The Gift of Singleness & The Gift of Marriage

Two texts will be used to show that both marriage and singleness are gifts from God. The latter is a unique spiritual gift, the former is a universal blessing. The first text will be in Matthew 19:3-12, which actually comes from a question about divorce. The second is 1 Corinthians 7.

Matthew 19 shows Jesus making two radical statements. The first statement about the exclusivity and holiness of marriage is radical because that culture had accommodated an improper view that made divorce commonplace through the misuses of scripture.

The second statement is radical because it introduces a category of people who are said to have been given the motivation (by God!) to choose a life of celibacy for the sake of kingdom of heaven. This simple passage does a wonderful job of introducing us to the gifts of marriage and singleness and God’s value of both.

Let’s address the marriage portion:

[Mat 19:3-9 ESV] 3 And Pharisees came up to him and tested him by asking, “Is it lawful to divorce one’s wife for any cause?” 4 He answered, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, 5 and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? 6 So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” 7 They said to him, “Why then did Moses command one to give a certificate of divorce and to send her away?” 8 He said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. 9 And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery.”

The scripture the Pharisees were using out of context was Deut. 24:1-4

Matthew “does not directly contradict Deut 24:1–4*, since what is “commanded” or forbidden there is only a man’s remarriage with his ex-wife who in the meantime has been divorced again. Divorce is merely presupposed.33 Matthew does, however, contradict the entire Jewish interpretation that understands this institution of divorce not only as a valid legal institution but also as Israel’s exclusive privilege”[1]

“God sometimes allowed what was less than ideal because people’s hard hearts made the ideal unattainable (for example, Ex 13:17; 1 Sam 12:12–13). To be able to exercise some restraint over human injustice, Moses’ civil laws regulated some institutions rather than seeking to abolish them altogether: divorce, polygyny, the avengers of blood, and slavery (Keener 1992b:192–96)”[2]

Regardless of one spouse’s devotion to the other, it takes two willing and repentant parties to make a marriage work. If a woman is devoted to her marriage, but that husband is hard of heart and writes her a bill of divorce, that woman now needs some protection under the law from the injustice that was done by her husband. This is the concession Moses is making in Deut. 24, but a certain school of Pharisees were using Deut. 24 as a proof text to give them liberty to divorce their wives for minor reasons, even burning food[3]. This is clearly against the heart of God. This proof-texting practice occurs in more modern times; one example is those who use select Bible scriptures to justify forced slavery. Just because the Bible references an already existing practice, does not mean the Bible condones it. Such is the Case with Deut 24.

One more example to drive it home: “When” is also used to introduce Deu. 17:14:

[Deu 17:14 KJV] [14] When thou art come unto the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee, and shalt possess it, and shalt dwell therein, and shalt say, I will set a king over me, like as all the nations that [are] about me; (Bold Mine)

Note that both Deu 17 and Deut 24 are not commandments:

[Deu 24:1 KJV] [1] When a man hath taken a wife, and married her, and it come to pass that she find no favour in his eyes, because he hath found some uncleanness in her: then let him write her a bill of divorcement, and give [it] in her hand, and send her out of his house. (Bold Mine)

Deut. 17 gave some guidance to a future King of Israel, but nowhere does it command Israel to make herself a king. Such an act clearly displeased God, so much so that when Israel asked for a king God said they had reject him from being their king in doing so (1 Sam 87). The law makes no one righteous. It was added because of transgressions (Gal 3:19). The law helped to manage sin, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ (John 1:17). Jesus elevated the law of God back up to its original place (love your enemies, don’t divorce your spouse, even lusting after another is adultery, etc. – the sermon on the mount.) We see that by Jesus’ response to the question of divorce, he places a extremely high value on the covenant of marriage.

“God sometimes allowed what was less than ideal because people’s hard hearts made the ideal unattainable (for example, Ex 13:17; 1 Sam 12:12–13).”[4]

Jesus’ devotion to marriage seems to take the disciples back. Their startled response probably indicates that the teachers of the law at that time had made divorce seem like a privilege through their traditions and proof-texting. Divorce was now far too commonplace in the Jewish culture.

