The Pursuit of Marriage: Part 4, Gift of Singleness Quotes

My previous post in this series described the views of those who oppose the marriage mandate and gift of celibacy view. These people tend to subscribe to the view that 1 Cor 7:7 describes singleness and marriage as being gifts. Here I want to offer some quotes from these people as a complement to that post.

The Gift Is Singleness

In his book Singles at the Crossroads (UK title: The Single issue) Al Hsu says,

[T]he gift is a description of an objective status. If you are single then you have the gift of singleness. If you are married, you don’t.

In Singles at the Crossroads John Stott quotes 1 Corinthians 7:7 and calls singleness and marriage gifts, then when asked whether the gift of singleness is a gift in the sense that we are given a supernatural power to cope with it he replies,

Not really. The gift of singleness is more a vocation than an empowerment, although to be sure God is faithful in supporting those he calls (1 Thess 5:24).

Vaughan Roberts in his chapter, on singleness, in the book Men of God says

When Paul writes speaks of singleness as a gift, he is not speaking about a particular ability that some people have to be contentedly single. He is rather speaking of the state of being single.

John Piper in his forward to Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (available online as pdf) has a section titled ‘The Apostle Paul calls singleness a gift from God’.

Genesis 2:18

In contrast to the marriage mandate intepretation of the verse, in Singles at the Crossroads Hsu argues that Gen 2:18 is against aloneness more generally, rather than singleness, while he also quotes Stott taking the view that while Gen 2:18 shows that it is good to marry, 1 Cor 7:1 also shows that it is good not to marry, so that both marriage and singleness are good. Piper responds to Gen 2:18 by suggesting that perhaps without the fall “there would have been no singleness”, and also says that because of other relationships, in particular with members of one’s church family, “almost no one has to be entirely alone”.

God’s Sovereignty

In The Rich Single Life, (available online as pdf) Andrew Farmer, referencing 1 Cor 7:29-35, says,

This “undivided devotion to the Lord” is the essence of biblical identity for the single adult. It is rooted in the sovereignty of a God who places people in appropriate situations for the best possible reasons. It is steeped in the love of a God who uses even the most difficult of situations for the greatest possible benefit. It is sustained by the wisdom of a God whose timing is perfect and whose guidance is sure.You may not live under the present threat of inevitable persecution for your faith. (Or maybe you do.) Nevertheless, we all live in “times that are short.” If you are a Christian, don’t despise the state to which you have been called. Live in the gift of your singleness for as long as you have the gift. And whether or not God ever ordains the prospect of marriage for your life, bring faith for the present and hope for the future, because there is much to be done. Who better to set a hand to the task than you?

Man’s Responsibility

Elizabeth Elliot has said,

Many women suffer because men are disobedient. Men are not willing to make commitment. Love takes sacrifice… So women suffer, but they suffer according to the will of God, even though it is because of a man’s disobedience.

Roberts says in Men of God,

Single people are therefore likely to struggle with loneliness and sexual temptation….Some will seek to lessen [those struggles] by getting married. Others will either choose not to marry or will feel unable to because of their circumstances, personality or sexual orientation. They are likely to face a lifelong battle with loneliness and sexual temptation.

Singles at the Crossroads includes an answer Stott gave in response to the question “Do you think a person can know at an early age that he or she is called to singleness, or is this something you just fall into?” He advises against commiting early to remaining single and then goes on to say,

I personally believe more in the second alternative you have given, that people discover it gradually and as the years pass begin to think that God is probably not calling them to marry. They don’t meet a person with whom they believe God is calling them to share their life, or they don’t fall deeply in love, or their work develops in such a way that it seems right for them to remain single in order to give themselves to their work rather than to a family. And as circumstances build up this way, they begin to discern that God is calling them to be single. And that is more the situation with me.

Time to Serve

While discussions of the benefits of singleness often focus on them having more time, Piper is more nuanced when he writes regarding 1 Cor 7:32-35 that

Many single people give thanks for this truth in their own lives. It seems to come out most often in a cherished freedom for flexible scheduling and for risk-taking.

He quotes a single friend who said,

While I’m happy to be free from balancing husband and family needs and ministry, I must face other “practical” needs should Jesus tarry-retirement, housing, finances, etc…Singles can be guilted and shamed into doing too much. I believe there must be a caution to singles not to become “over-invested.” Singles must protect their spiritual, physical, and emotional health as well as those who are married. Singles need to be affirmed to take time to develop nurturing relationships (“family”).

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2 Comments on “The Pursuit of Marriage: Part 4, Gift of Singleness Quotes”

  1. John Says:

    As a 41-year-old never-married man, I gather that on the one hand I’m supposed to feel guilty for never having gone down the aisle (no one was talking about the marriage mandate 20 years ago when I was in the Boundless target demographic). On the other hand, I have been trying for many years now to find the right woman to marry, so if I do in fact have a Biblical duty to marry, I would have to conclude that the Lord wants me to succeed. I guess my point is that where you sit determines where you stand, in this case how you come down on the “marriage mandate vs. gift of singleness”question. Someone who really didn’t want to be married, ever, might more readily conclude that singleness is a God-ordained gift.

  2. […] previously he interpreted 1 Cor7:7 to refer to singleness and marriage as gifts he now says neither I nor the […]

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