Devoted and Single
Devoted and Single
1 Corinthians 7:7-35
September 24, 2017
Last week we began looking at some thoughts about God’s view of those who are single. Often, we think that the blessing of God only comes on those who are married, but as we saw last week, God has some important things to say to those who are single. And we found out that He is not necessarily saying, “Get Married!”
Myths About Being Single
We looked at four myths about being single.
Myth #1: Marriage is the only God-ordained lifestyle.
Paul and Jesus, along with many others, were singles that God used mightily in ministry.
Myth #2: The grass is greener on the other side of the matrimonial fence. We will have difficulties in life whether single or married. We need to be content with where God has us and learn to grow in our relationship with our Lord in difficulties.
Myth #3: My life plus someone else equals happiness. Happiness is not sourced in another person; genuine happiness is found in a relationship with Jesus Christ. Granted, we enjoy a good relationship in a marriage, but that is short lived if that relationship is not founded in Jesus Christ. Genuine happiness is sourced in our love of Christ.
Myth #4: Singleness produces loneliness, while marriage produces intimacy. Married people can be lonely in a marriage relationship that is broken, while singles can find great companionship with people in the church family. In fact, if a single cannot find companionship in a church family they will look for that companionship, that family, in other places like bars.
From our passage in 1 Corinthians 7 we began looking at five powerful truths when it comes to being single. First, we found that:
Being Single is a Gift (v. 7)
In verse 7, the Apostle Paul tells us that marriage and singleness are gifts from God. God has gifted each one of us . . . to be in one of those two positions in life:
- Self-controlled singleness
- Monogamous marriage
Like other spiritual gifts, singleness is a gift that God uses in our lives in a way that He cannot with those who are married. In fact, singleness allows an individual to focus more intentionally on ministry according to Matthew 19. If you are single, God has gifted you with all you need to serve Him as a single at this point in your life. That may change as some point, but for now you are given the gift of being single. Second, we found that:
Being Single is Good (v. 8-9)
This is found in verse 8, being single is something good. That means it is acceptable, beautiful, and honorable. So, the single lifestyle can be a good thing, but there is a clarification in verse 9 that is often times overlooked. It is only good if the single person can exercise self-control when it comes to their sexual passions.
If the a single cannot resist the temptations of sexual immorality, Paul says it is better that they marry . . . than to live their lives daily with sexual passions burning deep within them. If they struggle with these passions, they will be unable to focus on the ministry God has given them anyway.
We are not going to address verses 10-16 since they deal with reconciliation in marriage and living with an unbelieving spouse. Like I said last week, I encourage you to read this whole chapter as it deals with both marriage and singleness. But the next thing I want us to see that:
Being Single is a Calling (vv. 17, 20, 24)
Now, I find verses 17-25 very interesting because they talk about people in different situations in life when they first get saved and become involved in church. Paul tells us that some may be married, some may be single. Some may be circumcised, some may be uncircumcised. Some may be slaves, some might be free. But three times in this passage, their position or situation in life is referred to as a calling.
None of these situations that the Corinthian church had questions about disqualified people from serving the Lord in the church. Rather, he says they should see it as their calling. There are some things that would disqualify us from serving the Lord, i.e. living as a prostitute, but in those areas of life that do not disqualify us, we need to see our situation as a calling to serve the Lord there. In other words, God has called them to be in that situation specifically to minister for God . . . there in that church in a way that no one else can.
This is a person’s calling. In other words, using singleness as a ministry that God has called certain people to; or marriage, as a calling to minister to a family. It might be that a person is called to be a prisoner, called to be an employee to a difficult boss, called to be a cripple bound to a wheelchair, or whatever place you find yourself in life you are called into ministry there. God calls people to different aspects of life to minister in that unique way. This includes being single.
Three times I see the word calling used in verses 17-25:
17 Only let each person lead the life that the Lord has assigned to him, and to which God has called him. This is my rule in all the churches.
20 Each one should remain in the condition in which he was called.
24 So, brothers, in whatever condition each was called, there let him remain with God.
The word “called” simply means to be summoned by name. Every one of us are summoned by name to a ministry that God has prepared us for. In the context of our verses here, God calls people who are in various situations regarding economics (Slave, Free) or we could say, rich or poor. God calls people who are in various marital situations (Single, Married, Divorced). And God calls people from different religious backgrounds (Circumcision, Uncircumcision). The point is simply that God has a purpose or calling for every believer no matter what their situation.
