1 Corinthians 7:24
Brothers, let every man, wherein he is called, therein abide with God.
1. It is unfortunate that this chapter is mainly occupied with subjects the public discussion of which is in these days hardly possible. Few portions of his Epistles more largely reveal the far-sighted wisdom of St. Paul. He was the foremost statesman of the kingdom of heaven. The golden mean between extreme opinions to him was clear. How firmly he held the balance between asceticism and license!
2. The subject here is most difficult and delicate. Fanatics on either side were watching eagerly for a word which might support their views. A less able, wise, and self-controlled man might easily, with such a force as the gospel, have shattered the whole framework of civilisation. Well was it for the world that this tremendous power of revolution was in hands so wise, so calm, so firm. Note —
I. THE EARNEST DESIRE OF ST. PAUL THAT THERE SHOULD BE NO VIOLENT, VISIBLE CHANGE IN THE RELATIONS OF CLASSES AND THE ORGANISATION OF SOCIETY. "These men, that have turned the world upside-down, are come hither also." But the marvel is that practically they overturned so little, and left so much peacefully and patiently to grow. Whatever has come forth from Christianity for human welfare and progress has come, not from without, by any rearrangement of classes or orders, but from within, by the renewing and reordering of individual arts. Christianity introduced an idea absolutely new into the world: "There is neither Greek nor Jew... for ye are all one in Christ Jesus." Here was explosive matter enough to shatter society. This issue Paul's wisdom and firmness averted. Read the Epistle to Philemon. What a world of practical wisdom is there. Take this great question of slavery. The slaves bore the yoke uneasily, and in fact slavery in those days was eating out the very heart of the empire. Throw this new thought into their minds, It is hateful to God and wrong; all are equal before Him, and have the right from Him to contend for equality. It might have originated a new and more awful servile war, which would have reduced to ruin the whole structure of Roman society, ages before the German races were trained to occupy its room. But the gospel announced the principle, and yet maintained the order.
II. PAUL'S DEEP CONVICTION THAT NO EXTERNAL CHANGE IN THE CONDITION AND RELATIONS OF MEN IS WORTH ANYTHING UNLESS IT GROW OUT OF AND CLOTHE A CHANGE DEEP DOWN IN INDIVIDUAL SOULS. Nothing can be more fallacious than the notion that in different circumstances you would be a different man. A bad slave would be a bad master; a bad child a bad parent; a bad man would be bad everywhere. Man cannot be content with the world as it is. But he dreams that the mischief is in things. God says it is in souls. And God sets up His kingdom in souls — in the heart of the mischief. The Jews thought the evil was in their condition, so they dreamed of a splendid Messiah's kingdom. God saw that it was in their spirits, and said, "the kingdom of God is within you." Paul would have had little hope of any great ultimate good if he could simply have struck the sceptre out of the hand of the brutal Nero, emancipated every slave in the broad Roman dominion; while no new life-blood was poured into the exhausted veins of society. No! it must go on struggling, suffering, while the inward renewing was working; then it might be lifted bodily into a clearer and brighter heaven.
III. THAT THE CONDITION OF A MAN IN HIS PARTICULAR CALLING IS JUST THE INSTRUMENT WHICH GOD HAS FURNISHED, BY THE USE OF WHICH HE MAY TRAIN HIMSELF FOR YET HIGHER THINGS. Do not be content to aspire, but grow. Do not demand things as abstract rights, win them by manifest power. Do not talk of being, or boast of calling, but be, and thus make your calling and election sure. And this runs through the whole scale of life. Have you capacity for higher things? Prove it by doing the lower more perfectly. Throw all your soul into your work; you are surely training yourself for the highest work of heaven (Luke 19:16, 17). Despising the one talent it the most fatal folly. All faculty is like seed. Planted in work, it grows, and fills wide neighbourhoods with shade and fruit. The condition wherein a man is called is God's best school for him. Not by wriggling hastily out of it, but by working bravely and patiently in it, he is helping the progress of his own being and of mankind.
IV. BUT A MAN MAY SAY, IT IS POOR WORK AFTER ALL. IS IT? "THEREIN ABIDE WITH GOD." Let the poorest remember that God abode with it; and that all that is most blessed for the universe came to it out of a poor workman's home. But the lot is a very humble one! Be it so. It is humble with Him. What is it to abide in our lot with God? Surely it means, Let a man abide in it with the full consciousness of all that he is, all that he has, all that he shall have, in Christ Jesus.
1. Let him dismiss all fretful impatience at the meanness of his figure and the poorness of his pay. Such matters are not, cannot be, vital to a man who is so rich in hope. He must calmly wait God's time.
2. Let him know that the Lord abides with him in his lot, and has a deeper interest and joy in his daily labour than in the debates of the world's most famous congresses, and the acts of its most splendid kings.
3. The man who abides with God in the lowliest condition makes that condition illustrious by the patient, strenuous discharge of its duties, and manly resistance to the temptations which beset it, and which drag many a helpless worldling down.
4. Such a man will wait for God's word, and not man's, to "go up higher."
5. Wherever he is, he will abide with dignity and patience, because assured of the supreme promotion at last.
(J. Baldwin Brown, B. A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Brethren, let every man, wherein he is called, therein abide with God.