1 Corinthians #12. An exposition of 1 Corinthians 7:17-24. This message by Pastor Rod Harris was delivered at Trinity Baptist Church on Sunday evening, January 30, 2011.
Are you happy? If you could change anything about your life what would you change? Or would it be easier to ask, “Is there anything that would remain the same?” Most of us are frustrated with our circumstances. And not just our immediate circumstances such as our jobs, our income, our relationships – we’re not to crazy about that crowd in Washington! We’d like to see some real changes. And while I’m on the subject, this world has lost its moral bearings and we are hopelessly careening down the path of destruction. So what do we do about it? It seems by all measures we’re in a hand basket on our way to Hell. As I listen to Christian radio and television I hear that it is our responsibility as the church to “take back” America. Is that our job? The church in America has a long history of “crusading.” You may remember the social gospel movement of the late 19th and early 20th century when the Gospel was couch in terms of social reform. Or you may be familiar with the more recent notion of “liberation theology” that says the Gospel is about liberating oppressed peoples. Of course we can write all that off as the misguided zeal of the liberals. But what about Disney boycotts and political action committees? That’s a little close to home but is that the work of the Church?
Don’t misunderstand me. I’m not arguing that we should not be interested in what is happening in our culture. I’m certainly not suggesting that we turn our backs on moral corruption and oppression. I am saying we must be careful that the message of the Church, which is the Gospel of Jesus Christ, is not lost in the fight for moral and social reform. We must ask the question, “is it the job of the Church to reform the culture? Is it the job of the Church to seek political, economic and social reform?”
All human institutions and forms of government are imperfect. Some are obviously corrupt, cruel and unjust. The question is what are we, the Church, to do about it? At the risk of being misunderstood, I think we must remember that Jesus said to Pilate, “My kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36). He said in Luke 19:10 that His mission was to seek and save the lost. Thus the primary purpose of the Gospel is to change people not to change society. The focus is inward rather than outward.
I must quickly add (please put down the stones) that when the Gospel takes root it cannot help having radical effects on every person, institution and practice around it. The Gospel brings change to society through the lives that are transformed by the grace of God. The changing culture is the result of the work of grace not the focus of the work of grace. This matters because this is what stands behind Paul’s comments to the church in Corinth which are found in 1 Corinthians 7 starting at verse 17.
Text: 1 Corinthians 7:17-24
Again we need to keep in mind this is not a treatise on church state relations.
This is not the only word related to how believers interact with culture.
Paul is dealing with specific issues in Corinth but the principles apply to all.
Rightly understood this passage is about contentment.
It is not about resigning ourselves to whatever fate brings.
It is about learning the secret of contentment.
Reflecting the same truth Paul addressed to Timothy in 1 Timothy 6:6-9:
Now there is great gain in godliness with contentment, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction.
Contentment is about acceptance and satisfaction. When we talk about contentment it is always in the context of being content with God. Finding our satisfaction in Christ.
With that in mind I want to point out three secrets of contentment.
- Contentment demands that you view your life circumstance as God’s assignment. (7:17-19)
- Contentment demands that you view your life situation as God’s will. (7:20-23)
- Contentment demands that your focus remains on your relationship with God no matter what life brings. (7:23)
Whatever your condition – circumcision or uncircumcision, slave or free – it is now transformed by the fact that God is with you. The phrase “with God” can be translated either as “by the side of God” or “on the side of God.” Either way the point is we belong to Him and His presence is assured us and that makes all the difference.