Bible Study About Singleness
Is Singleness Really a Gift?
Consider What Paul Says About the Gift of Singleness
I want to write about this chapter because teaching on this subject seems rare. Why do I call it a gift? It wasn't my idea. See verse 7 below. There are many subjects covered in this 1 Corinthians Chapter 7, and the ones I hear most teaching about include divorce, remarriage, separation, or biblical reasons to stay married. But sometimes the other option -- singleness-- is overlooked. Of course choosing singleness goes against our human nature. God gave us a desire for close relationships, and a sex drive. Marriage was his idea. He wanted us to repopulate the earth. See Genesis 9:7. So, of course everyone does not have the gift of singleness. But I just want you to consider if you might, even if at first you say, like I did, "Not me -- no way!..Never!".
Allow the Holy Spirit to work in your heart and seek the Lord on this, since he tells us 11 times in this passage that singleness is a very good, valid choice, and sometimes, the very best choice -- God's choice for you. You probably won't believe me unless you've studied this chapter in depth and actually have experienced the gift of singleness first-hand.
Let's count the ways that Paul (and the Lord) say that it's good to stay single, (even the better choice, for those who have this gift) in 1 Corinthians Chapter 7.
(I won't display the whole chapter because of copyrights, and also so that you can see the points I'm trying to make. Please read the whole chapter. Here's the link. 1 Corinthians 7. I added bold for emphasis in the scriptures below).
In the first few verses, Paul's talking about married people, telling them not to deprive each other, except for times when you agree to pray. Then he says:
#1. It's good to remain single.
In verse 8, Paul is saying, for some, its good for them to remain single; yet, if you are passionate, go ahead and marry. You don't want to fall into sexual sin. But you can also seek God's blessing and ask him for self-control, remember its a fruit of the Spirit. Also consider that the initial infatuation rarely, if ever, lasts. It may grow into a deeper kind of love, hopefully, but that initial passion quickly fades in the vast majority, if not all, love relationships. It would have to, otherwise, how would anyone get anything done with their feet up in the air and being in a state of clueless giddiness all the time. Don't get me wrong. I'm not knocking being “in love”. I'm just saying that's not true love. Don't let it overtake you and control you so that you make an unwise decision when you still in the infatuation phase, which the “experts” say can last a year or two.
7 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. 8 Now to the unmarried and the widows I say: It is good for them to stay unmarried, as I do. 9 But if they cannot control themselves, they should marry, for it is better to marry than to burn with passion.
#2, 3, 4. Concerning Freedom
Three times in verses 17-24, Paul talks about freedom. In verse 17 and again in verse 24, Paul says we should remain in the situation we were in when we were called. I think this also includes marriage. This passage is right in the middle of the subject of singleness/marriage. Then in verses 21-23, he says “don't become slaves of men”. While a married woman is not a “slave” in the true meaning of the word, biblically she is to “obey” and submit to her husband. She is under her husband's authority. I don't know about you, but for me, that would take away a bit of my joy for the times when my husband did not practice selfless decisions. I get that. I apply this passage to the marriage situation because freedom is huge issue for married people. Think about the responsibilities marriage carries with it, for both men and women, as Paul also explains again in verses 32-35 and in verses 28 he says he wants to spare people of the troubles marriage entails. Its not easy to mesh your entire life with another's. Think of the differing values, doctrines, beliefs, opinions, agendas, expectations, hobbies, friends, cleanliness habits, psychological issues, temperatures, schedules, etc., that have to be accommodated or agreed on. This is a huge undertaking. Please do not take the marriage decision lightly!
Read this passage here:
17 Nevertheless, each person should live as a believer in whatever situation the Lord has assigned to them, just as God has called them. This is the rule I lay down in all the churches. ... 20 Each person should remain in the situation they were in when God called them. 21 Were you a slave when you were called? Don’t let it trouble you—although if you can gain your freedom, do so. 22 For the one who was a slave when called to faith in the Lord is the Lord’s freed person; similarly, the one who was free when called is Christ’s slave. 23 You were bought at a price; do not become slaves of human beings. 24 Brothers and sisters, each person, as responsible to God, should remain in the situation they were in when God called them. NIV
#5, 6, and 7. It's good to remain single.
