I was reading today from the Jewish New Testament, translated for the benefit of Jews by a Messianic Jew named David H. Stern. While reading in I Corinthians I was struck by the stark truth of Paul's words to the Corinthians. Stern does not translate with any essential difference from any other translation, but for some reason my mind grasped the ideas more firmly than it had before. And I got to thinking about Paul's words below:
I Cor. 7:17 Only let each person live the life the Lord has assigned him and live it in the condition he was in when God called him. This is the rule I lay down in all the congregations.
20 Each person should remain in the condition he was in when he was called.
24 Brothers, let each one remain with God in the condition in which he was called.
Some say this is talking about a "present distress." While that may be true, it does not change the truth of Paul's words. And Paul further states, in verse 21 of this chapter:
23 You were bought at a price, so do not become slaves of other human beings.
What exactly is Paul telling us here? We know for a fact that he is referencing marriage, as the entire chapter is devoted to that subject. He is not talking about slavery or circumcision, although I once heard a preacher comment that he really could not comprehend why Paul switched his discussion from marriage to circumcision.
What does it mean to remain in the condition you were in with regard to marriage when you come to God? Paul is clear about what it means, as he gives us specific examples. Were you called single? Stay single. Of course, if you want to marry you have that choice (verses 8-9). Were you called married? Then stay married (verses 10-11). Were you called while married to an unbeliever? Stay married to the unbeliever if he is willing; if he is not willing then you are free (verses 12-16). Were you called divorced? Stay divorced. But, once again, if you marry you have not sinned (verses 27-28).
Furthermore, Paul tells us to feel free to do what he has said in this chapter without fear of others. He tells us not to be slaves of other men but to be free in Christ. As I was reading these verses I wondered why we have not accepted the truth contained in them. It is amazing to me that we cannot grasp that Paul is basically saying the following:
where you are in your marital relationships. You don't need to change
anything. If you're single, fine. If you're married, even to an
unbeliever, fine. If you're divorced, fine. But if you're single and
want to get married or need to get married, go for it. If you're
married and your unbelieving spouse doesn't want you, let her go--you
are free. If you're divorced and you want to marry that's fine
That is the only conclusion I can come away with when I read these scriptures. If it is NOT what Paul intended to say, then, if he HAD wanted to say that, how in the world might he have said it? Three times he tells us it is okay to remain where we are when we come to God, and one of the times he states that he is laying down this rule in all the churches.
I know someone is going to say, "So if we are in a homosexual relationship or practicing incest or bestiality, we may remain that way?" Let's use a little common sense and recognize what Paul is saying. He is talking about relationships between men and women, and we need to keep his words in their proper context.
We are free, brothers and sisters, to stay where we are--single, married, or divorced. God accepts us in any of these conditions. And if we are single, whether never married or divorced, then we have a choice as to whether to stay that way or find a spouse. God recognizes our weaknesses and propensity to mess up our lives, and He accepts us where we are and makes us new creatures in Christ.
Let's not give space for one minute to those who would rob us of our freedom in Christ and make us bow down to their opinions and man-made doctrines that destroy our peace and joy. Let's not make void the sacrifice of the Son of God, who came and died to give us hope and a new life in Him. We must not cower in a corner and keep quiet for fear of angering the thronging mob. We serve a loving, forgiving Savior! Let us proclaim His freedom throughout the land!
October 3, 2006