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Why Singleness Matters

Summit Life / J.D. Greear
The Truth Network Radio
March 9, 2023 9:00 am

Why Singleness Matters

Summit Life / J.D. Greear

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March 9, 2023 9:00 am

Outside the church, marriage seems less and less important. But inside the church, it can sometimes be elevated to the status of idol! So how do we understand God’s design for both marriage and singleness?


Today on Summit Life with J.D. Greer. Both married people and single people should reflect on the fact that their situations are not ultimate. Both marriage and singleness are temporary gifts, light and momentary gifts for the fulfillment of God's purposes. Welcome to Summit Life with Pastor J.D. Greer.

As always, I'm your host, Molly Vidovitch. In today's message from 1 Corinthians, Pastor J.D. walks us through Paul's teaching on sex, singleness and spiritual gifts. And when it comes to marriage and singleness, it's easy for us to get disoriented. Outside the church, marriage seems less and less important, but inside the church, it can sometimes be elevated to the status of an idol.

So how do we understand God's unique design for both of these statuses? We're going to hit the ground running on this message, so be sure to stick around and learn more about our latest resource available at For now, let's jump right into today's teaching that Pastor J.D.

titled Why Singleness Matters. 1 Corinthians 7. If you remember, Paul's letter to the Corinthians is not so much a composed work of theology as it is Paul just answering a bunch of questions that the Corinthians had been asking and dealing with some of the issues that he'd heard the church was dealing with. Do you see how chapter 7 opens?

Look at it. Chapter 7, verse 1. Paul says, now in response to the matters that you wrote about, talking about the letter they sent to him with all the questions, quote, it is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman. That part in quotes is what apparently is from their letter.

He quotes the statement they made in their letter, and then he responds to it, just like we saw him do in chapter 6. Apparently, there was a group in the Corinthian church who probably in response to the widespread sexual promiscuity in Corinth, there was a group of believers in the church who were saying absolute celibacy is the way to go. Sex is bad. At best, sex is a necessary evil for the propagation of the species, but truly holy Jesus people, they're no sex people. So Paul in this chapter talks about how marriage and singleness are both gifts and how God has a plan for both.

I want you to note this. Christianity has an incredibly high view of both singleness and marriage. But here is the dilemma that we are in. We live in a church culture that is obsessed with marriage. Like, that's the goal for everybody.

That is the varsity level. And if you don't get married, well, something has gone wrong in your life and you're kind of stuck on the JV squad. And so a lot of times in the church, single people often feel marginalized or talked down to single people. Am I speaking truth here? I know of one church, in fact, that called its adult social group Pairs and Spares, as if the single people were spares.

It's terrible. On the other hand, on the other hand, we've got a church culture obsessed with marriage. We've got a secular culture that's obsessed with singleness. Not biblical singleness, mind you, which means remaining sexually celibate, but a no commitment singleness where you can have sex whenever it's convenient for you with no strings attached. Since 1960, the percentage of adults in our country who get married has dropped from about 72% to just above 50%. And every year it keeps going down. Every year in our society, the average age for a first marriage goes up.

Right now it's about 30 years old for men and about 28 for women. In fact, over half the people that come to our church this weekend, over half of the people here this weekend are single, about 7,000 of you. And we love you, by the way.

In fact, many people put your hands together. We love this part of the body of Christ. The apostle Paul wants to show you God's plan for both singleness and marriage. He begins by championing the goodness of sex within marriage.

Look at verse 2. He says, But because sexual immorality is so common, each man should have sexual relations with his own wife, and each woman should have sexual relations with her own husband. Translation, sex is a good desire. It is a God-given desire.

Through it, God gives some beautiful illustrations of the gospel, and it's also God's way of propagating the human species on earth for us to be fruitful and to multiply. He created marriage for that relationship. Verse 3, Now, that would have made total sense to the average Corinthian man. It was just assumed in Greek culture and Jewish culture, it was just assumed that the wife was the man's sexual servant to fulfill his desires.

