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The Importance of Christian Singleness

Book of I Corinthians - Let's be a Christ-Centered Church  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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Title: The Importance of Christian Singleness 

Text:  

Series: Let's be a Christ-centered Church

Introductory Remarks:

Paul’s summarization:
1 Corinthians 7:29–30 KJV 1900
29 But this I say, brethren, the time is short: it remaineth, that both they that have wives be as though they had none; 30 And they that weep, as though they wept not; and they that rejoice, as though they rejoiced not; and they that buy, as though they possessed not;
Jewish Culture:
This particular statement would be counter-Jewish culture and other religions and cultures, which made marriage and child-bearing absolute virtues.
Culturally:
The gospel "de-idolized" marriage, since culturally having children:
formed ways to be remembered
formed ways for inheritances to be maintained in a biological sense
brought security to the aged
"Single adult Christians were bearing testimony that God, not family, was their hope." - Keller
Christian Marriage Hope:
Hauerwas goes on to point out that Christian hope not only made it possible for singles to live fulfilled lives without spouse and children, but it also was an impetus for people to marry and have children and not be afraid to bring them into this dark world. “For Christians do not place their hope in their children, but rather their children are a sign of their hope . . . that God has not abandoned this world. . . .” 6 - Keller, Meaning of Marriage

What this means for us today:

(Con-temporization)
Two extreme views that are not gospel-centered:
Traditional society view - tends to make an idol out of marriage (because they make an idol out of family and tribe)
Contemporary society view - tends to make an idol out of independence (because they make an idol out of individual choice & happiness)

While the traditional motive for marriage has been social duty, stability, and status, the contemporary motive for marriage is personal fulfillment. Both of these motives are partially right, of course, but they tend to become ultimates if the gospel has not changed your mind and heart. - T.K.
“Marriage and celibacy can be idolatrous. Spouses can worship each other…Singles can worship autonomy and independence. Singles can look at marriage as a second-class Christian compromise with the sexual drive. Married people can look upon singleness as a mark of immaturity or irresponsibility or incompetence.” - JP “There are Christ-exalting ways to be married…and to be single.

Example (illustration):

As a pastor in New York City, I have noticed an interesting sociological phenomenon. Some Christian singles in my church were raised in parts of the United States that are very traditional culturally, and there they got the “You aren’t a whole person until you are married” mentality.
Then they moved to NYC, where they were bombarded with the “You shouldn’t marry until you have professionally made it big and you find the perfect partner who won’t try to change you in any way” message. Their first culture made them over-desirous of marriage. Their second culture made them over-afraid of marriage. Both the longing and the fear live in their hearts, sometimes in about equal strengths, at war with each other.
Statements like:
“My children are my world” would not have been part of the vernacular of those who understood the gospel.
“My spouse is my life” would not have been part of the common understanding of those who understood the wisdom of the cross.”
“I’m never getting married.”
“I’m going to test the waters until I find Mr. Right (perfect).”
Statements like these show an idolization of an ideal that was never intended by God, and leads those who are single to pursue that ideal that is flaunted in front of them.
It leads individuals to associate their identity or self-worth with marriage, child-bearing, or independence rather than with the cross of Christ, and until believers understand the gospel a chapter like will never make any sense.
We have allowed carnal thinking about marriage and about child-bearing and about singleness to enter our churches, our homes. As a result, singleness has become a sign of something taboo.
“Oh, they are still single. There must be something wrong...”
“Wow. If they would just stop looking for perfection, maybe they would find the right person..”
All of these statements show how we suppose that marriage is a virtue and singleness is not a virtue.
ILLUSTRATION:
Paige Benton Brown, in her classic article “Singled Out by God for Good,” lists a number of common ways that Christian churches try to “explain” singleness: “As soon as you’re satisfied with God alone, he’ll bring someone special into your life”— as though God’s blessings are ever earned by our contentment.
“You’re too picky”— as though God is frustrated by our fickle whims and needs broader parameters in which to work.
“As a single you can commit yourself wholeheartedly to the Lord’s work”— as though God requires emotional martyrs to do his work, of which marriage must be no part.
“Before you can marry someone wonderful, the Lord has to make you someone wonderful”— as though God grants marriage as a second blessing to the satisfactorily sanctified.
Keller, Timothy (2011-11-01). The Meaning of Marriage: Facing the Complexities of Commitment with the Wisdom of God (pp. 188-189). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
All of these statements show how we suppose that marriage is a virtue and singleness is not a virtue.

