Faithlife Sermons

Reasons for Remaining Single

Sermon  •  Submitted
0 ratings
Notes & Transcripts
Sermon Tone Analysis
View more →
Reasons for Remaining Single (1 Cor. 7:25–40)Maranatha Baptist Church. Sunday January 15, 2006. 10 am.This week you may have seen the story of Maria Headley. Like many people, playwright Maria Headley had had her fill of terrible dates. Discouraged and looking for love, she decided the time had come for her to eliminate her own (clearly not adequately discriminating) taste from the equation. Instead -- as she vowed to her roommates one frustrated morning -- she would date every person who asked her out for an entire year, regardless of circumstances. It would be her Year of Yes.Over the next 12 months, Maria ended up dating most of NYC: a homeless guy who thought he was Jimi Hendrix, a subway conductor, a mommy-obsessed millionaire, a woman who asked her to have her baby, a 70-year-old salsa dancer, a Colombian Cowboy/Handyman, Her high school nemesis, whom she’d spent seven years rejecting, and THE MIME: A man in the Marceau Mold who proposed with hand gestures and more. In Her words, the Year of Yes is the story of how one woman went looking for a new kind of love...and found a new kind of life.   The people in Corinth had some interesting ideas about being single as well. Written from Ephesus during the Apostle Paul’s third missionary journey from 53-57 AD,  1 Corinthians 7 commences the second part or division of this Epistle, or, “the discussion of those points which had been submitted to the apostle in a letter from the church at Corinth, for his instruction and advice.  A strategic commercial center, Corinth was one of the largest cities in the Roman world and one of the most corrupt (Acts 18:1). Full of false teachers, immature believers and people of all kind of ideas, the Christians in Corinth got into a lot of difficult situations considering Marriage and singleness.Not much is different today. Everyone seems to have an opinion on marriage and singleness. The discussion from friends and family, the talk shows and tabloids, the efforts in single bars to  books in secular bookstores seem endless, and being single is almost regarded as being odd and a problem to be rectified. Weather we are single or married, how we view the single affects our parenting, mentoring, friendships, but most importantly the role that single people have in God’s kingdom.  Is Singleness a problem we do our best to solve for people or is it an opportunity for a special group of people to serve in God’s kingdom in a unique way?    

Continuing to answer the questions about which the Corinthians had written him (7:1), Paul gives six reasons for remaining single: (1) the pressure of the system (vv. 25–27); (2) the problems of the flesh (v. 28); (3) the passing of the world (vv. 29–31); (4) the preoccupations of marriage (32–35); (5) the promises of bethrothed (vv. 36–38); and (6) the permanency of marriage (vv. 39–40).

1) The Pressure of the System (7:25–27)

The principle here is that it is good … to remain as [one] is, and those in view are virgins, including both women and men (a man).

Again (cf.v. 12) Paul points out that Jesus gave no direct teaching on the goodness of singleness (I have no command of the Lord), although He alludes to it in Matt. 19:12. Yet the apostle’s teaching is no less divine and authoritative.

·        Is Paul just shooting from the hip here, with not real guidance?

 Opinion (gnōmē) can carry the ideas of “judgment, consideration, and conviction.” As an apostle who by the Lord’s mercy is  trustworthy, Paul’s conviction was that it is better for single Christians to remain single, if they have the gift from God.

But although this perspective is authoritative, it is not given as an absolute or as a command. It is an authoritative guideline, thoroughly dependable advice, and is twice stated in verse 26 to be good. Paul and the Lord are saying that singleness makes good sense.

Please turn to 1 Tim. 4

The first reason Paul gives for remaining single is the pressure of the system, the world situation of that day, that he called the present distress. Anankē (distress) means “a stress, calamity,” or sometimes “the means of calamity” (such as torture or violence). Some suggest that the reference is to the violent conflict between the new creation in Christ and the old cosmos, the world system. When a person becomes a Christian he immediately gets into some degree of conflict with the ungodly system around him.

