Text: 1 Cor 7:32-35
While we often focus on marriages and relationships, singles make up a huge percentage of our world, whether it be the widowed, divorced, and those who have never married. Furthermore, nowadays it seems people are taking longer to get married, as well as increased divorce rates launching people back into singleness prematurely. All this meaning that singleness is very common.
Now in OT times, singleness was something almost as a curse. Read through its pages and you’ll discover that to a large degree without marriage and having children, it seems life could not be complete. But in the NT, things are more optimistic. The spiritual union with Christ takes precedence. We dealt with this last week. All marriages will end. Singleness is no disadvantage in the life to come. But there are a number of things we need to understand that will help both singles, and those of us who are not single but need to know how to understand it.
I. THE WILL OF GOD IN SINGLENESS
1. Seen throughout the ages
Gen 2:18 “it’s not good for man to be alone” did not discourage them from living out God’s purpose, such as Jeremiah and Paul. If they had looked at this text as some might be inclined, they would have felt cursed or unfulfilled. But they didn’t. Singleness to them was a gift from God. So if you’re single you’re not alone, but it ought to be a matter of prayer. If you desire a spouse, pray regularly that God would reveal His will by bringing to you a suitable godly spouse. However, keep in mind that God may have other plans for you, and if so He can grant contentment in all states, whether He wants you to wait, or whether He has no plan for you to marry at all. Singleness is better than a bad marriage, with someone hostile toward God. Don’t feel desperate. God’s will and timing is perfect.
2. Abused in the present
Singleness for the sake of serving self is wrong. Deliberately avoiding the possibility of marriage in order to satisfy other lusts, such as yearning for the experience of having many partners. This is sin. Even when it’s not physical sinfulness that’s engaged in, but there is this youthful dislike of settling down and an avoidance of the natural growth of maturity, it is wrong. Singleness should always honour God. It is not an excuse for extended adolescence. This seen in both sexes today, but is particularly evident in young men. A refusal to grow up. 3. Exemplified in Jesus Christ – He is the perfect definition of a man. He said, the disciple is not above his master. That applies to singles. He gave His life to serve people; men, women, and little children and He had joy in it all. He is the example of a single life that abounds with fruitfulness and purpose.
II. THE SOVEREIGNTY OF GOD IN SINGLENESS
1. He is sovereign if you remain single – We are not to exercise autonomy in choosing a spouse. We are to trust Him and submit to His will.
Margaret Clarkson, So You’re Single:
“Through no fault or choice of my own, I am unable to express my sexuality in the beauty and intimacy of Christian marriage, as God intended when he created me a sexual being in his own image. To seek to do this outside of marriage is, by the clear teaching of Scripture, to sin against God and against my own nature. As a committed Christian, then, I have no alternative but to live a life of voluntary celibacy. I must be chaste not only in body, but in mind and spirit as well. Since I am now in my 60’s I think that my experience of what this means is valid. I want to go on record as having proved that for those who are committed to do God’s will, his commands are his enablings…My whole being cries out continually for something I may not have. My whole life must be lived in the context of this never-ceasing tension. My professional life, my social life, my personal life, my Christian life—all are subject to its constant and powerful pull. As a Christian I have no choice but to obey God, cost what it may. I must trust him to make it possible for me to honor him in my singleness. That this is possible, a mighty cloud of witnesses will join me to attest. Multitudes of single Christians in every age and circumstance have proved God’s sufficiency in this matter. He has promised to meet our needs and he honours his word. If we seek fulfillment in him, we shall find it. It may not be easy, but whoever said that Christian life was easy? The badge of Christ’s discipleship was a cross. Why must I live my life alone? I do not know. But Jesus Christ is Lord of my life. I believe in the sovereignty of God, and I accept my singleness from his hand. He could have ordered my life otherwise, but he has not chosen to do so. As his child, I must trust his love and wisdom.”
2. He is sovereign if you become single – whether divorce or death.
If one has been left as a single parent, it can be particularly difficult to swallow. But God is in it. As one raised for many years by a single parent, let me give a few pointers.
1. Have Faith – “Leave thy fatherless children, I will preserve them alive; and let thy widows trust in me.” Jer 49:11. They haven’t the same example from both, but God can do great things for the one that will trust Him. Exercise faith in the Word.
2. Seek Forgiveness – often those in this case because of divorce can identify fault on their side or the other side. Seek forgiveness for yourself, and avoid bitterness toward the other. You may think your bitterness is warranted, but your children will pick up on that and it will damage them.
3. Practice Fundamentals – you can’t do everything. Focus, not on giving your kids all the material things others have, but on giving your time where possible. Spoiling is possible because of guilt, so make them do chores.
4. Don’t Panic – many panic and think they need to find another partner quickly. Rash decisions can be made with negative consequences.
III. THE PURPOSE OF GOD IN SINGLENESS
1. It is a gift – With the background of the OT, Paul makes a surprising statement in 1 Cor 7, “I would that ye even be as I am”. Even when we bare in mind the background of persecution that had already commenced and would intensify as Paul knew only too well, that would lead to great difficulties and heartaches for those with families, even with an awareness of that, this is an unexpected statement. “It is good for a man not to marry”.
Even though marriage is God’s natural way, in the new covenant era with the redemptive work of Messiah now behind us, to be enabled to sacrifice marriage for the furtherance of the gospel is something God honours. If we cannot contain our lusts however, and there is opportunity to marry in the Lord, then marriage is honourable and right. But if one has the gift of singleness, they should feel no shame in that regard, and Paul highlights advantages of singleness.
2. It is a calling – It is a gift to be used to the glory of God. Singleness, divorced, never married, should see their lives as a calling, even if it’s a temporary state. It is not a mistake. We do not believe in mistakes. The season of singleness, for however long it may last, is from the Lord.
This calling is not an opposite, but an alternative. People see marriage and singleness as opposites, but they’re not. Co-habitation is opposite. When people want the benefits of marriage without the commitment. And such is adultery and not honourable at all. But singleness is not sinful.
3. It has benefits – Marriage often restricts the ability to have meaningful relationships outside of your home. It takes a lot of time to serve our families, and that’s right. But single people have not the same restrictions.
The gospel of message can be promoted through singleness:
a) the family of god grows not by procreation but by regeneration
b) relationships in Christ are more permanent than relationships in families
c) marriage is temporary and finally gives way to Christ and the Church
IV. THE PEOPLE OF GOD SERVING SINGLES
1. Not every single is looking for pity. This is an assumption that married people tend to make. So don’t treat them as if there’s something missing from their lives. Now if one has a burden and shares it with you and request prayer, that’s different. Otherwise, don’t assume they’re unhappy.
2. Single people should not be isolated. I have known congregations that have been very bad at making singles feel welcome, especially single parents and divorcees.
3. Don’t assume they’re not busy. Very often, because they have no responsibilities to others, single people can be tremendously active. Often they serve the kingdom of God in silent and unknown ways. Doing things for seniors, sacrificing many long days to someone going through a rough time.
4. Be very careful with match-making. Match-making is not a NT ministry! Generally I don’t like it at all, although I don’t doubt that on occasions it may be of the Lord. And even if you do introduce people, don’t lead either party to think this is definitive. Make it known to them that they should be praying before entering into anything beyond friendship.
Close – Let us not forget, that for all singles there is coming a marriage in glory. A union that exceeds anything on earth, and which earthly marriage is only a dim reflection.