1 Corinthians 7: Singleness
We have said many things about marriage, but I am aware that not everyone who hears these messages is married or will get married. So I think it is appropriate that we also address the matter of singleness. Now in announcing that this is the topic of the sermon I am sure that all the singles out there will be squirming because they think that this is a sermon directed at them, but it is a sermon for all. Just as we can all benefit by listening to a sermon addressing those who are married, we can all benefit by listening to a sermon on singleness. We will take a detour from Ephesians 5 and share some thoughts from 1 Cor. 7.
Singleness in the ancient world had a stigma attached to it. Many cultures made an idol of marriage and sought wives for breeding an heir. Marriage was an institution used by many not for people to find a life partner who you became one flesh with but was something used to ally families, and ensure heirs. Many men married to produce an heir but also conducted extra marital affairs. Singleness in this culture was frowned upon and was a stain. Even in Jewish culture, if a young man was not married and fulfilling the command to go forth and multiply, he was thought to be violating one of the 613 laws of the Torah. This all changed with the teaching of Christ and Paul. Christ in Matt. 19 after condemning no fault divorces speaks about the possibility of a single life, ‘for the sake of the kingdom of heaven’ v12. This was a radical innovation for the Jewish mind who was preoccupied with marriage and multiplying. It was inconceivable that one would not marry because then they would disobey the command to multiply. This command was felt to be so important that later Rabbis allowed for divorce after 10 years of childlessness in order to marry a more fertile person. This fixation upon marriage and offspring is not found in the NT teachings. With the move from the Mosaic economy and life as a national theocracy to a church of all nations fulfilling the Great Commission, priorities shifted witness by generational purity and faithfulness to include witness by planting churches. Also because we live in the last days, Paul encourages people to consider the single life in order to live undistracted for the Lord, 1 Cor. 7:25-39.
Deliberate singleness for the sake of the kingdom is as alien today as it was in the first century. Today we live in an age where sexuality defines a person and to live a life free from sexual entanglement is seen to be a sign of psychological problems. Any notion of singleness is seen as being marginalised and rejected. There is a movie called the forty year old virgin, and guess what it is a comedy. Many single people do not feel the dignity of singleness but see it as humiliating and a measurement of their worth. The lives worth living and the happy endings of Hollywood are a polar opposite to the life of Paul who served in singleness being imprisoned, pouring out his life for others and finally being killed with a beheading.
Most people today have to be single at some point in their lives. We no longer live in the age of arranged teenage marriages. Many people are single while studying, leave home not to marry but to work, some are divorced, others are widowed. There are those who are permanently single and those who are temporarily single, there are those who are single with the gift to be so and there are those who want to be married who have to find contentment in God’s providence. Today we won’t be able to say everything we want to about being single but here are some of the things we are going to do. I want to look at some of the wrong reasons why people are being single; also I want us to consider the high calling of being deliberately single.