So how does I Corinthians 7:17-24 apply to vocations other than that of a slave? Perhaps the effectual call came to you as a school child, or you are a wife and mother or you work outside the home, laboring chiefly with your hands or more with your head. The general rule is stay in the situation in which you were effectually called: "Brethren, let every man, wherein he is called, therein abide with God" (24). Obviously, there are exceptions. School children grow up. Your health may force you to change job or even retire. Perhaps your work prior to your conversion was sinful (e.g., as a drug seller or a prostitute) or it involved employment on the Lord’s Day which was not work of necessity or mercy.
Why is staying in the vocation in which you were called the general rule (17, 20, 24)? For one thing, it will help preserve civil order, as opposed to the spectacle of all new believers immediately seeking new jobs. This way, the believer witnesses to the grace of Christ in his old station. Also the catholicity of the church is best served by the saints’ godly walk in their various vocations (and not all leaving them to work in one or two fields). Moreover, this shows that Christian contentment does not rest upon favorable external circumstances (especially in one’s employment) but upon faith in the goodness and providence of God.
There are also occasions when it is not only morally neutral but also spiritually beneficial to change one’s job. The text itself suggests this, if it enables you better to serve the Lord (21) and keep His commandments (19).
All this applies to Christian singleness and marriage, the subject of I Corinthians 7. Let us say you are a married person. You are then effectually called. Are you to leave your unbelieving spouse? "Let every man abide in the same calling wherein he was called" (20). Serve God in this difficult situation (12-16; cf. I Peter 3:1-6). If you are single when converted, you can use your greater freedom to serve the Lord (I Cor. 7:32, 34), so stay there (1, 8). But if you "burn," you ought to marry (9). Whatever your marital status, you have a calling. Believe in God’s sovereign appointment for you and be content, for all things work together for your good (Rom. 8:28). All of the teaching of I Corinthians 7 —the goodness of singleness (1, 8), the duty of sex in marriage (3-5), no remarriage while one’s spouse is living (10-11, 39), desertion is no grounds for divorce (15), etc.—is "ordained" by apostolic Scripture for "all churches" in all times (17). This includes perseverance and contentment in our vocations, as we live in fellowship with the Lord: "Brethren, let every man, wherein he is called, therein abide with God" (24).
- Volume: 10
- Issue: 15
Rev. Angust Stewart (Wife: Mary)
Ordained - 2001
Pastorates: Covenant Protestant Reformed Church of Ballymena, Northern Ireland - 2001Website: www.cprf.co.uk/
Address7 Lislunnan Road
State or ProvinceCo.Antrim
Zip CodeBT42 3NR
Telephone(01144) 28 25 891851