Living Single in a Married World

by Andrew Ogea

Scripture: 1 Corinthians 7:1-3; 7-9; 26-40



Community Group Discussion Guide

Sermon Summary
Singleness is a status that is common to all of us.  We all "are" or "have been" single.  Today, marriage is still the norm and the desire for many, but the number of singles in our world and churches has increased rapidly over the last few decades.  Coupled with society's more recent scrutiny of God's plan for Biblical marriage, it is even more necessary for singles to understand God's instructions for single life.  The church and singles must reclaim God's plan for marriage, understand God's gift of singleness, use wisdom in the decision to marry, and be content whether you live single or married.

Sermon outline

God’s Instructions for Single Living

I. Honor His Plan for Marriage (1-3, 9)
A. Flee sexual immorality (1-2a) 
B. Accept His Plan for Sex within Marriage (2b-3, 9)

II. Consider the Gift of Singleness (7-8)

III. Work toward marriage wisely (26-40) 
A. Assess your present circumstances (26-31)
B. Consider Your Devotion (32-35)
C. Choose Well (39-40)

IV. Be Content Either Way (17)

Community Group Discussion Questions
1. Share some personal experience regarding the goodness of singleness (what was/is great about living single).  And share the difficulties of singleness.

8Now to the unmarried and the widows I say: It is good for them to stay unmarried, as I do.
1 Corinthians 7:7-8 (NIV)

2. What are the most important qualities that you think a spouse/future spouse should have?  In what ways are you becoming a person worth marrying?  Or for you married folks, how are you continuing to devote your life to serving God? 

3. God has given the gift of singleness to some and others have the gift of marriage.  All spiritual gifts are useful for spiritual growth and building up others in the church.  What are some ways that singles can use their gifts to build up the church?

4There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them.
5There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord.
6There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work.
7Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. 
1 Corinthians 12:4-7 (NIV)

4. How can the church be more supportive in ministering to singles?  Don't be afraid to share some of your suggestions with Andrew if you wish (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.).

 

Sermon

Good morning church. It is my hope that each of you are walking in the grace and mercy of the Lord, and honoring him with your devotion as his servants. If you have your Bibles, please open them to 1 Corinthians 7.

Good morning church. It is my hope that each of you are walking in the grace and mercy of the Lord, and honoring him with your devotion as his servants. If you have your Bibles, please open them to 1 Corinthians 7.

We have been focusing our teaching on marriage and family over the past few weeks. Pastor Larry started the series teaching us about God’s design for marriage, which is a union between a man and a woman for life, and how Satan is trying everything he can to distort and destroy what God has ordained as good.

Last week, we began our teaching on the different roles marriage and family. So, fittingly, on Mother’s Dr. Nave taught us about the role of the mother and how her special characteristics benefit our families, churches, and communities.

Today, we are looking to God’s Word for wisdom and teaching on the role of the unmarried, the singles.

Singleness is not a role that is unique to a select few. In fact, it is a common denominator for everyone. “You are” or “you have been.” You either are a single or you have been a single.

There are many reasons for singleness: Some of you are single because you are young and haven’t started considering marriage; others have been single for a long time and do not care to be married; Or, they have the desire, but have not found a mate; and then, there are those who have been married before, but are now single because of divorce or the death of spouse.

Those numbers may vary from state to state, and differ in some communities, but if that is true of our church, then as you look around this room, nearly half of the people in it are single. But I also want you to recognize as you look around, that 100 percent of the people in this room have been single.

Yet, while singleness is a common denominator for everyone, for the most part, marriage is the outcome, or at least the desired result. For a majority of the Western Christian world, the marital trends still show marriage as the norm. And as a single person you live in this reality.

Hence, the title of the message today - “Living single in a married world.” This is not a bad thing! Praise God we still live in a world which predominately views marriage as ideal! But this Biblical view has become scrutinized in recent years. So, it is now more important than ever for Christian singles to know what God wants for their life.

How do singles live out the Christian life fully devoted to Christ? What are God’s instructions for singleness. So, let us take a look at our scripture today to find the answers to these questions Let’s start in 1 Cor. 7:1-2.

Now, understand the context of this portion of 1 Corinthians: The church at Corinth had written Paul a letter which posed numerous questions for the Apostle to give a response. One questions we know they asked was, “Should Christians remain single?”

Do you, or did you ever ask yourself that question? “Would it just be better to remain single?” Most singles today ask that question because they are tired of the pursuit of marriage, or because they have been scarred in a previous relationship. The Corinthians were asking this because they wanted to know the best way to follow God...single or married?