But then Paul throws a total curveball at them. He says, Corinthian men, Greek men, Jewish men, they held all the cards in marriage in those days. They had sexual mastery over their wives. Sometimes her wife was thought about almost like it was a kind of property. They could divorce her for any reason or no reason at all. And so now Paul is saying to the husband, you should see yourself as her servant as well.

That was like a grenade he threw in there. Paul was overturning that whole system. In marriage, both husband and wife offer their body in service to the other. By the way, sometimes these verses get pulled out of context like they are some kind of sexual trump card that one spouse can play whenever they want.

Hey, I want to have sex. And Paul says, I have authority over your body. So you can't say no without sinning. That is not what Paul is saying here.

You know this, at least I hope you know this, the sexual relationship is a lot more complicated than that. Paul is not saying that you just like, you know, you're like, Hey, this is, I got property. You know, he's saying that in marriage, all he's saying is in marriage, both partners should see themselves as the servant of the other. And so he says, verse five, do not deprive one another, except when you agree on it for a time to devote yourselves to prayer.

And then you should come together again. Otherwise Satan may tempt you because of your lack of self-control. So bottom line, Paul completely debunks the idea that celibacy is some kind of spiritually superior state. He is commanding you married people to get after it. Some of y'all are like, this is the best sermon I've ever heard.

Right? Well, amen. Okay. Verse six.

Then Paul says, but I say this as a concession, not as a command. In fact, I wish that all people were like me. And what is he?

Not married, he's single, right? I wish all of you were like me, but each has his own gift from God. One person has the gift and this gift and another has that one. The word that he uses there for gift is the word charisma.

One of the words that we use for spiritual gift. Paul said, marriage is good. In fact, it's a gift, a spiritual gift, but I'm single and that's also good. That's also a charisma, a spiritual gift.

And actually, I wish if I could have my way, I wish more of you had this gift. But wait, Paul, isn't it necessary to find that special someone and have sex in order to feel fully alive? Isn't that the message of every Hallmark movie we've ever seen?

Is that once you find the special someone, life is amazing. And not until then, Paul says, nope. In fact, the most fulfilled person ever to walk the face of the earth was a 33-year-old single man who remained celibate all of his life.

That was Jesus. And Paul would say, I, as also the leader of the church, God has called me to singleness, celibacy, at least for the foreseeable future. So verse eight, I therefore say to the unmarried and to the widows.

Stop there for a second. Unmarried and widows would be Paul's way of saying that he's talking to people who are single for whatever reason. Those of you who are single because the right person has not come along yet. Or to those of you who are single again because your spouse passed away. Maybe they walked out on you. Or maybe you proposed and they rejected you. Or maybe you find yourself with a same-sex attraction and you just have no desire to be married to somebody of the opposite sex. And for whatever reason, you find yourself single to all of that group.

Paul says it's actually good. It's actually good for them if they remain single like I am. Let me give you a handful of completely counter-cultural statements on sex and singleness.

This is like the apostle Paul in the Bible against the world. Completely counter-cultural things on sex and singleness glean from this chapter. Number one, Paul is saying singleness is not an inferior state to marriage.

Single people get a raw deal sometimes. And married people in the church are always trying to fix them up as if there was something wrong with them. I had a pastor friend, I've told you about this, who was single until his mid-30s. He said, I always got so tired as a pastor of these little, sweet little old ladies, who were well-intentioned, but sweet little old ladies at my church, who would come up to me at every wedding that I performed and say, don't worry, you're next.

He said, I got so fed up with it, I would go to these same little old ladies when we were at funerals and I would say, don't worry, you're next. And he speaks for a lot of single people I've talked to. Sometimes we talk like the reason single people are single is because they're not mature enough for marriage yet. And y'all, I know that's not true, because some of the most messed up, immature, dysfunctional people I've ever met are married.