In verses 25 - 28. Paul reiterates his statement that its good to remain single, and twice he gives specific commands to those who are still single. To me, he's saying its ok, its not sinning if you marry, but consider the troubles married people face (See above comments). In the next passage, he gives some specific reasons.
1 Corinthians 7:25 Now about virgins: I have no command from the Lord, but I give a judgment as one who by the Lord’s mercy is trustworthy. 26 Because of the present crisis, I think that it is good for a man to remain as he is. 27 Are you pledged to a woman? Do not seek to be released. Are you free from such a commitment? Do not look for a wife. NIV
#8 and 9. Being free of concern, not having divided interests.
In verses 28-35 Being free of concern, and not have divided interests. Paul gives us some very good reasons why its good to remain In Verse 29: There's not much time. Our own lives on earth are not to be our main focus. We're to think about the things of God, and what his best plan is, his perfect will for us is, in every situation. In verse 32. He says its good to be more free of concern and not have divided interests of pleasing our spouse and pleasing the Lord. Marriage will bring conflict.
Then look at the beautiful truths he brings out about singleness. Please don't overlook them.
32 I would like you to be free from concern. An unmarried man is concerned about the Lord’s affairs—how he can please the Lord. 33 But a married man is concerned about the affairs of this world—how he can please his wife— 34and his interests are divided. An unmarried woman or virgin is concerned about the Lord’s affairs: Her aim is to be devoted to the Lord in both body and spirit. But a married woman is concerned about the affairs of this world—how she can please her husband. 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. NIV
#10. Deciding not to marry is better sometimes.
Verses 36 - 38. Paul plainly says the one who has self-control does better when he decides not to marry.
1 Corinthians 7:38 But the man who has settled the matter in his own mind, who is under no compulsion but has control over his own will, and who has made up his mind not to marry the virgin—this man also does the right thing. 38 So then, he who marries the virgin does right, but he who does not marry her does better. NIV
#11 Sometimes you're happier if you stay single.
39 A woman is bound to her husband as long as he lives. But if her husband dies, she is free to marry anyone she wishes, but he must belong to the Lord. 40 In my judgment, she is happier if she stays as she is—and I think that I too have the Spirit of God.
My story: I believe I do have the given the gift of singleness. I was a wayward, rebellious teen, so I had been sexually active in my youth, much to my regret now that I have experienced the Lord's grace and forgiveness. I won't blame it on the “sexual revolution” of the 70's. I was just rebelling against the Lord and against my parents.
Then, after I became a Christian at age 34, being a very normal young lady, I was seeking a Christian boyfriend/husband. I longed to have the joys of marriage. And I also thought I would want children at some point when "we were ready”. But the Lord had other plans for me. I began the Christian dating scene about six months after my conversion. There was a lot to like about my first Christian boyfriend: good looks, popular at church, talented, funny, smart ... but the Lord showed me that this guy's heart was not on fire for him, and that the Lord Jesus was not #1 in his life; but instead he was pursuing money and fame, not the Lord's glory. There were also some emotional/spiritual issues that had come between us that I saw as “red flags”. At one point (after about six months of dating), when he tried to throw a blanket on my spiritual fire and tell me I shouldn't memorize scripture, that's when I sensed that the Lord was telling me (not audibly, just giving me a sense of what was right), something like: “Let go! He's not what I have in mind for you”. It was hard. I was sad. I was still “in love” with him. More than one friend got mad at me, which made it hurt all the more. But the Lord gave me the courage to obey. And, I knew in my heart then, and even now, that it was the right choice. In fact, had I been a more mature Christian, I don't think I would've dated him at all. That would've been the best choice. There were other issues, as well, but these were the most important ones to me: the differing values, and the fact that he was not encouraging me in my relationship with the Lord; in fact doing the opposite!