1Now for the matters you wrote about: “It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman.”
1 Corinthians 7:1 (NIV)

There it is...Paul’s acknowledgement of their question and in verse 2 is the beginning of his answer.

2But since sexual immorality is occurring, each man should have sexual relations with his own wife, and each woman with her own husband.
1 Corinthians 7:2 (NIV)

Here Paul initiates his reply with the word “but” which tells us that he is in agreement with their notion that remaining single is a good option. Paul is saying, yes it is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman. There is value in abstaining from sex. “But” since sexual immorality is occurring he gives them the other side of the truth, that we should honor His Plan for Marriage.

God’s Instructions for Single Living

I. Honor His Plan for Marriage (1-3, 9)
A. Flee sexual immorality (1-2a)

This is the first instruction for single living, honor his plan for marriage. You do this by first fleeing sexual immorality. Sexual immorality was occurring and it was distorting God’s plan for marriage. Just three verses earlier in Chapter 6:18-20, Paul writes

18Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body.

19Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own;

20you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.
1 Corinthians 6:18-20 (NIV)

Did you see that? If you are a Christian your body is the residence of the Holy Spirit of God. And your ability to have his Spirit came at the highest of costs. Your rescue from the bondage of sin was purchased by God, and the price he paid was the death of his only son Jesus.

As a result, you now belong to God and His spirit lives within you which gives you great joy and delight in keeping his commands. Here his command is to flee sexual immorality. New Testament Professor and author Craig Blomberg writes,

“In countless ways, women and men defy God and confidently proclaim that they can have sex without a [permanent marriage] commitment and without any destructive side-effects. Time and time again, they regret those choices.

But this is not a sin we can test and then back off from; we must trust that God know best. Once a person yields to temptation, in little or big ways, there are mental and emotional scars that may never entirely disappear even though God’s grace can bring substantial healing.” (Craig Blomberg, NIV Application Commentary)

And secondly by accepting his plan for sex. Verse 2-3 says

2But since sexual immorality is occurring, each man should have sexual relations with his own wife, and each woman with her own husband.

3The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband.


1 Corinthians 7:2-3 (NIV)

God’s Instructions for Single Living

I. Honor His Plan for Marriage (1-3, 9)
A. Flee sexual immorality (1-2a)
B. Accept His Plan for Sex within Marriage
(2b-3, 9)

Sex is a gift from God. We didn’t make it up. God created it as his means of 1. uniting a man and woman. This one-flesh-relationship is described in Genesis 2:24. Secondly, he created sex for procreation as seen in Genesis 1:28 where he says to “be fruitful and multiply in number.” Third, he created sex for our enjoyment. Proverbs 5:18-19 says to rejoice in the wife of your youth, and in that relationship be satisfied and intoxicated with love.

In verse 2 of our text, Paul reaffirms God’s plan for sex in teaching that it is to be experienced between one man and one woman and that it is outside of God’s plan for you to give your body to someone with the commitment of marriage. According to C.S. Lewis, sex without marriage would be like tasting food without swallowing and digesting. God design is for you to remain pure and accept his plan for sex within marriage.

Verse 9 gives the solution for the desire for sex outside of marriage

9But if they cannot control themselves, they should marry, for it is better to marry than to burn with passion.
1 Corinthians 7:9 (NIV)

Basically, he saying that if you cannot control your sexual desires, then you should definitely pursue marriage. It is better to marry than to be inwardly inflamed with sexual desire, which is hard to control outside of marriage.

This does not mean that you should automatically get married if you are having sex with your girlfriend. I’ve talked with young people who are sexually active who know they are not ready for marriage and that the person they are having sex is not the right person for them.

My response to them in that situation is that same that I give you if you are in a similar situation: reclaim God’s plan for sex within the marriage relationship. If they are the right person and the situation is appropriate for marriage (we’ll talk more about that later), then get married. If not, end the relationship, work on becoming a follower of Jesus worth marrying, and pursue a marriage relationship later.

Before we move on, please understand that marriage is much more than just sex and procreation. Pastor Larry already spoke of much of this in week 1, and we won’t go into detail again on all that the Bible says about marriage. But remember this, marriage is part of God’s creation plan.

