Last week, we continued our five-week series on “Our Maker’s Good Design” by considering why singleness (and remaining celibate) is better. This might sound foreign to us, but it was just as foreign to first century Christians. When the Apostle Paul proposed it to the Corinthian Christians, it would’ve been unheard-of and unprecedented. It would’ve shocked every Jew and every Gentile, because to remain single wasn’t just to forgo marriage and sex, but it was a conscious decision to forgo an heir. So, why would Paul say such a thing?
Let’s have a look at 2 points that Paul makes in 1 Corinthians 7, which contains the most sustained writing on marriage and singleness in the Bible.
First, singleness is not a burden but a gift. Paul was single and nowhere in scripture do we find him complain about it. This is because he didn’t see it as a burden to be despised but as a gift to be received.
1 Corinthians 7:7 I wish that all of you were as I am. But each of you has your own gift from God; one has this gift, another has that.
Whether you’re single or married right now, it’s a gift from God and it’s to be used for the common good (1 Cor 12:7). You’re married for God.
You’re single for God.
Our gift of marriage or singleness must not be an excuse for selfish living; rather, an opportunity to be used for selfless giving. So, we need to ask ourselves questions such as, how are others better off because I’m married or single? How am I making the most of my gift to serve & build up the church?
Now, I can understand that sometimes you might get a gift you don’t want, like socks for your birthday. But God never chooses the wrong gift for his people. And so, if you struggle with singleness, talk to God about it, share your struggles with a friend, and learn to be content (Phil 4:11).
Paige Benton is a single American pastor, and she says this
I am not single because I am too spiritually unstable to possibly deserve a husband, nor because I am too spiritually mature to possibly need one. I am single because God is so abundantly good to me, because this is his best for me. It is a cosmic impossibility that anything could be better for me right now than being single.
Second, singleness is not for everyone but for some. Paul encourages singleness for three reasons. First, because of the present crisis (v.25), probably referring to a famine. Second, because the world in its present form is passing away and people need to hear the gospel (v.31b). Third, because in marriage your interests are divided (vv.32-34).
In fact, if you become a Christian when you’re still single, Paul & Jesus expect you to seriously consider staying single so that you can devote your whole life in service of God (Matthew 19:12; 1 Corinthians 7:35). However, Paul also makes it clear that it’s not wrong to get married (v.36), ‘but he who does not marry […] does better’ (v.38b).
Singleness can be a very costly thing to do. But, the gospel reminds us that single Christians don’t ultimately miss out on what’s fulfilling and important. Not only do they participate in the perfect marriage union of Christ and his church (1 Cor 6:16b-17; Eph 5:32), they can also have spiritual offspring (cf. Matt 28:18-20; 2 Tim 1:2; 1 Thess 2:1-12) and a new family in Christ (Matt 12:46-50; John 19:26-27).
I’m so thankful for the many single Christians who have used their gift to serve Christ and his church. This includes Bonnie’s very encouraging interview and godly example. So, let’s continue to grow as a church that embraces both singleness and marriage, since to be single is to ‘live in a right way in undivided devotion to the Lord’ (v.35).