I had read some Christian dating/courtship books that I believe the Lord led me to, which greatly helped me have the courage to break off the relationship. The books also helped me get the Christian perspective of purity, and so after that first relationship, I had a great desire to stay pure and “not heap fire into my lap”; and so I refrained even from kissing. And the Lord kept me pure ever since.
I got to know some other Christian guys and had a some friendships and “dates” with a few Christian men throughout my 30s and early 40s, though not many. I continually sought the Lord and tried to choose carefully, as I didn't want to spend one-on-one time with the ones who I knew weren't right for me. Yet, with each one, I sought the Lord's advice, and each time, he said, “No. He's not the one either.” At no time was it easy to let go, but some more painful than others: the one who was still attached to a former girlfriend though he also pursued me. But looking back, I know that letting go was the right decision each time.
The chapter in the Bible that the Lord kept leading me back to was 1 Corinthians 7. How I “wrestled with the Lord” over this matter! I wanted a husband! I wanted to “fit in”. I wanted the “happiness” that everyone else had. I wanted hugs and kisses and all the rest. I wanted a lifetime partner. I wanted to grow old together still holding hands. How many tears I cried, asking the Lord, "Are you sure he's not the one?"
Finally, at about age 47, after falling in love with my Bible study leader at the time, (who also showed some interest in me, but that infatuation didn't last long after I discovered some deep spiritual issues he was having), I was sensing from the Lord that he wanted me to stay single, for-e-v-e-r! Just to keep my life “free from distraction”. I had sensed the Lord telling me this previously at times also, but this time, at this humble point, I finally accepted it. That was enough of a reason for me. (But the Lord was also teaching me that, for me, marrying would be adultery. See explanation below.)
It was a very difficult choice to accept this, and it took the Lord working in my heart a very long time to get me there (13 years!), but now I have peace about it and joy, knowing I don't have to pursue marriage any longer. I truly believe like Paul says, that I'm happier as a single.
Is it a lot to give up? At first it seemed like it. I understood the benefits of marriage: I would've loved snuggling (and all the rest of the physical stuff); I would've liked to have someone to come and protect me when my car broke down or when I was being followed by some scary guy; to give and receive emotional support; to get a break on our taxes; would love someone to share living expenses with; and a best friend to go through life with. And of course you fit in at most churches much better as a married person. All that is great. But depending on the Lord only is not such a bad thing. It helps us become stronger. How many times does scripture teach us this? Of course the trials of marriage help you grow stronger as well. The Lord doesn't leave any of his children out. He loves us all immensely!
When you look at things from an eternal perspective, the cost is nothing compared to the joy of begin able to live my life unto the Lord without the extra distractions and responsiiblities of a marriage. Trust me, I feel overloaded with the distractions I already have. Freedom is not a bad thing either, as Paul mentioned in verses 17 - 24. And the cost is especially nothing compared to what the Lord Jesus has given up for me...his very life!
One more thing to consider, your affections. Sometimes, we've all seen it, sometimes people make "gods" of their spouse or their children (or another person) or to theirself, or a dream. If you do marry, make sure that always, the one you are wholly devoted to is the Lord Jesus Christ. Let's take another look at:
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. NIV
Sometimes people lose their first love, whether to a job, or fame or money or another person.
Revelation 2:4 Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first. NIV
Matthew 22:37 Jesus declared, "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.'d 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. NIV
Why do I include that verse? Am I insinuating that singles love God more? No, not at all. I can just imagine a that sometimes a spouse could pressure you to do something that violates your conscience, and so that could make it harder, especially if there were threats or "punishments", etc. Of couse the Lord can make you strong and help you to remain faithful through all that. And if you remain single, he will make you strong spiritually using other means. He loves all of his children.
