that what is important to God is that you keep his commandments; and we can add to that—Loving God with all the heart, soul, mind, and strength; but it is impossible to love, obey, and serve God unless you have a circumcised heart. However, like circumcision and uncircumcision, these things are useless to those who want a relationship with Jesus Christ, because he only fellowships with Christians.  “Keeping the commandments of God” will not save you, and neither will “loving God;” “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God…Not of works, lest any man should boast” (Eph 2:8-9; KJV). After a man has been converted, the Holy Spirit enters into the heart, and begins the work of birthing a new creation and the process of sanctification. Then and only then can this man love God and keep His commandments, receive the reward of grace, have peace of mind and peace with God, and enjoy the presence of God.

The principle in view here is: External observances without internal piety are like nothing.

20 Let every man abide in the same calling wherein he was called.

Let every man abide in the same calling
There is nothing in this passage that would deny any man his right to make every effort to better the circumstances of his life; but what is forbidden is any thought that such "better circumstances" may possibly indicate a higher spiritual condition. For instance, a slave could be just as noble and successful a Christian as anyone else. Furthermore, many Christians have destroyed their spiritual lives, or greatly damaged them, through an extreme desire to improve their economic or social status. In Paul’s letter to Timothy there is something that is applicable to this discussion: "But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and raiment let us be therewith content” (1 Tim 6.6-8; KJV). The believer is to be “content” which is great gain. Too many marriages have gone on the rocks because this principle was violated. Many couples are strained financially, putting enormous pressure on their marriage. Contentment, when coupled with godliness, brings great pleasure and harmony.

“In the same calling” means in the same occupation, profession, or status of life. We use the word calling to represent the occupation or profession of a man. Probably the original idea which led men to designate a profession as a calling was the belief that God called every man to the profession and rank which he occupies; that is, that it is by God’s arrangement (his will or plan), or providence, that he has that rank; he did not do it on his own. In this way every man has a call to the profession in which he is engaged, in the same way as ministers of the gospel are called by God; and every man should have as clear evidence that God has called him to the sphere of life in which he lives, as ministers of the gospel should have that God has called them to their profession. This declaration of Paul’s, that everyone is to remain in the same occupation or status they were in when they were converted, is to be taken in a general and not in an unqualified sense. It does not intend to teach that a man may not seek to change his profession when an opportunity to do so emerges. It may be that God has opened a door for advancement; but any change should be preceded with much prayer, meditation, and counsel. But, by remaining in the same occupation the Christian can show that religion is the friend of order; that it did not disregard or disturb the affairs of social life; that it was competent to produce contentment, a humble walk, and to prevent bellyaching by those who think someone is more blessed by God and happier than they are. It becomes clear from the next verse that the Lord did not intend to prevent all change. Some of the circumstances in which a change of circumstances, or of calling, may be proper when a man is converted, are the following:
1. When a man is a slave, and he can obtain his freedom.
2. When a man is engage in a wicked calling or course of life when he was converted, even if it is lucrative, he should abandon it as quickly as possible. For example, if a man is engaged, in the slave-trade, as John Newton was, he should leave it immediately. If he is engaged in the manufacture or sale of illegal drugs, he should quit at once, even if it means great personal sacrifice. There is no way to justify continuing in a course of life like this after a man is converted.
3. Where a man can increase his usefulness by choosing a new profession. The usefulness of many men has been improved by his leaving an agricultural or mechanical employment; or by his leaving law enforcement, or the business profession, and becoming a minister of the gospel. In such situations, religion not only permits a man to change his profession, but it demands it; and God will not smile upon him, or bless him, unless the change is made. An opportunity to become more useful imposes an obligation to change the course of life.

wherein he was called.
The man of God should stay in the same occupation and circumstances he was in when he was called by the grace of God, provided that his calling, status, and occupation is lawful, honest, and has a good reputation; otherwise he should not stay where he was, but he should take up another occupation like Matthew and Zacchaeus did when Jesus called them, leaving the scandalous employment of a publican. Furthermore, the apostle’s desire is that a man who is making an honest living stay where he is at and not change unless he believes it is God’s will for him to do so. When a man changes his status or occupation it must not be done rashly and unadvisedly, and without wise and good reasons; but the principle aim of the apostle is to teach contentment in every condition, and station of life, and that persons should not be uneasy and restless in it, and seek to modify their lives when there is no good reason to do so. He may particularly have in mind, either the different condition of married and unmarried persons, since he had been speaking on that subject (see 1 Corinthians 7:27), or to the different circumstances of Jew and Gentile, whether they should be circumcised or uncircumcised, which was the subject of the previous verse; or to the different situation of bond and free, servant and master, in the following verse; and persuades them to remain undemanding and satisfied, since the Christian religion does not necessarily require a change in a man's civil circumstances of life.

