Encouragement for Singles from 1 Corinthians

Sewell Hall

SERMONS AND ARTICLES ON marriage and the family are very common. But those who are not married, and especially those who see little prospect of marriage, may well have been neglected. The seventh chapter of First Corinthians contains some principles for their consideration and encouragement.

Marriage is Not Essential

In the beginning, God saw that it was "not good that man should be alone" (Genesis 2:18), and He said, "For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife" (Matt 19:5). While clearly establishing the divine approval and encouragement of marriage, these words of God are not to be taken as requiring it. By the Holy Spirit, Paul wrote: "But I say to the unmarried and to widows: It is good for them if they remain as I am" (verse 8).

There is no doubt that Paul's sentiments were affected by the "distress" mentioned in verse 26. Yet this statement, along with the example of Paul himself, clearly establishes that one does not sin in remaining unmarried, nor is such a person in any way a second class citizen of the kingdom. Living on earth as a man, the King Himself did not marry, and He does not require marriage of His subjects.

Marriage Not Always Advisable

The prevailing circumstances at the time Paul wrote actually made it better not to marry (verse 26). Most Bible students believe that anticipated persecution was the "present distress" mentioned. Other conditions, however, could create the same disadvantage. Wartime, when husbands and wives face long periods of separation, may make marriage inadvisable. Moral conditions in a given community may deteriorate to the point that there seems to be no suitable companion for marriage; surely it is better not to marry than to marry someone whose character is questionable and whose future faithfulness is, at best, uncertain.

Marriage May Hinder Total Commitment

Verses 32 through 35 point out that married people may be distracted from Christian service by concerns for their companions. Obviously, a man or woman facing imprisonment or death for being a Christian would be more severely tempted to renounce the faith if there were a spouse or children to be protected. Even today, however, as helpful as Christian companions usually are, there are times when they may hinder one from being sufficiently mobile from making the sacrifices necessary to do some needed work for the Lord. This does not make it wrong to marry (verse 28), but it does mean that one who is not strongly inclined to marriage should not feel compelled to marry

Help in Finding Contentment

This chapter offers two considerations which will contribute to contentment if conditions are not favorable for marriage.

First, the brevity of life. Life seems long to one who is young, but its brevity becomes more evident as time goes on. Christians do not live for the pleasures of this life, but for eternity. What one has or does not have in life is of little consequence in the big picture. This seems to be the message of verses 29-31.

Second, devotion to Christ may is some ways compensate for lack of a mate. Individuals who become absorbed in pursuit of secular goals such as education, invention or exploration may go for long periods of time without sensing the need for marriage. Complete absorption in serving the Lord may serve the same purpose (verse 32).

Chastity is Essential

Being unmarried is not license for fornication. The preceding chapter (6:9-20) contains the strongest teaching in the New Testament against fornication. And chapter seven, while advising against marriage during the "present distress," makes it plain that one who cannot remain chaste should marry (verses 2,7,9,36-37) regardless of the hardships and disadvantages that might be encountered.

Paul even states that "it is better to marry than to burn with passion" (verse 9). Natural passions in most individuals are strong. they may be so strong as to dominate one's life and become even more distracting than marriage would be. Some control of such passions is possible by avoiding the numerous stimuli in popular books, movies, TV and even music. But forbidding one to marry, who has a right to marry and a need to marry, has been a cause of much evil (I Timothy 4:1-5).


Most congregations today are blessed by devout singles, both male and female, both young and old. they are to be honored for their faithfulness. Let us "give honor to whom honor is due".

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