So, since we are focusing on being single, we need to understand that being single is a calling. In other words, if you are single, God has a ministry He wants you to do as a single. If you are married, your first priority in ministry is your family.
So being single is a gift. Being single is good. And being single is a calling. Next, I see that
Being Single Spares Trouble (vv. 26-28)
Now before I hear some married person blurt out, “Amen,” accidentally of course, lets read verses 26-28.
26 I think that in view of the present distress it is good for a person to remain as he is. 27 Are you bound to a wife? Do not seek to be free. Are you free from a wife? Do not seek a wife. 28 But if you do marry, you have not sinned, and if a betrothed woman marries, she has not sinned. Yet those who marry will have worldly troubles, and I would spare you that.
Let’s look more closely at this for a moment. “Present distress” in verse 26, probably refers to the present persecutions and trials that believers were facing. It wasn’t easy being a Christian in the culture of Paul’s day and Paul says that if you’re single, you should have fewer of those pressures or at least it will be less because you don’t have a wife and children to concern yourself with. Persecution on families is much more difficult to handle. But if you only have yourself to worry about, there would be less pressure on you.
“Worldly troubles” in verse 28 has the idea of the pressures of life. A married person must concern themselves for the wellbeing of their family. They will need to have a good income to provide for needs. They will have to raise and discipline their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. They will need to provide a good education for their children.
You see, the worries and pressures of raising and taking care of a family are many. Paul says, if you are single and you believe God would have you to minister for Him as a single, don’t let anyone pressure you into getting married. There are a lot of pressures and troubles that come with being married that take away from your ministry. And Paul is certainly not saying that it is bad to get married, he is just stating the facts of life.
I don’t believe he is telling the people in the church at Corinth to not get married, but what he is saying is don’t get married because that is what is expected by family or society. Being single will spare you of many of the distractions marrieds have when it comes to the ministry God has called you to.
When you marry, you have new responsibilities and cares and you will not only face your own troubles, but you will experience trouble when your wife or a child faces trouble as well. When you get married, you become one with another person and while you experience joy in that relationship, you will also experience more troubles because of the many more responsibilities that come along with marriage.
If you ask any married person, they would tell you that when their spouse or child have problems in life, that those troubles become their troubles. It will not only take away time we have for other aspects of ministry, but it drains on our emotions, and usually takes our focus off of our ministry to others.
Wow! We should all be single. It sounds great. No responsibilities, nobody else to worry about, more cash and more time for me. Now the last thing God or Paul or myself want to see is people going out to lunch today and someone saying, honey, in light of Mike’s message today, I think God is calling me to the single life.
Being single doesn’t mean you have NO responsibilities.
Everyone has responsibilities toward God. You just don’t have some of the relational responsibilities that a married person would have. A single person still has responsibilities for purity and holiness. Being single is not living a life free from responsibility. And besides that, if you are married, that is the ministry God has called you to.
One of the most difficult responsibilities of a single is to refrain from sexual immorality. The responsibility of every person who is single is to control the sexual passions they have and subdue those urges to fulfill those passions. Paul says if you can’t control those passions, if those passions are consuming too much of your mind and energies to control, then it would be better for you to marry.
Verses 29-31 give us the reason why he is talking about singles and their ministry to the Lord. Simply put, time is short. We need to be busy about the Lord’s work, married or single. We are told that the world is passing away and we have no idea how much time is left, so we must be busy about our calling while we still have time left. So being single is a gift. Being single is good. And being single is a calling. Being single spares you from some troubles in life when it comes to our responsibilities in life and even persecution in ministry. Next, I see that
Being Single Increases Opportunity for Devotion (vv. 32-35)
Just in case he wasn’t clear, it seems that Paul wants to clarify what he has just said. It is not that he doesn’t like married people or that he thinks no one should be married, it is just that when it comes to ministry for the Lord’s work, it is different. Single people have more opportunity for devotion to the Lord.
32 I want you to be free from anxieties. The unmarried man is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to please the Lord.
33 But the married man is anxious about worldly things, how to please his wife,
34 and his interests are divided. And the unmarried or betrothed woman is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to be holy in body and spirit. But the married woman is anxious about worldly things, how to please her husband.
35 I say this for your own benefit, not to lay any restraint upon you, but to promote good order and to secure your undivided devotion to the Lord.