Proposition:

The cross of Jesus must be allowed to change our understanding of Christian singleness and Christian marriage!

Question: 

What does the cross of Jesus Christ cause me to believe about Christian singleness?

Singleness is scriptural (v. 6)

The emphasis is authoritative

In spite of not explicit teaching by Jesus

, , - Paul is stating that he does not have anything explicitly stated by Jesus, when Jesus was upon this earth. This would be an affirmation of authority.
, , - Paul is stating that he does not have anything explicitly stated by Jesus, when Jesus was upon this earth. This would be an affirmation of authority.

Because the apostles were inspired (as the OT prophets) - ,

- ,
2 Peter 3:1–2 KJV 1900
1 This second epistle, beloved, I now write unto you; in both which I stir up your pure minds by way of remembrance: 2 That ye may be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandment of us the apostles of the Lord and Saviour:
2 Peter 3:15–16 KJV 1900
15 And account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation; even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you; 16 As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction.

Application:

Friend, you must decide: “Will the scripture have a higher authority in how I believe about marriage & singleness than:
What I may have been taught in my church?
What I may have been taught in my home?
What I may have been taught in my school?
What I may have been taught in my culture?

For example:

Possibly you were raised in a home where the marriage and home were idolized, so you are saying “I’m never going to get married, and I’m never going to have children....” - Your pursuit of singleness is not gospel-motivated...
OR
Possibly a single-parent home where you saw a fiercely independent parent who didn’t want anyone’s help....
To both of you I say, “If you have been changed by the gospel, then you must understand that the scriptures should be that which gives you the doctrine, reproof, correction, and instruction in righteousness to make you the perfect man and woman that God wants you to be.
Recap: Singleness is scriptural

Singleness is desirable (v. 7) 

Paul, at this juncture was single.

Not much is known about Paul’s marital history, though it is likely that he was married at one time because marriage was required of rabbis in his day. If Paul was an ordained rabbi, he must have been married for a while, but nothing is known about what happened to his wife. She may have died, or she may have left him when he converted to Christianity. Whatever the case, Paul was single and free from burning sexual passion when he wrote this letter, and he admitted that he saw advantages in this condition.
we can better understand how radical Paul’s statements are regarding singleness and marriage. Stanley Hauerwas argues that Christianity was the very first religion that held up single adulthood as a viable way of life. He writes, “One . . . clear difference between Christianity and Judaism [and all other traditional religions] is the former’s entertainment of the idea of singleness as the paradigm way of life for its followers.” 4
Nearly all ancient religions and cultures made an absolute value of the family and of the bearing of children. There was no honor without family honor, and there was no real lasting significance or legacy without leaving heirs. Without children, you essentially vanished— you had no future. The main hope for the future, then, was to have children. In ancient cultures, long-term single adults were considered to be living a human life that was less than fully realized.
Keller, Timothy (2011-11-01). The Meaning of Marriage: Facing the Complexities of Commitment with the Wisdom of God (pp. 186-187). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Application:

