The Cross and Christian Singleness - Radical

The Cross and Christian Singleness

If you and your body are compelled, consider marriage one of your goals. If you and your body are content, consider singleness your status quo. In this message on 1 Corinthians 7:25–35, Jim Shaddix reminds us that singleness is a good gift from God.

  1. You can be completely assured of Jesus’ favor.
  2. You can be better prepared for Jesus’ coming.
  3. You can be totally given to Jesus’ service.

Please open to 1 Corinthians 7 in your Bible. The Cross and Christian Singleness. Let me ask you to open to that place in God’s Word and grab your sermon notes that are in your Worship Guide there. Let’s take a look at what the Bible has to say on this important subject.

I wonder if, just to kind of get us started, if you singles would indulge me just for a moment, and let us just kind of get a feel for how many singles there really are in our congregation. I know that children fit into this category, but if I could just ask those of you that are 18 years of age and above—18 years of age and older—singles, if you would just very quickly for a moment, would you stand. I’m not trying to embarrass you. Just go ahead and stand to your feet and let us take a look here. Yeah, and we can go ahead and clap for these folks.

Thank you so very much. My intent in that is not to embarrass any of you, but it really is for the rest of us to make sure that we understand that we’ve got to get this subject right. You look across this room and those that were standing, you understand—and my guess is that at 6:00 tonight the proportion would be even greater, the number of singles to those who are married, especially in a congregation like ours—we have to get this issue of singleness right from a biblical perspective.

Some of the greatest characters in the Bible including our Lord Jesus Christ and the Apostle Paul, just to name two, were single. And we live in a day that, right or wrong, I think that we would say that probably our culture looks at marriage as the norm. This is kind of the expectation, the goal. And in doing that, while there’s nothing wrong with exalting marriage, Paul talks about that a ton, especially in this chapter and the surrounding context. There’s nothing wrong with that. Sometimes at the exaltation of one thing, we have a tendency to miss the emphasis on another thing. And I think that is the case with regard to singleness in our culture in the Christian community, and that’s why I’m so excited about coming to this place in God’s Word.

I pray that we’ll bring some balance to this in hearing what God says in this chapter this morning. If you’re single, I want you to be encouraged. I want you to be affirmed. I want you to be challenged by the truth of Scripture. Those of us who are married, I pray that we will become better equipped as a result of studying God’s Word to speak into the lives of our sons and daughters and other Christian individuals who navigate this journey, so that we can make sure that we’re putting biblical eyes on this journey. I think you’re going to see this morning that we’ve got some things to celebrate, that Christian singles have some things to celebrate.

So 1 Corinthians 7, let me begin with verse 25, and I actually just want to make a comment on the first few words there. Paul says, “Now concerning the betrothed…” My English translation says the word “betrothed”. This is not synonymous with our word “engagement.” This is not speaking merely about couples that are engaged. The word is probably better translated “virgins” or “unmarried.” He is talking about singleness in these next couple of paragraphs, and he says, “Now concerning this subject…”

Those words are a reminder to us that Paul is addressing some questions that the Corinthians had written him about. If you go back to verse 1, it’s where he begins in talking about marriage and the sexual relationship there; things we talked about last week related to divorce and marriage and remarriage and singleness. All of these things were things they had written him about. We come to this place right here, and it’s as if this was a separate subject, even though it’s related to those others. This is something they had questions about specifically in the church at Corinth. They needed somebody to bring God’s perspective into this issue, and it’s really important that we get that from the very outset.

So, here we go.

Now concerning the betrothed [or “concerning the single”; “the questions you had about singleness”], I have no command from the Lord, but I give my judgment as one who by the Lord’s mercy is trustworthy. I think that in view of the present distress it is good for a person to remain as he is. Are you bound to a wife? Do not seek to be free. Are you free from a wife? Do not seek a wife. But if you do marry, you have not sinned, and if a betrothed woman marries, she has not sinned. Yet those who marry will have worldly troubles, and I would spare you that. This is what I mean, brothers: the appointed time has grown very short. From now on, let those who have wives live as though they had none, and those who mourn as though they were not mourning, and those who rejoice as though they were not rejoicing, and those who buy as though they had no goods, and those who deal with the world as though they had no dealings with it. For the present form of this world is passing away.

I want you to be free from anxieties. The unmarried man is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to please the Lord. But the married man is anxious about worldly things, how to please his wife, and his interests are divided. And the unmarried or betrothed woman is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to be holy in body and spirit. But the married woman is anxious about worldly things, how to please her husband. I say this 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. (1 Corinthians 7:25–35)

Now, if you have been here in recent weeks—going back to the messages in 1 Corinthians 6 and coming in to 1 Corinthians 7, and you’re a Christian single, there’s a good chance that you have seen this subject addressed. Although we’ve not addressed it specifically like we will this morning, you’ve heard it referred to all over the map. There are likely to be questions about it. “Okay, well what is the Word of God saying? I just need to find the first person that will give me the time of day and marry him. I’ve got to get out and run and get married.” And there have been other times, as we’ve talked about some of these passages of Scripture, that it would be real easy to get the impression, “Man, I need to run from marriage. I need to stay away from that.”

