THE PASTOR’s PEN February 17, 2019
Dear Church Family and Friends,
Greetings in the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. God loves us so much and because He first loved us, we love Him. We had a great time this past Wednesday night during our Who’s Your One Valentine’s Day Fellowship. I saw several folks I had not seen for a while and several were missing we usually see.
When it comes to Valentine’s Day there seems to be two camps of people who express their feelings. There are those who love it, and those who hate it. Where do you fall on the spectrum?
Some are in love and the thoughts of having a special day to renew their expression of their love for someone or something is a grand opportunity. The merchants sure like it, they make a fortune on cards, candy and flowers. People are uplifted and encourage to be reminded of the continuing and growing love someone has for them. Other however, do not share the enthusiasm of Valentine’s Day. It maybe because of being single, the recent loss of a spouse through death, maybe divorce or a bad breakup of a budding relationship. But have you ever thought of the benefits of being single?
There are actually some exceptional benefit or value to being single. When Paul was writing to the Corinthian church in 1 Corinthians 7:25-40, he addressed a burning question in the minds of some of the people there, “Should I get married?”
Singleness can be a frustrating experience, especially as you get older.
One contemporary American Philosopher and poet named Beyoncé expressed this frustration when she said: “Cause if you liked it, then you should have put a ring on it. If you liked it, then you shoulda put a ring on it. All the Single ladies. All the single ladies oh oh oh oh oh oh…” If you don’t know who Beyoncé is, that is a good thing. I’m happy for you! But there is much to say about the experience of being single.
As you grow up You see some friends get married right out of high school and you say ”good for them! Not for me quite yet!” Then you graduate a university, where dating is thoroughly engrained in the culture. You don’t give or receive that ”ring by spring” of your final semester and you watch as more of your friends get married in their early twenties right out of college.
For some this is a deplorable experience Yet still you are young. You don’t want to be burdened with a husband or a wife. You want to travel!!
As time goes on you get a job, you work for a number of years and you see more of your friends getting married, having kids buying homes. You’re even surprised when you hear of certain people getting married- ” you mean so and so married him???? I thought for sure I would be married before her!” And you begin to feel this frustration. Maybe it’s loneliness. Or maybe you feel that you haven’t really started your adult life yet because you are maintaining this awkward stage of transition. As you get older it seems that all of your acquaintances your own age are married. The single peers you have are much younger than you and you may find it difficult to find your place among work associates, community and yes, even church. Where do singles fit it in this biblical and ecclesiological context of the church and the family??
Thankfully, the Bible is not silent in this matter. Jesus himself was a single man. The apostle Paul was a single man and he writes to a church in Corinth who had asked him a number of questions about marriage and sexuality and one of those questions was, should I get married? And Paul gives them an answer in the passage we mentioned at the beginning. And the answer is not no you shouldn’t or yes you should. The answer is really more of a question: In what state can I better serve Christ?
Which brings us to this theological and Christian thought, “Whether married or single, Christ must be my greatest priority.”
Now we know that marriage has some great benefits:
Marriage is not merely a cure for loneliness, but it is the closest and most profound human relationship there is. In Christian marriage it is a demonstration of the Gospel as a husband sacrificially loves his wife and the wife submits to the husband. And it is a significant means of sanctification. Marriage is a powerful vehicle by which God refines us and makes us more holy.
And in speaking so highly of this holy and wonderful institution we don’t want to forget about single men and women. Some are called to be single for our entire lives. Some of you are bachelors till the Rapture. Some are called to be single for different seasons in our lives. Some of you have never been married and some have become unexpectedly single because your spouse has passed away. Perhaps you feel deficient, that you are incomplete without a spouse, that you can’t live for Christ to the fullest without being married, as if singles were second class Christians. Certainly, people are pushing marriage, sometimes too hard. People seem to live to get married. That’s their main goal in life.
But let me suggest that if you are not satisfied in your singleness you will not be satisfied in your marriage. Marriage is not a cure to singleness. Marriage is just a different state of being. And as Paul says, “In whatever state I am in I have learned to be content.”
