1 Corinthians 7:17
But as God hath distributed to every man, as the Lord hath called every one, so let him walk. And so ordain I in all churches.
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(17) But as God hath distributed . . .—Regarding 1Corinthians 7:16 as a kind of parenthesis, these words follow on from 1Corinthians 7:15 as a general principle to be ever borne in mind, as limiting in practice the very broad liberty which the Apostle has given regarding separation in cases of mixed marriages. It is to be noticed that in 1Corinthians 7:15 the unbelieving partner is the only one who is spoken of as taking an active part in the separation; the believer is, merely for the sake of peace, to acquiesce in it; he is never to cause or promote a separation, for he is to be guided by the great principle that we are to continue to walk in those social and political relations by which we were bound when God called us. Christianity does not destroy them, but purifies and exalts them, and thus makes them more binding on us than before. According as the Lord has divided to each man his portion in life, and as God has called each man, so in that condition let him continue to walk as a Christian. Let him not try to change it for another. The words “God” and “Lord” have been transposed by later copyists. The order in the English version is different from that in the older MSS. It is important to preserve the accurate reading here, for it speaks of Christ—“the Lord”—as the one who allots to men their natural condition in life, while “God” calls them from heathenism to the Christian faith.

And so ordain I in all churches.—This principle was of universal application, and the Apostle lays it down authoritatively for all Churches. The I is emphatic, as the writer speaks with apostolic authority. It is noticeable that in some few later MSS. there is an attempt to weaken its force by the substitution of “I teach” for “I appoint or direct.” (See 1Corinthians 16:1.)

7:17-24 The rules of Christianity reach every condition; and in every state a man may live so as to be a credit to it. It is the duty of every Christian to be content with his lot, and to conduct himself in his rank and place as becomes a Christian. Our comfort and happiness depend on what we are to Christ, not what we are in the world. No man should think to make his faith or religion, an argument to break through any natural or civil obligations. He should quietly and contentedly abide in the condition in which he is placed by Divine Providence.But as God hath distributed ... - As God hath divided (ἐμέρισεν emerisen); that is, given, imparted to anyone. As God has given grace to everyone. The words εἰ μὴ ei mē denote simply but in the beginning of this verse. The apostle here introduces a new subject; or an inquiry varying somewhat from that preceding, though of the same general nature. He had discussed the question whether a husband and wife ought to be separated on account of a difference in religion. He now says that the general principle there stated ought to rule everywhere; that people who become Christians ought not to seek to change their condition or calling in life, but to remain in that situation in which they were when they became Christians, and show the excellence of their religion in that particular calling. The object of Paul, therefore, is to preserve order, industry, faithfulness in the relations of life, and to show that Christianity does not design to break up the relations of social and domestic contact. This discussion continues to 1 Corinthians 7:24. The phrase "as God hath distributed" refers to the condition in which people are placed in life, whether as rich or poor, in a state of freedom or servitude, of learning or ignorance, etc. And it implies that God appoints the lot of people, and orders the circumstances of their condition; that religion is not designed to interfere directly with this; and that people should seek to show the real excellence of religion in the particular sphere in which they may have been placed by divine providence before they became converted.

As the Lord hath called everyone - That is, in the condition or circumstances in which anyone is when he is called by the Lord to be a Christian.

So let him walk - In that sphere of life; in that calling 1 Corinthians 7:20; in that particular relation in which he was, let him remain, unless he can consistently change it for the better, and there let him illustrate the true beauty and excellence of religion. This was designed to counteract the notion that the fact of embracing a new religion dissolved the relations of life which existed before. This idea probably prevailed extensively among the Jews. Paul's object is to show that the gospel, instead of dissolving those relations, only strengthened them, and enabled those who were converted the better to discharge the duties which grow out of them.

And so ordain I ... - This is no unique rule for you Corinthians. It is the universal rule which I everywhere inculcated. It is not improbable that there was occasion to insist everywhere on this rule, and to repress disorders which might have been attempted by some who might suppose that Christianity dissolved the former obligations of life.