1 Corinthians 7 25–35 Offers Admonishments to Single Christians…

If you and your body are compelled, consider marriage one of your goals.

What is the Bible saying to us? I want to start this morning by just giving you a couple of admonishments that I think would be by way of summary—I hope by way of clarification— on this subject. This is certainly not an exhaustive address of this, but as we look at this issue of singleness and marriage, what does the Word of God say to us? Let me summarize in this way with these admonishments. First of all, if you and your body are compelled, then consider marriage as one of your goals. This has been part of the truth of God’s Word, encouraging us and spurring us on, not to be passive about this issue of marriage.

In the last couple of weeks, we’ve talked about the biblical motives for marriage and reasons the Bible gives for getting married. We’ve kind of summarized those down to a list of about five. The first one was proclamation. Getting married is a picture of the gospel, husbands loving their wives like Christ loved the church. And wives are submitting to your husbands as unto the Lord. The second one is procreation. God tells us to fill the earth and multiply. We have kids to reflect the glory of God, to raise up a generation to reflect the glory of God. Another biblical reason for marriage is partnership. To join with a member of the opposite sex to walk this journey of life in a complementary way, complementing one another, filling the gaps that are in another person’s life, male and female. We talked about pleasure. We get married to experience God’s design for the sexual relationship in the context of the God-ordained venue for that. And then, the fifth one was purity. Paul talks about it in this passage of Scripture right here in 1 Corinthians 7. We do it to protect and guard against the perversion of the sexual relationship through fornication.

And the last two on the list, pleasure and purity, are really the ones that are kind of discussed in this passage of Scripture. But if you’re single today, let me just say to you: If you are committed to those five as biblical reasons, then consider that as one of your goals. If your heart and your body are compelling you to get married, then make that something that’s on your radar. I’m not saying that it becomes the most important thing in your life, but consider it and be aggressive about it.

Single men, pursue these godly single women and do it as gentlemen, do it as ones who are holy, do it as men who are chivalrous and kind and courteous. Ladies, single ladies, avail yourself to these men and do it as ones who are prim and proper and pure as is becoming Proverbs 31 women. Go for it! That’s the exhortation to be aggressive in this and not be passive. The Bible speaks into that issue.

If you and your body are content, consider singleness your status quo.

 But there’s a second admonition, a second word to singles, and that is if you and your body are content, consider your singleness as your status quo, at least for the present time. Last week, we talked about this. Paul deals with it on both sides of this passage of Scripture. In verses 8 through 24, and then again in verses 36 through 40, he’s talking about this issue of status quo. Paul is talking about your current circumstances and not throwing your life into an upheaval for the wrong reasons but remaining where you are. And he speaks about singleness as one of the things that are on the list, and he’s speaking specifically by way of affirmation to those who are not compelled to get married. If you don’t find your body driving you to that by way of sexual desires—you don’t see that welling up in your heart about these other four motives that the Bible gives us—but there is a contentedness in your body and in your heart to this, then start at that place with a consideration that this is God’s assignment for you, at least for the season.

Now, for some of you, this is God’s plan. You’re on the lifetime plan of singleness and this is what God’s doing. Others of you, this is His assignment for right now. That may change at some point, and you may find your contentedness beginning to dissolve and a compelling desire to be with an individual of the opposite sex, and you want to listen to that. But if there is a contentedness there, this is where the Bible speaks—especially in this chapter right here—to say, “Don’t assume that means something has gone awry.” I want to say to parents who have teenage sons and daughters and college-aged sons and daughters, and maybe on into their 20’s, we need to hear this as well. We need to hear the Word of God at this point.

Listen—and I want to say something here I want you to think about, because I think it’s a result of the absence of right teaching on passages of Scripture like this. We, if we’re not careful, will be a part of a culture that exalts marriage and the drive to get married to the degree that, if that drive is not there, the only option and the only conclusion we leave single individuals to draw is that they must be gay. They must be homosexual. That God must have created them this way. I wonder how many Christian singles have opened the door to a temptation to a perverted view of marriage and the sexual relationship because in our culture, and sometimes the Christian culture, we don’t talk about nearly enough the possibility that there is a different option, and that is, God has given grace for contentedness within these things for the purpose of the assignment of singleness.

