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The Bliss and Blisters of Singleness
I Corinthians 7:25 to 35
Tough Stuff 2015
There is pressure from your married friends. One friend asked, “When are you going to get married?”
The response, “The first.”
“The first of what?”
“The first chance I get.”
There is pressure from your parents. One dad asked his son, “Boy, have you thought about marriage?”
“Sure dad, why do you ask?”
“Well–Mom and I want to turn your room into a den.”
And there is pressure from society. If you go out with someone of the opposite sex, everyone in the church has you married off before you even finish nine holes of miniature golf. The pressure is so great, there will be some here who will compromise their convictions in order to secure a spouse.
At 18 to 24, gals strongly desire a combo man–this is a guy who is a combination of Brad Pitt and John MacArthur. At 25 to 30, gals are looking for a man who goes to church. And at 31 to 40, gals are looking for a man who knows where a church is.
Are you struggling to believe God has a perfect plan for you? He has good works prepared beforehand for you to walk in. He knows exactly how many hairs are on your head. His thoughts toward you are more than the sand of the seashore. “Yea, but what about my future spouse?”
God actually gives us hope in the midst of His instruction in Matthew 19:6, “So they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate.” God is the one who joins couples together. Nothing can stand in His way—nothing. If and when He intends you to marry, you will marry. Will you trust Him for that? Or will you fight Him? Will you pursue His plan, or plan everything in wait mode? Everything in your life is waiting for marriage.
Marriage is the number one idol for the biblical Christian collegian. Are you living for Him, or living for a future mate? One of the main ways singles grow in trust is to embrace God’s amazing purpose for singleness. Trust grows when you get God’s vision for the incredible opportunity of singleness. My prayer today is that you might be willing to embrace God’s plan for singles. To do that, open your Bibles to 1 Corinthians 7:25 to 40.
One of the great drives in the life of a single is the drive to belong to another. I used to play this game with my son Matthew when he was three. (He’s now 30+ and married.) The game was the “mine game”—whether it was his shirt, his toys, his blanket, he would say, “It’s mine.” And then I would say, “No, it’s mine.” We would play that a few times, and then I’d grab him up in my arms and say, “You know something? You’re mine!” And being a transparent three-year-old, his face glowed with the thought of belonging to someone.
He shows us something true of us all. We all feel the need to belong to someone. That’s why being labeled an Old Maid, an Unclaimed Blessing, or a monument to man’s stupidity is so hurtful–because we have a need to belong. Yet for the Christian, that problem has been solved. We belong to the King, Jesus Christ. God Himself purchased us with the sacrificial death of His Son, and now we belong to Him—we are His. All other shades of relationships pale in comparison.
Think about it. Someday your spouse will die, your children will leave. Therefore only one relationship will truly last–your relationship with Jesus Christ. We must be careful to not seek a relationship with someone in order to fill a need only Christ can fill. We must be wary of ever letting anyone take the place of Christ in our lives. Marriages are destroyed when one or both expect their partner to fulfill what Christ alone can fill.
And singles will only find contentedness and peace when Jesus alone is their first love. Only then can singleness become an exciting option. Can you be single and joyful? Can you be single and blest, content, fulfilled, excited, challenged and happy? God says YES! And He is going to tell us why and how in 1 Corinthians 7:25 to 35 and 40.
As we approach this text, let me remind you what has been going on in the Corinthian church. The Corinthian society was so wicked, the church began to tolerate fornication, adultery, polygamy, and more. Christians in the church became confused about marriage and about singleness. Some thought singleness was more spiritual, and others felt all believers had to get married, and more. So in chapter 7, Paul tries to correct their thinking.
What Paul says here is, being single is very good. It can be tempting. It is wrong for married people to try to be single again. But for others, singleness is a gift from God. In other words, singleness has its bliss and blisters. Let’s look at both sides.
#1 The Blisters of Singleness
Let’s look back again at verse 2 of chapter 7, “But because of immoralities, let each man have his own wife, and let each woman have her own husband.” Because of the sexual pressure in this wicked society, Paul says one righteous way to resist sexual temptation is to be married to your own wife and to your own husband. Paul is very direct, and it is something we all know.
One blister with singleness is dealing with physical pressure, and Paul reminds them that marriage can be a path of righteous release. Understand–marriage is not an escape valve for your sexual tensions, but it can help maintain purity. Marriage was designed by God for procreation, pleasure, partnership, a picture of Christ and the Church, and purity–marriage can help.
But do not draw a false conclusion. Marriage is not the answer to an out of control physical drive, for if that were true, there would be no adultery, no romance novels, and no pornography with marrieds. God is merely telling us one of the blisters of singleness is that it does not share in one of the advantages and purposes of marriage, which is a righteous physical release to sexual pressure.
