Though difficult to understand slavery today the basic principle in 1 Corinthians 7:23 is that no situation can keep a Christian from serving Christ, no matter how unjust, painful, or cruel. The bottom line is that a person can serve Christ even in slavery.
This is an overarching command with many applications, and it is mentioned in the context of marriage and divorce. It is not an absolute command but a principle that can change with the circumstances.
Paul declares the general principle coverning the context: “Let each one remain in the same calling [marital, religious, or social status], in which he was called” (7:20) if possible.
Paul instructed the slaves, “Be obedient to those who are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in the sincerity of your heart, as to Christ; not by way of eye–service, as men–-pleasers, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart. With good will render service, as to the Lord, and not to men, knowing that whatever good thing each one does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether slave or free” (Eph 6:5–-8).
Can you imagine a slave who wants to serve his master willingly and faithfully, going beyond the minimal duty? What an impact this could have, especially when he declares himself to be a Christian! Light shines brightest in dark, dismal places.
Should circumstances change and he “can be made free, . . . use it” (1 Cor 7:21). Meanwhile, slaves should remember that they “were bought with a price.” The cost of their spiritual liberty was the life and blood of Jesus, which was a far higher price than their earthly master paid for them.
Therefore, they should “not become slaves of men” inwardly, even though outwardly they remained so. They were inwardly free to serve whom they would, and they should choose to serve their master as a testimony to demonstrate what Christ could mean, even to a slave.
One can be free in spirit while a slave in body. Can you see an application to the marketplace ministry today?
“Dear Father, You do not want me to be a pleaser of men, but You do want me to live to love and serve others, as I love and serve You, whether at home or at my workplace. Please help me serve others today.”
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