21 Art thou called being a servant? care not for it: but if thou mayest be made free, use it rather.

Art thou called being a servant?
In that day there were slaves and freemen. Half the populations of the Roman Empire at this time were slaves. Athens, for instance, had, in her best days, twenty thousand freemen, and four hundred thousand slaves. Thousands of the early Christians were in this condition. Slavery flourished in Greece, and in every part of the heathen world. It was a very important topic of discussion among the believers in the Corinthian Church, and they argued about what ought to be done in those instances where the man who was converted was a slave. Many slaves who had been converted might argue that the institution of slavery was contrary to the rights of man; that it destroyed their equality with other men; that it was cruel, and oppressive, and unjust; and therefore they should not submit to it; that they should burst their bonds, and assert their rights as freemen. In order to prevent restlessness, uneasiness, and insubordination; in order to preserve the peace of society, and to prevent religion from being regarded as creating disorganization and disorder, Paul states the principle on which the slave was to act. And by referring to this case, which was hotly debated, he probably planned to instill within the Christians at Corinth the conviction that it is their duty to maintain order and contentment in general, and also, in all the other relations in which men might be when they were converted.

Were you called while a slave? Do not be concerned about it; but if you can become free, go for it, because the man who is called in the Lord while a slave is the Lord's freedman. Likewise he who is called while free is Christ's slave. Brethren, let each one remain with God in that state in which he was called. Remember: You were bought with a price, so do not consider yourself the slave of a man, but of God and Jesus Christ. Do everything as if Jesus was your Master, which He is. Paul’s advice for servants is: If a servant was converted, let him not be distressed over his humble state; but if he had the means of becoming free, let him choose freedom. The state a man is in when he is called by grace is not important, and should not even be a consideration

The principle here is: If a person was a slave or a servant of a man, He was not to think that God wanted him to be freed from his master, and he was not to try to get released from that state.

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 menpleasers; 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.

is the Lord's freeman:
He is made free and endowed with liberty by the Lord. This is said to comfort the heart of the slave, and to make him content with his circumstances. The sense is this: "You are blessed with freedom from the bondage of sin by the Lord. You were formerly a slave to sin, but now you are liberated. That bondage was more dreadful, than the bondage of the body. But from that long, dreadful, and oppressive servitude, you are now free. Your condition, even though you are a slave, is far better than it was before; you are now the true freeman, the freeman of the Lord.”
• “Not now as a servant, but above a servant, a brother beloved, specially to me, but how much more unto thee, both in the flesh, and in the Lord?” (Philem 1:16; KJV).
• “Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness…But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life” (Romans 6:18, 22; KJV).

He is the Lord’s and he is free:
a) He is free from sin, not from being sinful, but from the servitude, guilt, and damning power of it: “If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed” (John 8:36; KJV).
b) He is free from Satan, not from his temptations and insults, but from his dominion and captivity; he is ransomed from him, by the redemption of Christ, and is turned from his power by conversion; he does not have the influence over him he had before; and he is so safe and secure from him, that he can never be destroyed by him, and in a short time Satan will be bruised under his feet.
c) He is free from the law, the observance of the ceremonial law; and from the moral law, not from obedience to it, but from the bondage, curse, and condemnation of it: “For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death” (Romans 8:2; KJV).
d) He is free to use all things, provided it is done in faith, the peace and confidence of weak brethren is protected, and the glory of God preserved.
e) He is free to receive all the privileges of the house of God, and he has access to the throne of grace, and he can come any time he wants; and though a servant, in another sense he is a very happy man.
f) His spirit is free; while those who are not slaves, and perhaps his masters, are under a more severe and detestable bondage than his.
g) He is free to enjoy peace with God, the presence of Christ, joy in the Holy Ghost, fellowship with saints, and a well grounded hope of glory.
h) He is not only called to the liberty of grace, which he enjoys, but will be delivered into the glorious liberty of the children of God; and therefore he has no reason to be uneasy with his servitude.