17. But—Greek, "If not." "Only." Caution that believers should not make this direction (1Co 7:16; as Alford explains it) a ground for separating "of themselves" (1Co 7:12-14). Or, But if there be no hope of gaining over the unbeliever, still let the general principle be maintained, "As the Lord hath allotted to each, as God hath called each, so let him walk" (so the Greek in the oldest reading); let him walk in the path allotted to him and wherein he was called. The heavenly calling does not set aside our earthly callings.

so ordain I in all churches—Ye also therefore should obey.

Calling in this place signifieth that station and course of life, wherein by the providence of God any man is set. Some think, that this precept hath a special reference to what went before, as if the sense were this: If God by his providence hath so ordered it that thy heart be changed, thy wife’s or thy husband’s heart being not yet changed, but he or she remaining pagans, yet let not this cause any separation between you, but, unless the unbeliever will depart, live yet as man and wife together, mutually performing conjugal offices each to other. But the following verses, {1 Corinthians 7:21,22} where the apostle speaks of called being a servant, show this interpretation to be too narrow. The sense of the text is, that the profession of Christianity is consistent with any honest calling or course of life, and it is the will of God tliat Christians should not pretend their profession of religion, to excuse them from the duties of any relation wherein they are set.

And so ordain I in all churches; this is a universal rule, and concerned not the church of Corinth only, but all other churches of Christ, being an apostolical constitution.

But as God hath distributed to every man,.... This text is so placed, and the words of it so expressed, as that it may have regard both to what goes before, and follows after; it may have respect to every man's proper gift, whether of continence, or of disposition to marriage, which every man has of God, 1 Corinthians 7:7, and accordingly ought to live in a single, or in a married state; or it may refer to the last verse,

what knowest thou, &c. and , which we render "but", be translated either "unless"; and then the sense is, thou knowest not, O man or woman, whether thou shalt save thy wife or husband, nor any other, unless God, who distributes his, grace to everyone as he pleases; or else it may be rendered if "not", and the sense be, if thou shouldst not save thy husband, or thou, man, shouldst not save thy wife; yet "as God hath distributed to every man" his own proper gift, both as to nature and grace; his proper sphere of usefulness, and the station in which he would have him be, and the place he would have him fill up, and the business he must do in life; so let him act, and

as the Lord hath called everyone; which is to be understood of that particular station of life, and those circumstances of it, in which men are providentially placed by God, or are found in when he calls them by his grace; as whether married or unmarried; whether joined to a believer or an unbeliever; whether circumcised or uncircumcised; whether bond or free; a servant or a master; and so may refer to what follows, as well as to what goes before:

so let him walk; contented with his station and kind of life, agreeably to the profession he makes of the Gospel, doing all the good he can to those he is concerned with:

and so ordain I in all churches; the decisions and determinations he had made, in the cases proposed to him about marriage, the rules and orders he had prescribed, what he had given out by way of precept or permission, by command or counsel, or what he was about to deliver, were no other than what he in common enjoined other churches; and therefore they ought not to think that they were used with more strictness and severity than others; and might be induced hereby to attend to what was advised or enjoined, since it was what was common to all the churches.

{12} But as God hath distributed to every man, as the Lord hath {n} called every one, so let him walk. And so ordain I in all churches.

(12) Taking occasion by that which he said of the bondage and liberty of matrimony, he digresses to a general doctrine concerning the outward state and condition of man's life, as circumcision and uncircumcision, servitude and liberty. And he warns every man generally to live with a contented mind in the Lord, whatever state or condition he is in, because those outward things, as to be circumcised or uncircumcised, to be bond or free, are not of the substance (as they call it) of the kingdom of heaven.

(n) Has bound him to a certain type of life.

