Service in Any Circumstances – 1 Corinthians chp 7 vs 17 to 24

Just added: a new message preached from 1 Corinthians chapter 7:

1 Corinthians chp 7 vs 17 to 24 – Service in any Circumstances – JS Gillespie


Notes are available from this message:


We leave the section on marriage (7:1-15)
To return eventually to a section on engagement (7:25ff)
Between the 2 we have this section here (7:16-24) which seems on the surface to speak about quite unrelated subjects:

Circumcision (7:18-19)
Slavery (7:20-24)

Maybe this would indicate a bit of an aside?
Maybe this is a bit of a tangent?
More to it than that?
There is in 7:16-24 a principle already worked out and made explicit through the ministry Paul has given on marriage, this is then extended to other areas of the Christian life.
There has been evident a consistent way of dealing with the marriage related issues:

Unmarried – stay as you are (v8-9) with a “but if…” (v9)
Married – stay as you are (v10) with a “but if…” (v11)
Mixed marriage – stay as you are (v12-13) with a “but if…” (v15)

So stay as you are has been the ministry
Going to see this principle applied to:

1. Marital Status – Relationships – Marriage (7:8-17)
2. Circumcision – Religious / Social rights (7:18-19)
3. Service – Economic circumstances – Occupation (7:21-23)

There are many attitudes which are profoundly destructive in the service of God; few are more destructive than the attitude of heart which sees:

No opportunity in the circumstances into which God has placed us
No opening through the door which God has opened
No gifts in the abilities God has bestowed upon us

There is an outlook which perceives our:

Social circumstances as a mere hindrance
Personal circumstance as a burden
Our occupation as a distraction
Our marriage as a problem

The only positive you can get from some believers is that if only they were:

somewhere else
with someone else
with some other gift

Then every thing would be so much better
Or maybe like Elijah in the wilderness we get it into our head that the only prospect of a positive career move in the Christian life is promotion to glory by means of death. In so doing of course we:

neglect every gift God gives
ignore every open door
miss every opportunity

The reply of the apostle to that mindset is interesting:

‘who do you think God is?’

What is your view of God?

Is God someone who gives you a wee helping hand with that heavy load you carry, that heavy burden that hinders your higher service? Or do we perceive that Gods highest service is to take His yolk upon you and bear that load He has given with Himself? It is His load! It is His service! It is His burden!

Is it God to whom we pray asking for pleasant / congenial / improved circumstances? Is God the God who ‘distributes to every man’ and who ‘called every one’ in those very circumstance?

Is it to God I appeal to bring me into more pleasant paths? Or do I recognise this path as the path He has set me on with the instruction; “so let him walk” (7:17)? “He brought me up also out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings.” (Psa 40:2).

“Let thine eyes look right on, and let thine eyelids look straight before thee. Ponder the path of thy feet, and let all thy ways be established. Turn not to the right hand nor to the left: remove thy foot from evil.” (Pro 4:25-27)

“Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.” (Pro 3:5-6)

In 1 Corinthians7:17 it is God who:

1. Distributes the gifts we have – The Provision
2. Calls us in the circumstances we are in – The Purpose
3. Sets the path upon which we walk – The Path

Don’t have a narrow view of God!
He is:

1. The Giver of Gifts
2. The Caller in all Circumstances
3. The Setter of Paths

Our disappointments are Gods appointments.

1. The Provision

‘as God hath distributed to every man…’ (v17)
God gifts the abilities
We have already had an indication that the circumstances and abilities of the Christian life exist by Divine appointment: “every man hath his proper gift of God” (7:7); the gift of maintaining a single life or of living a married life.
‘distributed’: ‘merizo’:3307
Just as the Lord ‘divided’ the fishes amongst the 5000 (Mk6:41) and each received something, so too us.
We have all that we need for His service.
“every man” – each has his gift – a theme picked up in 1 Co12:7,11.
On the path for a few months – what is your gift?
How long have you been using that gift?

2. The Purpose

‘as the Lord hath called every one…’ (v17)
God calls to the opportunities
God deliberately calls us in the circumstances of life in which we are found, rather than in spite of those circumstances

3. The Path
The path before us, with all of its problems is the one God has set us to walk for Him.

David – Status against him

Some can only see the giant looming before the shepherd boy, to conclude:

“Thou art not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him: for thou art but a youth, and he a man of war from his youth.” (1Sa 17:33)

they can perceive the absence of:


others see it as DESIGN (1 Sam 17) as the circumstances ordained to demonstrate that:

“This day will the LORD deliver thee into mine hand; and I will smite thee, and take thine head from thee; and I will give the carcases of the host of the Philistines this day unto the fowls of the air, and to the wild beasts of the earth; that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel.”
(1Sa 17:46)

Joseph – Slavery and Service against him

There is an outlook on the Christian life which sees a man:

Betrayed by your family
Sold into slavery
Taken into Egypt
Thrown into prison
Joseph you are a slave – Joseph are not even a person; you are a possession; you are only worth what someone is willing to pay for you!
Potiphar bought you, he can choice to do as he pleases with you.
You are a nobody

And asks; ‘Joseph how can you possibly serve God in those circumstances?’
You you have the view that service for God is spiritual activity in congenial circumstances you’ll miss Joseph!
Your ministry to Joseph will be; Joseph the first thing you must do is get out of that slavery, get out of Egypt, get out of Potiphars household, get out of prison and get back home; then you can serve God.
If only you were:

Somewhere else
with someone else
doing something else
then you could really be somebody for God Joseph!

You would have missed it – the plan and purpose of God in raising up Joseph through the path of:


to “Zaphnathpaaneah”

Moses: Circumcision against him

There is an outlook which is only able to perceive:

The persecution of Pharaoh
The slaughter of the children
Vulnerability of the boy born in a Jewish household
The slavery of a nation
The edict of Pharoah

Yet here is a unique, carefully ordained set of adverse circumstances in which Gods power will be shown:

“And I have said, I will bring you up out of the affliction of Egypt unto the land of the Canaanites, and the Hittites, and the Amorites, and the Perizzites, and the Hivites, and the Jebusites, unto a land flowing with milk and honey.” (Exo 3:17)

“Wherefore say unto the children of Israel, I am the LORD, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will rid you out of their bondage, and I will redeem you with a stretched out arm, and with great judgments:” (Exo 6:6)

“And I will bring you in unto the land, concerning the which I did swear to give it to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob; and I will give it you for an heritage: I am the LORD.” (Exo 6:8)

“And in very deed for this cause have I raised thee up, for to shew in thee my power; and that my name may be declared throughout all the earth.” (Exo 9:16)

These adverse circumstance deliberately ordained for the Glory of His name.
Even the circumcision of Moses; a Hebrew boy who had to be hidden, and who thus in his hiding was smuggled in to overthrow Pharaohs household.

Don’t tell me that you are not:

Young enough
Fit enough
Old enough
Mature enough
Smart enough
Free enough
Happy enough
Rich enough
Gifted enough
Able enough

to serve God
God doesn’t buy it!
Because what you are really saying is that God isn’t great enough to use someone who isn’t:

Young enough
Fit enough
Old enough
Mature enough
Smart enough
Free enough
Happy enough
Rich enough
Gifted enough
Able enough

That makes you a Christian Atheist!
There are in the purposes of God no circumstances adverse to Gods servants, only servants who are adverse to Gods circumstances.