Freedom from sin is the highest blessing that can be conferred on men; and if that is yours, you should have little regard for your external circumstances in this life. You will soon be admitted to the eternal liberty of the saints in glory, and will forget all your toils and hardships in this world. Love makes Christ's service perfect freedom: “For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another” (Gal 5:13; KJV).

likewise he that is called, being free,
He that is a free man (his own master), when called by the grace of God, with a holy and effective calling, though he may be the master of others in a civil sense, is Christ’s servant, in a spiritual sense.

is Christ's servant.
He is bought by Christ with the price of his precious blood; and therefore He has a right to him, and a claim to his service; and he becomes a voluntary servant to Him, through the power of his grace that rests upon him; and though he serves his Lord Christ without mercenary yearnings, freely, readily, and cheerfully, from a principle of love and gratitude, he will not fail to receive a reward of grace. He will be honored by God, approved of by men, and he will receive the reward of the inheritance: Christian liberty, and the service of Christ, are not at all inconsistent; nor should we entertain any other notions of liberty, but what are consistent with serving the Lord; whatever liberty contradicts that, is not true liberty; though it may look like it, it is nothing but bondage: “Let the brother of low degree rejoice in that he is exalted…But the rich, in that he is made low: because as the flower of the grass he shall pass away” (James 1:9-10; KJV).

One that is called while he is a servant is the Lord's freed-man; but one that is free when called is the Lord's servant. Although he is not discharged from his master's service, he is freed from the dominion and enslavement of sin. He may not be enslaved to Christ, yet he is duty-bound to yield himself up entirely to his pleasure and service; and yet that service is perfect freedom. Note, Our comfort and happiness depend on what we are to Christ, not what we are in the world. The goodness of our outward condition does not discharge us from the duties of Christianity, or the badness of it bar us from Christian privileges. He who is a slave may also be a Christian freeman; he who is a freeman may be Christ's servant, as well: “O LORD, truly I am thy servant; I am thy servant, and the son of thine handmaid: thou hast loosed my bonds” (Psalms 116:16; KJV).

23 Ye are bought with a price; be not ye the servants of men.

Ye are bought with a price;
You (that is, all Christians, bond and free) were “bought with a price.” If you are a Christian, then you were purchased by Christ with his most precious blood: “Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers…But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot” (1 Peter 1:18-19; KJV). You belong to Christ; you are his slaves, and you should act accordingly.

Brothers and Sisters, I hope you know that Jesus paid a terrible price for you! At one time, You and I stood under the judgment of God, because the Scripture says “… the soul that sinneth, it shall die” (Ezek. 18:4). That law still stands, since God has never revoked it. Here’s something you can be certain about: God never changes; He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. The immutability (unchangeableness) of God is difficult for unbelievers to deal with—if they give any thought to it at all. You may have heard it said that we are living in a new age, and people have new thoughts, morals, and values—that may be true, but God has not changed. Why would he? He has a plan for mankind, he is working his plan, and He knows the ending. In fact, He knew the end before he created man, so there would be no reason for Him to change. And I doubt that he learned anything when He read the morning newspaper or listened to the television newscaster this morning. He didn’t hear anything He didn’t already know, because He knows all things—past, present, and future. And God has not changed His verdict that “the soul that sinneth, it shall die.” That brings up a very important question, “What can you or I do today to redeem ourselves?” Unfortunately, the answer is, Nothing! Then how can we be redeemed? There is only one way, “With the precious blood of Christ.” Simon Peter was a fisherman, and I doubt that he had much in the way of education, but I can hear that rugged fisherman say that the blood of Christ is precious. I am ashamed to say it, but the blood of Christ is not mentioned in some religious circles. The words have been removed from the hymnals of many liberal churches. Their reasoning is that the blood is crude, and some people may be offended. Well, I disagree, I don’t think it is crude, at all, and Simon Peter didn’t think so either; he said it was precious. And he said that we were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver and gold, “but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.” This is an objective statement of our salvation. This is what God did for you and me; don’t you love Him for that?

The rest of the verse is “be not ye the servants of men.” Does this sound like a contradiction; I don’t think so? I’ll explain with an example. A cocktail waitress was converted by hearing the gospel on the radio. Everything about the Bible was brand new to her. She asked a Christian friend a question about whether she should give up being a cocktail waitress because she just didn’t feel right about it. She answered, “It is up to you.” It is a decision that you must make. If you have a conviction about it, then give it up. If you want to know what I think about it personally, I think you ought to give it up. However don’t give it up because I say so, but give it up if that becomes your conviction.” She did give it up and found another job within a couple of weeks. She had been bought with a price; she was not to be a servant of man.