Lest you think I'm a saint, to be sure there are other reasons I chose, and choose, singleness. I won't get into those as I don't wish to reveal the intimate details of my heart to the whole world.... I'm just asking you to consider singleness, since Paul asks us to do this 11 times in 1 Corinthians chapter 7. Seriously seek God's will in this very important decision that will affect every day of the rest of your life, and every area of your life. In the very least, be very sure that this is the one whom the Lord chooses for you if you do choose to marry, and that its the right time in your life (maybe the Lord has another assignment for you to do first).
I want to leave you with one more thing about having a spiritual perspective: There's no marriage in heaven! It's not ever-after. It's only for when we're down here. Trust me. You won't feel any need to be married when we're in heaven. Jesus will fill us with joy and peace overflowing and with more love than we could ever have imagined -- real love, not less-than-perfect human love. Read the passage in Matthew 22:23-33.
If you're afraid that you will be too lonely as a single, just draw close to the Lord. People don't take away loneliness, only the Lord Jesus can truly do that. When you have his peace and joy and are pursuing his will for your life, and not your own, that's what truly matters, not your own “happiness”. But, ironically, when we are seeking his will, he gives us greater joy. A close relationship with the Lord Jesus is what takes away our lonliness, not our relationships with people! I know this first-hand.
In Matthew 6, Jesus speaks of worrying about food and clothing, but I think it applies in other situations as well.
Matthew 6:33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. NIV
On the other hand, some fear or worry about making a lifelong commitment. Consider that the root of your fear may be issues (your own or your significant other's) that need to be worked out. Or, the timing may be right. You may need some time to grow in your relationship with the Lord. Definitely don't let anyone pressure you into getting married.
I believe that the Lord will help you understand all this first hand, up close and personal, if you truly seek his will. And if you don't have the gift of singleness? That's great too. I pray that the Lord bless you in your marriage and grow you spiritually through it.
I want to leave you with a tip: I'm someone who never owned a T.V. in my life, not even presently. I had read a book at some point in my youth that said that spending your time doing a lot of passive types of activities was not the best use of your time, and could cause depression. I agreed with that, and so I developed other hobbies and activities, and agreed with it even more after I did. However, I had watched T.V. growing up, and had also watched it with roommates in my 20's and 30's, gone to movies (romances, comedies being my favorite type). I had also read my share of Harlequin romances and similar books. I now believe these greatly harmed me and caused some of my struggle with the singleness. They attempt to make you believe that you will never be happy until you are married. (And they're usually successful!) I've never seen a romance movie that made you think that marriage will mess up your life forever. They always leave you with a feeling that you are "incomplete," and that you have to go out and find someone if you are to live a fulfilled life.
May I suggest that the opposite may be true in many cases? I'm sure you all know of someone who has a had a painful, messy divorce. I'm sure you also know people who are in less-than-happy couples. So, my tip is to stay away from romantic movies, T.V. shows and romance novels , especially if you want to be happy as a single. Also, don't let yourself feel pressured to date (if you don't think its God's will for you) from well-meaning people who don't understand 1 Corinthians 7, and think they know what's best for your life, or paint a rosy picture of their own, or other, so-so marriages. There are problems and challenges in every marriage.
Other Benefits of the Gift of Singleness:
When I look at my own life, I admit I have a lot of problems (physical, spiritual, financial...). But when I look at married people's lives (the ones I know very well) I can honestly say I believe I'm happier. Why? Basically one word. Freedom. Just like 1 Corinthians 7 states in so many ways. Freedom is precious! I don't feel a need a husband. I have learned to depend on the Lord Jesus alone. I'm free to pursue any ministry or mission the Lord Jesus calls me to, without having to have an agreeing husband. I think that discernment of the spiritual things going on in the world would be much harder if I had a husband and family who bought into some of the spiritual deceptions going on in the evangelical or mainline churches in the U.S. and elsewhere, who just wanted to fit in at a "nice family church". I don't think I would have been so bold to speak to pastors and teachers about subtle false teaching, unless my husband felt the same way.
