But as God has distributed to each one, as the Lord has called each one, so let him walk. And so I ordain in all the churches (1 Corinthians 7:17, NKJV).
In a context discussing privileges and prohibitions of marriage, Paul reviews a foundational principle that he appointed as an apostle of Christ in all the churches. Three times in this paragraph (1 Cor. 7:17-24), the apostle teaches Christians to “remain in the same calling” in which God had called them (into fellowship with His Son, Jesus, 1 Cor. 7:17, 20, 24; 1:9). Some brethren have wildly abused this passage by advising people they may remain in unholy marriages after becoming Christians. Such counsel is a gross violation of this context and the broader will of God toward repentance of sin. This passage describes remaining faithful to Christ (“keeping the commandments of God,” v. 19) in non-sinful conditions and relationships (circumcised or uncircumcised, vv. 18-19; bond or free, vv. 21-22). It does not sanction continuing in sinful conditions and relationships such as unlawful remarriages (Matt. 19:9-12; Mark 6:17-18). (May the polygamist remain in adultery upon becoming a Christian? Of course not, Rom. 7:2-3; Heb. 13:4.) Yet, in an attempt at consistency, those who distort today’s passage to approve sinful remarriages have even said God allows Christians to remain in polygamy after conversion. This shameful error gives sinners confidence to stay in sin instead of repenting and ending every sinful action and relation (Rom. 6:1-2; Acts 17:30; 18:8; 1 Cor. 6:9-11). We must “remain with God” in our marriages instead of enslaving ourselves to the sinful will and errors of men (1 Cor. 7:23-24; Gal. 1:6-9; 2 John 9). This means an unlawful marriage must end because one is not remaining with God while remaining in it (Ezra 10:1-4, 10-11).
There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; (Ephesians 4:4, NKJV)
Hope is more than desire. It is also an expectation of things to come. A popular song says, “Everybody want to go to heaven, but nobody want to go now.” Its lyrics depict a wholly worldly value of life on earth and of the life to come. While some search for “heaven on earth,” others envision heaven as living their best moment on earth over and over. Both are illusions formed by the fantasies of human imagination. The gospel of Christ provides a singular hope that unites all who heed its call. “In Christ we have obtained an inheritance” that is “incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven” for Christians (Eph. 1:11; 1 Pet. 1:4-5). (Note that heaven’s inheritance is obtained “in Christ,” not in the world.) Ours is a “living hope” that combines desire and expectation “through the resurrection of Jesus Christ” (1 Pet. 1:3). Hope in Christ is our refuge that anchors our souls through life’s storms (Heb. 6:18-19). The hope that unites Christians is “laid up for you in heaven,” and is found “in the word of the truth of the gospel” which calls us out of sin’s death into a life of grace and truth (Col. 1:5-6). The Lord Jesus Christ is “our hope,” for what He has promised, He will fulfill (1 Tim. 1:1). Our sure hope is that where Jesus is now, we will be with Him throughout eternity (Jno. 14:1-3). This is why we put your hope in Christ, not in the fleeting and false hopes of the world (Eph. 2:12-13). We urge you to also put your hope in Christ.
1 Therefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our confession, Christ Jesus, 2 who was faithful to Him who appointed Him, as Moses also was faithful in all His house. (Hebrews 3:1–2, NKJV)
As benefactors of the redemptive work of Christ (outlined in Hebrews 2:10-18), it is only fitting that Christians pause to consider (fully observe) Christ Jesus, the Apostle and High Priest of our confession. Our “confession” is the profession of faith the gospel calls us to live (Heb. 4:14; 10:23). As God’s Apostle (one sent forth), Jesus came to earth as a messenger with a mission. The message the Father sent Jesus to proclaim was the gospel, God’s heavenly invitation to sinners to be saved (Lk. 4:16-21). Jesus, who God sent, spoke the words of God (John 3:34). The mission Jesus was sent to accomplish was to be the Savior of the world (1 John 4:14). In the shadow of the cross, Jesus said, “And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent. I have glorified You on the earth. I have finished the work which You have given Me to do” (John 17:3-4). We partake of the heavenly calling by a life that professes the gospel He preached (Matt. 28:19-20). One cannot partake of the heavenly calling by rejecting the word and work of the Apostle of our confession. Just as Jesus was faithful to the Father, Christians must be faithful to Jesus. This is how we “hold fast our confession” (Heb. 4:14).
