Read Introduction to 1 Corinthians
21 “Were you called while a slave? Do not be concerned about it; but if you can be made free, rather use it. 22For he who is called in the Lord while a slave is the Lord’s freedman. Likewise he who is called while free is Christ’s slave. 23You were bought at a price; do not become slaves of men. 24Brethren, let each one remain with God in that state in which he was called.”
This segment (7:21-24) continues the argument of the preceding verses (17-20), in which Paul illustrated staying in our station with the example of a Jew not changing his bodily marks (in 18-20). Now he turns to the example of a slave remaining where he has been placed.
Were you called while a slave? Do not be concerned about it;
Paul introduces the second illustration, that of slaves staying in the context in which they became Christians. Whether free or slave, we are to serve the Lord. This is no sanction of slavery, no indication that slavery is a good situation. However, if a person must be a slave, he should make the best of it by resting in God’s providence. It is possible to serve the Lord even in that sad state of affairs. A slave can serve the Lord through slavery.
but if you can be made free, rather use it.
If the slave has the option of emancipation from slavery, he should “use it.” However, God can use the slave in slavery or in freedom. It makes no difference. Our relationship to God, not our social situation, is what defines us.
The whole book of Philemon pivots around a runaway slave called Onesimus, whom Paul led to Christ. Philemon, the master of Onesimus, was also a believer. Paul appealed to Philemon to let Onesimus serve with him in the gospel. Paul wanted Onesimus to serve the Lord in slavery!
For he who is called in the Lord while a slave is the Lord’s freedman. Likewise he who is called while free is Christ’s slave.
Every Christian slave is the Lord’s freedman. Freedom or slavery is not the issue; the issue is rather that the Lord owns us and that we are His slaves. The Lord owns us because we “were bought at a price.” Our identity in Christ does not rest on our social situation.
You were bought at a price; do not become slaves of men.
Jesus bought the believer’s spiritual freedom. That freedom was paid by an enormous price – the death of Christ. This is the believer’s emancipation from sin. That is why Christians are not to “become slaves of men.”
Brethren, let each one remain with God in that state in which he was called.
For the third time, Paul makes the point that a believer should stay in the situation in which he became a Christian. This situation is a “called” situation. This verse is the same as verse twenty, with the addition of the words “with God.” God’s presence gives character to all that we are and do.
God calls believers into freedom no matter the circumstance in which they find themselves.
Spiritual freedom makes any person independent from his circumstance. It is perspective that matters; our outward state matters little in comparison to our spiritual status. Biblical perspective places us above circumstance. Slavery to a situation cannot keep us from inner liberty.
The believer can transcend difficult circumstances by accepting God’s sovereignty in the situation. Circumstance is not the overriding issue, but our orientation to God’s will is. Your circumstance may be a difficult marriage that you cannot change, but to accept that as God’s design for you will help you conquer the problem. It is not the size of the dog in the fight but the size of the fight in the dog that counts. A dynamic Christian is no slave and a sinful person is never free. Wherever God puts us, we glorify God there.
Jeremiah 29: 11For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.