I would not have had as much time for Bible study and prayer, and seeking the Lord's will. I think it would be harder to hear the Lord Jesus' "voice" if there was a husband's voice constantly expressing his less-than-biblical opinions. Consider that whatever you aren't in total agreement about, there will be some sort of conflict, either outer or within yourself or within the relationship, unspoken. Think about personality, goals, finances, values, meal preferences, health habits, spending habits, where you want to live, how you spend your free time, communication styles. There are so many things to consider.
One time, I tried a suggestion from a book to brainstorm and write down everything you're thankful for. Since our culture seems to want everyone to be married, I decided to write down what I'm thankful for specifically concerning my singleness. To my surprise, it filled up the entire page, and went onto the back! It didn't take long at all. That was more than a decade ago, so I don't remember what I wrote, so here I go again.
1. I can have a longer Bible study and prayer time.
2. My schedule is between myself and God, not having someone give me their own "To Do" list.
3. I can up and move at any time that I need to, for work, health reasons, etc., only in the Lord's will of course. Being single probably makes it easier to live without a lot of "stuff" as well.
4. There's no "working out" finances with someone who doesn't have exactly the same values as I do.
5. I can decorate my house with teddy bears, flowers, or pink and purple, or whatever I want!
6. I don't have to dress to please someone else, only the Lord.
7. I don't have to choose a career to please someone else, only the Lord.
8. I don't have to "work out" how much time we want to spend together.
9. I don't have to run a ministry or missions idea by my spouse, only seek the Lord's will.
10. I don't have to cook according to someone else's preferences or health issues.
11. I can go back to college while I'm working, and give myself a really tight schedule because I don't have to make time for "marriage talks" or responsibilities.
12. I can speak about controversial things without having to consider what my spouse will think or say.
13. I don't have to be responsible for someone else's pets (though I would most likely love that, unless they were cobras or lizards or dangerous dog breeds).
14. I don't have to try to "keep up" with someone else's energy levels.
15. I don't have someone's laziness or bad eating habits rubbing off on me.
16. I don't have to listen to ball games blaring from the other room.
17. I don't have to get a spouse's o.k. for every major purchase I make, only the Lord's.
18. I don't have to deal with someone wanting me to be different than who I am, whether more of an extrovert, introvert, etc.
19. I don't have to deal with put-downs, harsh criticisms, unreasonable demands, pushiness, over-controllling behavior, invalidation, lack of support, bossiness, or other emotional issues from a spouse (all of which can trip you up in other areas, in my opinion).
20. I don't have to spend time with friends who I would not have chosen for myself.
21. I can keep my home office messy if I want to, and turn it into a design room or craft room or sewing room when I want. I don't have to deal with a neatnick, nor a slob who doesn't like to clean up after themselves.
22. I don't have to be concerned with feeling like I have to support someone's values that conflict with my own.
23. I have time to exercise.
24. I have time to read.
25. Peaceful, conflict-free weekends are kinda nice!
26. I don't have to deal with someone's emotional or mental illness on a daily basis.
27. I don't have to go through someone else's spiritual deception, falling away, believing false doctrine, or lining up to get a chip implant!
28. No nagging, controlling, meddling in-laws!
29. I don't have to be disappointed in someone not living up to my expectations or my spouse's disappointment in me.
30. There's no one trying to get me to change into their way of thinking (which I usually find this is not biblical ways of thinking, but rather worldly thinking).
I could go on. I'll stop there. I think you get the gist of it.
Of course, a lot of these things could be opposite. I've known older women that I would've loved to have them as my mother-in-law! Sometimes a quiet weekend is the opposite of what I felt like. There were times when having a fight with a boyfriend sounded a lot better than having no boyfriend at all. (Probably the times I watched the romantic movies). But I get it. Sometimes a supportive, encouraging, loving spouse would be a huge help! I get that too. I just list all these things with a laugh, to try to get you never-marrieds to see that that marriage is hard work! How would a single know that? From knowing married friends, from my own past relationships and observations (53 years' worth), I know that any relationship is work, let alone a daily, lifetime one! Its a lot of compromise, and considering someone else's feelings, values, preferences, and wishes. Its no longer just you and God. And if children come, there are more wishes and preferences and feelings to consider. What I'm trying to say, but in a personal way is:
1 Corinthians 7:28 But if you do marry, you have not sinned; and if a virgin marries, she has not sinned. But those who marry will face many troubles in this life, and I want to spare you this.
