What Does The Bible Say About Being Single?

by Jack Wellman · Print Print · Email Email

Does the Bible say much about remaining single? Are there commands or preferences to being single if one is not yet married?

Is there a Preference for Singleness?

Many believe that when Paul wrote “To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is good for them to remain single as I am” (1 Cor 7:8) that he is insisting that single people stay single but is this what he was really saying?  Context is always king so looking at the entire chapter of 1 Corinthians we read in verses 6-7, “Now as a concession, not a command, I say this.  I wish that all were as I myself am. But each has his own gift from God, one of one kind and one of another” so this is not a command from Paul and thus it is not a command from God to remain single. Paul only says that “it is good for them to remain single as I am” but then he qualifies this by writing “But if they cannot exercise self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to burn with passion” (1 Cor 7:9).  Apparently, some have a greater ability to control their passions for the opposite sex and some do not.  We are all wired differently by God.  Paul is clearly not saying that if you’re single, you should remain single no matter what.  What he is saying is that if you’re single, it’s good to remain single but if you can’t “exercise self-control” then it’s better that you “should marry” for its much “better to marry than to burn with passion” and sin in the process.  Obviously not everyone can exercise self-control but some clearly can.

What Does The Bible Say About Being Single

Live as You’re Called

When a person comes to saving faith in Christ, Paul urges them to remain in the same state wherein they were called or saved.  This is what he writes in 1 Corinthians 7:17 “Only let each person lead the life that the Lord has assigned to him, and to which God has called him. This is my rule in all the churches.” If you were called by God and married at the time of your calling or if you were called as a single adult then Paul says “Each one should remain in the condition in which he was called” (1 Cor 7:20) and “So, brothers, in whatever condition each was called, there let him remain with God” (1 Cor 7:24).  What Paul is writing is that we should remain where we are when we are called and not seek to change our status in life after we’re saved, whether married or single, rich or poor, slave or free (which today could be whether an employee or employer).

The Preference of Singleness

When someone is single, they can devote much more of their time, treasure, and talent for God and the work of His kingdom. The only reason that Paul writes this is because he wants “you to be free from anxieties. The unmarried man is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to please the Lord. But the married man is anxious about worldly things, how to please his wife, and his interests are divided” (1 Cor 7:32-34a).  Next, he writes this because “the unmarried or betrothed woman is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to be holy in body and spirit. But the married woman is anxious about worldly things, how to please her husband” (1 Cor 7:34b).  What is his purpose for even writing these things?  He concludes “I say this for your own benefit, not to lay any restraint upon you, but to promote good order and to secure your undivided devotion to the Lord” (1 Cor 7:35).  It is in the male believer’s best interests to not have his interests divided between the wife and God and for the woman’s benefit who might be “anxious about worldly things [and] how to please her husband.”  That’s all, nothing more, nothing less.


Paul concludes by writing “So then he who marries his betrothed does well, and he who refrains from marriage will do even better” (1 Cor 7:38) but better for who?  Better for the Christian and also better for the Lord for they can devote more of their life to God.  God wants us to remain where we are when we are called and if you’re married to an unbeliever, you must remain married to the unbeliever.  If you’re single, Paul says it’s better to remain single but that was Paul’s urging and not a command from God.  Not everyone who is single is able to restrain their passions.  Some can and some can’t and if they can’t, then they should marry and that’s acceptable to God.  Paul’s final conclusion can be summed up in 1 Corinthians 7: 27-28a where he writes “Are you bound to a wife? Do not seek to be free. Are you free from a wife? Do not seek a wife. But if you do marry, you have not sinned.”

Take a look at this related article: Is It a Sin for Unmarried Christians to Live Together?

Resource – Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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