Paul’s teaching in the first half of the chapter dealt with marriage and divorce.  He closed out his discussion by addressing husbands and wives with unsaved spouses.  Moving on to a new thought, but with that context in mind, Paul shifts to address the idea of contentment.  There were some among the Corinthian believers who were not happy in their present state.  There were married members who wished to be single, single members who wished to be married and even slaves who longed to be freed.

This section is a pause in the overall thought of marriage and singleness, but one that addresses the root of the problem that had taken over the hearts o the believers in Corinth.  The underlying problem in Corinth was one of contentment.  People were simply unhappy with where they were in life, whether married or single, and seeking to change their circumstances.

The Corinthians failed to realize what many of us today fail to realize – our circumstances are not as important as our obedience to God.  The priority of life must be living a life of faith that trust completely in Almighty God and is obedient to His Will in all things.  Paul even tells Timothy, “Godliness with contentment is great gain” (1 Tim. 6:6).  So join this morning as we examine this passage and struggle with the idea of contentment and the struggle each of us must endure to live contented lives.

I.        Teachings Concerning Our Enjoyment in the Christian Life (v. 17)

A.       Individual Application—“But as God hath distributed to every man, as the Lord hath called every one, so let him walk.”

1.        Priority of Application—“But as God”—This section is the application portion of what Paul has been previously teaching as I have mentioned.  Paul can teach whole Scripture, but unless there is an application of those teachings it means very little.

Pastors can preach the truth of the Gospel and the Christian life, but unless you make it a priority to live this truth when you leave church this afternoon it accomplishes nothing.  The amazement of pastors and Christian leaders, and I speak from a decade of experience, is not that sinners do not come to church or even the various acts that sinners commit.  No, the shock comes from professed Christians who darken the doors of churches yet never change anything in their lives.

2.        Providence of Assignment—“God hath distributed” and “as the Lord hath called”—You are not in a position in your life that God has not allowed to come.  If you are in the face of trial, God has allowed it to come to you for a purpose.  In the midst of trials, God is seeking to prepare you for what lies ahead. It may be a more difficult task or it may be as a counselor to one who will be facing a similar trial.  God has a plan for your life and your priority should be discovering that plan and preparing for it each and every day.

3.        Particulars of Appointment—“as the Lord hath called, so let him walk”— This is a very important lesson for every one of us to remember.  Do not despise how God called you and when God called you.  My wife and I have very different testimonies and ways in which we came to know the Lord.  She was raised in a Christian home and came to know God at a very early age.  Many of the temptations and sins that I struggled with before becoming a Christian, my wife has never known.  Why did God place me where he placed me and why did He put my wife in her situation?  I do not know the answer to that question, but I do know now that I am a follower of Jesus Christ my command is clear—be like Jesus.

God called me early in life from a Christian home—be like Jesus.  God called me from a life of horrible sin—be like Jesus.  I came to know Christ at a very late age—be like Jesus.  However you came to know Christ, the command is still the same—be like Jesus.

B.        Universal Application—“And ordain I in all churches.”—Paul is not giving an isolated teaching.  He is declaring the apostle’s doctrine, therefore the Lord’s doctrine to Corinth.  This was the expectation in every church that he Apostle Paul established.  This is the expectation of every Bible-following church in existence today.

II.       Teaching Concerning Our Ethnicity in the Christian Life (vv. 18-20)

A.       Our State at Salvation (v. 18)—“Is any man called being circumcised?  Let him not become uncircumcised.  Is any called in uncircumcision?  Let him not be circumcised.”—People have a tendency to focus upon the outward, even when we know the reality of the spiritual life is on the inside.  Paul’s charge here is that it does not matter if you are a Jew or a Gentile because those outward signs mean nothing in comparison to true conversion.

B.        Our Command to Sanctification (v. 19)—“Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing, but the keeping of the commandments of God.”—This is where the rubber meets the road in this particular discussion.  Circumcision, that most sacred rite of the Jews, means nothing in the great spiritual reality of Christianity.

What is Paul truly saying here?  Was every circumcised Jew a true follower of God?  The answer is no.  Is every one that is baptized a true Christian?  The answer is no.  If these outward signs are not an indicator, how can we separate the false professors from the true possessors of the Holy Spirit. Luckily, Paul gives us the answer by saying one who keeps the commandments of God is the true follower.