Amen? Single people are like, yep, that's exactly right. But instead, what we say in the church, we say things like, well, as soon as you're satisfied in God alone, God will bring someone special into your life, as if you earn God's blessing by achieving some spiritual Jedi state.

Or how about this one? God just has to do a little bit of work on you before he brings you that special someone. You've got to become someone wonderful before God gives you someone wonderful. As though God grants marriage as a reward to the satisfactorily sanctified. Friend, I will tell you, if that's true, he made a lot of bad calculations in our church, right? Tim Keller says this. He says, under all these statements is the premise that a single life is a second class life. A state of deprivation for people that are not yet fully formed for marriage.

These statements are not true. And that is because marriage is not some superior state. In fact, any marriage is just a temporary gift that God gives to some for the fulfillment of his purposes. Look at what Paul says in verse 29. It's a very confusing verse. There's actually several confusing verses in here. I'll try to show you a few of them, but a really confusing verse.

But it actually makes sense once you understand it. Verse 29, the appointed time has gone very short. From now on, let those who have wives live as though they had none. Sometimes people read that verse and they think, what in the world? Paul is telling men with wives to live as though they didn't have one? That's like the patron verse of people going to Las Vegas.

Let's live like we have no wives for a weekend. That is not what Paul means. He explains what he means in verse 31. He says, you see, the present form of this world is passing away. And along with it, marriage, because marriage is just a temporary state. It's a temporary gift. Both married people and single people, he is saying, should realize that their situations are not ultimate. Both marriage and singleness are temporary gifts for the fulfillment of God's purposes. Whether you're looking to establish a daily routine with God, or if you just need some inspiration, these short devotionals are an incredible tool. And did you know that they follow along with our teaching right here on the program?

So even if you miss a day on the radio, you'll have that email that keeps you up to date on the show. Sign up now at slash resources and experience the transformative power of God's presence every day. And throughout the gospels, Jesus would say the most fascinating things about marriage that would totally confuse all of his Jewish listeners. For example, one time in the gospel of Mark, Mark chapter 12, he gets asked this really complicated question about marriage.

This woman who had seven husbands because each of them died. And so she got remarried seven times and like in heaven, whose wife is she actually going to be? Jesus just straight cuts them off and he says, you are wrong in your premise because there is no marriage in heaven. You're like the angels who neither marry or are given in marriage. There's no marriage in heaven. Marriage, he says, is an earthly thing. It's a temporary illustration of the love of God. It's a good one, but it's temporary.

It's a temporary means by which God populates the earth. It's a good gift, but soon it will give way to the relationship to which it pointed. And that relationship is Christ and the church. In fact, just a few chapters before that in Mark, Mark 3, Jesus had been teaching and somebody yells out, Hey, Jesus, your mother, Mary, and your brothers, they have come to see you.

And she just looks around the crowd like this. And he says, my mother, my brothers, whoever does the will of God, you're the ones that are my mother and my brother and my sister. Which means that relationships in the church are for him even more binding and ultimate than biological ones. Do you let that sink in for a minute? I mean, how cool would it be to be blood related to Jesus?

Yeah, yeah. You know, one of my great, great, great uncles is Jesus. If you have somebody famous in your family tree, you brag about it. That's why some of my friends right now are snickering because they know that you give me half a second and bring up either Texas, the Alamo, or something in American history.

And I'll point out that according to Greer family legend, my great, great, great, great, great uncle is Davy Crockett. I just always work that in, right? Even like here in the sermon, I just did it right now.

See that, right? If you're related to Jesus by blood, you're going to work that in anywhere you can. And Jesus said, that's not that big of a deal. Being blood related, not that big of a deal. Being biologically related, no biggie.

It stops on earth. But being connected to me through the Spirit of God and the body of Christ, that's an eternal thing. I love how John Piper says it.

He says two singles. God promises you blessings in the age to come that are better and better than the blessings of marriage and children. Marriage is temporary. But what it stands for, what it points to, lasts forever. Marriage is a temporary institution that finally gives way to the relationship to which it was pointing all along Christ and the church.

