Devoted and Single
Devoted and Single
1 Corinthians 7:7-35
September 17, 2017
We have just spent seven weeks talking about marriage. The Bible has much to say about marriage, husbands, wives, parents, children, and families in general, so much so, that we sometimes think of those who are single as people who are missing out on God’s will for their lives. But in reality, God has some wonderful things to say about the blessing of being single.
There are many reasons a person is single.
- Spouse has passed away.
- There has been a divorce.
- God has not sent the right person your way yet.
- Maybe, by God’s direction, you choose to be single.
There is nothing wrong with being single and just because a person is single, does not mean that God does not have purpose and direction for you in your singleness. Rather, the opposite is true. God can use you in ways married people can never be used.
Unfortunately, in churches today, there is this concept that every young man and woman should be looking for a possible mate and somehow, we think we need to help them along. Often, we do more harm than good in attempting that. What if God wants them to be single? What if they want to be single? What if God has someone in mind for them, but it is not His timing yet? Sometimes it is best to leave things in God’s hands.
Unfortunately, married people think that marriage is the only way to be happy or to be used by the Lord. So, we relegate singleness as being unacceptable. After all, God did make marriage a beautiful picture of our relationship with Him, right?
Married people don’t often relate well to singles and some singles feel like they’re on the wrong side of the wall and can’t connect with married couples. One single person put it this way: “Being single would be easier if others would accept it as a valid lifestyle.” So married folks should be more aware of singles and include them whenever possible.
There are several myths about being single I would like to mention even before we get started in our passage in I Corinthians 7.
Myths About Being Single
McGinnis lists four marital myths.
Myth #1: Marriage is the only God-ordained lifestyle. Some people think that God’s preference is always for people to get married. Some singles even believe this. Contrary to what the DaVinci Code purports, Jesus was not married and He sure lived a fulfilled life as a single. As we will see this morning, singleness is Scriptural and has a lot of advantages. Matthew 19:12: Jesus said, “…Others have renounced marriage because of the kingdom of heaven…” In other words, they renounce marriage so they can do kingdom work.
Myth #2: The grass is greener on the other side of the matrimonial fence. Some singles think that if they were married everything would be better and some married couples wish they were single again. Many people try to bust through the fence no matter what the cost. Married people bail on their vows thinking their life will improve and some singles forget that no spouse is better than the wrong spouse.
Even if you get to the other side of the fence you will learn that life has its struggles on both sides no matter which side you are on. One of the things we’ll learn from our text is that we need to be content where God has placed us. 1 Corinthians 7:17: “Only let each person lead the life that the Lord has assigned to him, and to which God has called him.” Paul takes this a step further in verses 27-28: “Are you bound to a wife? Do not seek to be free. Are you free from a wife? Do not seek a wife.” Simply put, married couples need to be content with their covenant of unconditional commitment to their imperfect spouses and singles who are called to singleness should stay single.
Myth #3: My life plus someone else equals happiness. Our culture communicates that if we just get the right person in our life then we’ll be happy. Listen, as much as I love being married and find happiness in that, genuine happiness is sourced in our relationship with the Lord, not another person. Paul, who was single, found his happiness and contentment in his relationship with Jesus Christ.
Myth #4: Singleness produces loneliness, while marriage produces intimacy. Some people believe that if you’re alone, you must be lonely and if you’re married then you’re never lonely. Actually, there are many singles that are not lonely and there are many married people who are. The key here is that no one person is designed to meet your deepest needs – only Christ can do that. Hebrews 13:5: “be content with what you have, for he has said, "I will never leave you nor forsake you.”
I Corinthians 7 is an amazing chapter as it celebrates singleness and deals with issues in marriages. But the wonder of this chapter is that it helps us to see that God has purpose and calling for those who are single.