1 Corinthians 7:17. Εἰ μή] is meant, according to Grotius, to introduce an exception from the τὶ οἶδας: “Illud quidem, quod dixi, non scis,. sed hoc debes scire;” or, more exactly, since εἰ μή is not the same as ἀλλά (see on Galatians 1:7): Nothing but the duty dost thou know, etc. Comp my 3d edition. But this mode of joining on the verse is very harsh and forced in itself, and is, besides, unsuitable for this reason, that 1 Corinthians 7:16 was only a subordinate thought, to which ΕἸ ΜῊ Κ.Τ.Λ[1150] as a newly introduced leading idea stands in no logical nexus. The logical connection of εἰ μή, nisi, etc., is, on the contrary, to be sought in the leading thought of the foregoing passage, which was οὐ δεδούλωται κ.τ.λ[1151] This Οὐ ΔΕΔΟΎΛΩΤΑΙΘΕΌς was enunciated without any limitation being put upon it hitherto. It was further confirmed in 1 Corinthians 7:16. Paul desires now, in order to avert all frivolous and reckless procedure, to add to it the necessary limitation in the shape of a general principle of a practical kind, which should never be forgotten in connection with it.[1152] We may paraphrase accordingly somewhat in this fashion: “The believer is not in bondage in this matter, having, on the contrary, been called in peace, and not so much as knowing whether he shall save his non-believing consort; he is not in bondage, only[1153] he is not to use this freedom in a light and regardless way, but to remember that it is limited by the rule that every one ought to abide in a conservative spirit by the position in which God has placed and called him, and to conduct himself accordingly, instead of possibly seeking to break it up without any very pressing cause” Comp as in substance agreeing with this, Olshausen, de Wette, Osiander, Ewald, Maier. Pott holds that ΧΩΡΊΖΕΤΑΙ should be supplied after ΕἸ ΜΉ; but the antithesis would require ΕἸ ΔῈ ΜΉ, and the rule which follows would be very superfluous in a case where no separation had taken place, more especially after 1 Corinthians 7:12 f. Vater and Rückert supply ΣΏΣΕΙς: “But even if thou shouldst not, the general rule applies in every case.” Were that correct, we should of necessity find ΕἸ ΔἘ ΚΑῚ ΜΉ. Lastly, there is the view of those who would join ΕἸ ΜΉ to the preceding clause (ΤΙΝΈς in Theophylact, Knatchbull, Homberg, Hammond, Olearius, Morus, and recently Hofmann): if thou shalt save thy wife, if (or) not?[1155] Now this is not, indeed, excluded by the μή (as Rückert thinks, who requires οὐ; but see Hartung, Partikell. II. p. 123); still the addition would be quite inappropriate to the sense of the two questions, for these convey the idea: thou knowest not at all if, etc., with which the alternative necne does not harmonize,—on which ground, too, Hofmann makes 1 Corinthians 7:16 to be the concluding confirmation of the whole admonition beginning with τοῖς δὲ λοιποῖς in 1 Corinthians 7:12. This, again, is impossible, for this reason, that the first part of the counsel given to the λοιποί has already received its confirmation in the γάρ of 1 Corinthians 7:14, and in accordance therewith the γάρ of 1 Corinthians 7:16 must now refer in the way of confirmation only to the second part of the said counsel, as contained in 1 Corinthians 7:15. Hofmann’s interpretation is in the most complicated opposition to the plan and development of the postle’s argument. Rinck, in his Lucubr. crit. p. 142 f. (and o previously Theodoret), connects from εἰ μή on to Κύριος with the preceding passage: “nescis enim, an salvum eum facturus sis, nisi prout quemque Dominus adjuverit.” But ἑκάστῳ ὡς ἐμέρ. . Κ. and ἕκαστον ὡς κέκλ. . Θ. are manifestly parallel, and, as such, contain not a frigid repetition (Rinck), but an earnest exhaustion of the thought.