At which point marriage fades away, becomes unnecessary. Well, you no longer need a picture of somebody when you finally see them face to face. You stare at the picture of that special someone when you're separated from them. The moment they walk up and see you, you put that picture down. You don't need it because now you've got the real version of it.

Or Rebecca McLaughlin, she said it this way. At its best, I love this. At its best, marriage and sex are like the gateway drugs that point us to a far more fulfilling relationship. They're just a taste of something far better that goes beyond the temporary earthly thing. So we go back to 1 Corinthians 7, 29.

You understand the verse now? Your point in time has been pretty short. We're all going to die soon.

It's not that long. From now on, let those who have wives live as though they had none. For the present form of this world is passing away. Both married people, in other words, both married people and single people should reflect on the fact that their situations are not ultimate. Both marriage and singleness are temporary gifts, light and momentary gifts for the fulfillment of God's purposes.

Which leads me to number two. Number two, Paul says the gifts of marriage and singleness both have their advantages. Marriage is a gift to state the obvious. Why is it a gift?

I'll give you one reason. It was God himself who looked down at the man by himself and said, that's not good. I'm going to make a helper for him. The book of Genesis says that God then fashioned a woman to be the helper. The first word used to describe the woman was edzer kenekdo. It's not a romantic sounding word.

I don't suggest you adopt that as your pet name for your spouse or your wife. But basically it's a Hebrew word that means same but different. She was made in the image of God just like him, his equal, same. But she was made different from him, complimentary to him.

She's different, same but different. Now I realize this, even though every single person is an individual and stereotypes sometimes harm as much as they help, there are general patterns to men and women and how we function that go back to how we are created. Most women are more nurturing by nature and thus they're better at creating a stable home environment.

I will tell you for one, like many guys, I was not good at creating any kind of home environment. For most guys, their dream pad includes a waterbed, a black leather couch with a TV and a PlayStation and surround sound and that's it. That's the entire dream pad. Before I got married, to move out of my house into another one took me one buddy, a Ford Mustang, a few bungee cords and 15 minutes. Now it would take a full-size SUV just to haul the pillows that sit on top of my bed. And another one just to haul the toiletry products in our shower. I mean, I look around our bathroom and I wonder, what is all this stuff? Who knew there were so many different kinds of soaps? My bathroom used to have just one bar of soap, one. And I cleaned everything in the bathroom with it. My face, my hair, my teeth, the floors, all of it.

One bar of soap. Again, I realize not everybody's like that, but God made the man and the woman complimentary so that the two of them together would be a more complete reflection of the image of God than one gender would have been alone. When he brings these two complimentary pairs together in marriage, it is a gift. Even more importantly, marriage is a gift because it teaches us experientially about the love of God. C.S. Lewis compared his marriage, which was relatively short because Joy Davidman died not long after they got married, got married when he was quite older.

C.S. Lewis, he compared his short marriage to like a ray of the sun, a ray which he said warmed my face and made me look back up along the ray to the sun from which it emanated. I will tell you, marriage has taught me more about the gospel than probably anything else in my life with the exception of having children. The kindness, the tenderness, the forgiveness, the security, the unconditional love of God. These were doctrines I learned in seminary, but I experienced them in marriage. So marriage is a gift.

Singleness, Paul says, is also a gift. You say, well, how so? Paul actually explains it in verse 33.

Take a look at it. He says, you see, the married man is anxious about worldly things. About worldly there, he doesn't mean sinful.

He just means things of the earth, things of the world. Worry about worldly things, how to please his wife. His interests are divided. In case you don't know this, okay, single or married, a healthy marriage takes time.

A lot of time. Sometimes you're late up at night working things out. Your wife needs time. Your kids need time. As a married man, I am not able to go on all the mission trips that I want to go on anymore. One of our singles here told me recently about the most amazing ministry that a few of our singles have been engaged in, hanging out with a group of Muslim refugees until after 10 o'clock on multiple nights of the week.

