1 Corinthians


5. Celibacy, divorce and marriage, 7:1-40

iv] The principle: remain as you are


Given the disorder presently experienced by the believers in Corinth, Paul's advice is that they remain as they are. Whatever circumstances the Lord has assigned to them / "called" them to, let each believer continue to live within them. Paul provides two specific examples, circumcision and slavery. A believer may conclude that either medically removing the mark of circumcision, or getting circumcised, is a proper response to the gospel, but all that matters is relying on the righteous standing that is ours in Christ, so, remain as you are. The same advice applies to slaves, although Paul qualifies his argument noting the value of obtaining freedom where possible. Whether slave or free, all believers have been set free from the guilt and power of sin, and this at the cost of Christ's sacrifice, and at the same time, all are slaves to Christ, they are his eternal possession. So, each should remain as they are in whatever circumstances the Lord has assigned to them.


i] Context: See 7:1-5.


ii] Background: The Enthusiasts / Ascetics in Corinth; See 7:6-9.


iii] Structure: Paul's rule of thumb:


As assigned by the Lord so live = Remain as you are, v17.


circumcision and uncircumcision, v18.

Explanation, v19:

Why does the remain-as-you-are principle apply?

in the great scheme of things,

circumcision and uncircumcision are nothing.

Restatement of the principle, v20.

The second illustration:

Slavery, with an attached exception

if freedom is possible take it, v21.

Explanation, v22-23:

Why the remain-as-you-are principle applies;

because in Christ believers are both emancipated and enslaved.

Restatement of the principle, v24.


iv] Interpretation.

Paul now goes on to explain the maxim remain as you are. The Corinthian believers "should remain in whatever social setting they were in at the time of their call since God's call to be in Christ transcends such settings so as to make them essentially irrelevant", Fee. Paul illustrates his point with reference to circumcision and slavery. Whether Jew or Gentile, both count for nothing. Similarly slavery or freedom, although he does qualify this with the encouragement to gain freedom where possible. Still, his point stands. In the end slavery, or freedom, are irrelevant for a believer in Christ. As Jesus himself put it, "my kingdom is not of this world."


To what degree is the maxim "remain as you are" a propositional truth applicable to all believers at all times? A command to a specific group of people at a specific time is not necessarily a command for all people at all times. Given the situation addressed by Paul, of social disorder in the church due to a belief that they were in the last times of tribulation, then remain as you are is but a means of drawing the congregation back from disorder. The exception on slavery indicates that remain as you are doesn't have the weight of an abiding principle. So, it is more a "settle down, livin and lovin is still the order of the day, but with the Lord the center of your life."

Yet, as already noted, the maxim may well be a slogan used by the enthusiasts, one Paul agrees with, but qualifies. If this is the case, the weight of Paul's argument lies with the qualification. This is particularly evident when he addresses slavery. On the issue of circumcision he happily progresses the remain as you are maxim, probably to the distress of nomist Jewish believers who may well have been promoting circumcision. It is interesting how the issue of circumcision is slipped neatly into Paul's argument!

Text - 7:17

Paul explains the reasoning behind his advice on celibacy, divorce, and marriage, v17-24: i] The principle - remain as you are, v17. Becoming a Christian does involve a break from the corruption of the past, but it does not involve a break from the natural ordering of life, of family, friends, employment, .... The NIV11 translation of this verse is to be preferred to the NIV.

ei mh "nevertheless" - if not. Although this construction often serves to introduce an exceptive clause it is more likely that here it stands in for an adversative alla, "but", cf., BDF #448.8.

ekastw/ dat. adj. "each person" - to each. Dative of indirect object; "assigned something to each one."

wJV "as" - as. Adverbial, probably modal, expressing manner, "in the manner of / as"; "in the manner [the Lord assigned to each], in the manner [God called, in this manner let him walk]" (comparative, wJV ... wJV .... outwV) = "And don't be wishing you were someplace else or with someone else. Where you are right now is God's place for you. Live and love and obey and believe right there", Peterson.

emerisen (merizw) aor. " has assigned to them" - [the lord] assigned, apportioned. As in 2 Corinthians 10:13, "according the the measure of the limit which God has assigned us." "Living the life God gave us to live", Barclay.

keklhken (kalew) perf. " called [him] / has called [them]" - [to each as god] has called. Often taken to mean "called to be a Christian / a believer", so "invited to believe the gospel / be a Christian." Yet, it seems more likely that "calling" is being used of being led by God to a particular profession, or role in life. If this is the case, "as God called each" stands in apposition to "as the Lord assigned." The point is that the gospel was proclaimed in Corinth, and a number of people believed and now stand as Christians. Paul's advice to them, as believers living in the present difficult circumstances, is that their acceptance of the gospel does not negate their station or vocation in life. So, a believer is to continue living in the situation they presently find themselves, a situation which was assigned to them by God - stay with your calling.

