Study Sheet for I Corinthians 7:12-24 (click here for Study Notes)
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. 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. 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.
But if the unbeliever leaves, let him do so. A believing man or woman is not bound in such circumstances; God has called us to live in peace. How do you know, wife, whether you will save your husband? Or, how do you know, husband, whether you will save your wife?
Nevertheless, each one should retain the place in life that the Lord assigned to him and to which God has called him. This is the rule I lay down in all the churches. 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. Circumcision is nothing and uncircumcision is nothing. Keeping God's commands is what counts. Each one should remain in the situation which he was in when God called him. Were you a slave whent you were called? Don't let it trouble you-although if you can gain your freedom, do so. For he who was a slave when he was called by the Lord is the Lord's freedman; similarly, he who was a free man when he was called in Christ's slave. You were bought at a price; do not become slaves of men. Brothers, each man, as responsible to God, should remain in the situation God called him to. (NIV)
In this passage Paul addresses believers who are married to unbelievers. As in the preceding passages (v. 6, 10) he makes it clear that he's giving his own advice; he's not directly quoting Jesus. He states that if a believer has an unbelieving spouse, he or she should stay with that spouse unless the unbeliever decides to leave. Then he makes the enigmatic statement, "For the unbelieving [spouse] has been sanctified through [the believing spouse].
1. What does it mean for the unbelieving spouse to be sanctified by the believing spouse? ( I Cor 6:19-20; 2 Thes 2:13)
2. What does v. 14 mean when it says, "Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy"? (see Mal. 2:15)
If an unbelieving spouse chooses to leave, Paul says, the believer is not bound in such a situation. God has called us to live in peace.
1. Why is it better, in such a case, for the marriage to end? (see Romans 14:19; I Cor. 14:33)
2. If the unbelieving spouse chooses to stay, how might the believing spouse "save" the unbelieving husband or wife? (see Romans 11:14; I Peter 3:1)
Paul makes a point of saying that Christ-followers should "retain" the place in life that the Lord assigned to him and to which God has called him."
1. Why do you think Paul makes a point to admonish sthe Corinthians in this way? (see Romans 12:3; Hebrews 13:5; Phil 4:11,12, I Tim 6:6-10)
2. Why does Paul emphasize being content?
3. Does one give up dreams and goals when he or she becomes a Christ-follower?
One's place in life is not the only thing Paul asks Christ-followers to retain. He even addresses circumcision-the controversial mark of God's acceptance. Judaisers in the early church said the Gentile Christians needed to be circumcised as an act of commitment to belonging to God. Paul said that Christians should not yield to such pressure, nor should Jewish Christians try to obliterate the physical marks of their heritage.
1. Why was Paul adamant about not adopting physical symbols of religious identity? (see Acts 15:1-21; Romans 2:25-29; Gal. 5: 1-6; 3:26-28; Eph 3:12-17)
2. To what commands of God is Paul referring in v. 19? (John 15:12,13; I John 3:23; 4:21; II John 4-6; Ga. 5:14)
A surprising part of Paul's admonition is his question and answer: "Were you a slave when you were called? Don't let it trouble you-although if you can gain your freedom, do so.Brothers, each man, as responsible to God, should remain in the situation God called him to."
1. Why does Paul advocate remaining a slave instead of calling slave owners to let their slaves go in the name of Christian brotherhood and love?
2. What does Paul mean when he says, "He who was a slave when he was called by the Lord is the Lord's freedman; similarly, he who was a free man when he was called is Christ's slave"? (see John 8:32, 36; Romans 6:22)
3. Why does Paul insert the following sentence into his discussion of slavery? "You were bought at a price; do not become slaves of men." (see I Cor 6:20; Gal 4:8-10)
4. As Christ-followers are we expected to work for social justice or for contentment in the face of injustice?
1. What "condition" were you in when God called you to himself?
2. Did you change any situation in your life when God called you? If so, what?
3. How do you know whether or not the situations in your life need to change when you follow Christ?
4. Were there (or are there) situations or relationships in your life that appeared "good" but were really cultic or were shaped by cultic expectations?
1. About what situation(s) in your life do you feel discontented?
2. How would being a "slave of Christ" affect those situations?
3. What situation do you need to give to Jesus, asking him to transform you so your contentment comes from him instead of your surroundings?
4. What stands between you and contentment?
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