This article seeks to encourage pastors to adopt a balanced approach when preaching and teaching about singleness in the church, grounded in Paul’s pastoral teachings in 1 Corinthians 7. The fact that marriage seems to be a norm for all Christians, and hence the disproportional attention given to marriage issues in our teachings, does not mean that marriage is to be aspired by all. It is paramount to recognise the gift and significance of singleness in the church. Granted, God cautions us against discouraging marriage, saying that those who discourage marriage are tantamount to false teachers (1 Timothy 4:3). However, to declare the whole counsel of God, we must faithfully teach on the subject of singleness which God lauds in 1 Corinthians 7. This article briefly expounds what God says about singleness from a passage that refers to a myriad of marital issues.

Context Overview

First Corinthians 7 delves into various issues concerning marital relationships and sexual purity. It is about equipping Christians regarding God’s design concerning marriage issues, ensuring clarity and understanding on these matters. Paul emphasises the importance of glorifying God in both marriage and singleness, offering pastoral counsel for believers in navigating these areas of life. It emanates from the two imperative phrases, which are repeated twice in 1 Corinthians 7:2; namely “each man should have sexual relations with his own wife” and “each woman should have sexual relations with her own husband.” These are the two ways to have God-glorifying monogamy that Paul provides, so that Christians may flee immoralities. The “how to” is provided in vv. 1–5.

Paul then shifts to focus in on the unmarried, furnishing us with two reasons why it is good to remain unmarried, so that you may glorify God. Notice the overarching purpose between Paul’s pastoral counsel to the married in vv. 1–5 (namely, to glorify God in marriage) and to the unmarried in vv. 6–9 (namely to glorify God in your celibacy). This is why he says it is good to remain celibate. Besides the grand reason or purpose for remaining unmarred, there are two reasons to remain unmarried provided in the text. The first is to be a gift of singleness in the church (vv. 6–7). The second is to be a gift of self-control in the church (vv. 8–9).

In 1 Corinthians 7, Paul juxtaposes all issues pertaining to marriage, sexuality, divorce, remarriage, and singleness. It is singleness that we are going to zoom in on so that we may address this lacuna that exist in the church on the topic of singleness. If you ever miss some of the points made in the brief commentary on singleness, remember this one thing: both the married and unmarried are called to glorify God in the church. They all glorify God equally, because glorifying God is not dependent on one’s marital status.

Brief Commentary and Application

The much-neglected purpose for singleness that Paul anchors in 1 Corinthians 7 is that unmarried life is good. It is good because it has advantages that can be used to advance the gospel of Christ in the world. Celibacy has gospel purposes. Just like married life is good, we see in 1 Corinthians 7:6–9 that it is not good just by being married. It is good if being unmarried looks biblical. It has to be fitting to be single. With your singleness pointing to what makes it good. What makes it good is not the status itself, because not all unmarried people are unmarried by choice. Even those who are celibate by choice cannot point to themselves as the standard of goodness. Goodness must be measured against some perfection of goodness that we see outside of ourselves and our marital statuses.

We must locate the goodness of our statuses in Christ alone. He is the measure of goodness. If we live for him, whether married or not, then we will use our statuses to live out the goodness that God has placed us in. Where you are in life right now is good. Paul is not contradicting Genesis 2:18, but he is simply saying that your status should not inhibit you from living out in full the purpose for why God has chosen your current marital status. He is saying both the married and unmarried exist for the same purpose: to glorify God and to enjoy him forever. If you are married, you must be enjoying the goodness of marriage and how it enables you to glorify God. If you are unmarried, you must be enjoying the goodness of singleness and how it enables you to glorify God. All we have are different roles, but the goal is the same.

Therefore, celibacy is not good for celibacy’s sake. Celibacy is not what makes celibacy good; it is what you do when celibate that makes it look gospel-glorious. It is not good because you despise marriage, marital duties, or being with a spouse. If it is God’s will for you to remain unmarried, that means you still exist to worship and glorify God.