[Mat 19:10 ESV] 10 The disciples said to him, “If such is the case of a man with his wife, it is better not to marry.”

In other words, “if it’s that big of a commitment, it may be better not to marry at all”. A few points: First, most of the teaching points in the gospels come from Jesus, most of the questions, false assumptions and misconceptions come from the disciples. We should be thankful when they speak up because often they’re saying what we’d be thinking in that situation and we now get a better perspective. Here we see a very human response to the dedication it takes to be married. Keep in mind most of Jesus’ disciples were probably in their teens or early twenties and had been taught (wrongfully) that divorce was a privilege.

But there is another cultural point of empathy we can have towards the disciples in this scenario. At that time it was the parents of the couple who arranged the marriage. And in Galilee, the couple was not allowed to spend anytime together until after the wedding![5] Imagine spending your life with a man or woman chosen by somebody else who you’ve never really even gotten to know until after the wedding—a divorce option seems like a nice thing to have in the back pocket.

Yet even under these conditions, Jesus upholds the sanctity of marriage as one man and one women transforming to become one flesh united by God himself with no room for voluntary divorce (how can one split what God has joined?). What a lesson we can learn from this! When problems arise in a marriage today we have a tendency to doubt whether we’ve found “the one”, or if we’ve “fallen out of love”. The best thing a husband and wife can have is love towards God and repentant heart towards each other. God will honor the covenant of marriage (something he ordained, a gift, a copy of the things in heaven) by blessing that marriage, whether arranged or chosen. Next week we’ll be talking about dating, but because it’s applicable to this topic, I’ll mention ahead of time that this whole concept of dating multiple people until we fall in love with one and then getting married is a relatively new, Western concept.

So needless to say, Jesus doesn’t ease up based on his disciples’ shock. He basically gives them two options: – 1) Marriage without the possibility of divorce. 2) Celibacy for the sake of the Kingdom

The first is natural; it is God’s design. Yet the second option should not be seen as abnormal or counter to God’s natural design, but special and select of God—exclusive. For scripture shows us that both options are from God, and therefore gifts. God however, does not give the latter option for all, but to those whom he has specially gifted to receive it.

[Mat 19:11-12 ESV] 11 But he said to them, “Not everyone can receive this saying, but only those to whom it is given. 12 For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Let the one who is able to receive this receive it.”

What saying? “This saying” seems to directly relate to verse 12. Note that Jesus closes with “He that is able to receive it, let him receive it.” Jesus normally says, “he who has an ear to hear, let him hear.” I think the disciples were so taken back by Jesus’ stand on divorce, that they (in their own way) were asking him if he was actually serious. They were in a sense speaking an ignorant truth. To their shock, Jesus actually agrees with them. We’ll get to that in a moment, but first, let’s talk about why Jesus suggesting that it’s good to be single would be a shock to them.

The Importance of Marriage in the Old Testament and why Singleness is a Blessing in the New Testament.

God’s directives are similar but different in the New Testament compared to the old. Of the arguably 613 commandments in the Torah, the first is to “be fruitful and multiply”.[6] The Abrahamic covenant attaches an even higher value to procreation. God would make Israel as the sands of the sea and bring each tribe into a special land. The land and people were to be holy (set apart, sacred) for God as his treasured possession (Ex. 19:5). Following the Abrahamic covenant, the covenant on Mount Sinai would put conditions on obedience or disobedience to God’s law. Obedience to God’s law resulted in blessings, two of which were the blessing of the “fruit of the womb” and the “fruit of the ground”. Disobedience to God’s law resulted in curses, two of which were curses on the “fruit of the womb” and the “fruit of the ground”.

We can see then why a name and lineage would be of vital importance in the Jewish culture. It was one thing to die, but it was even worse to have one’s name cut off. This was considered a second death. Marriage was a part of society. If a man died without having children his brother would take his wife to maintain the lineage. Women with barren wombs were sometimes considered cursed by others. Widows were encouraged to re-marry as soon as possible. The only single people were typically lepers or those who were forced to be eunuchs by their foreign oppressors.

