1 Corinthians 7:24
Brothers, let every man, wherein he is called, therein abide with God.
Three times within the compass of a very few verses this injunction is repeated (vers. 17, 20, 24).
1. The reason for this emphatic reiteration is that there were strong temptations to restlessness besetting the early Christians. The great change from heathenism to Christianity would seem to loosen the joints of all life. Hence would tend to come the rupture of family ties, the Jewish convert seeking to become like a Gentile, and vice versa, and the slave trying to be free. To all three the apostle says, Stop where you are. For if Christianity had become the mere instrument of social revolution, its development would have been thrown back for centuries, and the whole worth and power of it, for those who first apprehended it, would have been lost. Paul believed in the diffusion of the principles which he proclaimed, and the mighty name which he served, as able to girdle the poison-tree, and to take the bark off it, and the rest — the slow dying — might be left to time.
2. But, besides this more especial application of the text, it carries with it a large general principle that applies to all. Our maxim is, "Get on!" Paul's is, "Never mind about getting on, get up!" Our notion is, "Try to make the circumstances what I would like to have them." Paul's is, "Leave circumstances to take care of themselves — or rather leave God to take care of the circumstances — and everything else will right itself."
I. OUR CHIEF EFFORT IN LIFE OUGHT TO BE UNION WITH GOD. "Abide with God" means —
1. Constant communion, the occupation of all our nature with Him. As we go to our work to-morrow, what difference would obedience to this precept make upon our lives? Before all else, we should think of that Divine Mind that is waiting to illumine our darkness; we should feel the glow of that perfect Love which, in the midst of change, treachery, is ready to fill our hearts with tenderness and tranquillity; we should bow before that Will which is "the good pleasure of His goodness and the counsel of His grace." And with such a God ever in our thoughts, love, and obedience, what room would there be for agitations and distractions? They die in the fruition of a present God all-sufficient, even as the sun when it is risen may wither the weeds that grow about the fruitful tree whose deeper roots are but warmed by the rays that ripen the rich clusters which it bears.
2. And then there will follow the recognition of God's will as operating in and determining all circumstances. When our whole soul is occupied with Him, we shall see Him everywhere, and connect everything which befalls ourselves and the world with Him.
II. SUCH UNION WITH GOD WILL LEAD TO CONTENTED CONTINUANCE IN OUR PLACE, WHATEVER IT BE. You have been "called" in such and such worldly circumstances, which proves that these circumstances do not obstruct the highest and richest blessings. And that is the one point of view from which we can bear to look upon the world and not be bewildered and overmastered by it. Peace, a true appreciation of all outward good and a charm against the bitterest sting of outward evils, a patient continuance in the place where He has set us, are all ours — when by fellowship with Him we look upon our work as doing His will, and upon all our possessions and conditions as means for making us like Himself. The only question worth asking in regard to the externals of our life is, How far does each thing help me to be a good man, and open my understanding to apprehend God, and prepare me for the world beyond? Is there any other more satisfying, more majestic thought of life than this — the scaffolding by which souls are built up into the temple of God! And to care whether a thing is painful or pleasant is as absurd as to care whether the bricklayer's trowel is knocking the sharp corner off a brick, or plastering mortar on the one below it before he lays it carefully on its course. Is the building getting on? That is the one question that is worth thinking about. If, then, we have once got hold of that principle that all the antitheses of life are the product of His will, the manifestation of His mind, His means for our discipline, then we have the talisman which will preserve us from the fever of desire and the shivering fits of anxiety as to things which perish.
III. SUCH CONTENTED CONTINUANCE IN OUR PLACE IS THE DICTATE OF THE TRUEST WISDOM.
1. Though you may change about as much as you like, there is a pretty substantial equipoise and identity in the amount of pain and pleasure in all external conditions. The total length of day and night all the year round is the same at the North Pole and at the Equator. It does not matter much at what degrees between the two we live, when the thing comes to be made up we shall be all pretty much upon an equality. What is the use of such eager desires to change our condition, when every condition has disadvantages attending its advantages, as certainly as a shadow; and when all have pretty nearly the same quantity of the raw material of pain and pleasure, and when the amount of either actually experienced by us depends not on where we are, but on What we are?
2. Whilst the portion of external pain and pleasure summed up comes pretty much to the same in everybody's life, any condition may yield the fruit of devout fellowship with God.
3. What is the need for my troubling myself about outward changes, when in Christ I can get all the peculiarities which make any given position desirable to me? Hear how Paul talks to slaves wanting to be set free (vers. 21, 22). If a man is a slave he may be free in Christ. If free, he may have the joy of utter submission to an absolute master in Christ. If you and I are lonely we may feel all the delights of society by union with Him. If distracted by companionship, and seeking for seclusion, we may get all the peace of perfect privacy in fellowship with Him. If we are rich and think that if we were poorer we should be less tempted, we may find all for which we covet poverty in communion with Him. If we are poor and fancy that if we had a little more we should be happier, we may find all tranquillity in Him.
4. Think seriously of the antagonism between these principles and the maxims current in the world. Our text is a revolutionary one. It is dead against the watchwords that you fathers give your children — "push," "energy," "advancement," "get on whatever you do." If you, by God's grace, lay hold of these principles, in ninety-nine cases out of a hundred you will have to make up your minds to let the big prizes of your trade go into other people's hands, and be contented to say, "I live by peaceful, high, pure, Christ-like thoughts."
(A. Maclaren, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Brethren, let every man, wherein he is called, therein abide with God.