outwV adv. "-" - thus [let him walk]. Modal adverb, expressing manner; "in this manner [let him walk]" = "[let each person lead the life]", ESV.

outwV adv. "this" - [and] thus, in this manner. Adverb as above. "Don't think I'm being harder on you than all the others. I give this same counsel in all the churches", Peterson.

en + dat. "in [all the churches]" - in [all the churches i order, ordain, give instructions]. Local, space.


ii] The first example - circumcision and uncircumcision, v18. Again, as in v17, we have a problem with the sense of the verb kalew, "to call." Most translations assume the call of the gospel is intended, the call to become a Christian, but the sense, as above in v17, probably applies here also. This is supported by v20, "let each remain in the calling, in/by which he was called", ie., called to a vocation, or standing in life. So here, in v18, the calling probably refers to their situation in life under God as a circumcised / uncircumcised person.

tiV pro. "was a man" - a certain one. The indefinite pronoun generalizes the illustration, and is somewhat dismissive in style.

peritetmhmenoV (peritemnw) perf. mid./pas. part. "already circumcised" - [was called] having been circumcised. The participle is adjectival, attributive, limiting "a certain one"; "Was someone who has been circumcised called?" = "Do some of you have Jewish heritage? Don't try to hide the evidence."

mh epispasqw (epispaw) pres. imp. "he should not become uncircumcised" - let him not conceal his circumcision. The verb takes the sense "to draw over" so used of reversing the surgical effect of circumcision. "He should not try to obliterate the mark of circumcision", Barclay.

en + dat. "-" - [a certain one has been called] in [uncircumcision, let him not be circumcised]. Adverbial, attendant circumstance or temporal, "at the time of his calling", ESV. Possibly modifying tiV, "anyone", ie., adjectival, limiting "anyone; "was anyone in uncircumcision called?", so B&L.


iii] Explanation: why the remain-as-you-are principle applies to circumcision and uncircumcision - they are ouden, "nothing", in the divine scheme. This issue was actually resolved, at least for Gentiles, at the Jerusalem council, Acts 15. What matters is the obedience of faith expressing itself in love, cf., Gal.5:6. The Judaizers, of course, would not agree.

ouden "nothing" - [circumcision is] nothing [and uncircumcision is nothing]. Predicate adjective. The sense is it amounts to nothing in Christ. One could say this of marriage, or celibacy. Although something in themselves, they are nothing in Christ.

alla "-" - but. Strong adversative introducing an opposing point; "but obeying the commandments of God is everything", NRSV.

entolwn (h) gen. "keeping [God's commands]" - [keeping, fulfilling, observing] commandments [of god]. The genitive is usually classified as adjectival, verbal, objective, possibly, possessive, or idiomatic, "the commandments which are given by God", or verbal, subjective, or ablative, source / origin, "the commandments from God."


iv] Restatement of the principle, v20.

menetw (menw) pres. imp. "[each person] should remain" - let [each] remain, abide, continue. As a command - "remain as you are."

en + dat. "in" - in [this]. Local, sphere.

klhsei (iV ewV) dat. "the situation they were in" - the calling. As above, referring to a person's vocation or situation in life; "the condition", ESV; "circumstances", Barclay; "in whatever state he was in", NJB.

h/| dat. rel. pro. "[when God called them]" - in / by / to which [he was called]. Possibly dative by attraction to its antecedent, in which case it should be accusative, h{n, but a dative of reference / respect may well be intended; "with respect to that call." So, given the present circumstances, a believer should remain in the vocation, or situation in life which God has assigned to them. "Where you are right now is God's place for you", Peterson.


v] The second example - slavery, v21. Paul repeats his advice to slaves - stay as you are; "don't let it weigh heavily on you." Paul, at this point, adds a qualification - of course, if freedom is available, go for it. The verse is somewhat elliptic and this has prompted two main interpretations. The direct object of the verb crhsai, "to make use of", must be supplied. The adverb mallon probably serves as a comparative, "rather than", but could be elative / intensive, "by all means", or adversative, "instead of." So, we end up with "by all means, make use of your slavery", a stay-as-you-are approach, or "rather, make use of the opportunity for freedom", providing an exception to the rule. The latter approach seems likely.

eklhqhV (kalew) aor. pas. "were you [a slave] when you were called" - [a slave] were you called. The sense of call as above, so, "is your call as a slave?" = "is your situation in life one of slavery?" (considering the aspect of the aorist rather than any time signature, eg., gnomic)

soi dat. pro. "[trouble] you" - [let it not be a concern, a matter of care] to = for you. Dative of interest, advantage, or ethical / feeling. "Don't let it burden you", "worry you", Barclay.