We need to guard against that. If you’re there today, I want you to be encouraged and affirmed that if that compelling desire is not there, it doesn’t mean there’s something wrong. It doesn’t mean you’ve missed the boat. At least consider that singleness may be God’s ordained status quo for you, again, at least at this season in your life, maybe for a lifetime. This is what the Word of God says: Both are legitimate possibilities. Both are to be celebrated. Both are God-ordained. Both fit into His plans. Be encouraged at whatever point you are. Both are in Scripture. These are not contrary situations.

Now, it’s that second one that Paul is primarily speaking into in this passage of Scripture— this position of contentedness, of the possibility, at least, of singleness being my assigned status quo, what God is doing in my life.

Now, before I go any further, I need to insert something else into the conversation. It really is something that should be said, should be heard, should be kept in mind when we’re talking about marriage from a particular passage like we did a couple weeks ago in the first part of 1 Corinthians 7. Understand this: This is not an exhaustive treatment of all issues related to singleness. Paul is addressing some questions that were asked. More than likely, he’s addressing questions that were asked about, “Is this Jewish mindset that was taught by the rabbis about how you’re sinning if you’re not married, and that’s not the cultural norm–

is that mindset right? The mindset that you need to get married if you’re going to be right with God?” More than likely, it was that issue that the Apostle Paul was speaking at. In the first seven verses of this chapter, he speaks to an abuse of the idea that he mentions here in verse 1, “It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman.” Paul doesn’t refute that, but he brings a balance, and he brings a corrective to it.

I think when he starts this place right here, beginning in verse 25, he’s probably coming from the other standpoint. That standpoint is people were listening to the Jewish rabbis, the Jewish teaching, the Jewish mentality that was saying singleness is a sin. They said, “If you have any possibility of getting married, go for it. You’ll be closer to God. You’ll be more right with God if you get married.” Paul is seeking to bring some balance and speak into that.

Let me tell you why I’m telling you that: Because it would be real easy to get into this passage of Scripture, and it sounds like singleness is easy. It’s not. We know that. Or that there are not burdens and there are not hardships. I know in a room this size—this number of people—there are singles in this place who are caring for aging parents, and you’ve got other situations of family that you see yourself responsible for, and it’s hard. There are others of you that have been married and had a spouse walk out on you. You didn’t sign up for singleness at this stage in your life under these circumstances. Nobody—nobody—knows the hurt what you have gone through and are going through and the loneliness you are experiencing.

And I could list a host of other situations that characterize the challenges and the hardships and the difficulties of the single life. Many of you could give testimony to that today. And I don’t want us to hear the Word of God skipping over that, making light of that or ignoring that. What I do want us to do is allow the Word of God to speak into this issue, speak into this life-stage, speak into this journey, speak into this assignment to bring some corrective maybe to a mindset, a culture that has a tendency to exalt marriage as the norm, where singleness oftentimes—and listen to me very carefully—is looked at as a second-class, sub

par status as far as relationships go. I believe with all my heart Paul is trying to speak into that, and he wants us to hear that.

1 Corinthians 7 25–35 Outlines Advantages of Single Living…

So that is a good place for us to move from these admonishments into a consideration of some advantages to single living. I think that’s what Paul does. I think that’s what he does in these next couple of paragraphs. He’s certainly not condemning marriage. He’s obviously straight up in saying it’s not wrong, you’re not sinning to get married. But he obviously is calling attention to some of the advantages to single living for the glory of God and the advancement of His kingdom. And as a Christian, church—whether we’re single or married— we need to get that, to make sure that we are encouraging, we are counseling properly, we are equipping properly with regard to God’s perspective on this subject. So let me show you these advantages to single living.

You can be completely assured of Jesus’ favor.

First of all, if you’re single, you can be completely assured of Jesus’ favor in this assignment in your life. I know that the same thing can be said for marriage. In Proverbs 18:22, I believe the author of Proverbs says, “He who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the LORD.” But remember, Paul is speaking into a situation where there was some balance that was needed. There were a lot of people that were entertaining the idea that, “Hey, this is not the norm. It’s the exception to the rule and that makes it some kind of sub-par, second-class deal.” And Paul says, “No way.”

In fact, he goes out of his way to make sure that people know he is talking on behalf of God. And singles, I want you to hear this. I want you to know what we read here is a reflection of that. Notice in verse 25, Paul says, “…I have no command from the Lord…” He’s simply saying, “As far as I know, Jesus didn’t teach on this specific subject; we don’t have any record of that.” Then, Paul says, “…but I give my judgment as one who by the Lord’s mercy is trustworthy.” In other words, “You can trust what I’m saying as if it came from the Lord Himself.”