Now look at verse 7. God through Paul gives us another truth concerning singleness. “Yet I wish that all men were even as I myself am. However, each man has his own gift from God, one in this manner, and another in that.” God says singleness is a gift–for some through sovereign circumstances, it is a permanent gift, for others it is a temporary gift.
But no matter who you are, God wants you to know that singleness is a gracious gift God gives. God says singleness is not something to cope with, but a special lifestyle that has great advantages. It’s a gift. “Oh Lordy, please don’t give me that gift.” Paul wants all of us to be aware that marriage is not meant for everyone, and that singleness (whether permanent or temporary) is to be enjoyed and lived fully for His glory.
God says in verse 7 that both marriage and singleness are gifts from God, and therefore to be enjoyed as blessings from Him. Paul clearly says that spirituality is not dictated by your marital status. You need to drive this truth into your heart, and wear it like a tattoo. Singleness is a gift, it is a blessing, and it has great advantages. If you don’t have the gift, or you’re not married yet and can enjoy it for a time–but to have an attitude that says, “Singleness? No thanks, God!” is to spit on the perfect plan of God.
Ever get a gift you didn’t want? Some foo foo, musky after shave? Soap on a rope? It’s like a bad joke. Too many Christians feel the same way about singleness—it’s a gift they don’t want. We know a good marriage takes lots of hard work, but today I want you to come to grips with the fact that a good single life also requires a lot of hard work.
But many singles don’t even try to enjoy singleness because they don’t want it. They have bought the lie that singleness is second best, second class, less than best—but that is a lie right out of the pit of Hell. Now look at verse 25 of 1 Corinthians 7, you’ll see exactly what God has to say about singleness.
#2 The Bliss of Singleness
Singleness is a pursuit, not a problem. It’s a promise, not a plague. It’s a blessing, not a blister. And it’s a set of opportunities, not a state of existence. In verse 25 to 40, God is going to give you six advantages to singleness. We’ll look at four and mention two. The first advantage for singles to enjoy is to be . . .
FIRST Free from the Pressure of society and persecution Verses 25 to 26
“Now concerning virgins I have no command of the Lord, but I give an opinion as one who by the mercy of the Lord is trustworthy. 26 I think then that this is good in view of the present distress, that it is good for a man to remain as he is.” Paul is saying, I’m not commanding you to be single, but as an apostle of Jesus Christ, I will give you the best and only opinion as directed by the Spirit of God. “Jesus didn’t teach on this, so I will,” says Paul.
What is it, Paul? Because of pressure from this fallen world, and the chaotic state of our society, it is best for one who has never been married to remain unmarried. Because of persecution, war, false religion, famine, disaster, and a hostile, indulgent society–it is best to remain single. God says to the singles, take advantage of the freedom from the pressure the married have to bear. Thinking of Matthew and Daniel and their children growing up in this kind of world, it is very frightening. Perverts, dangers, drugs, crimes, persecution, weird laws.
Hey, kill me for my faith–I am good to go, I am ready for Heaven. I want to leave this planet. I think I could handle any torture except sleep deprivation. I am not afraid to die for my faith. But torture my wife in front of me? Torture my sons or daughters? Now that frightens me. When you’re single, you’re free from that pressure. So then is it better to be single or married?
God answers us in verses 27 and 28–here is the key verse in the entire passage. In this entire section there are two commands—seek. “Are you bound to a wife? Do not seek to be released. Are you released from a wife? Do not seek a wife. 28 But if you should marry, you have not sinned; and if a virgin should marry, she has not sinned. Yet such will have trouble in this life, and I am trying to spare you.”
None of these options are sin, if biblically you can remarry or marry–but God wants singles to know they alone are free from the family pressure of persecution. There is another bliss to singleness. As a single you are . . .
SECOND Free from the Problems of the flesh Verse 28b
In the second half of verse 28, “Yet such will have trouble in this life, and I am trying to spare you.” God is telling us what we already know. Every genuine Christian knows how tough it is to live with themselves–every believer often gets sick of their own sin. So single Christian, can you imagine how much tougher it is to live with another sin-sick sinner? It is bad enough with one, can you imagine two?
Notice the word trouble in verse 28–do you realize how much trouble in marriage the Lord is trying to spare you singles from? The Greek word trouble is the same word used to describe the Great Tribulation in Revelation. God is saying, if you get married, then the seas will turn to blood and fiery rocks will fall from Heaven. No, but the Greek word for trouble means to press together under pressure, used to describe the squishing, smashing, crushing of grapes to make wine.