ἑκάστῳ ὡς] the same as ὡς ἐκ., but with emphasis on the ἑκάστῳ. Comp 1 Corinthians 3:5, 1 Corinthians 10:16; Romans 12:3. As the Lord (God) hath apportioned to each (has bestowed his outward lot), as (i.e. ᾗ κλήσει, 1 Corinthians 7:20) God hath called each (to he Messiah’s kingdom), so let him walk, i.e. according to the standard of this outward position (without seeking, therefore,) break with it or step out from it, 1 Corinthians 7:20; 1 Corinthians 7:24) let him regulate is conduct, his course of life. Ἐμέρισεν, has given his portion (Polybius, xxxi. 18. 3, xi. 28. 9; Sir 45:20; 2Ma 8:28; 4Ma 13:18), refers to the earthly relations of life, according to which, e.g., a man may be married to this person or that (and it is to this relationship that the primary application is to be made), may be circumcised or uncircumcised, a slave or free,[1157] etc. See 1 Corinthians 7:18 ff. These relationships of life are here regarded as a whole, out of which each individual has received his μέρος from God (ΤῸ ΜΕΜΕΡΙΣΜΈΝΟΝ, Lucian, D. D. xxiv. 1), in accordance with the varying modes (ὡς) of the divine apportionment. Comp the classical Ἡ ΕἹΜΑΡΜΈΝΗ, sors attributa. We have neither to supply περιπατεῖν (Hofmann), nor anything else. What the Lord has apportioned is just the μέρος, which each man has. Reiche, Comm. crit. I. p. 175 ff., understands μερίζειν in the theocratic-Messianic sense, and makes Ὁ ΚΎΡΙΟς refer to Christ: “in qua vitae externae sorte ac statu (ὡς, conf. 1 Corinthians 7:18) cuique Dominus beneficiorum suorum quasi partem tribuit.” According to this, what would be meant would be the μερὶς τοῦ κλήρου τῶν ἁγίων (Colossians 1:12), which, however, refers to the bliss of the future αἰών, and would require, therefore, to be understood here proleptically. But there are two consideration which put a decided negative upon this view; first, the reference assumed for the absolute ἐμέρ. is not suggested by the context, (see, on the contrary, 1 Corinthians 7:18 ff.); and, in the second place, logically the calling must go first, since before it there can be no mention of the Messianic μερίζειν (Romans 8:30; Romans 10:14; Colossians 1:12). This holds also against the essentially similar interpretation of Harless, which co-ordinates ἐμέρ. with the calling.

ΚΈΚΛΗΚΕΝ] a completed transaction continuing to the present in its results, hence the perfect; the aorist ἐμέρ., on the other hand, indicate something merely which took place as an act of the past, and this act occurred before the κέκληκεν, at birth, or some other point in life.

ΚΑῚ ΟὝΤΩς Κ.Τ.Λ[1159]] showing the importance of this rule, which Paul is not by any means laying down simply with a view to the special state of things at Corinth, but, etc., ἵνα τῷ ἔχειν καὶ ἄλλους κοινωνοὺς προθυμότεροι περὶ τὴν ὑπακοὴν διατεθῶσι, Theophylact.

διατάσσ.] I ordain, appoint, 1 Corinthians 11:34, 1 Corinthians 16:1. Observe the evidence here of apostolic power over the church.

[1150] .τ.λ. καὶ τὰ λοιπά.

[1151] .τ.λ. καὶ τὰ λοιπά.

[1152] Paul had doubtless ground enough in the rich experience of his career for giving this warning. How often in the cases of conversion to Christianity must the deep inward change have had linked to it a yearning after some change of outward relationships!—an offence against the practical rule: “Qua positus fueris, in statione mane” (Ovid, Fasti, ii. 674), which Paul here gives expression to in a Christian form.

[1153] Respecting εἰ μή in the sense of πλήν, see Poppo, ad Thuc. III. 1, p. 216; and respecting the principal sentence annexed to it, Buttmann, neut. Gram. p. 308 [E. T. 359].

[1155] Hence the reading ἢ μή it in more recent codd. Severianus in Oecumenius, Chrysostom, ms. Syr. p. on the margin.

[1157] The call of the individuals to salvation took place in these differently apportioned positions and relationships in life. Hence the ὡς ἐμέρισεν takes precedence of the κίκληκεν. Hofmann is wrong in holding that the ὡς ἐμέρισεν might lie on this side or on that of the calling, and might consist even in a change of the situation in which they had been when called. This mistake should have been precluded even what follows, which always starts from those circumstances alone which subsisted at the time of the calling; see vv. 18, 21, 24.

