Our class discussion this week brought us to 1 Cor. 7:17-24 with an emphasis on v. 19. Yet when I read the passage, I was struck by v. 20; “Let each of you remain in the condition in which you were called.” I sensed echoes to what was mentioned in last week’s post, that Judaism and Christianity were not yet seen as separate belief systems. Yet if we’re to read this verse under what Paul says in v. 17; “… This is my rule in all the churches,” then might this be Paul’s purpose all along? For Jews to remain Jews, Gentiles to remain Gentiles, married to remain married, etc.?
In v. 18 Paul says, “Was anyone at the time of his call already circumcised? Let him not seek to remove the marks of circumcision. Was anyone at the time of his call uncircumcised? Let him not seek circumcision.” This point of remaining in one’s own context is again emphasized in v. 21, “Were you a slave when called? Do not be concerned about it.” And later on in chapter 7, he says, “Are you bound to a wife? Do not seek to be free. Are you free from a wife? Do not seek a wife.” With this theme of “as you were” in mind, might it possible that Paul never intended to start something new?
In the particular topic of v. 19, which says, “Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing; but obeying the commandments of God is everything,” we discussed Paul’s implicit thoughts on the law or “the commandments.” Is he discussing ritual commandments or the Ten Commandments (the Decalogue)? Is he making a distinction between ritual purity and moral purity and implying the latter is more important than the former?
What do you think? Is Paul’s ultimate argument here to remain “as you were” and that one’s own context is not more “right” than another’s? What do you make of his comment about obeying the commandments? Is he going against the understanding of “law” of his time or stepping right in line with what Jesus says about fulfilling the law in Matt. 5:17?
 New Revised Standard Version
Wasn’t Paul so anxious for the recoming of the Christ that he wasn’t concerned with the future status of his followers? As for obeying the commandments, didn’t Jesus (in Matthew) instruct the young, rich man to obey only six?
@menoclone: I think in Paul’s writings there can be is an element of that, but I don’t think it was the sole basis for his teaching here in 1 Cor. 7. Paul seemed to believe here (as in Galatians and Romans) that one need not convert to Judaism (or unconvert, either) in order to follow Christ. I think it was in one of the Thessalonian letters where we get the sense that Paul expected the second coming right away – correct me if I’m wrong on that.
Yeah, it’s pretty clear that the earliest Christians were thinking that Jesus said, “I’ll be right back.” And I think it’s clear that Paul expected the gospel to make big changes in people’s live, eg, 1 Co 6.9-11 &c. Maybe his focus on the passage you mentioned is that the saint need not be preoccupied with things like status and possessions that are not necessary relevant to his standing in the Kingdom. It seems like modern American Christianity is much more concerned with status and possessions than the eternal destiny of their neighbors.
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