He reiterates that at the end of the chapter in verse 40, when he says in the very last words, “…I think that I too have the Spirit of God.” Paul wanted to make sure that his readers knew that he was speaking under the same inspiration and leadership of the Holy Spirit as Jesus did when He taught on similar subjects, or when He talked about marriage or talked about things related to this. So, it begs the question, “What is God saying in Christ to us as a church, and specifically to those who are experiencing and living under this assignment of singleness?”

Well, just think about it in this chapter. First of all, He says, “Singleness is good” three times in this passage. In verse 1, we’ve already noted, “It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman.” In verse 8, the Apostle Paul says, “To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is good for them to remain single as I am.” Verse 26, right here in our passage, “In view of the present distress it is good for a person to remain as he is.” And he speaks to marrieds, “It’s good for you to stay married,” and he speaks to singles, and he says, “It is good.” Three times under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, the Bible says in this chapter, “Singleness is good.”

Not only that, but Paul would say, “Singleness is a gift from God.” Do you remember that from verse 7? Look back at it. “I wish that all were as I myself am…” Remember, Paul is single, so that’s what he’s talking about. But he says, “But each has his own gift from God, one of one kind and one of another.” (1 Corinthians 7:7) He says marriage is a gift, but he also says singleness is a gift from God. He would also say that some people do even better to remain single. Do you remember that from verse 38? Look at it. “So then he who marries his betrothed does well, and he who refrains from marriage will do even better.” This is what the Spirit of God says about singleness.

And then He says, “Some people are happier if they remain single.” Look at verse 40. Remember, he’s talking about a widow who has lost her husband. He says she’s free to remarry. But in verse 40, “Yet in my judgment she is happier if she remains as she is…” Now, I’m not sure that we could find a single chapter in the Bible that speaks that frequently favorably about marriage. We know the Bible speaks favorably about marriage. We’ve talked about that. Paul talks about it here. He doesn’t forbid to be married. He says, “It’s not a sin.” Here and in other places he talks about what God created it for and the goodness that is there.

But singles, I want you to see in this chapter—in 1 Corinthians 7—that many times Paul, after emphasizing that he was speaking under the leadership of the Spirit of God and that his words could be trusted as being from the Lord, I want you to hear him speak in this favorable light. And I pray that you will never, ever let a culture tell you that this is not normal in God’s economy, that your assignment is something that is the exception and not the rule, or especially that life is passing you by, and you’re losing a crop on this family deal,

and you’re never, never going to really get to where you think that this culture wants you to be, or maybe your parents want you to be. Hear the Word of the Lord. You can be completely assured of the favor of God on your assignment.

You can be better prepared for Jesus’ coming.

Advantage number two. I want to spend a little bit of time on this one. You can be better prepared for Jesus’ coming. The language that is woven throughout this paragraph in verse 26 really through verse 31 is eschatological in nature. It’s end-times related. And the tone of it is urgent, and it’s solemn with regard to what Paul is talking about.

Let me show you what I mean. Notice in verse 26, he talks about the present or the impending distress. The language of the New Testament speaks of the stress that is coming. Then in verse 29, He says, “…the appointed time has grown very short…” And then at the end of verse 31, “For the present form of this world is passing away.”

Now, there are some who have come to this text and suggested that what Paul is referring to is persecution on the church. And while certainly Paul tried to prepare believers for persecution—and Paul and Jesus and other biblical writers say, “Don’t be surprised by it, this is going to be part of it”—we have to understand that it would be ten years from the time he wrote this letter that the Neronian persecution in the Roman Empire would get more severe. There wasn’t a ton of push-back against believers at this particular time.

At the same time, those terms that I just read to you in three different places in this paragraph are very indicative of end-times terminology. These are terms that refer to the second coming of Christ. Paul is talking about the end of the world as we know it, and he is speaking into the single life with regard to navigating the end times as well as—listen to me—preparing for the kingdom in its nature in all of eternity. So what he’s doing is he’s talking about preparation for the return of Christ from two different dimensions. The dimension of navigating the days that will lead up to Christ’s return, and then also preparing for the days of eternity that we will spend with Him. And he speaks into that and says, “There is an advantage to being single in both of those dimensions.”

Let me show you what I’m talking about. He says in verse 26, in light of this impending stress that’s coming, the first thing you need to know is it’s good to remain in the status quo. He says, “Remain as you are. This is not a day in which you want to be just turning your life upside-down for whatever motives, because there’s going to need to be as much stability as possible.” So, he says, “Are you bound to a wife? Do not seek to be free. Are you free from a wife? Do not seek a wife. But if you do marry, you have not sinned, and if a betrothed woman marries, she has not sinned” (1 Corinthians 7:27–28). So he’s making sure—notice this–he’s making sure all the way through this that people are not getting the impression that one is to be exalted above the other or one is right and one is wrong. “Both are of God,” he says.