It is not for marriage nor celibacy that we exist, which is why we should be God glorifying and living out the gospel fully to the glory of God before marriage, because marriage is not going to enable you to do that. Likewise, if you are single not out of choice, it is not the choosing to remain celibate that will enable you to worship and glorify God if you are not doing it already. It is good to be celibate only if it will be for the purpose of glorifying God, otherwise you will not be using celibacy for what it is meant for. Some may not initially have good reasons for being celibate, but after meeting Christ they may adorn their celibacy with the glory of God. It will not be because they frown upon married, discourage marriage or not support and enjoy seeing people flourish in marriage. They will have a perfect balance, and a biblical worldview that Paul shares in 1 Corinthians 7. Overall 1 Corinthians 7:6–9 teaches that celibacy is only good if it is done God’s way. As we say marriage done God’s way works all the time; so does celibacy done God’s way. In 1 Corinthians 7:28 Paul describes the goodness and God-glorifying celibacy by saying it benefits unmarried Christians to have less troubles in life, in v. 32 less anxiety, in v. 35 good order and undivided devotion to the Lord, and in v. 40 a happier life in the Lord.

This may come as a surprise if one is not carefully following Paul’s logic in this text, or disproportionally emphasising certain truths in a fragmented manner. Paul writing about celibacy in 1 Corinthians 7:7 may come as a surprise seeing that up to this point he has given us a high view of marriage and how normal intimacy is as part of marriage. But he carefully says in v. 5, that if married people are to depart from the norm and find it difficult to juggle devotion to marriage and to the Lord, it would be better in vv. 6–7 if they were not married. He is not saying hope for a divorce or loath your marriage now or marriage in general, but he is saying, as far as he can deduce from what God teaches concerning marriage, he can give permission, even if there is no command from the Lord and this permission functions as though it were a command from the Lord.

Paul sees his preference of being unmarried as good because both marital statuses are good and can produce good or are meant for good in the eyes of God. An unmarried person is a gift to the church, not that the status of being unmarried is a gift itself, but the unmarried person can do so much for the Lord, more than married people can. But don’t misunderstand Paul. He is not suggesting that one is better than the other, because if God has given you marriage and you use your marriage status and all that God enables you to do faithfully and fully to the glory of God, then God is pleased with that. He won’t require from you what unmarried people have the freedom and more time to do. Likewise, if you are unmarried God requires from you what he has enabled you to accomplish as an unmarried person, so use the privilege of being unmarried fully to serve the Lord. After all, being faithful to the Lord and productive in a way that is fully pleasing to him is using the marital status he has given you to serve him within its confines.

Pastor Doug suggests,

Those who are single are not to be defined by what they are not. Rather, in the sovereign design of God, the currently single person is thereby gifted to serve the church, in a variety of ways. Singles can perhaps be a spiritual parent to brothers and sisters in Christ. They can reveal the sufficiency of Jesus Christ for a fulfilled life. They can serve as a foreshadowing of the church’s teleological-eschatological future of our marriage to the Lord Jesus Christ. They can help those who are married to grow in Christ.  They can serve the Lord in an undistracted way. Those who are single are not to be pitied: They are to be treasured.


In conclusion, Paul’s teaching on singleness within the church context in sections of 1 Corinthians 7 illuminates a vital aspect of Christian life often overshadowed by emphasis on marriage. By examining 1 Corinthians 7 carefully, we may glean profound insights into the goodness of singleness and its divine potential for glorifying God. Singleness, like marriage, is not merely a state of being but a platform for serving God and his purposes. As believers, whether married or single, our ultimate goal remains the same: to honour God and enjoy him forever. Therefore, let us recognise and celebrate the diverse roles within the body of Christ, cherishing singles for their invaluable contributions and unique opportunities to serve the church and advance the gospel of Christ.