17 But as God has distributed to each one, as the Lord has called each one, so let him walk. And so I ordain in all the churches. 18 Was anyone called while circumcised? Let him not become uncircumcised. Was anyone called while uncircumcised? Let him not be circumcised. 19 Circumcision is nothing and uncircumcision is nothing, but keeping the commandments of God is what matters. 20 Let each one remain in the same calling in which he was called. (1 Corinthians 7:17–20, NKJV)
What Paul taught about marriage in verses 10-14 applies a foundational and universal principle he now explains in verses 17-22 (24). (That the believer is not being under bondage to the unbeliever in verse 15 applies another foundational principle, verse 23.) Non-sinful relations and conditions of life do not affect one’s salvation in Christ. Therefore, it is right and good to “remain in the same calling” in which you were called (v. 18-20). Circumcision illustrates this, which is inconsequential concerning salvation. What matters is keeping God’s commands, and circumcision is not commanded for salvation. Similarly, marriage is not commanded for salvation, but it is allowed. We conclude with certainty that Paul is not giving permission to remain in a sinful relationship when one becomes a Christian, including sinful marriages (Rom. 6:1-2; Matt. 19:9). Every sinful action and sinful relationship must be repented of and abandoned when one becomes a Christian (Acts 2:37-38; 1 Cor. 6:9-11; 1 Thess. 4:1-5).
4 Then he fell to the ground, and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” 5 And he said, “Who are You, Lord?” Then the Lord said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. It is hard for you to kick against the goads.” 6 So he, trembling and astonished, said, “Lord, what do You want me to do?” Then the Lord said to him, “Arise and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.” (Acts 9:4–6, NKJV)
The appearance of Jesus to Saul the persecutor of Christ brought this violent unbeliever to faith that Jesus was alive. Saul, who had been “breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord,” now yields his will completely to the will of Jesus: “Lord, what do You want me to do?” Saul would be told what to do in the city of Damascus. After three days of prayer and fasting, Jesus sent the preacher Ananias to him, who told him what to do: “And now, why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord” (Acts 22:16). The vision did not wash away his sins. Three days of prayer and fasting did not wash away his sins (Acts 9:9, 11). Water baptism washed away his sins (because the sinner is baptized into Christ’s death, where His saving blood is applied to sins, Romans 6:3). Do not kick against the goads, and refuse water baptism to wash away your sins. It is what Jesus says you must do, too (Acts 2:38; 1 Peter 3:21).
And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord. (Acts 22:16, NKJV)
There is a danger in allowing the Bible to explain itself. The danger is not against the truth or those who believe it and obey it. No, the danger is to false teaching and to those who cling to error instead of surrendering it for the sake of truth. That is dangerous to the soul. This verse well illustrates our point. The preacher Ananias plainly explained to Saul what he had to do in order to be saved. He had to “arise and be baptized, and wash away (his) sins.” The blood of Christ was applied to his sins when he was “baptized into His death” (Rom. 6:3). This is “the washing of regeneration” by which God saves us (Titus 3:5). Calling on the name of the Lord, according to this Scripture, involves being baptized in order to “wash away your sins.” That is dangerous to the false doctrine of salvation before and without water baptism. No amount of appeals to Greek grammar or rationalizations will change the clear force of this verse. Baptism that washes away your sins is commanded by the Lord. The danger comes when one refuses to believe and obey this verse, and instead cling to a doctrine that disregards the word of God. Why are you waiting to believe and obey this divine directive?
1 I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, 2 with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, 3 endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. (Ephesians 4:1-3)
The gospel elevates us from the depths of despair to the joyous heights of salvation in Christ. God’s grace has saved us through faith and raised us from sin’s death to “sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (Eph. 2:5-6). Such fellowship with the Son of God now compels us to live worthy of the gospel (Phil. 1:27). Conversion demands it. As a Christian, you have chosen to shape and mold yourself according to the gospel in your attitudes and your actions. Devote yourself to growing in the attitudes stated in today’s verse so that you are equipped to guard the unity and peace you have with Christ and the saved.