Again, I'm not knocking marriage or family. I understand that marriage can be a beautiful thing, and a great blessing of the Lord, but with so much divorce, I'm trying to spare you of a marriage that may not the Lord's will. Especially, please don't choose someone who is not solidly in the faith.
1 Corinthians 7:39 A woman is bound to her husband as long as he lives. But if her husband dies, she is free to marry anyone she wishes, but he must belong to the Lord. NIV
Don't be afraid to discuss doctrines, as these things can vary widely even amoung people going to the same church. Is that romantic? Not exactly. But isn't that what you want? To be sure that you're not going into it with blinders on, that you're not up on a fluffy cloud because you've seen the movies or read the romance novels? I think seeking truth is the best way to live our lives by, not being deceived. I don't think you want negative surprises after marriage. If you have any misgivings, if you see any "yellow or red flags", think about those, write out your feelings, talk out the issues, speak to a trusted counselor. Whatever you do, don't turn a blind eye or bury them under a rug. They will resurface later.
Bible Verses About Knowing God's Will Concerning the Gift of Singleness:
I'm just asking you to consider what will please God the most, not yourself. these Bible Verses related to Singleness:
Look at Jesus' words in John 8:29 The one who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, for I always do what pleases him." NIV
Romans 12:2 1 Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. 2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. NIV
(I'm not saying marriage is wrong. I just don't want you to be influenced by worldly thinking and pressure from well-meaning friends or parents).
If you do marry, be sure to marry someone with a good character. The story of Isaac and Rebekah is a great example:
False Teaching About Divorce and Remarriage?
I take the Lord's teaching about adultery seriously, and don't agree with the teaching that says because “all things are made new” that after we become a Christian, its ok for divorced people to marry (if they were divorced before they knew Christ). Yes, there is forgiveness and mercy that washes away all our sin. But I believe that a covenant is a covenant. God doesn't show favortism. He doesn't change his rules for Christians. I'm sure many will disagree because they want to marry again. I just say, maybe my understanding is incorrect, but just seek the Lord on all of this.
Read verses about divorce and remarriage:
Also, my understanding of scripture is that God considers people married when they come together in a sexual relationship. Note how 1 Corinthians 7 repeatedly talks about marrying virgins. To marry a nonvirgin woman is also committing adultery. Times change, cultures change, but God doesn't change.
I also recently heard the teaching that abandonment is a valid reason for a divorced person to remarry. I don't see that anywhere in scripture, and in fact, when I heard that teaching, no scripture was given. In fact, 1 Corinthians, to me, says the opposite. Its talking about separation, but I see the principle as applying to either, since it also includes divorce in the same verse. I added bold type for emphasis:
10 To the married I give this command (not I, but the Lord): A wife must not separate from her husband. 11 But if she does, she must remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband. And a husband must not divorce his wife. NIV
I've also heard hateful teaching towards singles. One Southern California pastor was saying “The reason you're not married is because you stand around gossiping!” I'm not sure who exactly he was preaching to, but it sounded very judgmental and falsely accusatory. It was an online message. So please don't look down on singles or give them a bad name just because they're single. There are all sorts of reasons they are not married, and some may just have the blessed gift of singleness.
Consider what Jesus said about his children who bind themselves to the Lord and serve him:
Passion and Purity by Elizabeth Elliot
Quest for Love by Elizabeth Elliot
I Kissed Dating Goodbye by Joshua Harris
When God Writes Your Love Story by Eric and Leslie Ludy
Choosing God's Best by Don Raunikar
Article about the gift of singleness: The Lie Single Christians Believe...
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