But notice what he says next in the middle of verse 28. “Yet those who marry will have worldly troubles, and I would spare you that.” So he’s speaking to individuals that are asking the question, “Should we listen to this cultural norm?” Because it was the norm, at least in the Jewish culture in that day, that, “We’re supposed to be married. That’s what life is about. And if you don’t get married, you’ve missed it, and you can’t be as close to God.” He’s speaking into those people’s lives and he’s saying, “Let me tell you something. Trouble’s coming for everybody. This end-times thing, it’s going to be tough on all believers.”

I’m going to remind you about that—in just a moment I’m going to show it to you.

But then he comes to this place, and he says, “But I would like to reduce the stress that it brings, the trouble that it is, of what is coming between now and heaven. I would like to reduce that.” Paul puts on his pastoral hat and he speaks intimately into the lives of the Corinthians. He just simply says, “You can be spared from some of that stress that is coming as a result of the approaching kingdom of God.” Let me just remind you this morning that the Bible speaks much about the difficulty of those days. And by the way, Paul’s terms here—and I think the rest of the biblical writers—suggests that, from the time that Jesus ascended back into heaven after His earthly ministry until the time He comes again, we’ve been living in the last days. And they are increasingly becoming more difficult. If you don’t realize that, you’ve got your head stuck in the sand somewhere; you’re not paying attention to what’s happening with governments and with laws; you’re not looking at what is happening with our culture—this world is spinning out of control. We are in the last days, and it’s going to get nothing but worse.

Now, turn back a few pages to Romans 13, and let me show you what Paul says about this, and then we will turn to another place. In Romans 13:11–14, look at this:

Besides this you know the time, that the hour has come for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed. The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.

Here Paul is not talking about singleness. I know that. But he’s talking about the end times. He’s speaking very solemnly and urgently about the days in which Christians lived then, certainly about the days in which we live now.

Now, let me show you what Jesus said. Turn to Matthew 24. I know many of you are familiar with this passage of Scripture. Our pastor has preached on it, I know, on a number of occasions. Matthew 24 is part of that Olivet Discourse in which Jesus was addressing His coming. The disciples were curious about it. And somewhat quickly, I want to read through a large portion of this chapter, and here’s why I want to do this, so come in here real close. I want you to read it with a perspective in mind that you may not have ever approached this text with before. I want you to approach it with the perspective of 1 Corinthians 7.

So, here’s what I want you to think about. When you read this text, I want you to think about the difference in the challenges and difficulty that would be there for married people that would be at least minimized or lessened for those who are not responsible for spouses or children. Matthew 24:3–9:

As he sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the close of the age?” And Jesus answered them, “See that no one leads you astray. For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and they will lead many astray. And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars.”

(Matthew 24:3–6)

By the way, every dad, every husband who sits here knows that in those days, he’s not just responsible for making sure he’s not led astray, but he’s responsible for making sure his spouse, his children, are not led astray.

“See that you are not alarmed, for this must take place, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are but the beginning of the birth pains. Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake.” (Matthew 24:6–9)

Husbands and wives, think about it. Think about the possibility of somebody putting a gun to your spouse’s head, leading them to a gas chamber or an electric chair, to a firing squad and telling them they needed to deny Christ, and if they don’t, they’ll be killed. I want you to think about the challenge that will be there, not only against our own lives, but in the lives of those that are part of our family. Just for the sake of time, look down at verse 15.

“So when you see the abomination of desolation spoken of by the prophet Daniel, standing in the holy place (let the reader understand), then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. Let the one who is on the housetop not go down to take what is in his house, and let the one who is in the field not turn back to take his cloak. And alas for women who are pregnant and for those who are nursing infants in those days! Pray that your flight may not be in winter or on a Sabbath.” (Matthew 24:15–20)

Think about the difference for a person who’s responsible for navigating that journey, that time, themselves, as opposed to the one that’s navigating that journey who’s responsible for a wife, a husband and children. Now, I’ll let you read the rest of it just on your own for the sake of time, but let me encourage you to think about the intensity.

1 Corinthians 7 25–35 Presents Singlessness as a Model to Emulate 

Now, I know there are arguments all over the map about who’s still going to be on planet earth when that happens. But let’s just agree today that the Bible does not say that Christians will be spared from the intensity of the stress of all of the events that lead up to the second coming of Christ. If it did, Paul would never say what he says here in 1 Corinthians when he describes this impending distress, when he says that appointed time has grown very short and that the present form of this world is passing away, and he’s calling upon Christians to take action. He does that in a really, really interesting way back here in 1 Corinthians 7. He uses singleness as a model to be emulated for all of us with regard to, at least in principle, how we need to approach these final days leading up to the coming of Christ.

