THE NEW WORLD ORDER
Sovereign God, illumine my life by the inviting, guiding, judging, redeeming light of your holy Word. Speak Lord.
Read 1 Corinthians 7:12–24
12 To the rest I say this (I, not the Lord): If any brother has a wife who is not a believer and she is willing to live with him, he must not divorce her. 13 And if a woman has a husband who is not a believer and he is willing to live with her, she must not divorce him. 14 For the unbelieving husband has been sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife has been sanctified through her believing husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy.
15 But if the unbeliever leaves, let it be so. The brother or the sister is not bound in such circumstances; God has called us to live in peace. 16 How do you know, wife, whether you will save your husband? Or, how do you know, husband, whether you will save your wife?
Concerning Change of Status
17 Nevertheless, each person should live as a believer in whatever situation the Lord has assigned to them, just as God has called them. This is the rule I lay down in all the churches. 18 Was a man already circumcised when he was called? He should not become uncircumcised. Was a man uncircumcised when he was called? He should not be circumcised. 19 Circumcision is nothing and uncircumcision is nothing. Keeping God’s commands is what counts. 20 Each person should remain in the situation they were in when God called them.
21 Were you a slave when you were called? Don’t let it trouble you—although if you can gain your freedom, do so. 22 For the one who was a slave when called to faith in the Lord is the Lord’s freed person; similarly, the one who was free when called is Christ’s slave. 23 You were bought at a price; do not become slaves of human beings. 24 Brothers and sisters, each person, as responsible to God, should remain in the situation they were in when God called them.
New International Version (NIV)Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Help us, O Lord, to show such love and faithfulness in our relationships that our love for Christ may lead others to want to know and love him too.
Paul makes two astonishing claims about the marriage of believers and unbelievers. The unbelieving partner is ‘sanctified’ by the believing wife or husband and their children are also made holy (v 14). Holiness has no meaning other than belonging to or being set apart for God. Nowhere else in Paul’s writings is there any similar thought that salvation may be mediated through a person. In chapter 1, Paul has unequivocally declared that people who believe are only saved by ‘the power of God.’1 The standard explanation of these verses is that the love and faithfulness of the believing partner leads the unbeliever and the children to Christ. Is there more than a physical meaning to ‘becoming one flesh’?2 Does God grant a special gift to faithful believing partners to bring their families to God? Paul certainly says that a Christian should not divorce their partner simply because they are not Christian (v 12).
Paul then turns to people’s status in society. Following his understanding of the imminent return of Christ, Paul discourages Christians from putting effort into changing their status in a world order which will shortly disappear. Being Jew or Gentile will shortly be irrelevant (v 19). So will the distinction between slave and free.
Passages such as this are often cited to condemn Paul for not being critical of slavery. There were many slaves among the early believers but few slave owners. Paul famously urged Philemon to free his Christian slave Onesimus,3 but his general advice was that Christian slave owners should treat their slaves justly and that Christian slaves should be obedient.4 For Paul, this world’s order was rapidly passing away. In the coming kingdom, there would be no such inequality, no slave or free, but all would be equal in the sight of God.
‘There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.’5
Loving Father, I lift up to you the marriages I know are in trouble. Guide these couples to make wise and godly choices during these difficult times.
1 Cor 1:18,21 2 Gen 2:24 3 Phlm 16,17 4 Col 3:22 – 4:1 5 Gal 3:28
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