Singleness of Purpose   Leave a comment

Let’s get something out of the way right now. I am an advocate for marriage. And so was Paul … sort of. He recommended singleness for Christians living in times of persecution and famine because he knew they would be tempted to protect their families rather than serve the Lord. It’s human nature. We protect whom we love. Single people can more easily keep their spiritual priorities straight. But Paul also recognized that Christians were human on another front and in the previous passage, he recommended marriage as an alternative to violating God’s rules about sexual conduct because of lust.

Image result for image of christian singlenessFor many people, singleness is a root of sexual temptation. There are many Christians today who are not showing God’s gospel in a good light because of their sexual practices. Better to marry than to burn with desire. However, for those people gifted with self-control, singleness can have its advantages, if you use the time God has allotted you for His glory. The apostle Paul had some counter-cultural words for us. He suggested that single-minded singleness has its advantages. In 1 Corinthians 7:25-40, Paul shared several of these advantages. While many of these advantages can be universally true, we must be careful to understand what Paul is saying in the context of his letter to the Corinthian Christians.

1. Singles are better able to cope with troubles.

With regard to the question about people who have never married, I have no command from the Lord, but I give my opinion as one shown mercy by the Lord to be trustworthy. Because of the impending crisis I think it best for you to remain as you are.  The one bound to a wife should not seek divorce. The one released from a wife should not seek marriage. But if you marry, you have not sinned. And if a virgin marries, she has not sinned. But those who marry will face difficult circumstancesand I am trying to spare you such problems. (1 Corinthians 7:25-28).

In these first four verses, Paul suggested that being single isn’t nearly as bad as some people think. The Christian churches were undergoing persecution (and historians say there was a famine in the Roman Empire at the time) and in the midst of a difficult time, Paul recommended that engaged couples consider remaining single. The Corinthians had asked a question and Paul worked through the various permutations of that question. In this second, he gave his opinion regarding those who were engaged. This was not meant as a mandate. It was a suggestion and one meant to apply only during a time of difficulty.

We’re not in a famine today. In fact, most Americans get too much to eat. Still, there are many other situations that might qualify as a “present distress.” Temptation, stress, financial difficulty, busy-ness, materialism, even peer pressure to marry or not to marry, are all modern stresses that could render Paul’s opinions here every bit as practical today as when they were first offered. Paul was not against marriage. Far from it! He was pro-marriage; however, he recognized that marriage is not for the faint of heart.

We don’t know what Paul meant by “trouble in this life” and he didn’t specify, but the phrase may refer to Paul’s conviction that Christians are called to suffer and will likely have more trials than others. The word “trouble” or “tribulation” means “pressed together under pressure,” which is an interesting description of the marriage relationship. You have two people who are pressed together in the closest possible way: physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. They are two very distinct individuals with different personalities, temperaments, wills, histories, struggles and difficulties that they have brought as baggage into the relationship. Even believers in Jesus Christ are still subject to the limitations and weaknesses of the flesh. So you have two angry, selfish, dishonest, proud, forgetful, thoughtless people, which is true even in the best marriages. It’s hard enough for a sinner to live alone with himself, let alone with another sinner. Put those two separate constellations of problems together when two people are bound together in marriage, and the problems of sinful human nature are multiplied.

So, while Paul made it clear that marriage is a legitimate option for single people, but he wanted to spare us unnecessary grief. Hence, it is good to thoughtfully consider the option of singleness.

  • Don’t think that marriage will make you happy.
  • Don’t think that marriage will solve your problems.
  • Don’t think that marriage will bring you closer to God.
  • Don’t think that marriage will make you a better person.
  • Don’t think that marriage will fulfill your dreams.
  • It won’t because it can’t.

Marriage is good, noble, holy and honorable (Hebrews 13:4), but it’s not a panacea. If you are miserable being single, how can you be sure you’ll suddenly be happy being married? The happiest married people are generally those who were also happy while single. Changing your marital status doesn’t guarantee a change in your contentment or satisfaction with life. Discontented singles aren’t usually the best candidates for a happy marriage.

Singles are better able to maintain spiritual priorities.

And I say this, brothers and sisters: The time is short. So then those who have wives should be as those who have none, those with tears like those not weeping, those who rejoice like those not rejoicing, those who buy like those without possessions, those who use the world as though they were not using it to the full. For the present shape of this world is passing away. (1 Corinthians 7:29-31).

We forget sometimes that 1st century Christians thought Jesus would be coming back soon and that He could actually arrive any moment now. In light of the transitory nature of the world, Paul challenged us to live with the end in mind. The first phrase “the time is short” reminds us of the brevity of life. No one lives forever on planet Earth. In Paul’s day, you might live 30 to 50 years on average. In our day, you may live 70-90 years, but sooner or later you’re going to die. Just check out the nearest cemetery. Every grave is proof that the time is short.

The second phrase “the present shape of this world is passing away” comes from a Greek expression that means something like “this world is but a shadow of reality.” Everything we see is fleeting and insubstantial. This life is here one moment and gone the next. This life is not all there is.

So the time is short and the world is passing away. What follows from these truths?

1. With regard to our intimate relationships: “from now on those who have wives should be as though they had none” (7:29). Yeah, they didn’t quote that one at my wedding. It simply means, enjoy your marriage but don’t make your marriage the most important thing in your life.

2. With regard to afflictions: those with tears like those not weeping (7:30a). Don’t be so overcome with grief that you act as if God doesn’t have the final word.

