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By Rich Peterson, Church Relations

Did the Apostle Paul really have it right when he wrote: It is good for a person not to marry?” 

On the surface that sounds a bit like some of these unflattering quotations about marriage:

  • I love being married. It’s so great to find that one special person you want to annoy for the rest of your life. – Rita Rudner
  • All marriages are happy. It’s the living together afterward that causes all the trouble.– Raymond Hill
  • I never knew what real happiness was until I got married. And by then it was too late. – Max Kauffman

Or my favorite which came from a seven-year-old when asked if it were better to be single or married:

  • It gives me a headache to think about that stuff. I’m just a kid. I don’t need that kind of trouble!

 When I was serving in my very first ministry role in a local church, one of the other Pastors on staff told me that my ministry wouldn’t really begin until I was married. Having just last week heard testimonies from two amazing SINGLE women serving in Cambodia and Pakistan as global workers with WorldVenture, I must respectfully disagree.

In 1 Corinthains 7, the Apostle Paul deals with a cluster of concerns regarding marriage and singleness, but one of the items the Evangelical church often misses is the overwhelming support this section of Scripture gives to remaining single for the glory of God and Gospel Impact.

Is it “good for the unmarried and the widows to stay unmarried?” Paul maintains that to be single is the better choice (all things considered), but for totally different reasons than our contemporary culture suggests. Our (Western) culture strongly shouts that being single is better than being married because this status allows people to engage in (mostly sexual) self-exploration and self-expression. That is, being single today offers freedom to engage in sexual relations without commitment. But for Paul remaining single was for the edification and expansion of the kingdom of God. To continue faithfully in the state of celibate singleness is to offer oneself more fully to the work of the gospel.

Read the powerfully liberating words from the Apostle’s pen recorded in 1 Corinthians 7:1-9.

Now for the matters you wrote about: “It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman.” But since sexual immorality is occurring, each man should have sexual relations with his own wife, and each woman with her own husband. The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. The wife does not have authority over her own body but yields it to her husband. In the same way, the husband does not have authority over his own body but yields it to his wife.  Do not deprive each other except perhaps by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.  I say this as a concession, not as a command.  I wish that all of you were as I am. But each of you has your own gift from God; one has this gift, another has that.

 Now to the unmarried and the widows I say: It is good for them to stay unmarried, as I do.  But if they cannot control themselves, they should marry, for it is better to marry than to burn with passion.

From this passage we learn at least three important lessons:

  • Celibate singleness is a gift from God. (v. 1-7)
  • Monogamous marriage is also a gift from God. (v. 2-6)
  • God’s greatest gift when it comes to singleness or marriage is the gift of choice. (v. 8-9)

 If you can remain unmarried – in celibate singleness – for the greatest good of the Kingdom of God and for his glory – Go for it!

If it is better for you, and therefore better for the Kingdom of God and for God’s glory to get married, go for it!

But please note that singleness or marriage is ultimately, finally, and eternally not about you – it is about God. And there does appear to be an “added bonus” to remaining single if you can do so for the glory of God. Paul hints at this in 1 Corinthians 7:35:  

I am saying this for your own good, not to restrict you, but that you may live in a right way in undivided devotion to the Lord.

I believe if we are serious about following Jesus today that we need a vision for singleness (and for marriage) that is higher, deeper, stronger, and more glorious than anything this culture (or perhaps we ourselves) ever imagined!

We, as Christ-followers, need to be set free from small, worldly, culturally contaminated, self-centered, Christ-ignoring, God-neglecting, unbiblical views of singleness and marriage.

Whether single or married the underlying principle is clear – “live… in undivided devotion to the Lord.”


Discussion Questions:

On your social media, copy and paste the link to this blog with an answer to one or more questions. Or you can comment on this post. 

  • Read the whole of 1 Corinthians 7. Summarize it on your social media.
  • What was most notable on this blog? Why?
  • Do you struggle with singleness? Why?
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