·        Should we avoid the institution of marriage altogether then? Is it an out of date concept? Since we may die at any moment and marriage is just for this earth why no just do away with it?


1Ti 4:1  Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, 1Ti 4:2  through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared, 1Ti 4:3  who forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. 1Ti 4:4  For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving.

Some Gnostics argued that since the material world was evil, the spiritual individual should avoid it.  Many now seem to claim a secret knowledge likewise, and proclaim the uselessness of marriage and have abandoned or redefined the concept.

Mention of the present distress, however, may also indicate that Paul had a more specific and severe type of conflict in mind. Countless Christians had been arrested, beaten, imprisoned, and even killed because of the gospel. Jesus had warned the disciples that they would be made “outcasts from the synagogue,” and that

Joh 16:1  "I have said all these things to you to keep you from falling away. Joh 16:2  They will put you out of the synagogues. Indeed, the hour is coming when whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God.

Paul seemed to sense the coming terrible Roman persecutions, the first of which would begin under Nero some ten years after Paul wrote 1 Corinthians. That emperor refined torture to a diabolical art, and his name became synonymous with sadistic cruelty.

·        He had Christians sewn up in animal skins and thrown before wild dogs to be torn apart and eaten.

·        Other believers were dressed in clothes soaked in wax, tied to trees, and set on fire into become human candles for his garden.

Family has often been used as a leaver in persecution

·        Firearms in German and Children.

Corinth itself would furnish one of the early Christian martyrs. According to Foxe’s Book of Martyrs, Erastus, the treasurer of that city (Rom. 16:23) and probably a convert of Paul’s, was martyred.

Persecution is difficult enough for a single person, but the problems and pain are multiplied for one who is married. If Paul had been married, his suffering would have been magnified by his worry about his family and knowledge of their worry about him. They would have suffered every time he was beaten or stoned or imprisoned and would have been constantly fearful for his life.

·        Who would have taken care of them in his absence? Who would have taught his children and comforted his wife?

Those who are already married, however, must not seek to be free. Marriage is a lifelong bond that can be broken only by death, adultery, or divorce by an unbelieving spouse. Other problems, no matter how severe, are never grounds for divorce.

For those who have the gift of singleness, therefore, it is much wiser to remain single. Are you free from a wife? Do not seek a wife. “Cherish your singleness as a blessing from God,” Paul is saying. “Take advantage of its many advantages.”

God still gives the gift of singleness to some of His children. And many signs point to times of increasing conflict and even persecution for Christians in our world. In Matthew 24 Jesus vividly pictured the turmoil and terror of the end times. It would be characterized by wars, apostasy, persecution, false prophets, and universal tribulation. We can already see overpopulation, pollution, rampant crime and immorality, false prophets and cults, apostasy, and increased threat of global war. The turn of the century could produce widespread warfare, civil strife, revolution, famine, disease, persecution, despotism, natural disasters, and economic stagnation and depression.

1) The Pressure of the System (7:25–27)

2) The Problems of the Flesh (7:28)

Paul again makes it clear that it is not a sin for single believers to get married, as long as it is to another believer (v. 39; cf. 2 Cor. 6:14). Even those with the gift of singleness do not sin if they get married. So if you do marry, for whatever reason, you have not sinned. The point is that marriage is a legitimate option, but it is good to consider first the option of singleness.

Yet those who marry will have worldly troubles, and I would spare you that. The apostle is giving practical advice, not a moral or spiritual command. Believers are still sinful and subject to limitations and weaknesses of the flesh. It is hard enough for a sinner to live with himself, let alone with another sinner. When two people are bound together in marriage the problems of human nature are multiplied. Close living allows us to see our partner’s faults more clearly. and vice versa. Children of Christian parents are born sinful just as is every child, and they do not become sinless when they are saved. They will have some measure of conflict with each other and with their parents.