So, what I want you to see is how he does that in four different ways. He would say these things to singles. Remember, he has said, “I would spare you that. This is what I mean, brothers,” and from verse 29 down through verse 31, Paul talks about four things that generally—listen to me very carefully, this is not intended to be a holistic. There are certainly variables, but generally, these things would characterize singles’ lives and all Christians need to look at them and say, in principle, “I’m going to need to be ready to navigate the end times in these ways right here.”

First, he says singles have fewer family responsibilities. Notice what he says there: “From now on, let those who have wives live as though they had none…” (1 Corinthians 7:29) Do you see that? If you’re single, that means you don’t have a wife, or you don’t have a husband. He’s saying to all of us, “You’re going to have to be ready to navigate these journeys as if you weren’t married.” One of the reasons he’s saying that is that marriage isn’t going to be a part of the eternal kingdom. We know that. Jesus said it on a number of occasions. There won’t be marriage, and there won’t be giving in marriage in the eternal kingdom (Matthew 22:30).

Have you ever thought about that, single? In singleness, you’re preparing for the condition of the eternal state in a way that married folks are not preparing for it. So the Apostle Paul comes to this, and although he’s going to flesh it out a little bit more later, he just simply says a husband is responsible for his wife, and a wife is responsible for her husband. Together, they’re responsible for their children. Singles, you don’t have to worry about that. You have fewer family responsibilities to navigate this journey with in addition to preparing for the way eternity is going to be.

Singles have fewer emotional connections. Please hear what I said, singles, at the beginning of the message, early in the message. This is not at all an exhaustive treatment. He’s not suggesting you don’t have emotions, you don’t have joys, and you don’t have hurts. But notice what he says here in verse 30, “…those who mourn as though they were not mourning, and those who rejoice as though they were not rejoicing…” What is he talking about? He is talking about the fluctuation of emotions oftentimes that come with marital relationships and family relationship that are not necessarily there in every single’s journey, in most singles’ journeys.

For example, if as parents we have a child that dies or a spouse that becomes diseased or crippled, we don’t celebrate that. We hurt to our very core. At the same time, if our spouse gets a promotion or a child gets an award, we celebrate that. And sometimes, in some ways that are maybe carried to an extreme and things that are temporal, these joys and hurts are a part of this life that are not necessarily going to be part of the next, and the Apostle Paul is simply saying, “Navigating these end-time days, the closer we get to Christ’s return, is going to be advantageous when you don’t have as many emotional connections that would tie you into a fluctuation and a pool of a wide range of extreme of emotion.” You have fewer emotional connections.

Singles have fewer earthly possessions. In verse 30, Paul says, “…those who buy as though they had no goods…” Think about it. It just makes sense. When you’re married, you’re not only buying for yourself, but you’re buying for your spouse, and if there are kids involved, you’re buying for your kids. That means more stuff, and we have a tendency just to stockpile it up, because we get more settled in to staying in the same place. And then, when our kids grow up and they move away, we store their stuff in our attics and our basement, and it just keeps building, and we move it from one place to another. And all the time, Jesus is saying, “Don’t store up for yourselves earthly treasures, but store up for yourselves heavenly treasures while you’re on this earth.” (Matthew 6:19–20). And Paul is simply saying singles have a better opportunity to do that. In most cases, you have less stuff, and you’re less tied down to the goods of this world. And he says that is going to be a really good thing the closer we get to Jesus’ return.

Singles have fewer worldly attachments. This is probably a general statement that summarizes the others, but there in verse 31, he says, “…those who deal with the world as though they had no dealings with it.” In the language of the New Testament, Paul essentially says, “You use the world because you live in it, but you don’t become absorbed with it.” And he says this is characteristic in most cases with the single life as opposed to the married life. And he says to all married folks in here, “The closer we get to Jesus’ return,

the more important it’s going to be for all of us to operate in principle according to the ways that most of our single brothers and sisters who are living for the glory of God in the advancement of His kingdom live.”

Now, beloved, let me just encourage you to stop and think about it for a moment. This is the Christian life. We hardly turn the pages of the New Testament without hearing the call of God to always be reminded that we are strangers and foreigners in this world; we are just pilgrims who are passing through; we are cautioned against not putting down stakes and not making this world our home.

Hear the words of our Lord Jesus: “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.” (Matthew 6:19–20) In another point, He said, “Fear not, little flock, it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys.” (Luke 12:32–


Paul talks about it in so many other places himself. Second Corinthians 4:16–5:1,

So we do not lose heart. Though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day. For this slight momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. For we know that if the tent, which is our earthly home, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.