Jeremiah was told by God to remain single as a sign and warning to Israel that they were committing adultery on God and would become single (divorced) themselves if they did not repent and come back to their husband.

Why the change in the New Covenant? Was Jesus anti-law? Was he going against God’s first commandment to be fruitful and multiply? Was he against God’s covenant of marriage? Not at all. Jesus recognized the fulfillment of the law and was giving us the principles of the Kingdom of God whose first fruits began at his coming.

Notice the difference below. The old is done away with in a sense through the proper and righteous fulfilling of its promises.

Old –be fruitful and multiply your name (Israel) and your land (Israel). Make sons and daughters of the kingdom by physical procreation (which was still only be the blessing of God, i.e. Sarah & Abraham). Note that Israel had not real commandment to actively proselyte others to their religion. The very existence, unique worship and abundant blessing (which included the multiplication of land and people) of Israel would draw others to recognize the greatness of her God.

New = Be fruitful and multiply the kingdom of God. Make sons and daughters of the kingdom by spiritual adoption. We are no longer physically born into the Kingdom of God (Israel), we are spiritually reborn into the family of God. We are children of Abraham by faith (Gal 3:7). Jesus never does away with the command to honor father and mother, yet he stresses the new, spiritual family through faith and adoption (who is my mother and brothers?). This is consistent with Paul’s doctrine.

To summarize, Jesus’ affirmation of the disciples conclusion (it might actually be better not to marry) would have been shocking without an understanding of the fulfillment of the O.T. in Jesus Christ.

3 Types of Eunuchs

First, what does the term Eunuch mean?

OT:

“The primary meaning is ‘court officer’. In Hebrew a secondary meaning is found, namely, a ‘castrate’ or ‘eunuch’. From Herodotus we learn that ‘in eastern countries eunuchs are valued as being specially trustworthy in every way’ (8. 105, tr. Selingcourt). Such persons were frequently employed by eastern rulers as officers of the household. Hence, in the E it is sometimes difficult to know which of the two meanings is intended or whether both are implied.”[7]

NT:

“In the NT the word eunouchos is used, and may be derived from eunēn echō (‘to keep the bed’). Like its counterpart sārîs, it need not denote strictly a castrate. In Acts 8:27 both meanings may be intended; in Mt. 19:12 the meaning ‘castrate’ is beyond doubt. In this last passage three classes of eunuch are mentioned, namely, born eunuchs, man-made eunuchs and spiritual eunuchs. The last class includes all those who sacrificed legitimate, natural desires for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Report in the early church had it that Origen, misinterpreting in a literal sense the above passage, mutilated himself.”[8]

There are some eunuchs who were physically born that way or made that way outside of their own choice. This is just a fact of life even outside of Christianity and Judaism. Different cultures had different practices during different times. Some involved full castration, some only partial. Often times men who would serve around royal women would be made eunuchs so they would not touch the women. These men were often given much trust and honor because of their single focus and dedication.

For the third instance Jesus is most surely speaking of spiritual “castration” rather than physical castration for a few reasons: 1) Jesus would speak in hyperbole often, e.g. “if you right eye offends you, cut it out…” 2) Mutilating the flesh is counter to the O.T. law 3) Jesus recommending that those who want to dedicate themselves to the kingdom should castrate themselves would have been quite radical and surly mentioned again in the N.T., particularly when Paul spoke on the subject. Paul’s solution for those who “burned with passion” (1 Cor 7:9) was to marry, not to cut off their sexual organs and hope they survive the blood loss and infection. 4) Physically altering our body and circumstances to not remove sin nature and desires, only the Holy Spirit can do that.

These 12 verses in Matthew show us that Jesus places great value on both marriage and those who can receive radical singleness. Both should be seen as a gift of God and a covenant relationship. In order to best steward that covenant, we should add knowledge to our faith. There is one more passage to cover that again will highlight the gifts of marriage and singleness, but particularly focus on why singleness is a spiritual gift granted to some.