Once again, Paul compares the single person to the married person. Singles have fewer preoccupations. While there are always things to take our eyes off the Lord, the single person can more easily develop full devotion to Christ. We see this in verse 32. The word “anxieties” has the idea of being very concerned about something.
A married person needs to be devoted to his or her spouse and their children and meeting their needs, but the single person can be singularly devoted to the Lord. In verse 35, were again told that the single person is able to have undivided attention to the Lord.
In verses 33and 34, we find that the married man or woman must please his or her spouse. When Paul says they are anxious about worldly things, he is simply saying that a married couple must concern themselves for the wellbeing of their family. In other words, because they have a responsibility to each other, they have to be concerned about a job and providing the things necessary for existence. They are responsible for each other and their children. They must be concerned for them.
However, as a single, through the increased time you have available, you can grow stronger in the Lord and in your devotion to Him. And the reason that you want to grow in the grace and the wisdom and the knowledge of the Lord is so you can better serve the Lord. Not having a spouse and children means you can decide to do things based on your relationship with the Lord alone. Ministry for the single can be more focused on people, whereas a married person has to consider their family first and then ministry to those around them.
If you are a Christian and choosing to remain single, you are choosing to live singly focused upon the Lord. Serve Him by serving others. If you are choosing to be single for other reasons than devotion to the Lord, then I would question your motivation for being single.
If you are not choosing to be single, but that happens to be your situation, . . . then be content with where you are at this point in life and live fully devoted to the Lord. Until the day the Lord brings that perfect someone into your life, become the best Christian you can possibly be as a single. Besides, that will probably attract that right kind of spouse anyway.
In conclusion, I want to make a couple of comments to singles.
Start living right now for the Lord. Celebrate your singleness, whether it is temporary or permanent, and live a life of undivided devotion to the Lord. Don’t wait to start living. One single put it this way: “I need to stop asking, ‘Why am I alone?’ and start asking, ‘Why am I here?’” Why does God have you single right now? Unfortunately, a lot of emphasis today is on how to help singles cope with their situation or how to rope in a spouse. I believe we do singles harm doing that.
The Bible teaches that each of us, no matter if we’re married or not, needs to live each day to its fullest – our task is not to just survive, but to thrive. We’re not to just “put in our time” but to make the “most of our time.” Because, as Paul says in verse 31, the “world in its present form is passing away.”
Use your singleness as a way to serve the Lord and others. You may be tempted to think you can just do what you want until you “settle down” and get married. Don’t use your singleness as an excuse to sin. Keep yourself pure, keep your mind pure, and celebrate your singleness. Use your gifts and abilities and time to bring glory to God and to serve others because the time is short. You have the opportunity to serve the Lord in ways a married person will never be able to. Serve the Lord with your singleness.
“Fellowship of the Unashamed”
Unknown author – believed to be an African Pastor
I’m part of the fellowship of the unashamed. I have Holy Spirit power. The die has been cast. I have stepped over the line. The decision has been made. I’m a disciple of His. I won’t look back, let up, slow down, back away, or be still. My past is redeemed, my present makes sense, my future is secure. I’m finished and done with low living, sight walking, small planning, smooth knees, colorless dreams, tamed visions, mundane talking, cheap living, and dwarfed goals. I no longer need pre-eminence, prosperity, position, promotions, plaudits, or popularity. I don’t have to be right, first, tops, recognized, praised, regarded, or rewarded. I now live by faith, lean on his presence, walk by patience, lift by prayer, and labor by power.
My face is set, my gait is fast, my goal is heaven, my road is narrow, my way rough, my companions few, my guide reliable, my mission clear. I cannot be bought, compromised, detoured, lured away, turned back, deluded, or delayed. I will not flinch in the face of sacrifice, hesitate in the presence of the adversary, negotiate at the table of the enemy, ponder at the pool of popularity, or meander in the maze of mediocrity.
I won’t give up, shut up, let up, until I have stayed up, stored up, prayed up, paid up, and preached up for the cause of Christ. I am a disciple of Jesus. I must go till he comes, give till I drop, preach till all know, and work till he stops me. And when he comes for his own, he will have no problems recognizing me. My banner will be clear!
Married or single, may that be our mantra for our lives.
I would encourage you, pray that God will make clear to you the ministry He has for you in this local church and in your life. God expects you to use your gift, your calling for Him and His glory.