And, there is exceptional value in singleness. You are not second-rate Christians. There are things singles can do and risks they can take that married people never can do. There are 3 reasons why you should value your time as a single person and use it for the glory of Christ. (Incidentally, I’m not just talking about the supposed gift of singleness. This is for anyone who is single)
First Paul gives us an introduction (v.25): ”Now concerning the betrothed. ” What does he mean by betrothed? We’re not in this Elizabethan era where we have arranged marriages and betrothals, so this sounds very unusual to us. Betrothal was Jewish custom like our engagement. But it was binding. People get engaged and disengaged all the time, but betrothal was not like this. It was binding thing, often arranged by the parents.
So, Paul is speaking of pure unmarried people. And his question is, is it best for them to get married? And before he answers this question, he says that it’s his opinion. Jesus never talked about it. He has no command from the Lord. This is his best judgment as far as he interprets the scripture. And because 1 Corinthians is scripture, his words are true. So, he answers this question by saying that sometimes singleness is best, there is exceptional value to it.
Why is singleness valuable?
I. Singleness is less troublesome (vv. 25-28)
There are these tensions that exist between the material and the spiritual world. He’s basically saying there is difficulty in life for a Christian. Here, he’s talking about the great persecution that Christians faced. And the persecution he’s talking about is not that people will ruin your business if you do not bake a gay wedding cake. He’s talking about violent persecution and torture- the daily threat of being killed for one’s faith.
If you have a family during a time of persecution your sense of constant fear is exponentially greater. Because you are not just worrying about your own safety. You have even greater concern for your family.
Can you imagine if we had to worry about our kids or spouses being violently taken from us- or worse- during a time of persecution. One’s sense of sorrow, anxiety, and loss would be so much greater with a family.
That’s what Paul is saying. If you are single during this present distress it is better for you to stay that way.
Now let’s say you are a married Corinthian believer, you receive this letter from Paul, maybe your marriage isn’t going so well. You say well, maybe I should get divorced! This could be a solution to my problem. Maybe you are sitting there right now thinking, my husband doesn’t care about spiritual things. Maybe I should leave him. I can serve God better as a single person. But Paul sees this coming and he answers it in v 27.
America may not always be so peaceful for Christians. The bible predicts massive persecution as the coming of Christ draws near. This generation has been blessed, but it may not always be this way.
Paul is simply making this point: Singleness is not bad. In fact, it’s a really good thing in light of the coming persecution. If you like a warzone. Get married.
The point is though that not getting married would spare you a lot of trouble and pain. That’s why Paul says in v 28…if you do marry, you have not sinned, and if a betrothed woman marries, she has not sinned. Yet those who marry will have worldly troubles, and I would spare you that. SO, if you want to get married, Go ahead! There’s no command not to get married.
II. Singleness encourages an eternal Focus (marriage is temporary (vv. 29-31)
There are a couple phrases in here that I would like to point out.
1. The time has grown very short. Life is a vapor. Christ will be returning.
So, time becomes a factor in many of our decisions and so it is in the decision of marriage. There is a crisis and time is short.
2 The present form (schema- the fickle, changing, outward shape) of the world is passing away.
The world it temporary. It is folly for us to act as if the world is permanent.
Marriage is part of a system that will pass away. Marriage is not eternal. Paul is just saying marriage, weeping, earthly rejoicing, buying, worldly pleasure, all a part of the passing scene. It doesn’t mean we should not value these things.
III. Singleness enables an undivided devotion (vv. 32-35)
The key word here is anxious or concerned. It occurs 6 times in this paragraph. So, the married man is anxious or concerned about his wife.
He says I say this for your own benefit. A married person has divided interests. He is rightfully concerned about his wife and he must also be concerned about his walk with Christ. Unmarried people have one set of cares. Married people are concerned about pleasing their spouse, raising their kids, and everything that goes with it. But if you are singe you are free to pursue undistracted devotion to the Lord.
Paul has told us what he wanted to say. Singleness is less troublesome and burdensome than marriage, it encourages an eternal focus, and it enables undivided devotion and now he’s going to apply what he just said. What does it actually look like in two particular situations? And ultimately, his main point is that you need to do is to be adaptable.