1 Cor 7. Paul on Singleness and Marriage

Why do you call singleness a gift?

In addition to Jesus saying that in order to accept this saying it would need to be given them by God (anything given us by God for the benefit of the body of Christ is a gift, especially if it is exclusive), Paul specifically uses the word “gift”. It’s easy to miss though! Let’s go there now:

[1Co 7:1-9 ESV] 1 Now concerning the matters about which you wrote: “It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman.” 2 But because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband. 3 The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband. 4 For the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. Likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. 5 Do not deprive one another, except perhaps by agreement for a limited time, that you may devote yourselves to prayer; but then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control. 6 Now as a concession, not a command, I say this. 7 I wish that all were as I myself am. But each has his own gift from God, one of one kind and one of another. 8 To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is good for them to remain single as I am. 9 But if they cannot exercise self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to burn with passion.

Note verse 7. There is it.

Paul is answering some practical questions the Corinthian church wrote him about. The question probably was directly related to “Is it good for a man not to touch a woman?” Sexual perversion was prevalent in Corinth, and this would have been a valid concern. Sexual perversion can also mean one decides that sex is dirty and sinful in all cases so they refrain from it even with their spouse. It’s quite possible both extremes were happening in Corinth.

It is good/admirable for a man to be able to control his sexual desires towards a woman. But this desire is different than say, the desire to murder someone. Paul would not make concession for that desire, but he does for the urge for a man to touch a woman. Why? Because it’s a natural desire given by God. If it were a sinful desire there would be no concession, period.

Since men and women as chemically, emotionally and in a sense, spiritually attracted to one another, sexual intimacy should take place in the bond of marriage to avoid fornication. Sexual intimacy is an important part of this union, so much that the husband’s body is no longer his own, and the wife’s body is no longer her own. Furthermore, he advises not to go too long without sexual intimacy so our natural desires always have an outlet. Frequent sex in a marriage then is a sign of Biblical obedience. A purpose of sex (other than Godly procreation) is primarily oneness. Paul alludes to sex being the act where the two become “one flesh”, even if that sex is with a prostitute.

[1Co 6:16 KJV] [16] What? know ye not that he which is joined to an harlot is one body? for two, saith he, shall be one flesh.

There can be sexual perversion and sin involved even between a married couple. Some key things to consider are: Is what the couple doing bringing them closer together (oneness)? Do they both have peace about it? Do both feel honored and respected by it? We see then the spiritual plan that the gift of sex within the gift of marriage creates one flesh out of two. This joining is done by God himself (Matt 19:6), and shows his approval and involvement in the gift of marriage

This is great news for the married people, but what about the single? Paul goes on to honor them. Note what he says though in verse 6; He is speaking by permission, not commandment. In other words, this particular answer was not direct revelation from Jesus, but is still important and inspired.

Paul honors God’s covenant of marriage yet personally sees the value in everyone being single and completely dedicated to ministry like him. Some of us might say, “that’s crazy…” well, if you say that you might have not “been given to receive” by God the gift of singleness. Or perhaps some of us may be insecure by how much honor Paul is giving to the celibate lifestyle when we’ve already chosen marriage. Paul thought his singleness was at the moment one of the best gifts that God had given him. Elsewhere Paul mentioned that he would that all spoke with tongues (1 Cor 14:5), well, Paul also wishes all had the gift of singleness as it relates to the work of the Kingdom. That’s how much it means to him.

Paul continues and says “But every man hath his proper gift of God, one after this manner, and another after that.” This is why I believe it’s biblical to call those who feel led to pursue singleness as having a gift, or “the gift of singleness”. It’s difficult to understand the cultural implications of what Jesus meant when he said some had made themselves “eunuchs” for the Kingdom’s sake. He was probably using the extremeness of what the disciples knew in terms of natural eunuchs to compare that to the spiritual dedication of those who choose singleness. Nowhere else in the N.T. are born-again Christians calling themselves Eunuchs or trying to create an army of Eunuchs in each local church. Paul does not call himself a Eunuch. The word itself can have very different intended meaning based on someone’s understanding of it. If one needs to give himself or herself a classification, I’d suggest they call themselves someone who has accepted the gift of singleness for a season or for life. I think this term has Biblical justification and also reminds us that it is something received only by God. If the grace and gift factor are forgotten, people will be “making themselves eunuchs” for the wrong reasons.