It did not matter if one was Jew or Gentile, circumcised or uncircumcised, male or female, black or white, etc.  None of these things mattered.  All that matters is are you following the commandments of God?  Have you believed on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ?  Have you repented of your sins to God and accepted His gift of eternal life through His Son?  Are you living a life

C.       Our Calling to Vocation (v. 20)—“Let every man abide in the same calling wherein he was called.”—If God called you to dig ditches, be the best ditch digger you can be for the glory of Christ.  Did He call you to be a supervisor, CEO?  Be the best that you can be for the cause of Christ.

What this is NOT is a statement supporting a caste system such as some religions follow.  Paul even says, if you can improve your condition and situation by all means do so, but do if you cannot, be content with where you are and serve the Lord.

III.      Teachings Concerning Our Economics in the Christian Life (vv. 21-24)

A.       Reaction to Our Economy—“Art thou called being a servant?  Care not for it:  but if thou mayest be made free, use it rather.”—The gospel is the medicine we need to make it through situations that are less than ideal.  We cannot relate to the concept of slavery in our present day United States, but it was a reality for many nearly 150 years ago and is still a reality for some around the world.

Slavery, lower class, poor, down-trodden, etc.  It does not matter what categories we use because the message of Scripture is still the same.  Our reaction in the face of such things should be obedience to Christ.  Wherever you find yourself, obey Christ.  But some will say, “Pastor, my situation isn’t the best.”  You need to obey Christ.  “Pastor, you do not know what hardships I have in my life.”  True, but you are still to obey Christ.  Our circumstances should not determine our contentment.

I know this flies in the face of what the world teaches you because worldly wisdom says your circumstances determine your happiness.  It says you cannot be poor and content.  You cannot face tragedy and have joy.  If you do not know Jesus Christ, you are correct, there is no contentment in poverty or trials, but neither will you find it in riches or success.

Sinner, you are never going to be content outside of Christ.  You will never have enough material and money.  You will never have an inherent joy of knowing your sins are forgiven and you can stand justified before the Great Judge in the last days.  Saints, your reaction to your present state is a very telling fruit of your Christian life.

B.       Reality of Our Economy—“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.”— If the gospel is the dose of medicine one needs to perform menial jobs and endure bad situations, then the gospel is also the antidote needed to combat pride in highly desired jobs.  It sounds like a paradox, but Christ frees the slave and enslaves the free.  Simply put, the ground is level a the foot of the Cross.  There is neither bond nor free, male or female, Jew or Gentile.  There is only sinners saved by the wonderful grace of God.

C.       Rate of Our Economy—“Ye are bought with a price; be not ye the servants of men.”—Salvation is free, but it is not without cost.  A farm boy ran home one day to his father and exclaimed, “Daddy, they gave us free milk at school!”  His father patted him on the head and reminded him, “Someone had to milk the cow.”  Salvation did not cost us anything, but there is still a value attached to it.  Paul states it both positively and negatively in this verse.

1.       Bought with a Price – This statement takes the Corinthians mind back to the Cross of Jesus Christ.  Salvation is free to the world, but costly to Christ.  He gave Himself for the Church and it is through His death, burial, and resurrection that we can gather today in the power of the Spirit.

2.       Be not ye the servants of men—This is a spiritual charge for the Corinthians not to be under the subjection.  MacArthur says Paul is warning us against becoming slaves to the ways of the man, the world, and the flesh.

John MacArthur—“That is the slavery into which many of the Corinthian believers had fallen, the slavery that caused their divisions and strife and their immaturity and immorality. . . God allows us to be where we are and to stay where we are for a purpose. Conversion is not the signal for a person to leave his social condition, his marriage or his singleness, his human master, or his other circumstances. We are to leave sin and anything that encourages sin; but otherwise we are to stay where we are until God moves us.”

D.     Rejoinder to Our Economy—“Brethren, let every man, wherein he is called, therein abide with God.”—This final phrase is a reminder that Paul has given twice before.  If God will move you, trust in Him and move.  However, if God has called you to stay, be content where He has placed you and seek to serve God to the best of your ability.

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