Singleness and the Christian

Given that approximately 64% of households in the United States in 2012 were headed by unmarried adults,[1] a failure to address singleness would be a mistake. In fact, a failure to address singleness has been a significantly overlooked issue among conservative Christians that is only in recent years beginning to be addressed more thoroughly.[2]

 No One is Married in Heaven

 In an attempt to trip Jesus up and pit him against the Pharisees, the Sadducees asked Jesus about resurrection and marriage:

 23 The same day Sadducees came to him, who say that there is no resurrection, and they asked him a question, 24 saying, “Teacher, Moses said, ‘If a man dies having no children, his brother must marry the widow and raise up offspring for his brother.’ 25 Now there were seven brothers among us. The first married and died, and having no offspring left his wife to his brother. 26 So too the second and third, down to the seventh. 27 After them all, the woman died. 28 In the resurrection, therefore, of the seven, whose wife will she be? For they all had her.”

29 But Jesus answered them, “You are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God. 30 For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven.” (Matt 22:23–30)

So marriage is a vital institution, but it is contained to this earth. There is no marriage in heaven. As much as I love my wife and will love her more when we both live in the new heavens and earth, we won’t be married then.

Singleness is a Vocation for Some

Marriage is something that is limited to our time here on earth. And Paul makes clear that some people would do well to be single:

 Now as a concession, not a command, I say this. 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. To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is good for them to remain single as I am.But if they cannot exercise self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to burn with passion. (1 Cor 7:6–9)

25 Now concerning the betrothed, I have no command from the Lord, but I give my judgment as one who by the Lord's mercy is trustworthy. 26 I think that in view of the present distress it is good for a person to remain as he is. 27 Are you bound to a wife? Do not seek to be free. Are you free from a wife? Do not seek a wife. 28 But if you do marry, you have not sinned, and if a betrothed woman marries, she has not sinned. (1 Cor 7:25–28)

 32 I want you to be free from anxieties. The unmarried man is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to please the Lord. 33 But the married man is anxious about worldly things, how to please his wife, 34 and his interests are divided. And the unmarried or betrothed woman is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to be holy in body and spirit. But the married woman is anxious about worldly things, how to please her husband. 35 I say this for your own benefit, not to lay any restraint upon you, but to promote good order and to secure your undivided devotion to the Lord. (1 Cor 7:32–35)

A few things we can take away from Paul’s writing in 1 Corinthians 7:

1.      Getting married or staying single is not a sin, so this clearly falls under God’s will of direction.

2.      There are benefits to being single and benefits to being married. These should be weighed in the decision.

3.      All people are called to lived chastely; single people are called to abstain from sex. Purity falls under God’s will of desire.

 Another point to consider in the evaluation of singleness as a vocation is that Jesus–very God living as perfect man–was unmarried. He never sinned. He lived a perfect life. He fulfilled God’s will in every action and demeanor. He was single.

Ultimately, then, choosing to be single or to marry will follow a similar decision making process to choosing a career or choosing a spouse.

[1] Jonathan Vespa, Jamie M. Lewis, and Rose M. Kreider, America’s Families and Living Arrangements: 2012 (Washington, DC: US Census Bureau, 2013), 3.

[2] See, for example: Andreas Kostenberger and David Jones, Marriage and the Family: Biblical Essentials (Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway, 2012). Chapter 5 is focused on singleness. See also: John Piper, This Momentary Marriage: A Parable of Permanence (Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway, 2009). Chapters 9 and 10 discuss singleness.

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Another helpful resource from the ERLC's recent conference on this subject:

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Cover photo credit: http://ow.ly/ENoP7 (Licensed under Creative Commons.)