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Singleness, Life-stage and Contentment – 1 Corinthians 7:17-40

March 1st, 2010

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The apostle Paul wrote this letter to the church in Corinth, addressing (amongst other things) the issue that sex and marriage is somehow “unspiritual”, Paul rebukes the idea. This is relevant to us today because this thinking is still prevalent in modern Christianity – that somehow marriage, sex and physical pleasure is “wrong” and unspiritual and shouldn’t be enjoyed. However, everything created by God is good (Genesis 1) and is to be enjoyed as long as we enjoy it as a gift from God rather than as a god itself. Also, Paul teaches that to forbid marriage is demonic teaching (1 Tim. 4).

Paul does have a place for singleness though. He agrees to an extent with the Corinthians that singleness is good, but for completely different reasons.

For those who are married – it is important that they hear this message because they are part of the Body of Christ, and need to know what the Bible teaches about singleness.

Paul’s message to all is this: let each person lead the life he is in, the life God has called him to. We don’t necessarily need to change our situation in order to live for God, or alter our conditions in order to be more spiritual – we can be pleasing to God, glorifying and worshipping Him in our current circumstances (marital state, job, etc). Think about the example of Joseph – He served and glorified God when he was a slave, a prisoner, etc.

Why honour singleness?

1. Practical reasons (it’s a gift)

  • v.7 – it is a gift from God, a blessing – as is marriage.
  • The context of Paul’s letter – ‘in view of the present distress’ (v.26) – it made singleness a wise option.
  • Singleness is not a command from Paul, but a suggestion motivated by genuine compassion (v.25, v.40).
  • It does not mean that you will never be tempted, or that you will love every moment, or that you won’t struggle with loneliness – but God does give grace for every season, and He always knows what He is doing with our lives.
  • Singleness is a precious season where it gets to be just you and God – He cherishes that time He has with you.
  • It is not permanent.
  • It is a gift to be used for the Church. You are to use your gift (whether singleness or marriage) as a way of blessing the Body.

2. Spiritual/eternal reasons:

  • In the Old Testament, the emphasis was on marriage and child-bearing to maintain a legacy and be fruitful. Jesus changed all that – we now leave an eternal/spiritual legacy.
  • Isaiah 53 – Jesus is fruitful and has spiritual offspring, despite being single.
  • The spiritual family we are a part of is greater than any physical family.
  • Isaiah 56 – we have a name better than sons or daughters.
  • In Jesus Christ we possess all things.