Furthermore, the word used for “gift” is the same used for the spiritual gifts listed in 1 Corinthians 12. This shows that there is a distinct difference between those who are single and those who have recognized the gift of singleness and have made themselves single for the kingdom’s sake. One is a spiritual grace gift given by God, the other is just a state that one finds himself or herself in. If the grace and gift factor are forgotten, people will be “making themselves eunuchs” for the wrong reasons.

Having said that, I’d briefly like to talk about taking vows. We read in the O.T. about Jephthah (Jdg 11:29-40), a man who took a rash and foolish vow which ended up causing his daughter her life. Jesus gave a new commandment concerning vows. We should not swear at all, but let our yes be yes and are no be no, for we have little control over our environment, nor do we ever fully see the full picture. Anything beyond “yes” and “no” is of the evil one (Matt 5:33-37). James repeats this, but ads “above all things… swear not… let ye fall into condemnation.” If you have the gift of singleness, operate in it. I see little Biblical wisdom in taking a vow of celibacy.

There is a difference between being single and having the gift of singleness.

“The term [eunuch] essentially designated something devoid of reproductive seed. To “eunuchize” oneself was thus to deny oneself the right of reproduction of physical progeny. Therefore, in using the term eunuch, Jesus meant more than someone simply not marrying but rather one’s setting aside the right of marriage and procreation.”[9]

It is obvious from their masculine, human reaction that not every man is capable of making room for Jesus’ marriage halakah in his own life. That requires a special grace of God[10]

The gift of singleness, while a choice, and perhaps a sacrifice for some, it is chiefly a gift given by God, not a work of willpower that results in a feeling of superiority.

“But this [singleness] is not every man’s happiness; and where it is, the pride of virginity is no less foul a sin than impurity, saith Augustine.”[11]

What Augustine is saying, is that the heart of one who practices the gift of singleness will reveal their motives. Gifts received and partaken of, particularly those given to us by a superior figure such as God, if rightly received should produce joy, humility and effectiveness for the Kingdom of God. One who flaunts their singleness as a grand and superior sacrifice among the body of Christ might not be it as a gift, but as a badge of external righteousness.

But please don’t misunderstand me. Those who choose by the grace of God to operate in the gift of singleness for a season or for life deserve honor and respect. There is a tendency among Christianity—especially after the Protestant reformation— to look down on Christians who are not married with children. Such an outlook is unbiblical, and the primary reason was already covered above. Multiplication of physical seed is no longer a way to be obedient to God’s covenant with us, multiplication of spiritual seed is. Let’s briefly examine a few more reasons contemporary N.T. believers might look down on singleness due to a misunderstanding of scripture.

  • The qualifications of a bishop/overseer include “husband of one wife”. This is true, and getting into the nuances of this text is not in the scope of this Study. This passage can also be translated “one woman man”, and this is the most likely meaning. If a man is married, he should be devoted to his wife. If he is single, he should be devoted to upholding God’s design of one woman for one man. Since most men marry, this would be an important point to include in the qualifications of a bishop/overseer, but not as a qualification. If so, Jesus and Paul would have been disqualified. It is of course wise to have some married men in the eldership for obvious reasons, and some single men.
  • Genesis says that “it is not good for a man to be alone”. True, there is a God-given place for marriage. But a single person is not alone. He or she is a part of the body of Christ by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Every part if unique, but unified in one body. Body parts are supposed to be unique, but united. Single people play an important role in the body.
  • God said to “be fruitful and multiply”. Jesus fulfilled all righteousness, and he did not have children

How do I know if I have the gift of singleness? In general, if you have a gift from God, you are going to perceive it as something good and/or valuable. It’s not something one resigns to because they can’t find a spouse. It’s a spiritual gift one will feel natural operating in. Romans 12 and 1 Corinthians 12 both speak of gifts, and they both do it in relation to the body of Christ. Unique spiritual gifts help determine our member in the body, hence operating in our gift should feel natural and empowering. God made each part unique so the body could be united.