It is not that marriage is not rewarding, or that family life is uninterrupted trouble. A loving, devoted, spiritual family not only is a great joy and strength to its members but also strengthens and blesses those around it. Paul is simply pointing out that marriage may cause some problems while it solves others. It is not intended by God to resolve all personal, emotional, or spiritual difficulties. It definitely intensifies some of them.

Trouble (thlipsis) literally means EXTERNAL SITUATIONS where one is  “pressed together, or under pressure.” Marriage presses two people together in the closest possible ways. The two become one, but they are still two personalities, two distinct people with their own likes and dislikes, their own characteristics, emotions, temperaments, and wills.

Each partner has some degree of anger, selfishness, dishonesty, pride, forgetfulness, and thoughtlessness. That is true even of the best marriages.

1) The Pressure of the System (7:25–27) 2) The Problems of the Flesh (7:28)

3) The Passing of the World (7:29–31)

The focus of this passage is at the end of verse 31: for the present form of this world is passing away. Form (schēma) means “fashion, manner of life, way of doing things, or mode of existence.” The mode of the world is impermanence; it is passing away.

The time (kairos) refers to a definite period, a fixed, appointed time; and that period has grown very short, or drawn together so that it is a small amount. Human life at its longest is brief,

Jam 4:14  yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.

1Pe 1:24  for "All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls,

Please turn to 1 Jn 2

The verb properly means to roll or wind up.  Paul talking about the era that encompasses the time in which he lives.  Mt 24: 22, Mk 13, 20.

This is intended to cause us to:

Col 3:1  If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Col 3:2  Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.

1Jo 2:15  Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 1Jo 2:16  For all that is in the world--the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions--is not from the Father but is from the world. 1Jo 2:17  And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.

We must understand the priority of the eternal over the temporal.

For husbands and wives to live as though they had none, does not teach that marriage is no longer binding on believers or that their marital responsibilities are reduced. Marriage lasts only for life, and is therefore as brief as life. Yet a brief life and hard circumstances do not lessen the obligations of husbands and wives.

He is not advocating celibacy separation or divorce but he does imply that Christians confine marriage to the present age.

Mat 22:30  For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven.

Today it has become increasingly difficult, because of close attachment to families, to get Christians—including missionaries—to be strongly dedicated to serving the Lord. In many cases they do not want to be separated from the companionship of their wives for more than a week or two at most, even though an important ministry may need more time than that. There must be a balance, a scriptural balance, between fulfilling marriage needs and serving the Lord.

In addition to marriage, Paul gives four other areas in which priorities and perspectives must be kept right. The second and third areas have to do with the emotions of sorrow and joy. Those who morn should live as though they were not mourning; and those who rejoice, as though they were not rejoicing. the mature Christian does not fall apart and lose all hope and purpose and motivation in the face of turmoil.

With our emphasis on celebration and happiness it is also easy for believers to get carried away with rejoicing over those things that pass away. A personal success, an inheritance, or a business promotion sometimes excites us more than a spiritual victory.

The fourth area of concern is that of finances and possessions: and those who buy, as though they has no goods. Corinthian Christians were in no more danger in this area than many believers today. The accumulation of money and of the things it can buy is a preoccupation of many Christians, who in this regard cannot be distinguished from the unbelieving world around them.

Many of us are more concerned about our bank accounts, houses, and cars than about our spirituality—more concerned about the outward than the inward. We are strongly attached to the present form of this world, even though we know it is passing away.

Mat 6:19  "Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, Mat 6:20  but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. Mat 6:21  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

The fifth area of concern is that of pleasure: and those who deal with the world, as though they has no dealings with it. In times of affluence, ease, permissiveness, and inordinate self–acceptance it is easy to live for pleasure. Pleasures that are not immoral or extravagant may still be worldly.

More leisure, more vacation time, earlier retirement, more comfortable homes, and such things can so occupy our interest and time that the things of the Spirit are neglected. Many under the excuse of “providing for their families” do in fact neglect their families and the Lord’s work by over working.