To the Colossians, “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” (Colossians 3:1–3)

Paul to the young Timothy, “No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him.” (2 Timothy 2:4) The author of Hebrews said it this way: “For you had compassion on those in prison, and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one.” (Hebrews 10:34) The Apostle John is not to be left out. These are familiar words in his first epistle:

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. 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. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever. (1 John 2:15–17)

You can’t read the pages of the New Testament without understanding this is what all of us as believers are called to. And the Apostle Paul simply says this: “Singles, you have a little bit of an advantage.” It doesn’t mean that every Christian single is seizing the advantage. Doesn’t mean that every believer who is single is taking advantage, but this is what Paul wants us to hear. This is what he wants you to hear: That you have the opportunity to seize this advantage of being better prepared for the coming of Christ and the eternal kingdom in your assignment as a single.

And church, for the rest of us, the Apostle Paul says to us, “You look at these singles. You watch them—those who are seizing the day, taking advantage of this assignment—and you learn from them how in principle, you too will need to navigate the days that are coming. You too must prepare for the eternal kingdom.”

You can be totally given to Jesus’ service.

Advantage number three, the last one Paul gives us here, and that is that you can be totally given to Jesus’ service. Paul continues this pastoral appeal in this paragraph, in verses 32 through 35. You hear it in the beginning in verse 32, when he says, “I want you to be free from anxieties…” He means cares and concerns, to use the language of the New Testament. Now, I don’t think Paul was saying, “I’m going to set you free from cares and concerns.” I’ve already talked about some of the challenges to singleness. There are things that don’t go away; they’re part of life that are characteristic of all human beings. There are other things that are characteristic of all believers. But the Apostle Paul as a pastor says, “I would like to take them all away.”

Then, what he’s going to do is he’s going to talk about how to minimize that and seize the opportunity to use your assignment for the advancement of the kingdom of God in serving Christ and seeking Him in a way that is less possible and more difficult for married people. So you know what he does? He states the obvious. You know what the obvious is? There are only 24 hours in a day—all of us have the same allotment—and you can’t be in two places at one time, and as much as you think you can multi-task, you can’t multi-task to the same level with everything that you’re trying to do or you have a responsibility to do in life.

And this is how he illustrates it. Look at verse 32. “The unmarried man is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to please the Lord. But the married man is anxious about worldly things, how to please his wife.” Now he doesn’t say that’s a sin. He’s already stated that it’s neither right nor wrong. He’s just saying it is what it is. If you’re married, you have a responsibility to please your wife. So, as a Christian married person, you are seeking to bring pleasure to the Lord, and you are seeking to bring pleasure to your wife. And we want to do good a job as we try to do to bring those together and say, “I want to lead my wife; I want to be in relationship with my husband for the glory of God and on mission to God. I want us to use our family for the advancement of the cause of Christ.” However, the bottom line is it can’t be done entirely.

So this is what Paul says. He says the married person is divided in the allotment of his time. He turns around, and he says of the married man, being anxious about worldly things and how to please his wife, that his interests are divided. “…the unmarried or betrothed woman is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to be holy in body and spirit. But the married woman is anxious about worldly things, how to please her husband.” (1 Corinthians 7:34) “It is what it is,” Paul says. I shouldn’t say this is the nature of the beast. That wouldn’t be fair to married couples, right? This is the nature of the marriage. We are trying to navigate that tension for the glory of God and have a responsibility to do so.

My parents came in town this last week, and one of the things my dad and I did together was we built a rail on our front porch steps. The steps didn’t have a rail, and they’re kind of steep leading up to the front porch. Now, I had a sermon to prepare for this morning, and I probably didn’t give as much attention to it as it deserved, because I was building a rail so my wife could go out and get the mail and come back without hurting herself on the front porch steps. Bad illustration but it’s true. I wouldn’t have traded it for anything. I want my wife to be safe. That’s what husbands do.

But my daughter came in town this weekend. It was her birthday. She turned twenty this weekend. That’s a big deal. We had some birthday festivities. I’ve got some courses to prepare for this fall to help train pastors to shepherd churches in the kingdom. That’s an important thing, but I hung out with her some, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything because that’s what husbands and dads do. But I did have to trade some things for that. And that’s what he’s talking about here; he is talking about trade-offs. He’s talking about the fact that we have to make some trade-offs in this journey, in navigating this as married people, that single people do not have to make.

So, Paul identifies two benefits growing out of this obvious reality. Notice in verse 35, he says, “I say this for your own benefit…” So he has the good of the church in mind and singles in mind. Notice this: “…not to lay any restraint upon you…” Translated, this literally means not to put a noose around your neck. Singles, hear this: He is saying, “I’m not saying what I’m saying to keep you from getting married. God may change your assignment and your body may change and your heart may change to where you become compelled to pursue marriage, and you need to go for it when God does that if He does that. I’m not trying to put a noose around your neck.” But he says, “I want the best for the kingdom of God, because that’s what the Lord of glory deserves, and so I’m always thinking about perfect-world benefit as it relates to the kingdom. That’s what I desire for you.”