I can't do that anymore. I've got to run little people to soccer practice and help them do homework and help them get ready for bed. And so after I spend my day at full-time ministry, I'm guzzling five-hour energy drinks on the way home from work because I know my real work is about to start. People sometimes ask me, J.D., what are your hobbies?

I'm like, do you mean what did they used to be? My hobbies now are named Karas, Ali, Raya, and Aden. Those are my hobbies. Like, well, do you have pets? Yep.

Karas, Ali, Raya, Aden. I do not need any more living beings depending on me right now. Marriage puts a lot of demands on your money. I have people to take care of. I want to bless them and take care of them.

I'm the stand-in for the heavenly father. And so, yes, I want to bless them. Guys, okay, again, understand this. Being married and having a family is expensive. My wife and I will sometimes call our kids Tesla, Hawaii Vacation, and Beach House because that's what they cost me, okay? Having a family limits my generosity in some ways. Sacrificing my time, sacrificing my money, there's a limit on it.

A divinely appointed limit because of the responsibilities God gave me to my wife and children. Of course, it's not just limiting for the man, Paul says. Limiting for the woman, too.

Perhaps even more so. Verse 34, he says, and the unmarried or betrothed woman is anxious about the things of the Lord. She can sit around all the time and think about what God wants her to do. How to be holy in body and spirit. But the married woman, she's got to be anxious about worldly things. Again, not sinful things, but things of the world. Namely, how to please her husband. That's God's command to her. If you get married and you have kids, it affects your career, husband or wife.

And for many of you, it may stymie your career altogether. I asked an older pastor, a mentor kind of man that had written a number of great books. I really looked up to him and I was like, hey, of all the books you've written, what was the favorite book that you ever wrote? He said, what are my favorite books? He said, it's all the ones I did not write when my kids were young. So stop asking me questions about writing books and focus on your family.

That's basically what he told me. The freedom of a single person to pursue certain things, both recreational and community-based, recreational and career-wise and ministry-wise is astounding. Single ladies, you get to listen to and follow the Holy Spirit with so much freedom. For a married woman, so much of her ministry is assigned to her. My wife is a full-time missionary to the unreached people group known as the Career Kids.

And they're pretty savage, okay? It is no easy assignment, I grant you. But that's her assignment.

All right, if you're not married, you get to choose where you get engaged. No matter what season of life you're in, God has a plan for you. If you missed any part of today's teaching or if you want to share it with someone else, you can access it anytime or even download the transcript at Now, JD, our listeners hear from us every day, but it's not as often that we hear from them. So it's a real treat when we get a letter or an email or a phone call. Yeah, Molly, you know, speaking on behalf of all of us at Summit Life and you and I have talked about this, there really is nothing as special or as encouraging for us as hearing firsthand from you about how God is using this program, this teaching to change lives for eternity, whether it's yours or somebody that you know.

To everybody listening right now who has supported Summit Life financially, I just want to say on behalf of all of us, thank you. You have a part in every one of these incredible letters that we get. And I hope that you will feel a sense of gratitude and satisfaction at the way that God is using your prayers and your generosity to make His Word grow and multiply in the lives of a lot of our listeners.

So thank you for giving. And for those of you whose lives are being impacted or you know of stories, reach out and let us know because it really is such a privilege and joy to be a part of your life daily and to be a part of your spiritual growth. There really is nothing like hearing from you. You can email us anytime at requests at or call 866-335-5220.

Get in touch with us and let us know how we can be praying for you or share your story of how God has used Summit Life to speak to you and draw you closer to Him. I'm Molly Vidovich inviting you to join us next time as we finish today's message on why singleness matters. We'll see you tomorrow right here on Summit Life with J.D. Greer. Today's program was produced and sponsored by J.D. Greer Ministries.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-03-09 10:18:50 / 2023-03-09 10:29:39 / 11

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