What does 1 Corinthians 7:20 mean?
ESV: Each one should remain in the condition in which he was called.
NIV: Each person should remain in the situation they were in when God called them.
NASB: Each person is to remain in that state in which he was called.
CSB: Let each of you remain in the situation in which he was called.
NLT: Yes, each of you should remain as you were when God called you.
KJV: Let every man abide in the same calling wherein he was called.
Verse Commentary:
Paul restates what he wrote in verse 17: "Let each person lead the life that the Lord has assigned to him." As the following verse shows, this does not mean Christians should refuse to allow any changes to their life or circumstances. Instead, he is warning them not to worry about changing their status, or to change it for the wrong reasons.

Why might a new Christian seek to make an immediate, drastic change to their circumstances? Why rush headlong into celibacy, divorce, to leave behind a job, be circumcised, or break their commitment as a bondservant?

One wrongheaded reason might be an attempt to make oneself more acceptable to the Lord. As Paul wrote in the first chapter, many who came to Christ in Corinth were not considered respectable by the world. Few were conventionally wise or wealthy or of noble birth (1 Corinthians 1:26–27). Perhaps, once saved, they felt the need to become respectable by some measurable standard in order to be more acceptable to Christ.

Of course, God doesn't accept us because of our worthiness in comparison to other people. He accepts us because of His love and by His grace.

Another reason for wanting to change circumstances after coming to faith in Christ may have been the desire to be considered more spiritual or worthy by other Christians. Paul has already addressed the proud and judgmental attitudes of the Corinthians. Perhaps they were competing to look more spiritual or worthy to each other. Again, Paul makes clear this is a worthless goal.

Paul wants the Corinthians to worry less about their standing in this life and to serve Christ in and through whatever status He has called them.
Verse Context:
First Corinthians 7:17–24 expands on Paul's rule of thumb: that Christians should remain in whatever situation they were in when they came to faith in Christ. Later text clarifies that Paul is not denouncing marriage or forbidding it in any sense. Married or not, circumcised or not, slave or free, Christians aren't obligated to radically upend every aspect of their lives and relationships. Slaves, though, are encouraged to gain their freedom if available. A believing slave is, in fact, free in Christ, while a Christian who is free in this life is, in truth, a slave to Christ. We all belong to God. Our eternal position in Christ matters far more than our temporary position in this life.
Chapter Summary:
Paul rejects an idea concerning the Corinthian believers: that married Christians should not have sex. Perhaps some even thought marriages should be dissolved and avoided. On the contrary, Scripture says married Christians should have regular sex in order to avoid temptation. Those who are married ought to remain married. Unmarried believers with the gift of celibacy, however, should consider remaining single in order to avoid the troubles of marriage. That is Paul's personal preference, though that gift is not given to all others. Single believers can devote themselves to serving Christ without distraction. The time is short. All believers should live and serve Christ now as if this world is passing away.
Chapter Context:
First Corinthians 7 follows Paul's teaching in the previous chapter, which focused mostly on avoiding sexual immorality. Here he commands married husbands and wives not to deprive each other of sex, or get divorced, in a misguided attempt to be more spiritual. Unmarried people who can live contentedly without sex, however, should consider remaining single in order to serve Christ undivided. Getting married is good, but the time is short. The form of this world is passing away. Unmarried people should think about the opportunities to avoid trouble and serve Christ that come with staying single.
Book Summary:
First Corinthians is one of the more practical books of the New Testament. Paul writes to a church immersed in a city associated with trade, but also with corruption and immorality. These believers are struggling to properly apply spiritual gifts and to resist the ungodly practices of the surrounding culture. Paul's letter gives instructions for real-life concerns such as marriage and spirituality. He also deals with the importance of unity and gives one of the Bible's more well-known descriptions of love in chapter 13.
Accessed 4/18/2024 7:13:29 PM
© Copyright 2002-2024 Got Questions Ministries. All rights reserved.
Text from ESV, NIV, NASB, CSB, NLT, KJV © Copyright respective owners, used by permission.