1 Corinthians 7:17-24
Copyright 2006: Dr Gregory J. Laughery
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Develops in more detail the discussion of marriage in 1 Corinthians 7.
This sermon preached in the L'Abri chapel by Dr Laughery sees these verses
as central to understanding the whole chapter.
How do you see verses 17-24 fitting into this chapter? Do they strike you as a “bolt out of the blue?” Is there any coherence here with what’s come previously and what follows? Read in context!
Why do you think that social status was so important for the Corinthians? And you, is it important for you? To what degree? What does the empire you live in have to teach you about social status?
When it comes to evaluating your own social status, what role, if any, does Christian spirituality play? Is there anything wrong with climbing the social ladder? If not, why not? If so, why so? Reflect carefully about your criteria.
What is your relationship with God based on? Where do you derive your notion of “spirituality” and “status?” Where and how does today’s global empire “call” you? Does God’s “call” have a voice into your life, or is it so significantly distorted or even blocked by the empire, that you are losing your hearing?
1 Corinthians 7:17-24
As we look at these passages together, it is important to remember that Corinth was situated in, and proud to be part of, the Roman Empire. Both the attractions and influences of that empire had an impact on their views of sexuality, marriage, and life in general.
Roman marriages, for example, were frequently arranged and not chosen. Marriage was seen as a way of possibly improving one’s social status. One of the most important aspects of marriage was to have a peaceful standing between the man and the woman, rather than a deep, loving relationship.
Generally speaking, Corinthian husbands were still in a position of power and authority. But wives were beginning to have more rights, able to work outside the house and dissolve the marriage if necessary.
Another characteristic of life in the Roman Empire is that many Corinthians of average social and economic status had slaves. Some wealthy slaves bought other slaves. However, Roman Empire slavery has little in common with how we usually think of the era of slavery in the modern empire. Slaves in the Roman context were more often than not considered members of the larger family, and frequently lived in the same household as their masters. Others worked for the government, which brought admiration and authority, while still others worked in deplorable conditions and lacked the privilege of those with a more official status.
In the modern empire period of slavery as we know it, there was little opportunity for slaves to gain freedom. The Roman Empire, however, not only allowed this, but sometimes it was even encouraged.