3. With regard to pleasure: “those who rejoice, as though they did not rejoice” (7:30b). Don’t get so caught up in joy that you forget suffering is right around the corner. In everything you do, don’t forget about eternal realities.

4. With regard to purchases: those who buy like those without possessions. (7:30c). When you make purchases, be a wise steward. Don’t spend carelessly on the world’s toys and trinkets. Hold loosely to your possessions. Be careful, lest the things you possess end up possessing you. Acknowledge that you are a steward and the Master may call for what He has given you.

5. With regard to all earthly concerns: those who use the world as though they were not using it to the full. (7:31a). Use the world, enjoy it, live in it, work in it, buy and sell in the marketplace, but don’t let the world rule your life. The message is clear and unmistakable. You won’t be here forever. Enjoy life, live it to the fullest, take advantage of every moment, but don’t indulge yourself so much that you lose your focus on what really matters.

Singles have fewer distractions.

And I want you to be free from concern. An unmarried man is concerned about the things of the Lord, how to please the Lord. But a married man is concerned about the things of the world, how to please his wife, and he is divided. An unmarried woman or a virgin is concerned about the things of the Lord, to be holy both in body and spirit. But a married woman is concerned about the things of the world, how to please her husbandI am saying this for your benefit, not to place a limitation on you, but so that without distraction you may give notable and constant service to the Lord. (1 Corinthians 7:32-35).

Paul expressed the reality that marriage requires being absorbed in the “concerns” of one’s spouse; he thus encouraged singles in their devotion to Christ. Paul’s acknowledgment that married people are concerned about their spouse was not a condemnation. Married people who don’t value their spouse will soon find themselves in an unhappy marriage. Marriage requires immense sacrifice, time, and energy. Paul acknowledged that the marriage relationship can keep us from devoting ourselves more fully to Christ because we must balance our devotion to our spouse and children, while also being so consumed with God that every area of our lives is well balanced. Single people don’t have that dilemma.

Singles have the option of marriage.

If anyone thinks he is acting inappropriately toward his virgin, if she is past the bloom of youth and it seems necessary, he should do what he wishes; he does not sin. Let them marry. But the man who is firm in his commitment, and is under no necessity but has control over his will, and has decided in his own mind to keep his own virgin, does well. So then, the one who marries his own virgin does well, but the one who does not, does better.

A wife is bound as long as her husband is living. But if her husband diesshe is free to marry anyone she wishes (only someone in the Lord). But in my opinion, she will be happier if she remains as she is – and I think that I too have the Spirit of God! (1 Corinthians 7:36-40).

According to my study helps, this is a particularly difficult paragraph because the Greek is ambiguous, making it impossible to know for sure whether Paul was talking about a marriage arranged by a parent or a voluntary one between a man and his fiancée. I believe the man in view is the fiancé of the virgin, who is considering the possibility of marriage with her. These verses then summarize what Paul has already taught. If we were going to put it into modern English, we would say “If anyone thinks that he is not behaving properly toward his fiancee, if his passions are strong, and so it has to be, let him marry as he wishes; it is no sin. Let them marry. But if someone stands firm in his resolve, being under no necessity but having his own desire under control, and has determined in his own mind to keep her as his fiancee, he will do well. So then, he who marries his fiancee does well; and he who refrains from marriage will do better.”

An engaged couple is free to decide whether to marry or remain single. Everyone likes to have the freedom to choose and Paul left the choice up to believers. Both options are viable and permissible.

Paul concluded his section on the topic of marriage, divorce, and remarriage with an emphasis on his two most important thoughts: marriage is for life and Christians should only marry Christians. Married people and singles both need to come to grips with these points. Paul had previously discussed the Biblical exception of desertion (1 Corinthians 7:12-16) and he left the discussion of divorce due to sexual immorality up to Jesus (Matthew 5:32; 19:9). He invoked the ideal circumstances—death is the only condition that frees a person for remarriage. Even then the freedom is not total, for a believer is to marry only another believer, whether it’s a first marriage or a second. That doesn’t mean simply that one must marry a person who believes in God; rather, it means the potential marriage partner must have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Every widow(er) should only remarry a spouse that is at least a spiritual equal.

The truth is there are many excellent reasons to not marry. It is better not to marry…

  • than to marry a nonbeliever
  • than to marry someone who will hinder your relationship with Christ or your service for Him.
  • than to marry someone without the commitment to give completely of yourself to that person.
  • than to marry for the wrong motive.
  • than to marry at all, if you have the gift of celibacy.

Paul’s last comment is a unique one: “and I think that I too have the Spirit of God.” This doesn’t mean Paul wondered whether he was indwelt by the Holy Spirit. He’d had a rather dramatic encounter with the risen Christ, so he had no doubts. Instead, he believed he had spiritual knowledge on this topic. I like that because it shows Paul’s humility and honesty. He was never arrogant about God’s truth. When he had a word directly from the Lord (as in 7:7:10, he made no qualms about sharing it and enforcing it. When he had opinions that were apostolic (7:12 and 25), he gave them with conviction. But when he wasn’t sure whether his ideas conformed to that which the Spirit of God taught, he was willing to say so. There are many in ministry today who would never admit what Paul said here, and they aren’t even close to being apostles. They claim to be right, to have a word from the Lord, and are usually dogmatic about it. They may be wrong, but they’re never in doubt. Beware of teachers who claim to have a direct pipeline to God. That sort of dogmatism has had centuries of consequences.

Posted June 11, 2017 by aurorawatcherak in Uncategorized

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