In Genesis 1, God said, “It was not good for man to be alone” and that is why he created the woman. Marriage is desirable. Marriage helps us become more like Jesus. In fact, One author says it well: marriage is designed to make us holy more than to make us happy. Paul is just providing an answer to one question about marriage here. But, the overarching theme of his teaching in Scripture is that God’s plan for marriage should be honored.

The second instruction is to consider the gift of singleness. Verses 7-8 says

7I 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.

8Now to the unmarried and the widows I say: It is good for them to stay unmarried, as I do.
1 Corinthians 7:7-8 (NIV)

God’s Instructions for Single Living

II. Consider the Gift of Singleness (7-8)

It is uncertain whether or not Paul was ever married. Some suggest he was and is now writing as a widower. But we just don’t know. What we do know is that Paul is currently single when writing this and lived single until he died.

Paul is saying here that God has given him the gift of singleness. And he says that he wishes other people could be like him, but he realizes that that is not possible for everyone. While God has gifted him to be single he has gifted others with the gift of marriage.

To some, the word gift here refers to the life of celibacy that is enabled by God’s power. In this view, God gives the power for people to resist sexual temptation and the desire for marriage for a lifetime to fulfill his calling as his servants. In this view, there is no internal struggle with sexual sin. God has taken care of it. No wonder people struggle with whether or not they have this gift if that is their view.

But the word gift here is always used by Paul in other parts of the Bible to describe an ability that God gives some to build each other other up Later, in the same letter Paul writes

4There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them.

5There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord.

6There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work.

7Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.
1 Corinthians 12:4-7 (NIV)

Therefore I agree with the a view held by that of Pastor and Author Timothy Keller. He writes,

“Consider then that the ‘single gifting’ that Paul speaks of is the fruitfulness in life and ministry through the single state. When you have this gift, there may indeed be struggles, but the main thing is that God is helping you to grow spiritually and be fruitful in the lives of others.

That means a single gift is not just for a select few, and it is not necessarily lifelong, though it may be. It may be a gift given for a finite period of time”
(Timothy Keller, The Meaning of Marriage, p. 208)

We all have seasons of singleness in our lives. There are those that have never been married, those who are widows and have had to go through the difficulty of losing a spouse. Others are divorced for whatever reason and are currently unmarried. God has gifted you with singleness for this season and the question is are you being fruitful in life and ministry to build others up?

If that is you, in verse 8, Paul says to the unmarried and the widows that it is good to stay unmarried as he does. It’s acceptable. There is nothing wrong with you if that is what you decide. You need not feel pressured to get married for whatever reason.
Is God gifting you to remain single for a this season? Or should you be actively pursuing marriage like we discussed earlier.

Now, statistically most people will not embrace the gift of singleness for a lifetime and after a season will eventually end up marrying. If that is you, and you are working toward marriage, then God’s instruction is to make wise choices.

God’s Instructions for Single Living

III. Work toward marriage wisely (26-40)
A. Assess your present circumstances (26-31)

In the next passages, I want highlight some principles that serve as advice on preparing for marriage. The first wise choice is to assess your present circumstances. circumstances.

26Because of the present crisis, I think that it is good for a man to remain as he is.

27Are you pledged to a woman? Do not seek to be released. Are you free from such a commitment? Do not look for a wife.

28But 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.

29What I mean, brothers and sisters, is that the time is short. From now on those who have wives should live as if they do not;

30those who mourn, as if they did not; those who are happy, as if they were not; those who buy something, as if it were not theirs to keep;

31those who use the things of the world, as if not engrossed in them. For this world in its present form is passing away.
1 Corinthians 7:26-31 (NIV)

We are not absolutely sure what Paul is referring to when he says because of the present crisis, and the time is short, and the world in its present form is passing away. But history tells us that the Roman government, under the rule of Emperor Nero,

had just begun some of the most vicious persecution that the Christian World has ever seen, and it would not be long before their present reality would be completely shaken and they would possibly be arrested, imprisoned, tortured, and even killed for their faith.

So, Paul tells them that it is good to remain as they are. If they were married, they couldn’t hit an undo button and divorced even though the times were going to be tough. But if they were not, then they need not be actively looking to marry either.

Furthermore, if they did decide to eventually go ahead marry, they would be not be sinning even under those intense circumstances. But, the reality was that those who married faced greater hardships because of the persecution they would experience. Just imagine being the Christian man who is arrested, beaten and tortured to death while leaving behind a widow and fatherless children. It would be very difficult.

Thankfully we don’t have to worry about persecution like the believers in Paul’s day yet, but the same principle can be applied. Are your present circumstances conducive for marriage? Are you too young? Too immature? Are you without a job and too poor to support even yourself. Still living at your parents house?