all (alla) "although" - but. Contrastive, "remain as you are but ...."; "all the same", Barclay.

ei + ind. "if" - if [and = indeed], as is the case for argument sake, [you are able to become free, then make use of the opportunity rather than not]. Introducing a 1st. class conditional clause where the proposed condition is assumed to be true, here for argument sake.

kai "-" - and. Taken with ei, either emphatic, "indeed", "but if indeed you are able ....", or adjunctive, "but if also ...."

genesqai (ginomai) aor. inf. "[you can] gain" - to become. The infinitive is complementary, completing the verb "are able."

crhsai (craomai) aor. imp. "do so" - make use of it. The object must be supplied; "the being able to be free" = "the opportunity to be free", given the wording of the protasis of the conditional clause.

mallon adv. "-" - rather than [stay a slave]. Comparative adverb. As noted above, this sense is to be preferred given that the words implied in an ellipsis are usually drawn from the proceeding clause, in this case the protasis of the conditional clause.


vi] Explanation as to way the instruction remain as you are properly applies to slaves, v22-23. Given the corruption of this age, the difference between a slave and a freed slave (now working as a servant) is minimal in comparison to the freedom a believer possesses in Christ - "freedom from guilt, self and fear", Stott. Whether our "calling", as a believer, is that of a slave or a manumissionist (a freed slave), in Christ we are free, but also in Christ we are slaves, indentured to our Lord, "bought at a price."

The offered translations for this verse are diverse in nature because kalew, "to call", here as a participle, klhqeiV, "having been called", continues to be understood in the sense of called to be a Christian, often taken as temporal, "when called to faith in the Lord", NIV11. The Gk. reads either "for the slave having been called in / by the Lord is the freedman of the Lord", or "for the one having been called as a slave in / by the Lord is the freedman of the Lord." Either way, "the slave having been designated as such by the Lord", or "the one having been designated a slave by the Lord", the clause refers to a believer whose station in life, under God's sovereign hand, is that of a slave. "Likewise the freedman having been called, is a slave in Christ" = "Likewise freed slaves, whose calling in life is that of a servant rather than a slave, they are the slaves of Christ."

gar "for" - Introducing a causal clause explaining why a slave should accept the rule remain as you are.

oJ .... klhqeiV (kalew) aor. pas. part. "when he was called / when called" - the one [in the lord] having been called [as a slave, is a freedman of the lord]. The participle serves as a substantive, "the one / person who was called", or adjectival, attributive, "the slave who was called (designated as such by the Lord)."

en + dat. "in [the Lord]" - Local, sphere / incorporative union, or instrumental / agency, "by the Lord."

oJmoiwV adv. "similarly" - likewise. Comparative adverb; "in like manner, in the same way, correspondingly.

Cristou (oV) gen. "Christ's [slave]" - [the one having been called as a freedman a slave] of christ. The genitive is adjectival, possessive.


This verse refers to Christ's sacrifice setting us free from the guilt and power of sin. The reference to becoming slaves again, is not referring to becoming slaves in a literal sense, but warns of the danger of human corruption, of becoming a slave to sin again.

timhV (h) gen. "[you were bought] at a price" - [you were bought, redeemed (so became Christ's possession)] of price, amount, cost. The genitive is adjectival, idiomatic / of price; "purchased for a certain amount", here the sacrifice of Christ. Sometimes expressed "at a price / certain cost."

anqrwpwn (oV) gen. "of men / of human beings" - [do not become slaves] of men. The genitive is adjectival, idiomatic / of subordination; "slaves bound under the authority of sinful mankind." "A huge sum was paid out for your ransom. So please don't, out of old habits, slip back into being or doing what everyone else tells you", Peterson.


vii] Restatement of the principle, v24. The NIV / NIV11, as with most translations, again take kalew, here eklhqh, aor. pas. "called", in the sense "called to be a Christian"; "each person .... should remain in the situation they were in when God called them", NIV11. Yet it is likely, as above, that the "call" is a "calling", a state or condition a person finds themselves in due to the circumstances of life under the hand of God. The Gk., "Brothers, each in which he was called, let him remain in this with/before God" = "Brothers and sisters, each of you, in whatever situation you find yourself under the sovereign hand of God (ie., you were called to), should remain in that situation under God."

para + dat. "as responsible to [God]" - [in this position brothers, let each remain] beside [god]. The sense of the preposition here is unclear, possibly sphere, "in the sight of God", Barclay, "before God", NJB, or association "with God", Phillips

en + dat. "in" - in [which / what you were called]. Local, expressing sphere.


1 Corinthians Introduction


[Pumpkin Cottage]