In life, most Christians, at one point or another seek to do something “Christian” with their life. But what does that mean? Today, I will take you through 1 Corinthians 7:17 and surrounding verses to show you what it means exactly to “live as you are called” in a world without focus, a biblical moral code, or purpose.
For a Christian to “live as you are called” biblically speaking, each of us needs to understanding what the Apostle Paul meant by those words. The Apostle Paul was making clear in verse 17 (and the passage in whole) to the Corinthian church and to you and I today, that once saved, we are to “live as you have been called today”. For a very few, this means seminary as they’re calling, but for most it means living out their Christian faith through family, community, vocation/work-marketplace and the world in whole.
As Christians, to live as we are called does NOT mean that we are to “shelter in place”, but “live out our Christian God-calling mission right where God picked us up, cleaned us off, and put us back into society. In other words, once saved, we are not to depart from the world and confine ourselves exclusively to some Christian bubble community, but to as well, stay in the unique community and circles in most cases to share the gospel of Jesus Christ. There are exceptions initially speaking. For example, for those who have been redeemed from things such as drug addiction or sexual perversion or addiction, it is most often necessary to change communities and social circles altogether. This means leaving their current community and immersing themselves within the biblical community to be healed, built up, but then sent back out once ready to “live as they have been called”. It was comfortable for Christian’s in the early church to live in commune before the Lord scattered their Christian community through the Great Dispersion. The same principle holds true for you and I today. Let’s jump into our passage today to see what exactly Paul is saying in chapter seven about “living as we were called”.
When Paul said, “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” (1 Corinthians 7:17) he had a very specific meaning that is made clear by the surrounding verses. Let’s take a look.
In order to understand what Paul was saying in verse 7:17, we must understand that verse within 1 Corinthians 7:17-24 as a whole. The bottom line is that most often, we ware called to live our life in the same place we were when first called by God. Paul gives specific examples, including staying in our existing marriage, our same social status/circles, and life direction in general. I want to repeat verse 17 as it makes the central point of today’s devotion and break it down into three simple points which are: FIRST: We are to be faithful to the Christian calling. SECOND: That as Christians, we are to put off the “old self” and put on the “new”. And THIRD: That as Christian’s, we are to stay in the same place and live out our God given mission as our “new self in Christ”-just where God found us, in order that we may effect that space through our existing relationships with those specific people around us. Let’s look once again at verse 17 and then dissect what Paul is saying through verses 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” (1 Corinthians 7:17). Let’s break this down even further.
FIRST: This section in its entirety develops the theme of faithfulness to the Christian calling rather than a social status. All to often, once saved, Christians migrate into the “Christian bubble”, meaning the Christian culture/community and park themselves or seek to be something other than they were called by God to be and do in the first place. There is nothing wrong with this except for the fact that they withdraw from being salt and light to lost world. Paul gives specific examples in that, “Whether you “are a SLAVE or FREE-Upper class or lower, powerful or powerless, married or single” is irrelevant; what matters is your calling from God” (Colossians 3:11). Submerging oneself in Christian community is good, but withdrawing from being on mission to the lost world is not. More often than not, there is a brief time of submersion of the new Christian out of the world and into the Christian community, but the Christian needs re-entry as a light to the darkness at some point.
SECOND: In Colossians 3:10-3:11, God makes clear that we have put off our old self and put on the new. From that perspective, we are NOT called to live sinfully or in the sinful state the Lord saved us out of. We are to live as new creatures in Christ. I wanted to clarify that point before it becomes a point of confusion or misunderstanding. Paul says in 1 Colossians 3:10-11,
“you have put off the old self with the practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. Here there is NO GREEK and JEW, circumscribed or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian slave, free, but Christ is all and all in all”. Paul uses the words “BARBARIAN”.
In proper context, at this time in history that Paul wrote this, the Word was applied to those who did not speak Greek or had not adopted Greek culture. Speaking of slaves, the word “SCYTHIAN” represents the lowest type of uncouth barbarian nomads of southern Russia. IN CHRIST make clear that distinctions of race, class and culture are transcended once we accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. The point is that despite whether you are slave or free, rich or poor, etc, we are a new creation in Christ and ought to live as such. This means not going back to your old ways with your old friends.
THIRD: God makes clear through Paul, that we as followers of Jesus Christ are to remain in whatever condition (place in life) were were found when God redeemed us as our mission field. Looking a bit ahead to verses 18-23, Paul makes clear that Christian’s are to stay and live just where God found them to effect that space and those specific people with the saving Gospel message of Jesus Christ. It’s a brilliant-perfect, God ordained strategy that gives God an army of pre-positioned, scattered believers who are already positioned exactly where God wants them. They have existing relationships, history and familiarity of the terrain and have now be re-deployed in the same environment they know so well. Simply put, new believers are “sent out” into their unique communities to affect them for Christ
Let me explain further according to the specific examples Paul gave us. Looking at verses 18-23 in whole: Paul addresses a common problem with new believers at that time in their not wanting to remaining circumcised or enslaved or even remaining married. As in v.15, they were to remain in whatever condition (married or single) God “CALLED” them. When Paul wrote “He is not to become uncircumcised” (v.18), he was probably referring to the minor surgery whereby a Jewish man who adopted Hellenistic values could reverse his circumcision to be more palatable to the Greco-Roman society in an effort to “fit in” to his new role as a believer. This is Paul’s point in that we are “live as you were called”. I expanded our understanding in application regarding “living as we are when called to how you and I might live this our in our modern lives.
In other words, Paul’s point was that if God called one as a Jew, he was to continue to be Jewish (albeit having trusted Christ as a “completed Jew”), and if as a Gentile, he was to stay that way also. Paul qualified this directive, however, in v.21, when he urged slaves to become free if they could, though that choice belonged to the master.
IN SUMMARY: When Paul said, “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” (1 Corinthians 7:17). Paul was saying for example, that we are not to seek a divorce from our husband or wife, but to remain faithful to God and the covenant marriage promise we made with our spouse. For Jewish people, they are not to stop being Jewish but only to become “completed Jews” in that they accept, embrace and follow Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. And the list goes on. In the end, FIRST: We are to be faithful to our Christian calling. SECOND: We are to put off the “old self” and put on the “new” in terms of how we think, speak and act. And THIRD: That as Christian’s, we are to stay and live just where God found us to effect that space and those specific people around us that we have existing relationships with the saving Gospel message of Jesus Christ. This includes our marriage, family, work place, and everywhere else we were found when the Lord called us to Himself. The one exception of course is the person living in a sexually deviant community, a cult, criminal community or a truly abusive situation. Outside of that, we are to live out our faith just were we were when God call us to Himself as our mission field.