TEXT: 1 Corinthians 7:6-9
TITLE: “Concerning Singles “
DATE : THE LORD'S DAY 19/09/2010
We now come to the matter of singleness . I speak to you on this theme with a great sense of inadequacy . I have been happily married to my wife Marcelle for almost 24 years . I am sorry that I did not marry her earlier - say , at the ripe old age of 19 , after high school . We were married , when I was 28 years old . I had my days as a single, but to be honest , I always had known that I was not destined to be a single . That is why I speak on this subject with a sense of inadequacy .
But then I immediately think about the fact that I am not here to express my own opinions on singleness , but that I am in fact preaching this morning to you from the word of God.
I also want you to notice that the man who was inspired by the Holy Spirit to write on this subject was also a single man – the apostle Paul !
So , here in chapter 7 we find the longest passage about singleness. It is also the only passage in the Bible in which singleness is called a gift – a good gift- which may be surprising to some .
Before we consider what is taught here about singleness, allow me to walk you through the text , verse by verse :
Chapter 7 began with Paul responding to a matter raised by the Corinthians in a letter to him. That matter was about ‘ abstinence of sex in marriage’ . Paul refutes this idea in vv 2-5 .
From there he proceeds to address other related matters.
vv.6 - 7 : “ Now as a concession , not a command , I say this . I wish that all were as I myself am . But each has his own gift from God , one of one kind and one of another.“
Paul makes the point here that being single does have advantages . He will expand on this point later in v. 25. One of them is the matter of anxieties ( v.32-34). The more people you must care for, the more stressful (v.26) life becomes , and the less time you will have to serve the Lord (v.33) .
It is clear that Paul’s personal preference is the state of singleness . There can be no doubt that the apostle Paul really had the time to give himself fully to the work of the Lord . He was an amazingly productive man in the work of the kingdom of God , but I cannot imagine that he could have done the same , had he a wife and children.
So, in terms of work in God’s kingdom, a single can do far more for the Lord than a married man or woman .
But note that Paul is not declaring himself to be somewhat elevated above other on account of his state of singleness . He is also not saying that everyone must abandon their dreams for marriage . He himself says explicitly that he is only expressing his own opinion on this matter. (7:6,25) .
He knows that singleness is not for everyone. The ability to remain single , without being tempted sexually, is a gift (Greek - “charisma”) from God.
Paul is a single and celibate man who is so gifted by God and happy in his state. In fact he is so happy in this state that he wishes that everyone else could be as he is ! As I have reminded you already , Paul will explain the benefits of the single life later.
But right now he is clarifying for us the proper attitude about sex in both the married and single state. We saw in 6:12-7:5, that the Corinthian believers were confused in this area ( some were Epicureans and others were Ascetics - see my previous sermon for definitions) . To the ascetically minded church members he had to explain that sex was good and necessary for marriage, but only in that context . Those who are married must not be embarrassed by their passions . One does not become more spiritual by abstention, as some of the Corinthians seemed to believe .
But once you have that gift of singleness , you know it by the fact that you are able to be celibate – to abstain from sexual activity . I will say more about this when we get to v. 9 . Clearly Paul lives such a life and is pleased that he has the gift to do so.
By the way : The fact that it is a ‘gift ‘ from God is significant . When we ill eventually get to 1 Corinthians 12 ( concerning spiritual gifts) we will learn among many other things that the characteristics of a spiritual gift is that it does not require a great deal of effort to exercise. It comes spontaneously and joyfully because God is behind it , enabling you to do it . You know that you have the gift of celibacy when you don’t struggle with sexual impulses. God has obviously given this gift to Paul.
v.8 “To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is good for them to remain single as I am “ . There are unmarried people and widows/ divorced ( who have been married and who are now single again) in the Corinthian congregation . To them Paul recommends that they remain single and ( again) will give some account of his reasons later in the chapter. For himself , it frees him to devote his attention and energy to God’s kingdom work. Thus, he thinks others who are free from marriage should see the blessing of such a life.
But, remember, he fully understands that marriage is the norm to which God has called most people.
v.9 “ But if they cannot exercise self control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to burn with passion “ . Clearly , if you cannot control yourself in this area you are not called to a state of singleness . The answer is to get married , and enjoy sex in a biblical context. That last statement, “ it is better to marry than to burn with passion” affirms once again that marriage is the only legitimate context for having a sexual relationship .