the fist thing to Adam & Eve: “Be fruitful and multiply”
Genesis 1:28 KJV 1900
28 And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.
When God chose Abram to be the father of God’s people - “tell the stars if thou be able to number them...”
Genesis 15:5 KJV 1900
5 And he brought him forth abroad, and said, Look now toward heaven, and tell the stars, if thou be able to number them: and he said unto him, So shall thy seed be.
- Offspring for the sake of the name
1 Samuel 24:21 KJV 1900
21 Swear now therefore unto me by the Lord, that thou wilt not cut off my seed after me, and that thou wilt not destroy my name out of my father’s house.
- the Levirate marriage
Deuteronomy 25:6 KJV 1900
6 And it shall be, that the firstborn which she beareth shall succeed in the name of his brother which is dead, that his name be not put out of Israel.
Ruth & Boaz -
Ruth 4:10 KJV 1900
10 Moreover Ruth the Moabitess, the wife of Mahlon, have I purchased to be my wife, to raise up the name of the dead upon his inheritance, that the name of the dead be not cut off from among his brethren, and from the gate of his place: ye are witnesses this day.
The new people of God would be formed by the atoning death of the Messiah
Isaiah 53:10 KJV 1900
10 Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: When thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, He shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, And the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in his hand.
Jesus makes clear that the true people of God would be born again people, no by physical procreation.
John 3:3 KJV 1900
3 Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.
Paul makes clear that the children of Abraham are not by physical procreation but by faith
Galatians 3:7 KJV 1900
7 Know ye therefore that they which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham.
Peter speaks of our inheritance not coming by physical procreation but by the new birth in Christ.
1 Peter 1:3–4 KJV 1900
3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you,
Paul speaks as a father to children:
1 Corinthians 4:15 KJV 1900
15 For though ye have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet have ye not many fathers: for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel.
Quote: “I am not sentimentalizing singleness to make the unmarried feel better. I am declaring the temporary and secondary nature of marriage and family over against the eternal and primary nature of the church. Marriage and family are temporary for this age; the church is forever. - JP
Jesus turns everything upside down
Yes, he loved his mother and his brothers. But those are all natural and temporary relationships....He came into the world to call out a people for his name from all the families of the earth into a new family where single people in Christ are full-fledged family members on par with all others....becoming mothers and fathers of the eternal kind.” JP
Matthew 12:48–49 KJV 1900
48 But he answered and said unto him that told him, Who is my mother? and who are my brethren? 49 And he stretched forth his hand toward his disciples, and said, Behold my mother and my brethren!

Application:

Illustration:
The ingrained in our culture locally that at young ages children are talking about having boyfriends and girlfriends. Our son came home and told us that in his 6th grade class there was a young man who had a girlfriend. I asked him, “Do they actually go out?” He said, “No. I think they just go over each other’s homes.”
What do shows like “the Bachelor” or the “Bachelorette” imply?
What do sitcoms like “Sex in the City” teach?
This means that in a local church setting, we should welcome singles by
NOT teaching marriage and the family as the ultimate ideal, but rather teaching a new creation in Christ as the ultimate ideal
structuring our Sunday schools and ministries to reach and involve single, young adults
encouraging their service, even though they are NOT married:
As much as I want you to serve together as a family, we must be careful that we are not working against the gospel by making that the ideal for service.
instructing our teenagers and children how to be gospel-centered singles
praying for our single, young adults
Because in the gospel, singleness is desirable.
Recap: Singleness is scriptural
Recap2: Singleness is desirable

Singleness is gifted (v. 7)

The gift theme of Paul - , ,

The gift emphasis of Paul (2 primary points of emphasis)

graciously bestowed by God
for the edification of the body of Christ - , ,

Application:

(1) You don’t earn or force singleness
This does not mean that singles don’t have struggles, but it does mean that you don’t have to force your life into celibacy vows because somehow it makes you more virtuous.
This means that you can stop living to attract because
(2) You don’t have to consider the gift of singleness as something you will NEVER have. There is a stage and phase emphasis here (consider Paul, and note )
(3) You don’t have to think that you are less in personhood because you are not married. Rather consider the possibility that God has gifted you.
(4) You don’t have to earn marriage either (implication).
You don’t have to dress to attract or play hard to get.
Paradigm shift:
Your marriage is a place to reflect the acceptance you already have in the gospel and not just relationship to find acceptance.
Your singleness is a place to reflect the acceptance you already have in the gospel and not just a status to lift yourself to exceed.
Recap: Singleness is scriptural
Recap2: Singleness is desirable
Recap3: Singleness is gifted