And he identifies two benefits. First, your attention and devotion are attractive. Singles, don’t miss this. Church, don’t miss this. Notice in verse 35, Paul says, “I’m not trying to put a noose around your neck, but to promote good order.” Do you see that? In the language of the New Testament, these are terms that mean what is right and what is fitting. Therefore, the implication is it’s attractive. It fits.

It’s like working a jigsaw puzzle. You scramble around, and you make so many false attempts where you put a piece into a particular place and it doesn’t quite fit. Maybe one section fits, and you have to take it back, and you have to keep looking. And then, ultimately, you find the piece that goes there, and you put it in and there’s this feeling of celebration because it fits. This is where it goes. And that’s attractive. It looks good. It puts the puzzle together.

Think about it. Think about what we do and what we believe. If heaven and hell really are real, and if time is really short, church, and if this gospel is really as good as we make it out to be in our sermons and our songs, and all of that is true, doesn’t it just make sense that a person would want to do as much as they could with their time, attention and resources to point people to this and advance the kingdom? That just makes sense that people would do that.

So you know what Paul says? Singles, you’ve got an opportunity to paint a picture of the value of the gospel and the mission of Christ in a way that married people don’t have. You know why? Because when you live your life in a way that is described like this, and you’re able to give full attention to pleasing the Lord and full attention to being holy and pursuing the things of God, there is something about that that people look at and say, “In light of this gospel that those Christians say is so good, that just makes sense, and it becomes attractive. Thank you, thank you for being that kind of picture of the things of God. Your devotion, your attention to the Lord is attractive.”

Your attention and your devotion to the Lord are undivided. That’s what this passage of Scripture says. He’s just saying you don’t have to divide it up, and you don’t have to navigate both. Your attention and your devotion can be directed at one target, and that is to bring pleasure to the Lord and to serve Him and advance His kingdom.

Watch this now. Too few Western Christians have given serious consideration to remaining single as a way to advance the gospel more effectively. But when we stop and think about people like the influential Anglican pastor and theologian John Stott, and we give consideration to the renowned Southern Baptist missionary to China, Lottie Moon, it’s not very far into that thinking that we have to entertain the possibility of what one single Christian can do for the advancement of the kingdom of God and the announcement of His glory among the nations.

On the contrary, it’s likely that some great leaders in Christian history, among the likes are men like John Wesley, as well as the numerous workaholic preachers and other Christian workers in our day, who might have been better off to remain single rather than have to watch their neglected marriages crash and burn. Singles, you have an opportunity in this assignment to serve our Lord in a way that others can look at and say, “That just makes sense with regard to this gospel.” And I want to encourage you, as long as God gives you that assignment, you celebrate it. You rest in it.

Have you ever thought about the fact that Jesus chose to be married to His bride, the church, in all of eternity? But He chose during His time on this earth to remain single in order to be fully devoted to what it would take to purchase that eternal union for you and I.


The Cross and Christian Singleness

1 Corinthians 7:25–35

Admonishments to Single Christians…

  • If you and your body are compelled, consider marriage one of your goals.

  •  If you and your body are content, consider singleness your status quo.

Advantages of Single Living…

  •  You can be completely assured of Jesus’ favor.

    • He says singleness is “good.” (1 Corinthians 7:1, 8, 26)

    • He says singleness is a “gift” from God. (1 Corinthians 7:7)

    • He says some people “do even better” to remain single. (1 Corinthians 7:38)

    • He says some people are “happier” if they remain single. (1 Corinthians 7:40)

  • You can be better prepared for Jesus’ coming. (1 Corinthians 7:26–31; cf. Matthew 6:19–20; 24:3–51; Luke 12:32–33; 20:34–35; Romans 13:11–14; 2 Corinthians 4:16–18; 5:1; Colossians 3:1–3; 2 Timothy 2:4; Hebrews 10:34; 1 John 2:15–17)

    • You have fewer family responsibilities.

    • You have fewer emotional connections.

    • You have fewer earthly possessions.

    • You have fewer worldly attachments.

  •  You can be totally given to Jesus’ service. (1 Corinthians 7:32–35; cf. Matthew 12:46–50)

    • Your attention and devotion are attractive.

    • Your attention and devotion are undivided.

Jim Shaddix is a professor of expository preaching at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. He has served as a pastor in Louisiana, Alabama, Texas, Mississippi, and Colorado, and as dean of the chapel and professor of preaching at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. Shaddix is the author of several books, including The Passion-Driven Sermon: Changing the Way Pastors Preach and Congregations Listen.


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