Now that we have looked at these 4 verses , let us try to summarize what we have said , and then try to fill in some of the blanks …
1. Marriage is good and singleness is good. No state is superior , for both are gifts from God .
2. Singleness is good and is not a sign that God has withheld his blessing from the single person. It is not a curse to live the single life. For Paul it is in fact a blessing . From a spiritual point of view he had more opportunities to serve the Lord .
The main problem is however , that you may be a single and you sense that this is not a permanent state for you . You sense that you are not called to be celibate .
“Single Frustrations” :
I will address two major frustrations that single people express :
(i) “ I feel so out of place among married people and families . I feel abnormal . “ If people think of you as being abnormal , than you need to know that it is true . Carolyn McCulley ( Sex and the Supremacy of God - Piper et. al pp 186/7 ) says :
“It’s true . You’re not normal. But this is good news . If you’ve repented of your sins and put your trust in the finished work of Jesus Christ and His substitutionary death on the cross for the punishment of your sins then you’re definitely not normal . Your identity has been reclaimed and reordered by the Lord . You are a Christian , a man or woman , and currently a single adult. And that is the information that is currently most important about you .
- Your most important identity is as a Christian ransomed by God Himself.
- Second to that is your identity as a woman or a man – made in God’s image . Those two identities will never change.
- But your status as a single person could change several times within your life time, so that is the least important aspect of your identity . “ 
(ii) How does the single person who feels that they do not possess the gift of celibacy handle singleness? It is fine for Paul to say “get married”, but what if there is no suitable marriage partner at this time ?
We know that most singles today do not handle their state of singleness very well . By far most modern single people are sexually active (often with many partners) and those that are not sexually active are thought of as ‘queer’ or abnormal .. How can the Christian single person survive in such a climate ?
a. Know where you stand. Ask yourself : What does Scripture teach, for the Scriptures are your authority on matters of life . The Scripture plainly teaches that sex outside marriage is sexual immorality. ( e.g. David and Solomon’s immoralities ; the woman at the well ( Jn 4) are not condoned in Scripture . See also the warning of Galatians 5:19-21. “ Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality…I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God “ . The Bible simply does not recognize sex outside the context of marriage .
b. Know where the world stands: Feeling defines for the world’s sense of right and wrong. (i.e. Does it feel good to me ? If it does it must be right - hence the “ Just do it” philosophy). This is undoubtedly the moral philosophy of our day. The Christian ethic of moral absolutes is sneered at. The problem with such a philosophy is that it believes that man is basically good . It does not believe the biblical teaching on the nature and extent of the fall into sin . Genesis 1- 11 , where all the major doctrines of Scripture are rooted is written off by scoffers and liberal theologians as ‘ mythological ‘. So if you do away with the basic doctrines of Genesis , you have no moral ground to stand on . Unfortunately the world has no effective answers as to why the world is so full of lies and so angry and so sick.
c. Once you know where scripture and the world stand , you – married or single must decide where you must stand.
A WORD FOR SINGLES : Why some people are single :
Apart from the reason that we have already discussed - namely that some people are called and gifted of God for this purpose ( c.f. Matt 19:11 ,12 1 Cor 7:7) there may be the following other reasons why people are single :
a. When sin (having sinned or having been sinned against) has distorted a person’s relationship to God / or others they may lack courage /or perspective to enter into a relationship. Rather than experiencing hurt or rejection, they choose to live single lives.
b. Single people ( particularly those that are advancing in their years) need to ask themselves, before they complain that God must have passed them by : Has God singled me out for His service ? If this is so , then the church needs to recognize this and help them to fulfill their calling to deeper service , whatever that may be .
c. Those singles who are not convinced that singleness is indeed their calling , and who bemoan their loneliness (which God understands) need to be helped understand their causes of singleness . Some of these questions below need to be asked with honesty :
- Am I marriageable at all ? Have I been traumatized in previous relationships to such an extent that I cannot entrust myself to someone? Healing (e.g. forgiveness and being forgiven) in such cases must come from the Lord who either gives grace to find a loving partner , or helps us to accept our situation and to move on . The church can go some way to provide a family atmosphere for such singles.
- Am I too selfish to be married ? Do I have personality traits that make me unmarriageable? The solution to this dilemma is to receive biblical counseling which helps you to take a critical look at your personality traits, and leads you to make some important adjustments .
- Am I fishing where there are fish? Christian singles obviously are looking for Christian partners. The first solution would be for God to send someone into your life ; alternatively relocate to an area/ church where there are other Christian singles to meet. Alternatively become involved and encourage your church to start a God-centered singles ministry.