Think about it. Marriage presses people together in the closest possible way. Likes, dislikes, emotions, wills, anger, pride, conflicts, adjustments, sacrifice and hardships are all experienced in marriage more intensely than anywhere else. “Iron sharpens iron,” but not without heat and sparks. Marriage is good, holy and fulfilling–it’s perfect as God designed it. But it doesn’t solve your problems. In fact it creates many more.
Those who enter into marriage thinking it will solve their problems, find out that marriage just intensifies their problems and adds to them, since you now have your problems and theirs to deal with. That’s why it is devastating to use marriage as a way of escape, or to solve loneliness or cure lust–because marriage is not designed to cure the normal problems of the flesh in this life.
To be single is a simpler life all together. Sure, many singles deal with taxes, cooking, cleaning and mowing lawns, but think about the kind of freedom you have compared to marrieds. Say you get married and have two kids–four people equals twelve relationships, and all must run smoothly.
When you buy a car, you don’t buy it for style, speed, looks or even economy. As a married you ask–will it fit the kids? If I was single and not a Christian, I’d have a BMW Shark 4 and a 50’ two-mast sail boat. But I got married and began marriage with a ’72 exploding Pinto and 1-foot long plastic bathtub boat. Singleness has its advantages. The third advantage singles have is to be . . .
THIRD Unaffected by the Passing away of the world Verses 29 to 31
”But this I say, brethren, the time has been shortened, so that from now on those who have wives should be as though they had none; 30 and those who weep, as though they did not weep; and those who rejoice, as though they did not rejoice; and those who buy, as though they did not possess; 31 and those who use the world, as though they did not make full use of it; for the form of this world is passing away.”
God is reminding us that nothing in this world is permanent–marriage, success, possessions and pleasure are all temporary. These three verses are a group of participles all telling us this is all going on right now, but it is all going to stop in the future. The implications of this are shocking, if you dare to apply it to your life.
Through the apostle Paul, God is telling us . . .
Our marriage shouldn’t be an excuse for slacking off in the Lord’s work.
Our family should not keep us from serving the Lord.
Our business should not stand in the way of our ministry.
Our pursuit of a degree can’t keep us from ministering our gifts within the Body of Christ.
Our love of fun should never keep us from being faithful to the work that God has called us to.
Why? Because our marriage, family relationships, business, and degrees are all temporary–they are not permanent. But the ministry that proclaims the Word of God with life and lip so that people become more like Christ–that work is eternal. An advantage of singleness is you’re freer to pursue the things that are eternal. And remember—marriage is not eternal. Which leads us to the next bliss of singleness, which is, singles are . . .
FOURTH Free from the Pre-occupations of marriage Verses 32 to 34
“But I want you to be free from concern. One who is unmarried is concerned about the things of the Lord, how he may please the Lord; 33 but one who is married is concerned about the things of the world, how he may please his wife, 34 and his interests are divided. And the woman who is unmarried, and the virgin, is concerned about the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and spirit; but one who is married is concerned about the things of the world, how she may please her husband.”
Single Christians are able to be more devoted to God, and are freer to give themselves to the Lord’s work without distraction. Both Jean and I knew this kind of freedom as singles, and one of our biggest adjustments in marriage was the fact we could not give as much time, effort and money as we used to as singles in our ministry, as we do now as marrieds, to our Savior.
I still work long hours, but when I was single, it was sixteen hours a day and six days a week. I worked in my office long hours, and one of the other pastors came by after teaching his evening class and asked me, “Why don’t you go home?” Week after week he asked the same thing. Finally I said to him, “What for?” And he said, “Oh, yea,” and he never asked again. He had to get home to his family—but I could keep working.
As a single, Jean was an executive secretary and gave half her salary away to the Lord’s work. Before you get the wrong idea, if God wants you to get married you shouldn’t feel guilty about it, nor if you are married should you feel guilty about the adjustments you must make. Marriage does not prevent great devotion to the Lord and His work, nor does singleness guarantee great devotion to the Lord and His work, but singleness has fewer hindrances.
You see, being married means you must be divided–the word in verse 34 means allotted, apportioned or assigned. It’s the perfect tense, meaning past completed action and present abiding results. It has been divided and now you live the results. If you are faithful to the Lord, you can’t be unfaithful to your family. But when you are single, you can be undivided, free from other concerns–you can minister without family responsibilities.
It is funny, my family has certain hang-ups. They like to eat, wear clothes, stay dry when it rains—kids, they’re so demanding. I have to provide all these things along with insurance, a health plan, a dental plan, pay the bills, savings in case of emergency, a working vehicle, and so much more. Be a realist–what do you want to give the bulk of your time to? The things that are passing away, or eternal things?
