Scriptures

Practical Singleness Lesson 1

Food for Thought

Having found myself being single again a few years back, but this time as a Christian I quickly discovered that there were far more challenges ahead of me than I realised, mostly within myself.

With not much sound spiritual advice out there concerning how to cope with certain struggles as a Christian single or the struggles I would face when I eventually entered into a relationship, I felt the need to put this small Bible study together.

Before reading and going through this study please know that I don’t claim to have all the answers for every eventuality within a relationship and I’m not even claiming that you should follow the advice step by step.

This study is designed to help you stop and think before situations arise which may cause temptation or cause you or your partner to sin against God.

As you go through these lessons you will also soon discover that the Bible is very silent on many of the topics we shall look at but what I have tried to do is use Bible principles. Please remember the main thrust of these lessons is to help you glorify God whether you are in a relationship or not. I pray this small effort will bless your Christ-centred relationship.

Introduction

Some people are under the impression that being single is some sort of curse, as well-meaning people are always asking, when are you going to get into a relationship with someone? As if there was something ‘wrong’ with you and then there are others who feel they are being pressurised into a relationship and, so they settle for relationship which comprises their faith and their relationship with God which within itself can be devastating.

The first three lessons challenge these ideas and are designed to help you see that being single is and can indeed be a rich blessing.

Please note that some of the lessons come from personal experiences and others from friends, both Christians and non-Christians.

It’s Better Not to Marry

Whether we like it or not people need to know that there are plenty of good Biblical reasons not to marry, a few of which the apostle Paul reminds us of in 1 Corinthians 7:25-40. Please take a moment to read 1 Corinthians 7:25-40.

Although Paul gives us a few good reasons not to marry, it’s Paul’s last comment which I find interesting,

‘and I think that I too have the Spirit of God.’ 1 Corinthians 7:40

Now you need to understand that Paul’s final statement doesn’t mean he wonders whether he is indwelt by the Holy Spirit because he already knew that; rather, he believes he has the illumination of the Spirit on this topic.

I like that because it shows Paul’s humility and honesty and shows us that even though he was an apostle of Christ, he was never arrogant about God’s truth. When he had a word directly from the Lord, as in 1 Corinthians 7:10, he made no qualms about sharing it and enforcing it.

When he had opinions that were apostolic, as in 1 Corinthians 7:12+25, he gave them with conviction. But when he wasn’t sure whether his ideas conformed to that which the Spirit of God taught, he was willing to say so.

Unfortunately, there are many in the ministry today who would never admit what Paul says here, and they aren’t even close to being apostles. Yet they always claim to be right, always have a word from the Lord, and are usually dogmatic about it. They may be wrong, but they’re never in doubt. Beware of teachers who claim to have a direct pipeline to God.

Anyway, you need to know that being single has numerous advantages: the potential ability to cope with troubles, maintain spiritual priorities, and remain undistracted and utterly devoted to Christ. Single-minded singleness has its advantages.

Paul reminds us that it’s better not to marry for the following reasons

a. Than to marry a non-believer.

b. Than to marry someone who will hinder your relationship with Christ or your service for Him.

c. Than to marry someone without the commitment to give completely of yourself to that person.

d. Than to marry for the wrong motive.

e. Than to marry at all, if you have the gift of celibacy.

In our longing to belong to someone, do we forget to focus enough on the One to whom we must ultimately belong?

God must be our number one priority, and sometimes He gives us the gift of being single.

I don’t know about you, when I was single, I had so much going on in my life and so little time. We need to remember that being in a relationship takes up a lot of time in our lives, time which is needed to develop, build and maintain that relationship. So, one blessing we have being single if simply the gift of time.

The Blessings of Being Single

Being single can also have its advantages, if you use the time God has allotted you for His glory. The apostle Paul has some counter-cultural words for us. He will suggest that single-minded singleness has its advantages. In 1 Corinthians 7:25-40, Paul shares several of these advantages. While many of these advantages can be universally true, we must be careful to understand what Paul is saying in the context of his letter to the Corinthians.

1. Singles are better able to cope with troubles.

‘Now, concerning what you wrote about unmarried people: I do not have a command from the Lord, but I give my opinion as one who by the Lord’s mercy is worthy of trust.’ 1 Corinthians 7:25

Paul suggests that being single isn’t nearly as bad as some think. Rather, in the midst of a difficult period of time, Paul recommends that engaged couples consider remaining single.

