The Challenge of Alter Egos – 1 Corinthians 7:17-24

The thirteenth message in the 1 Corinthians Study.
(Find the other messages from this series here)

This message was part of our VBS Program. You can find videos of the program here.

Sermon Video

Sermon Audio

Sermon Notes


We are so glad that you are here today for the VBS program. We had a great week. We had no issues. We had no problems. Thank you for allowing your kids to be part of this week.

We are honored you are here, because we believe that parents are the original superheroes.
I told the church last week on fathers day that scripture says the glory of children is their father- parents have an incredible amount of influence- Dad and Mom, your kids look at you like a super hero!

However, this week talking about super heroes all week and managing 90 kids all week, I realized something- parents are stronger than super heroes.

Sure batman fights crime all night, but then he comes home to his mansion, sleeps in, and his butler serves him breakfast in bed! No one served me breakfast in bed after staying up all night with a sick kid or doing a 3 AM feeding.

Sure, Superman might be more powerful than a locomotive and able to leap tall buildings with a single bound, but has he ever taken a long road trip with small children? Because I gotta tell you that I think that’s the most difficult thing I’ve ever done…

People are impressed with how Spider man glides through the city swinging from building to building, but I’ve seen parents successfully make it through the grocery store with kids swinging from their arms and clinging to their legs, and that’s more impressive than anything I’ve seen Spiderman do.

Mom and Dad, you are the original super heroes and I want to share something from God’s Word that I hope is of help your family.

We are currently making our way through 1st Corinthians one passage at a time and today we are in chapter 7:17-24. Earlier this week Nicole asked me what the message would be for the VBS program and I told her what passage we were on in 1st Corinthians and she said, really? You are going to cover that???

We believe that God’s Word has the truth and that truth is what we need…

Read 1 Corinthians 7:17-24
Here’s what you need to know right away-
Circumcision isn’t something that we talk about much in our current society, and for good reason. It would be really weird if that was common conversation subject matter…

It was a pretty big deal in the early church because many of the first Christians were Jews and circumcision is a major part of their cultural identity. Still to this day, Jews will have people over to their homes after they have a baby for a Briss which is basically a circumcision.
That’s pretty weird, right?

Well as Christianity spread out of the region of the Jews into Roman and Greek cities, like Corinth, that wasn’t a part of their cultural identity.So when Greeks started becoming Christians, Jews started saying, are you getting circumcised and the Greeks would do a spit take and say, what? I don’t remember anything about that being said in the sermon when I got converted.

The Jews wanted the Greeks to become like them- they though if you are going to be a follower of Jesus, you need to become a Jew in every way possible as well.

So understanding that, you can see that Paul’s point here is

You don’t need to become someone else to come to Jesus.

In verse 17 Paul said

But as God hath distributed to every man,
as the Lord hath called every one,
so let him walk.

Paul was saying, if Christ called you as a Greek to follow Him, you don’t need to become a Jew to follow Him.

Pretty much ever Super Hero has an alter ego- it’s a secondary persona. It’s who they pretend to be in public. Many of them wear a mask when they are fighting crime so that they can live a somewhat normal life when they aren’t saving the day.
Superman’s is Clark Kent
Spiderman’s is Peter Parker
Batman’s is Bruce Wayne

What’s interesting is that even though they are “dressed up” or in costume when they are saving the day, they are really pretending when they are their alter ego. Some of them do this better than others Superman’s alter ego is probably the most ridiculous.
Really? A pair of glasses.
You’ve heard how Superman hid his car from the repo man, right?
He parked it behind a Lens Crafters.

It’s funny to me that when they were really pretending was when they were attempting to appear normal, to fit in, to blend in.

“Superman didn’t become Superman. Superman was born Superman.
When Superman wakes up in the morning, he’s Superman.
His alter ego is Clark Kent.
His outfit with the big red “S”, that’s the blanket he was wrapped in as a baby when the Kents found him. Those are his clothes.
What Kent wears – the glasses, the business suit – that’s the costume.
That’s the costume Superman wears to blend in with us.”
― Quentin Tarantino

Some people have the misconception that to be a follower of Jesus that you need to develop an alter ego. That they need to pretend or put on a costume to blend in with the church…That it’s about the business suit and the glasses, it’s about bleeding in…and for many that’s a major hindrance to following Jesus, because they’re afraid they won’t be able to keep up the act, or they just don’t want to pretend.

