Previous article in this series: June 2012, p. 404.
It is not the will of the Lord that all of His children be married. In our last article we referred to Paul’s instruction in. In this chapter of God’s Word the inspired apostle of our Lord says that “it is good for a man not to touch a woman.” His meaning is that it is good for a man not to touch a woman sexually, as in marriage. Paul is not writing about compulsory celibacy for the clergy of the church. This is nowhere taught in Scripture. But in I Corinthians 7 Paul is writing about certain ordinary members of the church who might choose to remain single even all their lives. In chapter 9 of the same letter Paul speaks about his right to lead about a sister and a wife. He chose not to do this. Such a choice is morally good and proper for the Christian. Paul was single by choice. He states even that he wished that all were as he was. Later, again in chapter 7 of I Corinthians, the apostle speaks of certain advantages of not being married. Such a one can devote himself more completely to the kingdom of Jesus Christ, a most noble calling.
Not all who are single are so by choice. Probably even most are not. Some for many years greatly desire marriage, but that desire is never fulfilled, even though they have earnestly prayed to God about it. Some of these can become very discouraged and depressed. Over time, they can develop a sinful negative self-image. They may imagine that no one wants or needs them. They can feel at a loss as to knowing what the Lord’s purpose and calling might be for them.
The Bible teaches that the Christian should be content in whatever state the Lord calls him to live. Though this may at times be very difficult for single Christians, contrary to the imagination of some, it is not impossible. Paul, a man who remained single all of his life, confesses inthat he learned to be content in whatsoever state of life he found himself. He follows this confession with the beautiful confession of his faith, “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me” ( ). In the same letter Paul exhorts the members of the church, “Rejoice in the Lord alway; and again I say, Rejoice” ( ). Paul gave this exhortation at the very time when he was experiencing the depressing circumstances of life in a Roman prison and wondering whether he would have to suffer as a martyr. The exhortation always to rejoice does not exclude single Christians, as though their life is so miserable that rejoicing in the Lord is impossible.
Single Christians ought to feel that they have a place in the church. They should be loved and respected because of this place by the other members of the church. They should not be made the butt of hurtful and demeaning jokes and comments.
Single Christians should be included by those who are married in their regular activities, where they can enjoy enduring, deep Christian friendship and fellowship. Single Christians should not be forgotten. They themselves should make a great effort to be an active and lively part of the communion of the saints in the church. This is better than worldly friendship. The communion of the saints is a vital and spiritually healthy part of daily Christian living. No single Christian should allow himself to become a recluse and live most of the time all alone. He should not try to bear the burdens and struggles of life alone and then fault others for the bitterness of his life.
Whether married or single, we all have a calling and obligation to the other members of the church. The sin of self-centeredness must by the grace of God be overcome by caring for others, giving time for others, taking an interest in others, especially our fellow saints. We find ourselves by losing ourselves in concern and interest for Christ and His kingdom and in the care and concern for His people. Such Christian action delivers one from sinful self pity and spiritual depression.
The single Christian who has the holy desire of heart to be married should not too quickly close himself off from the possibility of still being married someday. He should actively pursue opportunities for marriage. InPaul exhorts the younger widows to marry. There were apparently in the church about which Paul was writing an unusual number of church members who had lost their husbands through death. Widows (and by implication widowers) were encouraged to seek to be married again with a suitable partner, but only in the Lord.
There are things that Christians can and may do to increase the possibility of their finding someone to marry. Marriages generally arise out of living and active Christian friendships. Such Christian friendship ought always to be cultivated. The attraction between a man and a woman that leads to marriage has mysterious aspects to it. It can and does arise in unexpected and wonderful ways in God’s providence. Biblical advice for Christian friendship is that one should always work at showing himself to be friendly. A person should not expect to find friends when he himself is withdrawn from society.
One who is always boasting about himself or seeking only his own satisfaction and fulfillment in life has a wrong perspective. The Christian virtue of humility and self-effacement is important for all Christian fellowship. How beautiful are truly Christian friendships that reveal a real Christian interest in and a sincere and genuine concern for others. Practicing this kind of true friendship has led many in the providence of God to special people in their lives whom they eventually married.
There are definite temptations that the single as well as the married Christian must always be strong to resist. Even marriage does not cure the adulterous heart of the man driven by the sinful passion of his corrupt nature and not satisfied with his God-given partner in marriage. All temptations for immoral use of sex outside of marriage must be steadfastly avoided. We must all flee from its every temptation and occasion that would stir up such sinful passion. Sex is intended by God exclusively for the intimate, lifelong commitment of the holy bond of marriage. In our times there are single men and women who do not want the committed relationship of marriage and its lifetime serious responsibility. They prefer rather the freedom of multiple sexual partners. This is an abomination to the Lord. The single Christian should never make excuses for himself. He should not yield to the powerful and tempting opportunities common in this ungodly society for the excitement of the momentary pleasure of sin. Godliness requires self-control and self-denial at all times in our Christian life. Such a life is possible only by the grace of God and the power of His Spirit. Single men and women can sometimes make themselves grievously guilty of wrecking the marriages and the peace and happiness of the homes and families of their neighbor.
Desperation about getting married at all cost is a great danger for a single person. After years of longing to be married, someone may suddenly become very excited by personal interest shown by a man or woman towards him or her. Maybe this single person never before experienced such a thing. It is possible for the single Christian at such an occasion totally to disregard even the clearest indications that the interested person has few qualifications for being a good Christian marriage partner. It is better never to be married than to be married to the wrong person. Virtuous women and noble men who have potential for being good and faithful marriage partners are very rare. Sadly, many Christians have been led away from the church and even from the Lord by foolish choices of marriage partners.
The chief concern of Christian living must always be the kingdom of heaven and its righteousness. We are called to live to God’s glory and not merely for our own satisfaction.
We call attention to two striking passages in Scripture.records the strong teaching of our Lord about the lifelong, unbreakable bond of marriage that God Himself establishes. When the disciples heard the Lord’s teaching, they considered it to be a hard saying. In response, Jesus gave the interesting teaching about eunuchs. He made mention of those who make themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake. Jesus gives to us the very important principles in seeking the kingdom of heaven and its righteousness in marriage. One of the situations in which a Christian must remain single, even though this can be very difficult, is when they have been treacherously put away by an unfaithful and adulterous spouse. Remarriage according to the teaching of the Lord, even for the innocent party, would involve a relationship of continued adultery. The principles of the righteousness of the kingdom teach the Christian rather to continue in holiness of life as a single Christian. Let no Christian say that this is a cruel and unnecessary legalism. We must remember that keeping God’s law is not grievous, and such a concern has the promise of God’s favor and blessing on one’s life. This is far better than an ungodly life pleasing to our sinful nature.
In I Corinthians 7 Paul speaks more positively about living as a single Christian for the sake of the kingdom of God. The inspired apostle teaches us in this chapter that there can even be an advantage in not being married and not having the cares and burdens of marriage and the family. This is especially true in this ungodly world in the last days. The single Christian should make use of this advantage and not make his being single the occasion for passionate pursuit of a career and using his time only for earthly things. Whether we are married or single, the kingdom and its righteousness must be our great interest and occupation in life. We could continue in this article by giving a list of very specific examples of ways in which single Christians can serve the kingdom. Let all those who are in this state and calling in the providence of God think about this. When we have that great interest in our life, we will be blessed by God, and our lives by the grace of God will have great significance and meaning. Scripture records the lives of outstanding Christians who were single all their life and were of special service to the Lord and a great blessing to His church and His people.