The Christian should not be like the Gnostic Stoic’s who abstains from pleasure or the Hedonist that just lived for it. The calling of the Christian is to live out our calling, using our gifts and talents to God’s glory.

None of the five areas about which Paul warns is inherently bad. Marriage, sorrow, rejoicing, possessions, and pleasure all have a proper place in the Christian life. In fact, each is a part of God’s provision for life here. We should not overvalue those things, knowing that they are passing away.

As with all things, we ought to be living as if we might have to leave this world at any moment. We should not make earthly things our ultimate objectives. Whether we are married, cast in sorrow, given to joy, or acquire possession, Christians should not become absorbed by them. They should see the transient nature of these things and know that after having passed through this earthly vale, believers will enter eternity. Jesus taught his followers

1) The Pressure of the System (7:25–27) 2) The Problems of the Flesh (7:28) 3) The Passing of the World (7:29–31)

4) The Preoccupations of Marriage (7:32–35)

The fourth reason for staying single is the preoccupations that marriage brings. Both husbands and wives are anxious about the things of the world. They are concerned about the earthly needs of each other, as they should be. The husband is anxious about how he may please his wife, and the wife about how she may please her husband. The one who is unmarried (here agamos is used in a general way) is concerned about the things of the Lord, how he may please the Lord and how she may be holy both in body and spirit. But the married person’s interests are divided between the earthly and the heavenly. And so it should be.

The woman who is unmarried, (here agamos is used in the sense of divorced) and the virgin (in contrast to those single by divorce) are able to be holy in body and spirit. Holy is used here in its basic sense of separation, being set apart. Single Christians, whether formerly married or never married, are not intrinsically more righteous or faithful than married ones. But they are able, because of fewer family demands and obligations, to be more devoted to the Lord’s work.

Being holy, or separated, is contrasted with being divided. It is not that the married believer has divided spiritual loyalties or that the unmarried is more spiritually faithful.

Many married believers are holy in the sense of being highly devoted to the Lord, and many single believers are divided in their spiritual interests. But practically, the unmarried person, both in body and spirit, is potentially able to set himself or herself apart from the things of this life more exclusively for the Lord’s work than is the married.

Why is the apostle saying these things? Is he trying to lay on them some Guilt trip?

This I say for your own benefit; not to lay any restraint upon you, but to promote good order, and to secure your undivided devotion to the Lord.

Paul states this in the plural pronoun you, and therefore is concerned with the spiritual and physical welfare of all believers in Corinth.

Marriage does not prevent great devotion to the Lord, and singleness does not guarantee it. But singleness has fewer hindrances and more advantages. It is easier for a single person to be single-minded in the things of the Lord. The married Christian has no choice. His interests must be divided. He cannot be faithful to the Lord if he is unfaithful to his family.

·        Is the apostle tells us then to just concentrate on Spiritual matters and leave earthly concerns behind?

1Ti 5:8  But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.

The single person, however, has a choice. He is free to marry or not. He is not under restraint to remain single. His choice is not between right and wrong but between good and better.

Paul was not putting a legalistic noose (the literal meaning of restraint) around the necks of single Christians. They are not under compulsion either to marry or to remain single. In advising them to remain as they were, he had two motives, both of them for their own benefit. He wanted to spare them trouble (v. 28; cf. v.32), and he wanted them to have Undivided (undistracted) devotion to the Lord. The word devotion has the idea of waiting alongside the Lord as those who serve (cf. 9:13).

1) The Pressure of the System (7:25–27) 2) The Problems of the Flesh (7:28) 3) The Passing of the World (7:29–31) 4) The Preoccupations of Marriage (7:32–35)

5) The Promises of Betrothed (7:36–38)

In Jewish culture, parents, and particularly fathers, had long had a dominant role in deciding whom their children would marry.