Singleness and marriage is not a one size fits all situation. it’s a personal choice that depends on many different things- one of which is the historical context of persecution.
It also depends on who you are as a person,
The main point is that we need to be adaptable.
Very simple. Marriage is for life. If you spouse dies you can marry again in the Lord. if you’re convinced that person would help u bring glory to god then do it. god gives us choices. But he says again, singleness might be better.
Ultimately though it’s up to us. There is not a right and wrong answer for everyone. His point is to be adaptable.
The other situation is in v36-38 This one is much more difficult to interpret.
At surface value seems pretty straightforward, right? You have a single man. He’s having difficulty controlling his desires towards his betrothed, let him marry. However, if he can control his desires, in light of the present context, abstaining from marriage is better.
There were fathers who so valued the gift of singleness that some would devote their daughters to the Lord but when they came to a marriageable age, some of the daughters would have a great desire to be married. So, the fathers were in a difficult position.
Paul’s counsel here was if she wants to marry, let her marry, but if you’re convinced that you want to do this, then you will do well.
So, which one is it? Are we talking about a father keeping his virgin daughter or a finance’ and his betrothed? It’s one of the most difficult passages of Scripture to translate. it really gets into the nitty gritty of the Greek.
A couple things to keep in mind
The word translated ”betrothed” by the ESV and ”Virgin daughter” in the NASB is the word Parthenon, which literally means virgin or young unmarried woman. The word daughter does not occur in the original text. If you have a NASB or a KJV it will be italicized, meaning that the translators thought it was implied in the Greek and should, therefore, be written out in the English. Same goes for betrothed. The ESV translators thought that the world betrothed is implied behind the word virgin because we’re talking about a woman engaged to be married.
Secondly, the word uperakmos v 36. It is the only time this word is recorded in the NT. In the NASB, it is translated ”past her youth” speaking of the virgin daughter. ESV- ”strong passioned.” speaking of the man’s feelings towards his betrothed. Literally, it means ”over the top”. Either it’s the finance or the virgin daughter. So, we don’t know who the subject of this adjective is.
in verse 38, the translation of the verb ”marry” or gives in marriage” is significant. it says in The NASB he who gives his own daughter in marriage does well. ESV He who marries his betrothed does well. This verb occurs 7 times in the NT and every other time it is interpreted as ”given in marriage:
At the end of v 36. ESV ”Let them marry” NASB ”let her marry.” In Greek the verb is plural so literally it is ”Let them marry.”
So, what do we conclude? I conclude that we need to be adaptable, whether it’s a dad or a fiancé, we need to be adaptable. there will be times where singleness is best, but if they choose to get married, they don’t sin, so let them get married. We are not talking one size fits all kind of situation. It depends on the historical situation and your conscience.
So what’s the point of this text? If you want to be single, be single. If you can control your desires and you want to devote more energy to the lord, you will glorify Christ. This life is merely a vapor. It’s short like the steam that comes off your cup of coffee. We need to place all of our energy and efforts into living for Christ. If you are satisfied to remain single and can live in purity, do it and serve Christ.
All that said, marriage is a wonderful thing and singleness isn’t for everyone. Marriage is a means by which God grows us, sanctifies us. It’s a gift from God. Yet we realize that it has some liabilities. It divides our interests, it can burden us (not in a bad way), and it is a temporal thing.
So, if you are a Christian and you are single, you have the gift of singleness right now.
What are you going to do with it? Instead of spending you time on entertainment, playing video games, excessively socializing, or building your bank account, use your time to serve Christ.
Until next week, Love and prayers,
I hope you are participating this year. You will have fun and learn a lot of interesting things about the Bible. The reward this year will be a $100 gift card from Lifeway Stores again.
To qualify for the prize, you must write the question, give the correct answer and provide the scripture reference which supports your answer.
27. Who was the first recorded Christian martyr?
28. What relative of the late King Saul cursed King David—even throwing dirt on him during Absalom’s rebellion?
29. Whom did the people of Lystra insist that Paul and Barnabas were?
30. To whom were the elders referring when, to Boaz, they said Ruth should be as fertile as the two who built the house of Israel?
31. Who stole treasure from the devastated city of Jericho—and paid for his sin with his life?
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