Is Singleness a Lesser State than Marriage?

In American churches today, marriage is often a popular topic in Bible studies and sermons. Entire books about preparing for marriage have been written for young evangelical Christians, often encouraging them to find the person who will make them “whole.”

Some churches in America, as well as in other Western countries, have even made it an unspoken rule that a Christian cannot be mature if they are not married.

David J. MacLeod has found that such false teachings are based on the myth of fulfillment, which says a person can only find ultimate fulfillment once a person is in love, and the myth of normality, which is “the idea that normal, well-adjusted people get married, and abnormal, maladjusted people are single” (“An Alternative Lifestyle for Christians: Apostolic Counsel on Single Living,” Emmaus Journal 21, no.1 (2012): 4).

Christian singles may often feel isolated or attacked by those who claim they cannot be mature or complete in their relationship with Christ if they are not married. While evangelical Christian culture has sadly propagated this lie, the Bible states otherwise.

Scripture presents a high view of marriage, which is an institution that God set in place and made sacred. On the other hand, though, singleness in the Bible is also given a high view. Not only was the Lord Jesus Christ single throughout His earthly ministry, but the Apostle Paul was also single.

A single believer is not a lesser person or Christian. A person’s state in life, whether married or not, does not say anything about their maturity or position in the Christian faith.

Marriage, an Institution from God

In discussing divorce with the Jewish teachers of His day, Jesus spoke about the sacredness of marriage (Matthew 19:4-5). He quoted from Genesis 2:23-24, which describes God creating Eve and joining her together with Adam in matrimony, the first marriage.

Because of this sacred ceremony, which combines a man and woman into a one-flesh relationship, Jesus warned the Pharisees and teachers of the Law of the dangers of separating such a union. As He stated, “What God has joined together, let no one separate” (Matthew 19:6).

While the topic of divorce is not the focus of this article, the seriousness of the marriage union is quite evident in Jesus’ words. Rushing into relationships for the sake of getting married is not wise, as marriage is to be taken wisely.

Not only is the husband and wife bound together, but they are bound together before the Lord. Furthermore, God has also utilized the illustration of marriage in describing the relationship between Him and the church (Ephesians 5:32).

The mutual love and care that are supposed to be reflected in marriage are a picture of the greatest love of Jesus’ sacrificial love for His followers (Ephesians 5:21-33).

Therefore, marriage is a sacred and serious institution, which God has set in place. Anything outside of God’s institution of marriage between one man and one woman is violating this sacred union.

As a holy institution, the Lord has chosen to use the picture of marriage to illustrate His relationship with the church, who is His Bride.

Singleness and Paul

As is plain in the Bible, marriage is a good state for humans. However, the Bible never makes marriage a requirement for faith in Christ or Christian maturity. In fact, one of the most mature Christians a person can find in all history is the Apostle Paul, who was single.

Although some scholars have tried to claim that Paul was married because he was a member of the Sanhedrin, Paul identifies himself with those who are single in his letter to the Corinthian church (1 Corinthians 7:7).

Not only that, but Paul spends a great deal of time discussing singleness and its benefits in the Christian life (1 Corinthians 7).

In discussing singleness and marriage, he reminds the Corinthian believers then and Christians today that this age is fading away (1 Corinthians 7:29-31). Marriage is not an eternal institution and is only temporary.

In the age to come at the resurrection, people will neither marry nor be given in marriage (Matthew 22:30). Therefore, the Apostle Paul urges all believers to live wisely with such a truth in mind.

Also, Paul specifically states that single Christians can be singularly focused on serving God. As he states in his letter, “An unmarried woman or virgin is concerned about the Lord’s affairs: Her aim is to be devoted to the Lord in both body and spirit. But a married woman is concerned about the affairs of this world — how she can please her husband” (1 Corinthians 7:34, NIV).

Single believers have more time and energy to focus on serving God with their entire being. Paul reminds the Corinthians that married life will have troubles and is difficult, which can cause the Christian husband and wife to have divided attention away from the Lord (1 Corinthians 7:28, 32-35).

In either state a Christian chooses, Paul urges believers to give undivided attention to the Lord, thus affirming both the state of singleness and marriage (1 Corinthians 7:35).

Jesus and Singleness for the Kingdom of God

The Lord Jesus never married during His earthly ministry. While He is fully man, Jesus is also fully God and did not come to earth to experience marriage. Instead, His mission was to seek and to save the lost (Luke 19:10).

As was shown earlier in the article, Jesus affirms the sacredness of the marriage union as being binding before God. However, He also gave a high view of singleness in His teaching.

After a discussion about divorce, some of the disciples concluded that it was better not to get married (Matthew 19:10). The Lord does not affirm this misunderstanding, but rather teaches the disciples that some people will accept Jesus’ words and follow the call to singleness (Matthew 19:11).

Such followers may be born, made, or freely choose to be celibate or “eunuchs” for the sake of the kingdom of God (Matthew 19:12).

While many believers will choose to get married, there are some who will choose to remain single for the sake of God’s kingdom in devoting themselves to His service.

As John Chapman stated in a 2000 article in the Journal for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, “Being single … is affirmed by the Lord Jesus as a holy vocation” (“The Holy Vocation of Singleness,” par. 5).

Just as the Apostle Paul later reflected, Jesus declared that marriage is a temporary institution, which will not be present in the Eternal Kingdom (Matthew 22:30).

The last marriage will be the marriage between Christ and His Church, which consummates in the New Heaven and New Earth (Revelation 19:6-9).

Both single and married believers should be mindful of the fleeting nature of the present world and seek to glorify God with their life.

Keeping a Biblical View

As has been extensively shown, single Christians are not less than those who are married. Instead, a biblical view maintains the value of both married and single Christians. One is not holier or more apt to be mature than the other.

In today’s culture within Christian churches, there is a danger to see single brothers and sisters in Christ as incomplete or possibly even as spiritual failures. Such views are wrong and contradict the example of Jesus and Paul, who taught that singleness is a great calling in being solely devoted to the Lord.

Furthermore, single Christians, just like all believers, have all they need in life since “His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness” (2 Peter 1:3). All Christians can find complete fulfillment in Christ alone.

For further reading:

What Is the Biblical Definition of Marriage?

Is it True ‘What God Has Joined Let No One Separate’?

Love from the Garden to the Silver Screen

The Church Is the Bride of Christ — What Does that Mean?

What Does the ‘Husband of One Wife’ Mean in 1 Timothy 3:2?

Why Do We Pray for Love?

Why Is it Important to Have an Eternal Mindset?

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Sophia Bricker is a freelance writer who enjoys researching and writing articles on biblical and theological topics. In addition to contributing articles about biblical questions as a contract writer, she has also written for Unlocked devotional. Holding a Bachelor of Arts in Ministry and currently pursuing a Master of Arts in Ministry, she is passionate about the Bible and her faith in Jesus. When she isn’t busy studying or writing, Sophia enjoys spending time with family, reading, drawing, and gardening.   

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