In light of the extant teaching about the advantages of singleness, some of the fathers in Corinth apparently had dedicated their young daughters to the Lord as permanent virgins.

Again the emphasis is on the option believers have in regard to marriage. If the intended partner is a Christian, marriage is always permissible. A father who had vowed his daughter’s remaining single in order to serve the Lord more devotedly was free to change his mind and allow her to marry if she were insistent. After all, it was a vow made for someone else, and was therefore subject to that person’s spiritual needs. If anyone things that he is not behaving properly toward his betrothed, if his passions are strong, and it has to be, let him do as he wishes: let them marry-it is no sin;. If it must be so indicates that she really is designed for marriage, and the father should allow it.

-Translation note: Acting toward his “betrothed” does not equal “virgin”. It is linguistically  unlikely that the father would refer to his daughter as his virgin.

But whoever is firmly established in his heart, that is, does not change his mind about the promise; and is under no necessity by the betrothed to change his mind; and has a good and pure motive (having his desire under control) and is deeply committed (determined this in his heart); he may keep her as his bethrowed. Only the daughter’s unwillingness to keep the vow should cause the father to change his mind. His steadfastness in his vow will encourage his daughter to be steadfast in hers. In doing that he will do well.

Paul repeats the option: So then both he who marries his bethrowed does well, and he who refrains from marriage will do even better. As with the single themselves (v. 28), the choice is not between right and wrong but between good (well) and better.

1) The Pressure of the System (7:25–27) 2) The Problems of the Flesh (7:28) 3) The Passing of the World (7:29–31) 4) The Preoccupations of Marriage (7:32–35) 5) The Promises of Fathers (7:36–38)

6) The Permanency of Marriage (7:39–40)

The relationship is not permanent in the sense of being eternal but in the sense of being lifelong. It is binding as long as both partners are alive.

Please turn to Romans 7

In any case the believer will be bound as long as her husband [or wife] lives, which is often well into old age and past the time for the most productive service to the Lord. This is written in the Perfect Tense it refers to an act that has happened in the past with results that extend to the present.

If the partner is dead, the believer is free to be married, as long as the new partner is in the Lord (cf.9:5).

Rom 7:1   Or do you not know, brothers--for I am speaking to those who know the law--that the law is binding on a person only as long as he lives? Rom 7:2  Thus a married woman is bound by law to her husband while he lives, but if her husband dies she is released from the law of marriage. Rom 7:3  Accordingly, she will be called an adulteress if she lives with another man while her husband is alive. But if her husband dies, she is free from that law, and if she marries another man she is not an adulteress.

But remarriage is not the ideal; it is not God’s best for everyone. In my judgement she is happier if she remains as she is. Again (cf. vv. 28, 32, 35) Paul makes it clear that he is not giving a command, but is giving counsel for the benefit and blessing of those who take it. A widowed person who has God’s grace for singleness will be happier to remain single.

Paul’s statement I think that I too have the Spirit of God does not lessen but strengthen his point. With a touch of sarcasm he was saying that he, too, had access to the leading of the Holy Spirit—a claim apparently made both by the group that advocated celibacy only and by the group that advocated marriage only. He was still speaking as “an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God” (1:1). His command was God’s command and his advice was God’s advice. Celibacy is preferred merely on the ground of expediency and not on the ground of its being a higher state of virtue.

For those who are single and wish to marry, you must pray, prepare yourself as a bride is to be adorned for her husband  (Rev. 21:2, 19:7-8) and go where you are called. You must discover your gifts, develop your gifts and demonstrate your gifts. This thereby attracts the mate that best first with your status in Christ.

Nevertheless, due to the increased suffering marriage would probably bring, the transitory nature of all earthly things and the comparative freedom from care connected with a single life, the world has been changed by the likes of: David Brainerd, Robert Murray McCheyne, and Florence Nightingale, a single life is a unique opportunity for service to the Glory of God.


Related Media
Related Sermons