Paul unpacks his topic in this sentence.

‘Now, concerning what you wrote about unmarried people: I do not have a command from the Lord, but I give my opinion as one who by the Lord’s mercy is worthy of trust.’

The phrase ‘Now concerning…’ harkens back to 1 Corinthians 7:1 where Paul begins answering the Corinthians’ questions.

In this section, he’s focusing on those who are engaged to be married. Paul makes it clear that he’s giving an ‘opinion’ on the matter of singleness.

He even brackets off his remarks by reminding his readers again in 1 Corinthians 7:40 that he’s expressing his opinion. This should caution us not to mandate what Paul has graciously and humbly suggested.

In 1 Corinthians 7:26-28, Paul now launches into the first advantage of singleness.

‘Considering the present distress, I think it is better for a man to stay as he is. Do you have a wife? Then don’t try to get rid of her. Are you unmarried? Then don’t look for a wife. But if you do marry, you haven’t committed a sin; and if an unmarried woman marries, she hasn’t committed a sin. But I would rather spare you the everyday troubles that married people will have.’

It seems clear that Paul was not providing advice to be used in all situations, but one that was applicable during that particular period of time. In these three verses, Paul recommends singleness in light of challenging circumstances in Corinth.

In 1 Corinthians 7:26 he speaks of ‘the present distress’ while in 1 Corinthians 7:28 he refers to ‘trouble in this life.’

Most likely, the phrase ‘the present distress’ is a reference to a famine in Corinth and much of the rest of the Roman world was suffering from famines. This is corroborated by secular history, and by the fact that in 1 Corinthians 16:1-4

Paul was taking up the famine relief collection for Jerusalem. These were challenging days, particularly for married couples.

But, you might ask,

how does this apply to me?

I am not in the midst of a famine! I can appreciate this. However, there are many other situations that might qualify as a

‘present distress.’

Temptation, stress, financial difficulty, busyness, materialism, even peer pressure to marry or not to marry, are all modern stresses that could render Paul’s opinions here every bit as practical today as when they were first offered.

Now please understand Paul isn’t against marriage, far from it! He is pro-marriage; however, he recognises that marriage isn’t for the faint of heart. Nevertheless, single-minded singleness has its advantages, one lot of temptations and stresses etc. are easier to manage than two.

The second crisis is described in 1 Corinthians 7:28 by the phrase

‘trouble in this life.’

These troubles aren’t specified but may refer to Paul’s conviction that Christians are called to suffer and will likely have more trials than others. The word ‘trouble’ or ‘tribulation’ means ‘pressed together under pressure,’ which is an interesting description of the marriage relationship.

You have two people who are pressed together in the closest possible way: physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. They are two very distinct individuals with different personalities, different temperaments, different wills, different histories, different struggles and difficulties that they have brought as baggage into the relationship.

And even believers in Jesus Christ are still subject to the limitations and weaknesses of the flesh. So, you have two angry, selfish, dishonest, proud, forgetful, thoughtless people and that’s true even in the best marriages.

It’s hard enough for a sinner to live alone with himself, let alone with another sinner. You put those two separate constellations of problems together when two people are bound together in marriage, and the problems of sinful human nature are multiplied.

Again, Paul makes it clear that marriage is a legitimate option for single people, but he wants to spare us unnecessary grief. Hence, it’s good to thoughtfully consider the option of singleness and think of it as a blessing as you don’t have deal with your partner’s troubles as well as your own.

Your First Thoughts

Please write down your own thoughts on this part of the lesson whilst they are fresh in your mind.

Evaluation Questions

These questions are designed to help you think through the topic discussed so that you may have a true view of yourself.

1. What do YOU like about being single?

2. Why would it be beneficial to YOU to remain single?

3. Would it be beneficial to YOU to enter a relationship?

4. Would it be beneficial for your MATE for YOU to enter a relationship with them?

Next Lesson

Single-Minded Singleness Has Its Advantages (Part1) We will discuss: Singles are better prepared to maintain their spiritual priorities and because they have no spouse and or children they have fewer things to distract them.

Next Lesson Preparation

Please read 1 Corinthians 7:29-40 / Hebrews 13:4.

Go To Practical Singleness Lesson 2

DAILY BIBLE VERSE

"Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted."

Isaiah 53:4

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