Paul says, you don’t need to become something that you aren’t to follow Jesus, those cultural identifications are worthless.

He quite explicitly says this in verse 19,

circumcision is nothing and uncircumcision is nothing.

Now, that doesn’t really strike us, but for a Jew to hear Paul who was also a Jew say that, it would have been mind blowing. This was a major part their cultural history, this was a part of their heritage and they were incredibly proud of their heritage.

This is what often got Paul into trouble… When Paul first came to Corinth to preach, it was the Jews from the synagogue who didn’t believe his message that attacked him. Why? Because in their view Paul was attacking their heritage, their culture, their nation.

Paul’s mission wan’t to spread culture, he wasn’t hoping to win people over to becoming a Jew,
Paul’s mission was to spread the gospel, he was hoping to win people over to following Jesus.

This means you don’t have to become Clark Kent.
You don’t have to blend in, you don’t have to put on the business suit, get some ridiculous glasses, or go buy a briefcase.

You don’t have to get your life all cleaned up to come to Jesus.
You don’t have to pick up your 6 month sobriety chip.
You don’t have to go back to school.
You don’t have to learn all the Bible stories.
You don’t have to become someone else to come to Jesus.

You don’t need to become someone else to follow Jesus, but

Following Jesus will make you something else.

verse 22 says

For he that is called in the Lord, being a servant,
is the Lord’s freeman:
likewise also he that is called, being free,
is Christ’s servant.

Paul is writing to people who would have been servants or even slaves. We shouldn’t think of slaves in the sense that we often do as African American who were kidnapped, brought across the ocean, and sold. Many of these would have been people who sold themselves into a contract.

Whatever the case, Paul did not want them to think that this was something that was only available to free men. There were many things, many facets of society that were only available to those were freemen.
The gospel message wasn’t reserved only for people of great financial means, but it was available to the poor, to the servant, to the slave.

Paul builds on the idea of you don’t have to become something you aren’t, you don’t have to become a jew, you don’t have to become a free man or woman- Then he says, if you are a servant or a slave, you can become free in the Lord.

You can have a freedom that is greater than your master’s because you are free in the Lord, free in His grace, free from your guilt, free from your sin, free from the slavery that ruled your heart and mind.

Paul says, listen if you have the chance to become free, do it.
But you can have freedom right where you are at.

Now this is huge.
Because we often think that to experience happiness or joy that we need our circumstances to change.
We think we’ll only be happy IF…

If we get a better job
If we move to a new place
If we get a divorce
If we find a spouse
If we have child
If we have a grandchild
If only, If only, If only…

Now, if there was any scenario in which you would say, yeah it’s going to hard for them to have happiness and joy unless their circumstances change, it would be a servant and especially a slave, but Paul says that what they need more than a change in circumstances is a change of heart.
They needed to follow Jesus. The same is true for you.

You do not need a change of circumstance, you need a change of heart.

When we follow Jesus, even in the same circumstances we lived in before, everything is better. Everything is more beautiful, everything has meaning, everything has purpose, everything is redeemed.

For this reason, people in the most dire of circumstances are able to live with peace, joy, and love because even when they have nothing else, they have freedom in Jesus.

Following Jesus can you make you something else, someone who has peace and strength and joy and love, even in the darkest days.

Do you see the point that Paul has made?
He has said that even if you do everything to be different but you don’t have Jesus, you have nothing.
He has said that even if you have nothing, but you have Jesus, you have everything.

Everything — Jesus = Nothing.
I think we could all agree that circumcision would be the most extreme religious act- That would be an extreme measure to become “religious” yet without Jesus, it doesn’t matter.

I think we could all agree that slavery would be the most destitute and difficult and of circumstances, yet with Jesus there can be joy and happiness, even in that.

Nothing + Jesus = Everything.

Let me draw your attention back to verse 17 once more.

as the Lord hath called every one.
I believe that the Lord is calling to you today.
He is calling you to follow Him.

Paul said, circumcision is nothing.

Religion is nothing.

So what is this about if it’s not about religion?

Look at the last verse we read, verse 24
Let every one, where they are, abide with God.

God wants a relationship with you.
He wants to abide with you.
To be with you.
To be in your life.
He says, walk with me.
Religion is nothing
A Relationship with Jesus is Everything.