We are all born single. If you are married now, there is a good chance you will be single again if your spouse dies before you. There are singles who are 19 and those who are 91. There are singles who have never married, singles who are divorced, and singles who are widows or widowers. God knows who you are, where you are, and what you need. What does the Bible say about singleness?
Before we pick up in our study of 1 Corinthians 7, I want to point out two things. First, we know that Jesus was single. Looking at Isaiah 53:8 and 10, we read the terms “His generation” and “His seed.” He was single, yet he would have many children. Godly offspring comes through spiritual regeneration not physical procreation (see also Is. 54:1). For those who are struggling not having children, because of singleness or married couples struggling with infertility, this is a picture of reproduction that supersedes natural childbirth. Second, in Matthew 19:10-12, Jesus said some will choose to be celibate for the sake of the Kingdom.
In verses 17-24 Paul uses the word “called” or “calling” nine times. Our significance is in the One who called us and chose us! People think, “If only I could change my circumstances, everything would be great.” God is sovereign in His assignments. After Paul references being circumcised or uncircumcised, and being slave or free, he ends by saying, “…remain with God in that state.” He’s saying, bloom where you are planted. Live in the present. Don’t think, “I have to achieve this and then I can do something for Christ.” No. Do something for Christ now in your present state. His call on your life is enough. Marriage is good, but it’s temporary (Mt. 22:30). Both marriage and singleness picture the gospel. Our ultimate identity and significance is in Christ. You do not need another person to complete you. Jesus brings more to your life than any other person ever could.
In verse 26, Paul references “the present distress.” He’s speaking of the way Christians were being persecuted at the time. They were being burned, fed to animals, etc. In verse 28, he references “trouble” that comes with marriage. He’s being a realist. In light of such urgency and persecution, a marital status is nothing. Marriage and singleness both have their own set of benefits and burdens. If you are single and you think getting married will solve all your troubles, think again! You are going to have a whole new set of troubles. Be very careful in your thinking. 50% of marriages end in divorce. If 50% of all airplanes crashed, you would be very careful about who you fly with! The world acts like the solution to singleness is marriage and the solution to marriage is singleness. Everything is temporary. In verse 29, Paul says, “…time is short.” Everything down here passes away (v. 31). Keep eternity in mind. We are living for something bigger. Use your marriage to advance the gospel. Use your singleness to advance the gospel.
As Paul finishes out this chapter, he talks about pleasing the Lord and serving the Lord (v. 32-35). God did not save us to sit, soak, and sour! He did not save us to turn inward and focus only on us. Don’t waste your singleness! Make sure a life of singleness is not a life of selfishness. Jesus and Paul were single, but not selfish. Both marriage and singleness are gifts (v. 7) from God. The word for gift is the word grace. Paul would later write that God’s grace is all-sufficient. It takes grace to be married and it takes grace to be single. It takes grace to come home to the same person every day and it takes grace to come home to an empty house. Whether you are married or single, be holy, be wise, and serve the Lord.