Context

I don’t believe Paul is saying that every person at all times should strive for celibacy and if they’re not strong enough they should get married so they don’t fornicate. Imagine this for a wedding vow.

Preacher: “The groom may now read his vow.”

Groom: “I’m burning with passion and I’m legally marrying you to avoid fornication.”

Preacher: “I now pronounce you husband and wife.”

Ridiculous. Paul is making the above statement in the current environment of the possible upcoming persecution (“present distress,” vs 26) by Nero, or perhaps the upcoming famine predicted in Acts (11:28). Would it be wise to start a family when Christians are being killed, imprisoned and scattered around the country? When entire families are being fed to animals? Probably not.

Here is another important reason we need to take the time and context of into account when considering this text. Paul says “to the unmarried and widows, It is good for them if they abide even as I…” This is clear statement. Paul is speaking by permission (vs 6), but it is clear. Look at what Paul says in another letter:

[1Ti 5:14 ESV] 14 So I would have younger widows marry, bear children, manage their households, and give the adversary no occasion for slander.

Timothy was written at a later date than 1 Corinthians. Did Paul change his mind? Not likely. The younger widows in 1 Timothy were becoming idle busybodies with nothing to do. Clearly there did not seem to be a steep persecution at that church during that time. Paul suggests that they marry and raise families. Does Paul still value singleness? Of course, but it’s clear these younger widows did not have the gift of singlenes so he suggests marriage (also, note that in 1 Timothy, Paul is not speaking by permission, so one could argue that it holds even more weight.) Context is key!

We must not isolate 1 Timothy 5:14 and say all young women must get married and rear children. In the same way, we must not isolate 1 Corinthians 7 and use it as a proof-text to say that it’s always more honorable to be single. Both work together in harmony, and becoming a student of the entire passage can reveal deeper wisdom for your life than what I covered here.

Paul address the topic again further down:

[1Co 7:25-35 NASB] 25 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. 27 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 marry, you have not sinned; and if a virgin marries, she has not sinned. Yet such will have trouble in this life, and I am trying to spare you. 29 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. 32 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. 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. 35 This I say for your own benefit; not to put a restraint upon you, but to promote what is appropriate and to secure undistracted devotion to the Lord.

(vs 26)Paul is possibly answering another question now, the first had to do with whether it was good or bad for a man to touch a woman. The next has to do specifically with virgins, unmarried and widows.

Paul supposes that it is good for the “present distress” that one remain single. This is a key point already mentioned. Our liberties to marry or remain single should take into account the environment and present needs around us. Paul is not giving a direct commandment of God, but he is giving us inspired wisdom for their present time.

“They shall have trouble in the flesh, but I spare you”, better – I would spare you[12], or, I want to spare you[13]. Paul wants them to strongly consider the responsibility of having a spouse and family during the present persecution. Perhaps he sees hard times ahead and wants to spare them added grief.

“they that had wives as if they had none… weep, rejoice, etc.” Paul is stressing the urgency of the mission. Elsewhere Paul says to rejoice evermore, weep with those who weep, husband love your wives, etc. Paul is not telling those who are married to start neglecting their spouse. He is crafting words to make a strong point about the urgent mission of the kingdom of God.