Singleness is good (v. 8) 

“Widower” possibility
Note what social historian says:
Should they be widowed, Christian women enjoyed substantial advantages. Pagan widows faced great social pressure to remarry; Augustus even had widows fined if they failed to marry within two years. In contrast, among Christians, widowhood was highly respected and remarriage was, if anything, mildly discouraged. The church stood ready to sustain poor widows, allowing them a choice as to whether or not to remarry. [Single widows were active in care-giving and good deeds in the neighborhood.] 5 - Keller, Meaning of Marriage Book

How do we get from “It is not good that man should be alone...” to “It is good for them” to remain single?

“It is good for them” to remain single?
There are two major things:
the Fall - brings about a need for redemption
the Christ - whereby a new creation is possible

Note the Scripture redemptively:

the fist thing to Adam & Eve: “Be fruitful and multiply”
Genesis 1:28 KJV 1900
28 And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.
When God chose Abram to be the father of God’s people - “tell the stars if thou be able to number them...”
Genesis 15:5 KJV 1900
5 And he brought him forth abroad, and said, Look now toward heaven, and tell the stars, if thou be able to number them: and he said unto him, So shall thy seed be.
- Offspring for the sake of the name
1 Samuel 24:21 KJV 1900
21 Swear now therefore unto me by the Lord, that thou wilt not cut off my seed after me, and that thou wilt not destroy my name out of my father’s house.
- the Levirate marriage
Deuteronomy 25:6 KJV 1900
6 And it shall be, that the firstborn which she beareth shall succeed in the name of his brother which is dead, that his name be not put out of Israel.
Ruth & Boaz -
Ruth 4:10 KJV 1900
10 Moreover Ruth the Moabitess, the wife of Mahlon, have I purchased to be my wife, to raise up the name of the dead upon his inheritance, that the name of the dead be not cut off from among his brethren, and from the gate of his place: ye are witnesses this day.
The new people of God would be formed by the atoning death of the Messiah
Isaiah 53:10 KJV 1900
10 Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: When thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, He shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, And the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in his hand.
Jesus makes clear that the true people of God would be born again people, no by physical procreation.
John 3:3 KJV 1900
3 Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.
Paul makes clear that the children of Abraham are not by physical procreation but by faith
Galatians 3:7 KJV 1900
7 Know ye therefore that they which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham.
Peter speaks of our inheritance not coming by physical procreation but by the new birth in Christ.
1 Peter 1:3–4 KJV 1900
3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you,
Paul speaks as a father to children:
1 Corinthians 4:15 KJV 1900
15 For though ye have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet have ye not many fathers: for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel.
Quote: “I am not sentimentalizing singleness to make the unmarried feel better. I am declaring the temporary and secondary nature of marriage and family over against the eternal and primary nature of the church. Marriage and family are temporary for this age; the church is forever. - JP
Jesus turns everything upside down
Yes, he loved his mother and his brothers. But those are all natural and temporary relationships....He came into the world to call out a people for his name from all the families of the earth into a new family where single people in Christ are full-fledged family members on par with all others....becoming mothers and fathers of the eternal kind.” JP

Consider:

While the traditional motive for marriage has been social duty, stability, and status, the contemporary motive for marriage is personal fulfillment. Both of these motives are partially right, of course, but they tend to become ultimates if the gospel has not changed your mind and heart. - T.K.