[1159] .τ.λ. καὶ τὰ λοιπά.

1 Corinthians 7:17-24. § 22. GOD’S CALLING AND ONE’S EARTHLY STATION. In treating of questions relating to marriage, the Apostle’s general advice—admitting of large exceptions (1 Corinthians 7:2; 1 Corinthians 7:9; 1 Corinthians 7:15)—had been that each, whether single or married, should be content with his present state (1 Corinthians 7:1; 1 Corinthians 7:8; 1 Corinthians 7:10-14; 1 Corinthians 7:27). The Christian revolution had excited in some minds a morbid restlessness and eagerness for change, which disturbed domestic relations (cf. Matthew 10:36), but was not confined thereto. This wider tendency the Ap. combats in the ensuing paragraph; he urges his readers to acquiesce in their position in life and to turn it to account as Christians. In Thessalonica a similar excitement had led men to abandon daily work and throw their support upon the Church (1 Thessalonians 4:11 f., 2 Thessalonians 3:6-15). Hn[1075], in Meyer’s Comm[1076], p. 229, points out the close resemblance, both in form and matter, between this section and certain passages in Epictetus (Dissertt., I., xix., 47 ff.; II., ix., 19 f.). The freedom of the inner man and loyal acceptance of the providence of God are inculcated by both the Stoic and the Christian philosopher, from their differing standpoints.

[1075] C. F. G. Heinrici’s Erklärung der Korintherbriefe (1880), or 1 Korinther in Meyer’s krit.-exegetisches Kommentar (1896).

[1076] commentary, commentator.

17–24. Christianity not intended to revolutionize the relations between the believer and society

17. But as God hath distributed] The permission to live apart from a heathen husband or wife is given only to meet a special case, that in which the unbelieving partner demands the separation. The general rule is, remain in the condition in which you were called. That was the rule which St Paul was giving to his converts wherever he went. He now proceeds to give two remarkable illustrations of his principle, calculated at once to arrest and fix the attention of the Corinthians. He applies it to the relations of Jew and Gentile; and to those of slave and freeman, and thus shews that Christianity was not intended to introduce a violent revolutionary element into society, but to sanctify existing relations until the time came that they could be amended. “Christianity interferes indirectly, not directly, with existing institutions.” Robertson. Cf. St Luke 12:13-15.

1 Corinthians 7:17. Εἰ μὴ, if not) that is, if this be not so, or, otherwise [but]. There is a digression from husbands and wives, 1 Corinthians 7:10, to any external condition of life.—ἑκάστῳ, to each) It may be thus resolved, let every man walk, as God hath distributed to him.—ἐμέρισεν, hath distributed) 1 Corinthians 7:7.—ὡς κέκληκεν, as He hath called) The state in which the heavenly calling has found every one.—ὁ Κύριος, the Lord) Christ.—περιπατείτω, let him walk) This conclusion in which permission and command are blended together, is repeated and explained at 1 Corinthians 7:20; 1 Corinthians 7:24. Calling from above does not destroy our external conditions. Paul shows that what any one has done or would have done without it, is lawful to be done in it.—καὶ οὕτως, and thus) a universal doctrine, in which the Corinthians also may acquiesce.

Verses 17-24. - Corroborative instances of the duty of remaining in the state wherein each was called. Verse 17. - But; literally, if not. The phrase introduces a caution. The rule is that the circumstances of our lives are regulated by the providence of God, and must not be arbitrarily altered at our own caprice. Christ allotted his portion to each Christian, God hath called each man; that lot and that call are to guide his life. "Qua positus fueris in statione mane" (Ovid). Hath distributed; rather, apportioned. So ordain I in all Churches. He proceeds to give specific instances to which his rule applies. 1 Corinthians 7:17But (εἰ μὴ)

Rev., only. Introducing a limitation to the statement in 1 Corinthians 7:15. There is to be no enslavement, only, to give no excuse for the reckless abuse of this general principle, the normal rule of Christian life is that each one should seek to abide in the position in which God has placed him.

Ordain (διατάσσομαι)

See on Matthew 11:1.

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