(vs 32)Paul states some helpful facts. There is often higher anxiety and more worldly things that need attending to with spouses and children. One sinner plus multiple sinners equals time commitment. Where one has the gift of singleness or just finds her/himself single for a season, this is a holy and precious time that they can use for radical commitment to the kingdom of God. Even if one is praying and waiting for a spouse or children the time should be seen as a blessing from God (be content in whatever state…). Give examples of great things single men and women can do for God’s kingdom (missions, Bible College, Seminary, Woman doctors, missionaries and teachers to minister in ways men can’t, same thing for men, financial giving, etc)

There is more knowledge and wonderful mystery to be discovered in what the Bible says about marriage and singleness. The primary thesis of this sermon was to show that they are both gifts, but the gift of singleness is an exceptional spiritual gift given to those chosen to receive it. Those who by the grace of God choose to exercise this gift should be honored and in no way looked down upon. Our Lord and Paul are both examples of the necessity of this gift in the body. Those with the gift should be encouraged, uplifted and supported. There is no respecter of person with God, and there should not be in his body/assembly. Married, widowed, single, and those practicing the gift of singleness should all be content in their state. Having said that, I’ll close with this exhortation.

Marriage is type or shadow of the church’s final unification to Christ as a spotless bride. The time is short. Life is short and precious. The more a husband and wife behave as one flesh, being loving friends and helpmates, the more effective Christ’s body will be, and the more blessed that couple’s ministry and marriage will be. Both the O.T. and N.T. give examples of our prayers being hindered just because we are neglecting our spouses (Mal 2:13-16, 1 Pet 3:7). God greatly honors those who honor marriage.

Singleness is a type or shadow of life in the kingdom of God. Matthew records Jesus saying that we are not even married in the resurrection, but live forever like the angels. Those capable and willing to receive the gift of singleness are in a sense already in the state we will be in the coming Kingdom! They have made themselves free from any distraction other than attending to King Jesus in his courts. Theirs is an honored and valued place given by God to reflect his Kingdom in the New Testament.

Never see your state as a hindrance to your personal ministry, see your God-given state as a conduit for your ministry.

*For further study on God’s plan for singleness in the N.T. study Isaiah 53 and note the offspring (seed, vs 10) of the Suffering Servant. The read on to Isaiah’s prophecies of the barren woman (chapter 54) and the eunuch (chapter 56), learn what they represent.

[1] Ulrich Luz, Matthew: A Commentary, ed. Helmut Koester, Hermeneia—a Critical and Historical Commentary on the Bible (Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg, 2001), 490.

[2] Craig S. Keener, Matthew, vol. 1, The IVP New Testament Commentary Series (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1997), Mt 19:7.

[3] The School of Shammai interpreted Deuteronomy 24 as indicating that a man could divorce his wife for the cause of unfaithfulness (“indecency”); the School of Hillel understood the passage to mean that a man could divorce his wife for any cause, even burning his toast (“any matter”—m. Giṭṭin 9:10; Sipre Deut. 269.1.1). In practice both schools agreed that the law at least often granted the man a right to divorce, regrettable as divorce was (as in b. Sanhedrin 22a). Craig S. Keener, Matthew, vol. 1, The IVP New Testament Commentary Series (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1997), Mt 19:1.

[4] Keener, Mt 19:7.

[5] Keener, Mt 19:10.

[6] …the twelfth-century Jewish sage Maimonides, who codified all 613 commandments of the Torah. The first of these 613 to appear chronologically in the Old Testament is the commandment, “Be fruitful and multiply,” in Genesis 1: 28. Danylak, Barry (2010-09-01). Redeeming Singleness (Foreword by John Piper): How the Storyline of Scripture Affirms the Single Life (p. 25). Crossway. Kindle Edition..

[7] R. J. A. Sheriffs, “Eunuch,” ed. D. R. W. Wood et al., New Bible Dictionary (Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1996), 347.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Danylak, Barry (2010-09-01). Redeeming Singleness (Foreword by John Piper): How the Storyline of Scripture Affirms the Single Life (p. 157). Crossway. Kindle Edition.

[10] Luz, 500.

[11] Guzik, D. “Study Guide for Matthew 19 by David Guzik.” Blue Letter Bible. Last Modified 7 Jul, 2006. https://www.blueletterbible.org//Comm/guzik_david/StudyGuide_Mat/Mat_19.cfm

[12] NKJV

[13] NIV