Getting serious here. Are you a widow still grieving over the loss of your spouse? Are you divorced and still working through some anger and bitterness? Is there still the possibility for reconciliation with your ex-husband or wife?

While it would not be a sin to marry, it would be foolish of you to make the decision without assessing your circumstances.

Our second wise choice in pursuing marriage is that we must consider our devotion

God’s Instructions for Single Living

III. Work toward marriage wisely (26-40)
A. Assess your present circumstances (26-31)
B. Consider Your Devotion (32-35)

32I would like you to be free from concern. An unmarried man is concerned about the Lord’s affairs-how he can please the Lord.

33But 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.

35I 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.
1 Corinthians 7:32-35 (NIV)

Remember, the Bible celebrates and affirms marriage. Marriage is very good. But marriage changes the scenario. As singles, you must realize that marriage will test your devotion to the Lord. Your ministry will now, in a large part, revolve around your family.

You will become responsible to provide and make sacrifices for them that will decrease your ability to be involved in certain aspects of ministry that you maybe once were heavily involved in. You won’t be as “free” to serve God in that respect. Are you ready for that?

I remember how many ministries I was a part of when I was single: The worship team, youth ministry, Youth bands, young adult ministry, small group ministry, playing church league softball and that was all while being in college and working.

Now, it is impossible for me to do all of those things now. I would never be home to spend time with my family and care for them like a husband and father should. Now, I wouldn’t trade my family for the world and God is not asking me to. He has called me to love my wife as Christ loves the church and to raise my children in love and teach them his commands.

But, with a wife and family, your devotion will naturally be divided between the Lord and them. If you are working toward marriage with wisdom, you must consider your devotion.

I want to skip to verses 39-40 and discuss the last element of making wise decisions in your pursuit of marriage and that is that to choose well.

God’s Instructions for Single Living

III. Work toward marriage wisely (26-40)
A. Assess your present circumstances (26-31)
B. Consider Your Devotion (32-35)
C. Choose Well (39-40)

39A 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.

40In my judgment, she is happier if she stays as she is-and I think that I too have the Spirit of God.
1 Corinthians 7:39-40 (NIV)

I realize that this last segment speaks to widows about the acceptability of remarriage. However, the Lord gives us a principle that applies to all situations in preparing for marriage and that is choosing well. The end of verse 49 says that you are free to marry, but the person you choose must belong to the Lord.

This means that the person needs to be a Christian. If you marry an unbeliever, it is likely that at least one of three things will happen: 1) You will be forced to make a decision to change your beliefs, values, or your involvement in ministry to the Lord. You may have to end or limit your involvement in missionary trips, tithing, Bible studies, etc.

Your partner who is the unbeliever will feel isolated and will not be able to participate in your most valued commitments of life.
The marriage will be continuously stressful through its entirety or it will break up all together.

There have been the cases where unbelievers have accepted Christ, but to take that step and chance struggling through your marriage on something this important is not a wise move. Choose well.

I have only touched on a few of the Biblical principles on singleness. There is no way to address it all in one message. But, I want to conclude with the main instruction for living the single life is to Be Content With with either situation

God’s Instructions for Single Living

IV. Be Content Either Way (17)

17Nevertheless, 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.
1 Corinthians 7:17 (NIV)

No matter your marital status, it says to live for Jesus today. If you are married or single, live with undivided devotion unto the Lord. If you desire to be married, live with undivided devotion unto the Lord and he will work things out.

I remember when I was 18 and in college. I had limited trust that God would provide me with a spouse. I made a silly agreement with a college friend of mine, who was a woman, that if we were not married by the age of 28, that we would just go ahead and get married.

I don’t know why 28 was the number. But when I think back to that, it just shows me how immature I was in my faith and how little trust I had that God has that stuff taken care of.

Thinking of that story reminded me of a well known proverb.

5Trust in the Lord with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;

6in all your ways submit to him,
and he will make your paths straight.
Proverbs 3:5-6 (NIV)

Trust in the Lord with all your heart. That doesn’t mean you can leave out the relationships. And lean not on your own understanding, we must understand God’s truth and not make or live own. In all your ways submit to him. If you understand God’s truth, then walk in his ways.

And he will make your paths straight. When you walk in his ways, your in the center of his will. Your relationship with him is the most important and you can trust that he will direct your paths in all of the other ones. If you would please stand and let’s pray.