Single?

July 29, 2017

A story is told of a woman approaching 35 without a husband. Late one afternoon she went into the woods to pray for a husband. She didn’t notice the hour growing late as she continued to pray. An owl in a nearby tree awoke and in a low voice said, “Who-oo!” Startled by the sound, the woman looked up and said, “Just anybody, Lord!”

A lot of you know how she felt. But, if God wants you to be married, He doesn’t want you married to just anybody. We all know that the bottom line is that Christians must only marry Christians. But beyond that, how do you know whom God wants you to marry? How do you know if God wants you to marry at all? Maybe His will is for you to remain single. What should be your motives if you’re seeking a mate? How can you know God’s will on this important decision?

I’d like to offer some practical advice to those who are single, based on Paul’s advice in 1 Corinthians 7. He was writing to a church in a pagan, sex-saturated society. Many in that culture thought that satisfaction in life comes through gratifying sensual lusts. There were problems with immorality even among the members of the Corinthian church. Apparently, in reaction to the sensuality of the culture, some in the church were saying that all sex is wrong. The celibate life is the truly spiritual life. Perhaps they even pointed to the Apostle Paul as their hero. Even some who were married concluded that it was more spiritual to abstain from sexual relations in marriage. So Paul addresses these and some other problems in this chapter. We can’t deal with the entire chapter in detail. But, his word to singles is:

Singles should pursue a course that leads to the greatest devotion to Christ and His cause.

This advice applies to every Christian, single or married, of course. But it is Paul’s word especially to singles.

  1. If you can remain single and be devoted to the Lord in purity, do it.

While marriage is God’s normal design for most people, He has gifted some to remain single so that they can serve Him without the encumbrances that necessarily go along with marriage. When Paul says, “It is good for a man not to touch a woman” (7:1), he is using the word “touch” as a figure of speech that refers to the physical relationship in marriage as representing marriage as a whole. Thus, he means, “It is good to remain single.” He restates the same idea in 7:7-9, and discusses it at length in 7:25-40. He is not commanding being single, since he recognizes the single state as a gift which God only gives to some (7:7-9); but he is strongly commending it, since it was a gift he himself had, and since it provides a number of advantages for serving the Lord that being married precludes.

This is perhaps a word that needs to be spoken more often in our day. Many Christians put pressure on singles, especially those getting along in years, to get married. Sometimes we communicate an unbiblical attitude: “I wonder what’s wrong with him (or her) that he’s never married? He seems like a nice person.” But Paul teaches that being single is good if a person is gifted for it, since it opens some opportunities for serving Christ that are closed to married people. To say this is not to deprecate marriage, which both Paul and other biblical writers esteem as God’s good gift (1 Tim. 4:3; Heb. 13:4). It’s just a matter of how God has gifted a person.

  1. ADVANTAGES OF REMAINING SINGLE:

Paul mentions at least two advantages for the person who is gifted to remain single.

(1) Singles have more freedom in difficult times (7:26). Paul is quick to add that a person who marries at such a time has not sinned (7:28). But the married person will have more trouble (the Greek word means “pressure”), and Paul is trying to spare him. Interpreters differ, and so I can’t be dogmatic, but I think that Paul sensed an impending time of persecution against the church. In such a time, it’s easier to be single than married. It’s one thing to be martyred for your faith as a single person. But it’s much more difficult to be imprisoned or face martyrdom if you’re married, both for you and for your family.

If you sense God’s call to be a missionary to a part of the world where you may likely suffer persecution or severe hardship for the sake of the gospel, you should consider remaining single. Or, if you have a ministry that requires long periods of travel, it might create such a strain on your family that it would be better not to get married. Some countries are not conducive to raising a family because of the political, economic, or educational situations. Many missionaries send their young children away to boarding schools. But I believe that if God is calling me to be a missionary and a father, then my children should stay with me on the mission field. If that isn’t possible, my first responsibility is to raise my children. So being single means that you will have more freedom in difficult situations than a man or woman with a family will have.

(2) Singles have more freedom to devote themselves fully to God and His service. In 7:32-35, Paul points out that the married person, of necessity, cannot be as devoted to the Lord as the single person. Marriage carries with it certain responsibilities and obligations that take time and effort which otherwise could have been given to the Lord. Of course, many single people are not as devoted to the Lord as many married people are. But Paul’s point is that if a single person gives himself fully to the Lord and His service, and a married person does the same, the single person will be more devoted since he does not have the family obligations that the married person has.

In one of his books, Peter Wagner mentions that John Stott, the well-known British pastor and author, is single. Wagner says that while he spends time with his family, Stott is writing another book or planning another conference or traveling to another country. There’s no way for a married person to match the output of a devoted single person. Perhaps you’re thinking, “If staying single has all these advantages, then why shouldn’t we all stay single? Why get married?”

More on that tomorrow.

God bless from scumlikeuschurch@gmail.com

 

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