REMAINING IN THE STATE IN WHICH WE WERE CALLED
In chapter seven Paul charges the believers to remain in the state in which they were called. “Each one, brothers, in what state he was called, in this let him remain with God” (v. 24). He uses the slaves as an example. “Were you a slave when called? Let it not concern you; but, if even you are able to become free, use it rather. For he who was called in the Lord when a slave is the Lord’s freedman” (vv. 21-22a). Instead of doing a work of emancipation, Paul encouraged the believers who were slaves to remain in slavery, the state in which they were called, and live a life that can endure slavery and overcome it. The slaves have a particular opportunity to demonstrate the reality of resurrection and to glorify Christ by living a life that overcomes slavery. What a testimony such a living would be!
The principle is the same with married life. Paul says, “A wife should not be separated from her husband” (v. 10). In verses 12 and 13 he goes on to say, “If any brother has an unbelieving wife and she consents to dwell with him, let him not leave her; and a wife who has an unbelieving husband and he consents to dwell with her, let her not leave her husband.” This requires a high humanity. The reason there are so many divorces today is that people’s humanity is too weak. To stay with a husband or wife who is difficult to live with and whom we may not like requires that we “be a man” and have an uplifted humanity.
I knew a married couple who, before they were saved, decided to get a divorce. They did not love each other, and they were determined to be divorced. However, they heard the gospel, received the Lord Jesus, and were saved. From that time on, they had Christ as another person living in them, and He uplifted their humanity and changed their character. They dropped the idea of divorce and began to live together in sweetness, in the fragrance of Christ’s resurrection. Those who contacted them could sense the fragrance of the resurrection life of Christ.
Paul’s way in 1 Corinthians 7 is very unusual and also very wise. He did not force a brother to stay with his wife. Rather, he charged the saints to remain with God in the state in which they were called. Those who are married should not leave their wife or husband, for to leave one’s spouse is actually to leave God. Married believers are to remain with their spouse in the presence of God.
The point here is that the saints should not expect to have a change in their status. Concerning this, we may take Paul as an example. He, a Jew, was born under Roman imperialism. However, he never encouraged the Jews to emancipate themselves from the Romans. On the contrary, in Romans 13 he charged the saints to be subject to the authorities of the Roman empire. This indicates that he encouraged them not to change their status but to remain in the state in which they were called.
The worse this state is, the more opportunity one has to live Christ. Those in slavery can live Christ in resurrection while they are in slavery. This is to be a man. We all can be men oiled with the Spirit and joined to the Spirit to be one spirit, and we can be fully in resurrection, manifesting the fragrance of the resurrected Christ.
THE CROSS OF CHRIST
The salt—the fourth element of the meal offering—can also be found in 1 Corinthians. In writing to the Corinthians, Paul spoke regarding the cross of Christ and the crucified Christ. “Jews indeed ask for signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified” (1:22-23a). Paul did not say that he preached Christ glorified; he said that he preached Christ crucified. Paul did not preach miracles or wisdom—he preached Christ crucified.
The crucified Christ is a Christ who does nothing to save Himself. When the Lord Jesus was on the cross, “the chief priests with the scribes, mocking with one another, said, He saved others; himself he cannot save! Let the Christ, the King of Israel, come down now from the cross, that we may see and believe!” (Mark 15:31-32a). No matter how much He was challenged, the Lord Jesus remained on the cross, doing nothing to save Himself.
To the Corinthians Paul preached such a crucified Christ. To the Greeks, who were proud of their culture and wisdom, this was foolishness. The situation is the same today. People are still proud of their culture and wisdom, and we need to preach the crucified Christ to them.
First Corinthians 1:18 says, “The word of the cross is to those who are perishing foolishness, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” Through the preaching of the gospel, the word of the cross can save people. If we would have power in preaching the gospel, we need to live a crucified life. We must learn to live a crucified life, being crossed out every day. We may experience this in our married life, for every wife is a cross to her husband and every husband is a cross to his wife. This arrangement, which is for our salting, is of the Lord’s sovereignty.
We are salted not only in our married life but also in the church life. There is such a thing as being salted in the church life. On the one hand, in the church life we have happiness. On the other hand, we also have the unpleasantness that comes from being salted. Deep within, the brothers may feel that they are being salted, crossed out, by the sisters. The sisters may have the same feeling about the brothers. In the church life a great deal of salting takes place.
In 1 Corinthians Paul does not teach us to be glorified. He teaches us to be crucified. Without the cross, there is no church life. If there is no salt, there is no meal offering. The meal offering must be salted.
(Life-Study of Leviticus, Chapter 16, by Witness Lee)