Now it’s not unspiritual to provide clothes for your kids, but it does keep you from what a single person can enjoy, described in verse 35. This is the job description of the single. This is the main role of a believing single. This is the key verse for all singles–memorize this. Here is the main thing–if you miss this as a single, you missed what God wanted from you while you were single. Verse 35, “And this I say for your own benefit; not to put a restraint upon you, but to promote what is seemly, and to secure undistracted devotion to the Lord.” What is undistracted devotion to the Lord?
Listen to an example of undistracted devotion to Communism. This is a letter from a boyfriend to his girlfriend, as to why he is breaking up with her. “There is one thing in which I am dead earnest about and that is the Communist cause. It is my life, my business, my religion. It is my hobby, my sweetheart, my wife, my mistress, my bread, my meat. I work at it in the daytime and I dream of it at night. Its hold on me grows and not lessens as time goes on. Therefore, I cannot carry on a relationship with you any longer. I can no longer even have a conversation with others without relating it to the force which drives and guides my life. I evaluate all books and people and ideas and actions according to how they affect this Communist cause and by their attitude toward it. I’ve already been in jail because of my ideals, and if necessary, I am ready to go before a firing squad.”
Can you imagine the kind of influence we could have for the Kingdom of Jesus Christ, if we would exercise this kind of commitment for the cause of Christ? Singles, that is exactly what God is calling you to, to exercise undistracted devotion to Christ. Only singles can have it. Very few pursue it–will you? The final two advantages of the single I will merely mention for the sake of time. Singles are free because of . . .
FIFTH The Promise to the fathers Verses 36 to 38
Dads in the first century had the right to give their children in marriage or not, and in light of the present persecution, if a father wanted to keep his daughter single for service to the Lord, he could do so. But if he found she really wasn’t designed to be single all her life, he could give her away in marriage and not dishonor the Lord.
Christian fathers have the same right and responsibility today. I find very few fathers who do this well–they typically land on an extreme. One extreme is they have little or too much involvement in picking and approving a future spouse for their daughters. The other extreme is once their kids are married, they don’t let their son or daughter leave and cleave–they forgot that they actually gave her away to someone else.
But for many singles, they don’t have to struggle over singleness because they have the protection and leadership of a father to guide them. If you don’t, then find that older couple who will. And the last bliss of singleness is you are not stuck, but free from . . .
SIXTH The Permanency of marriage Verses 39 to 40
Marriage is lifelong. There are no trade-ins. Once married, you are bound to your mate for life. One life means one wife. Marriage is until death, which by the way is not to be arranged by the spouse. Ruth Graham was asked once if she ever considered divorcing Billy, and she said, “Divorce never, murder yes, but never divorce.” A bliss of singleness is you’re not bound to a mate for life. Singleness is a gift we are to enjoy from God. How should we respond until He changes our situation?
First Turn to Christ
If, in your heart, you are unwilling to follow God’s Word, whether married or single, that is an indicator that you do not have a regenerate heart, you have not been saved, and you need to turn to Christ in faith and repentance–you need to be born again. Embrace the fact you can’t save yourself or live the Christian life–only Christ can through you. Exchange all that you are for all that He is.
Second Pursue the bliss of singleness
If you pursue what God has laid out for you as a single, you will experience more of the bliss than the blisters. Go after serving in the church, giving your money away to his work, serving overseas in missions, studying the Scripture, showing and sharing the Gospel to others. Stop being half-hearted and go for it.
Pursue spending time with models who will demonstrate the reality of marriage, while giving you a target to shoot for. Get accountable to some believers who scare you, who challenge you to live for Christ. Women, learn the skills of being a wife and mother. And men, learn the skills of becoming a husband and father, and do it now. You don’t automatically become God’s gift to a spouse on your wedding day.
And honor your parents. Proverbs 15:20 says, “A wise son makes his father glad, but a foolish man despises his mother.” If you can’t make this foundational parental relationship work, as far as it depends upon you, you will have trouble making a marriage work in the future.
Learn about the opposite sex without being committed–guys, get together and have fun with a group of gals. Don’t pair off–be creative and ask lots of questions. Put some work into it–cook dinner for a group. Put up a sheet and projector and have a walk in drive-in. Go to the airport and make up stories about where people came from. Go to the maternity ward and bring cookies for the new dads. Go to the nursery, buy a plant and plant it somewhere– but if it dies, you have to break up.
Enjoy this time, relax, and know God puts couples together. Matthew 19:6b, “What God has joined together, let no man separate.” And stop looking at singleness as a curse, but a blessing. As you pursue God’s plan for singles, you will stop being so frustrated and lonely. You will remember that Hebrews 4:15 says, “For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin.” And remember that Jesus Christ Himself lived life on this planet for over 33 years–as a single.