Paul is addressing some questions that have been sent to him as he tries to correct some pervasive problems in the church. Notice the first phrase of verse 1: “Now concerning the matters about which you wrote.” There were people in that culture who frowned on marriage and there were others who looked down on singles. On top of that, sexual immorality abounded in this seaport town. Kind of sounds like America today, doesn’t it?
The first five verses deal with a belief that some Corinthian Christians have adopted that sexual relations of any kind, even within marriage, should be avoided. Somehow it must have been seen as being more spiritual to abstain from sexual relations in the marriage. Paul makes it clear, that God never intended that spouses withhold this from each other unless it is for just a short time to bring the marriage focus back on the Lord. Much like fasting from food.
We won’t have time to tackle every verse of this chapter, so I would encourage you to read it through a couple of times this week to get the whole picture. But I see five powerful truths in this chapter when it comes to being single.
First, Paul sees being single as a gift.
Being Single is a Gift (vv. 7)
7 I wish that all were as I myself am. But each has his own gift from God, one of one kind and one of another.
Now don’t take this as Paul saying that we should all be single, because certainly he addresses the beauty and blessing of marriage both in this chapter in in many other places in the Bible. Certainly, marriage is validated, but singleness is held up as advantageous, recognizing that not everyone is equipped for marriage. At the same time, not everyone is called to singleness and he is very clear about the reality of human passions and the difficulty it is for singles.
God has called all of us to one of two positions in life:
- Self-controlled singleness
- Monogamous marriage
Rather than seeing this as Paul saying everyone should be single, we should understand this as Paul saying that he wishes all were comfortable with the gift God has given them. Whether it is being single or being married. Both marriage and celibacy have their own benefits, and both should be considered "gifts."
Paul is happy that God has given him the gift of being single and he wishes that everyone would be happy with which ever gift God has given them, the gift of marriage or the gift of singleness. Part of the reason Paul appreciates being single is that this permits single-minded devotion to the Lord's work.
If you are married, you must also focus some of your attention on your family. That is part of the married persons ministry, his family. Being single, more attention can be given to ministry in the church and community. But Paul recognizes that his situation is not the norm. Remaining unmarried is a gift that many others do not have.
We need to see singleness as a gift from God Himself. The word “gift” is the same word that is used extensively in chapters 12-14 where Paul answers another question about spiritual gifts. This word denotes a free gift of grace. Actually, Paul is teaching that marriage is a grace gift and singleness is a grace gift. It all comes down to recognizing and receiving your situation as a calling from a gracious and generous God.
What this means is that if you’re single right now, you have the gift of singleness. God gives you what you need to be single. That doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll have this gift for your whole life, but that right now God has presented you with this. God may change your assignment or you may become increasingly content with being single.
Nancy Leigh DeMoss, who was single until November of 2015 wrote this: “There is no greater Giver than God Himself. He loves to give good gifts to His children! As with human givers, when God gives us a gift, He is pleased when we receive it, thank Him for it, and use it for its intended purpose…I am not single by accident. I am not single because I have made up mind not to marry. Rather, I am single because God has chosen for me the gift of singleness” (www.familylife.com). What a powerful understanding of her position in life. Then God gave her the gift of being married at the young age of 57.
Paul is not arguing for one gift to be superior or one inferior, but saying that both are gifts given by an all-powerful, infinitely wise, and incomprehensibly good God.
In Matthew 19 Jesus teaches about divorce and how that divorce was never God’s intention except in cases of immorality. Then listen to the question the disciples brought to Jesus and his answer to them in verse 10-12:
10 The disciples said to him, "If such is the case of a man with his wife, it is better not to marry."
11 But he said to them, "Not everyone can receive this saying, but only those to whom it is given.
12 For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Let the one who is able to receive this receive it."
Jesus explains that what they have said is true, that it is better that they do not marry, but only for those to whom it is given. In other words, those who have been given the gift of being single should not marry. The word “eunuchs” here refers those without the capacity for sexual relations, either through a birth defect, castration, or a voluntary life of abstinence. What Jesus is saying is that celibacy is an acceptable alternative to marriage and God gives the gift of living that way.