Friends, you have been redeemed by the blood of Jesus Christ: “For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's” (1 Cor 6:20; KJV).

be not ye the servants of men.
That is, "Do not consider yourselves the slaves OF MEN. Your lot in life may be a humble one; you may even be considered a slave by the law of the land; but you were purchased by Christ, therefore consider yourself the servant of God.  Obey Him and serve Him even as you serve your earthly master, since all those who are bought with a price—all Christians, whether bond or free—are in fact the servants (slaves) of God. Continue in the state you were in when you were redeemed; but think of yourself as the servant of God, bound by his laws, subject to him, and really serve him, while at the same time being obedient to your  master.

By this, the apostle does not intend to persuade any who are believers in Jesus Christ to leave their master, like Onesimus left Philemon by running away, because this would contradict what he has said here and other places, where he wholeheartedly urges servants to continue in the service of their masters, and to perform all aspects of their work vigorously and cheerfully, and with great sincerity and integrity. But his meaning is, that since they were redeemed by the blood of Christ, they should not be servants to the desires of men, or obey them when their commands are wicked and sinful, since that would be contrary to the Gospel, and unlawful according to the word of God, and it would go against the command of their Lord and Master Jesus Christ. Moreover, as far as religion and Christianity is concerned, they should not submit to the authority of men, or be subject to the doctrines and directives of men; whether they relate to Jewish ceremonies, or Gentile superstitions. They were to call no man on earth master, or allow anyone to lord it over them as the false teachers did in the Corinthian church; but, instead, they are to acknowledge Christ, who had bought them with His own precious blood, as their only Lord and Master.

The whole point here is that the slave of one master cannot be the slave of another. Anyone who is redeemed by Christ, who feels that he belongs to him, that his will is the supreme rule of his life, and who performs all his duties, not as a man-pleaser, but as if he is serving the Lord, not men—“Not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart…With good will doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men…Knowing that whatsoever good thing any man doeth, the same shall he receive of the Lord, whether he be bond or free” (Eph 6:6-8; KJV)—he is inwardly free, whatever his external conditions may be.

24 Brethren, let every man, wherein he is called, therein abide with God.

Brethren, let every man, wherein he is called,
The apostle repeats the advice given in verses 17 and 20, but he begins it with that tender and affectionate term, "brethren", perhaps to get them to listen more closely as he proceeds to communicate to them that whatever difference there might be in their social state and condition, there were no differences  that have to do with their religion; they were all brethren, they were Paul’s brethren, and they were even the brethren of Christ.  With that in mind he says, “Let every man remain in the domestic and social condition he was in when the call of God found him.”

therein abide with God.
He sums up his advice to the Corinthian believers: Let every man wherein he is called abide therein with God. By this he means the state a man is in when he is converted to Christianity. No one should use religion or his faith as an excuse to change their social status. He should stay in the condition he was in when God called him (that is the will of God, who knows all men, and what is best for them), and continue to serve his master and do a good job of it, because now he can do all things (well) through Christ.

Note, The special presence and favor of God are not limited to our outward condition or performance. He may bless those who are circumcised as well as those who are uncircumcised; the servant as well as the free man. In this respect “there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, barbarian nor Scythian, bond nor free” (Colossians 3:11). The favor of God knows no bounds. Every believer has the same access to the throne of grace, and enjoys the same communion with God; and therefore should be content in their present situation. The presence and blessings of God do not come to us because of our outward conditions or anything we do, but because He is our loving heavenly Father, who enjoys giving good gifts to His children.

It is very likely that some of the slaves at Corinth, who had been converted to Christianity, had been led to think that their Christian privileges absolved them from the necessity of continuing as slaves; or, at least, brought them to the level of their Christian masters. A spirit of this kind might have soon led to confusion and insubordination, and brought scandals into the Church. It was therefore, a very proper subject for the apostle to include in this letter; and you would think that the Corinthians would respectfully bow to his authority.

When a person is converted, whatever he is doing, wherever he is, he is to remain in that position as long as he is free to serve God in that relationship. God must be first. “Therein abide with God.” If his situation will not permit God to be first, then he should change the situation, as the cocktail waitress did.


Questions and comments are welcomed

 “Human love says, ‘I will love you if . . .’ God says, ‘I will love you even . . .’” —Stuart Briscoe