[I’m splitting Part 2 posted yesterday into Part 2 and Part 3 as Part 2 dealt with two very different subjects and to better set up the posts that will follow.]
(1Co 7:17-20 ESV) 17 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. 18 Was anyone at the time of his call already circumcised? Let him not seek to remove the marks of circumcision. Was anyone at the time of his call uncircumcised? Let him not seek circumcision. 19 For neither circumcision counts for anything nor uncircumcision, but keeping the commandments of God. 20 Each one should remain in the condition in which he was called.
Huh? Why is Paul suddenly talking about — of all things! — circumcision? Well, he was just addressing whether the Jewish mamzer laws apply to the church. And his point is that while there is “neither Jew nor Greek” in the church, that doesn’t mean we have to be or not be circumcised.
The church may be a continuation of Israel (Rom 11), but most of the Torah no longer applies (or it applies in a new and transformed way). Circumcision is irrelevant, neither required nor prohibited. Not everything has a governing rule!
Rather, as a rule, Christians enter the church as they are: circumcised or not, married or not.
(1Co 7:21-24 ESV) 21 Were you a bondservant when called? Do not be concerned about it. (But if you can gain your freedom, avail yourself of the opportunity.) 22 For he who was called in the Lord as a bondservant is a freedman of the Lord. Likewise he who was free when called is a bondservant of Christ. 23 You were bought with a price; do not become bondservants of men. 24 So, brothers, in whatever condition each was called, there let him remain with God.
Hence, even though you’ve been freed, redeemed, and saved by Jesus, if you were a slave before, you remain a slave.
This seems obvious to us, but to a Roman, when someone was adopted, he became a new person. His old debts disappeared because the person who owed that money ceased to exist. To change fathers was to become a different person with a different name.
And so it’s easy to imagine a Roman becoming a Christian and supposing that this “new creation” extended even to questions such as whether the Christian had been freed by God from earthly slavery (especially if your master was also a Christian).
Paul essentially says that Christianity frees you from a deeper, more threatening slavery — slavery to sin — and our freedom in Christ greatly outweighs any temporary enslavement on earth.
On the other hand, our new status as freedmen of Christ — redeemed! — does mean that a Christian may not sell himself into slavery for a pagan. After all, no man can serve two masters.
(1Co 7:25-26 ESV) 25 Now concerning the betrothed, I have no command from the Lord, but I give my judgment as one who by the Lord’s mercy is trustworthy. 26 I think that in view of the present distress it is good for a person to remain as he is.
“Betrothed” means engaged, except in the ancient world, a betrothal was contractual between families and so not easily broken. In Jewish law, a divorce was required even though there’d been no marriage.
The Greek is literally “virgins,” and so any never-married woman or man might be under consideration. However, Paul has already addressed the unmarried (and widows) in 7:8-9, making it likely that Paul is speaking to the engaged here.