James 1:17 tells us that:
17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.
So, whether we are married or single, we need to see it as a gift from God and be content until God leads us into something different like He did for Nancy Leigh DeMoss. Someone has said that “Marriage is like flies buzzing around a screen door in the summer. All those on the outside want to get in and all those on the inside want to get out.”
Actually, singleness is God’s gift to us all at one time or another. And it could be God’s gift to some in a more permanent fashion. Either way we are to embrace our gift. And we can all mutually be strengthened together as we exercise our gifts in a proper fashion. Being single is a gift. Next, being single is good.
Being Single is Good (vv. 8)
8 To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is good for them to remain single, as I am.
The word “good” means “acceptable, beautiful and honorable.” These are words of life to anyone who has felt less of a person because they are single. The Jewish culture pressured people into thinking that if you were to experience God’s blessing in your life . . . you needed to be married and have children. In fact, to reach the age of 20 without a spouse must have meant something was wrong with you.
The Apostle Paul was single and he is saying to singles: “It is good for them to remain single, as I am.” He repeats this emphasis in verse 26: “It is good for a person to remain as he is.”
This reminds me of a story about a bachelor named Uncle Frank, who at 78 years-old was a healthy and wealthy man. He had dated a number of women but in his words, he had “never boiled over -- just simmered.” On a whim, he decided to take a trip around the country to look up nearly a dozen old girlfriends. When he returned, his relatives asked him what he found out. He exclaimed, “Whew! Thank goodness, I never married any of those women. They’re all widows now.” Uncle Frank clearly saw singleness as a good thing because for him it was a matter of life or death.
Singleness is not a curse. It is honorable and totally acceptable to the Almighty. You are not incomplete just because you are not married. Your family here on earth should be the family of God in this local assembly.
The unmarried people addressed here could be referring to people who have been divorced, widowed, or people who have never been married, but no matter the reason they are single, Paul is telling them that it is good to remain single no matter how they ended up that way.
However, verse 9 makes an interesting clarification to this.
9 But if they cannot exercise self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to burn with passion.
Being single is a good thing, but a person who cannot exercise self-control with their sexual passions, they should get married. If a Christian single does not have the gift of singleness, and find the sexual temptations to be immoral greater than what they feel they can handle, they should pursue getting married.
Why? It is better to marry than to burn with passion. It is better to marry than to be inflamed with such passion that they cannot be happy, much less serve the Lord. Singles that struggle with sexual passions cannot focus properly on the ministry God has given them. Rather, they become consumed with fleshly passions that cannot be fulfilled outside of a marriage relationship.
Being single is a gift and being single is good, but being single is not good if sexual passions keep a person from fulfilling God’s commission in their life.
Next week, I want to finish looking at the five benefits of being single:
- Being Single is a Gift (vv. 7)
- Being Single is Good (vv. 8)
- Being Single is a Calling (vv. 17, 20, 24)
- Being Single Spares Trouble (vv. 26-28)
- Being Single Increases Opportunity for Devotion (vv. 32-35)
But for today, let’s begin to see singleness the way God does. Singles are to bring glory to God just like the rest of us. Those of us who are married should not be trying to get them fixed up with someone, no matter who we think would be a good spouse for them. We need to stop asking them when they are getting married or if they shouldn’t be out there looking for someone.
People who are single though, should be asking “What is God doing through my singleness?”
Since singleness is a gift, keep two things about spiritual gifts in mind from 1 Corinthians 12. God gives gifts according to His will. If you are single, God has determined at this point in your life, for you to be so. And since God is good, His gifts to you are good, even if you’d rather have a different one.
God gives gifts to grow His church. Ultimately, whether you are single or married, it’s not about you anyway. Each of us . . . we’re here for God’s purposes and for the good of others. Why is someone still single? “Maybe it’s for their good!” “Maybe it’s for our good as a church!” “Maybe it’s for God’s glory!”