Application:

Isaiah 5:20 KJV 1900
20 Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; That put darkness for light, and light for darkness; That put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!
The gospel brings us back into a right sphere of morality.
Should they be widowed, Christian women enjoyed substantial advantages. Pagan widows faced great social pressure to remarry; Augustus even had widows fined if they failed to marry within two years. In contrast, among Christians, widowhood was highly respected and remarriage was, if anything, mildly discouraged. The church stood ready to sustain poor widows, allowing them a choice as to whether or not to remarry. [Single widows were active in care-giving and good deeds in the neighborhood.] 5 - Keller, Meaning of Marriage Book
The gospel now defines what is good.
Considering singleness to be bad shows that we don’t understand how the gospel has brought us into a greater union than what Adam & Eve had.
If you have been living according to an old man way of living, STOP and reorder your world to mirror what the scriptures has taught.
Recap: Singleness is scriptural
Recap2: Singleness is desirable
Recap3: Singleness is gifted
Recap4: Singleness is good

Singleness is conditional (v. 9)

What this is NOT saying:

If you are uncontrollably consumed by sexual passion, marry so you can justify intimacy.

How do we know he is NOT saying this?

This would go against the “Ownership principle” of the prior chapter and restated in this passage in
1 Corinthians 7:23 KJV 1900
23 Ye are bought with a price; be not ye the servants of men.
Illustration:
History of dating may be a good illustration:
From ancient times to the 18th - 19th centuries marriages were typically arranged.
Romantic love was ONLY one consideration, when considered
Social considerations
Financial considerations
Late 19th century
motive for marrying for love became the dominating factor in our culture
system titled "calling" or "courtship" was developed
young man invited into the young woman's home - see her in that environment...interestingly enough, young woman initiated
Shortly after the turn into the 20th century "dating" developed
word first printed in 1914
young man did not necessarily come to home but took young woman out for:
entertainment
this pulled it out of the family context and began to individualize the process
focus began to change from romance and character assessment to:
spending money, being seen, & having fun
Most recent social change: "hook up" culture
Keller: In one of the first reports on the shift, a New York Times Magazine article reported how teenagers found members of the opposite sex to be annoying and difficult, and dating involved you in the hard work of give-and-take, communication, and learning to deal with someone who was different.
A hook up is a simple, sexual encounter without the condition of conducting a relationship.
After a hook up, you may want to start dating or not

How do we understand this then?

When you have two individuals in right relationship to God and in faithful relationship to each other
When these two individuals are desirous of marriage and the consummation thereof
They should marry rather than continually ward off the passion to consummate the marriage.
Matthew 19:11 KJV 1900
11 But he said unto them, All men cannot receive this saying, save they to whom it is given.
A rejection of the Stoic view that marriage was purely for procreation and not passion.
A rejection of the pagan view that release of sexual urge should happen through prostitution.
Recap: Singleness is scriptural
Recap2: Singleness is desirable
Recap3: Singleness is gifted
Recap4: Singleness is good
Recap5: Singleness is conditional

Conclusion:

Here is what we say that needs to be put in check:
Slogan: “Family first.”
Question: “What do you mean by FAMILY?”
How does your definition flow from the Gospel?
Were you part of the family of God when God sent Jesus?
What happened to your “family” status when you became born again? THINK ADOPTION.
Slogan: “Wife/Husband first.”
Question: “What do you mean by FIRST?”
How does your definition flow from the Gospel?
When you consider what God has done in Christ to adopt you, does it seem unreasonable for you to exalt His preeminence?
Slogan: “My independence first”
Question: “What do you mean by independence”
How does your definition align with the gospel?
When you consider what God has done in Christ, humbling himself, submitting himself to bring you into union with himself and other believers, does it seem unreasonable for him to call you to a dependent life on him and each other?
As a single, devote yourself to understanding how the gospel should cause you to respond to your status:
Know that your acceptance is not based on whether you can get someone of the opposite gender to accept you into a relationship.
Know that you don’t have to go away to college to get an “MRS” degree because Jesus has already traveled to you, so that you could rest in Him.
Know also that your worth in the church is equal that of any person who is married with children.
Know that marriage is NOT the ideal. You are already living in the ideal: you’re in covenant with Christ.
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