I love marriage.  I love being married.  I love talking about marriage.  I love performing marriage ceremonies and I love to encourage young people that marriage blessed by God.  In a culture that promotes promiscuity and living together, it is important to encourage young people that God’s way is blessed and it is good.

Our sermon series on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood has emphasized marriage and the blessings for the home that come through marriage.  But today I want to address singleness and the blessings that God provides for those who are not married.

There are several important reasons for this emphasis today.
1.    Although most of us will marry, many will not.  The percentage of single people has been in creasing in our culture.
2.    Church life, schedule and leadership are structured around married people.  It is important that we do not overlook the contribution and giftedness of single believers.
3.    There are unhappy singles, AND there are unhappy married people.  Marriage or Singleness does NOT DETERMINE your happiness or godliness.
4.    Single Christians are under represented in church leadership.
5.    Christian Singles need to be encouraged in our marriage and family environment.

Our approach for this sermon will be as follows:
1.    We will examine the PROPHETIC and CURRENT understanding of Isaiah 56:1-5.
2.    We will develop a theological perspective on Singleness and Marriage
3.    We will ask, “What can the CHURCH learn from our Singles?”
4.    Finally, we will examine Practical Considerations for the church, including the subject of online dating.

Faithfulness is More Important than Marriage.  Isaiah 56:1-5
“Thus says the Lord: “Keep justice, and do righteousness, for soon my salvation will come, and my righteousness be revealed. Blessed is the man who does this, and the son of man who holds it fast, who keeps the Sabbath, not profaning it, and keeps his hand from doing any evil.” Let not the foreigner who has joined himself to the Lord say, “The Lord will surely separate me from his people”; and let not the eunuch say, “Behold, I am a dry tree.” For thus says the Lord: “To the eunuchs who keep my Sabbaths, who choose the things that please me and hold fast my covenant, I will give in my house and within my walls a monument and a name better than sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name that shall not be cut off.”  (Isaiah 56:1–5, ESV)

The emphasis on eunuchs and foreigners is significant in this passage.  Both of those groups were excluded from certain aspects of the worship life of Israel and many of the blessings associated with God’s reward for the faithful.  In the fulfillment of God’s future kingdom, eunuchs and foreigners will be given the same rights as every other child of God, and according to this passage, a name “better than sons and daughters.”

When Messiah comes the people of God will no longer be an ethnic people expanded through the birth of more ethnic Jews.  Foreigners and eunuchs were unable to produce new Jewish babies.  Instead, Messiah’s Kingdom will be a kingdom expanded by those who “keep the sabbath.”  This is a reference to the necessity of faith in order to be a part of God’s family.  We see this emphasis in many Messianic passages in the OT and throughout the teaching of Jesus and the words of the Epistles.

I am Indebted to a sermon by John Piper, and a paper by Barry Danylak for thoughts on this passage.  (John Piper, “A Name Better than Sons and Daughters,” April 29, 2007, desiringgod.org.  Barry Danylak, “A Biblical-Theological Perspective on Singlenss,” 2006.

The Context of Isaiah 55-60.  This passage provides a warning to Judah and hope for the future.
First, notice the emphasis of MESSIANIC HOPE in this section of Isaiah’s prophesy.
Isaiah 58:6  “Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the straps of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke?”
58:8-9.  “Then shall your light break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up speedily; your righteousness shall go before you; the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard. Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer; you shall cry, and he will say, ‘Here I am.’ If you take away the yoke from your midst, the pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness,” (Isaiah 58:8–9, ESV)
59:19-20  “So they shall fear the name of the Lord from the west, and his glory from the rising of the sun; for he will come like a rushing stream, which the wind of the Lord drives. “And a Redeemer will come to Zion, to those in Jacob who turn from transgression,” declares the Lord.”
60:1-2  “Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you. For behold, darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the peoples,but the Lord will arise upon you, and his glory will be seen upon you.”
60:19  “The sun shall be no more your light by day, nor for brightness shall the moon give you light; but the Lord will be your everlasting light, and your God will be your glory.”

These are familiar Messianic promises.  Our passage about the blessings to unmarried people foreigners (non-Jews) is contained within this context.

But a second emphasis in these chapters is the WARNING to JUDAH.  It is a reminder that generations of Jewish people were disobedient.  For all of the centuries of Judaism the natural descendants of Israel failed in their covenant keeping responsibility.  God would need to establish his kingdom through some other method than natural born Jewish people.
57:11 “Whom did you dread and fear, so that you lied, and did not remember me, did not lay it to heart? Have I not held my peace, even for a long time, and you do not fear me?”
59:1-2  “Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save, or his ear dull, that it cannot hear; but your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear.”
59:19  “So they shall fear the name of the Lord from the west, and his glory from the rising of the sun; for he will come like a rushing stream, which the wind of the Lord drives”

SO, there is an IMMEDIATE WARNING and a FUTURE PROMISE.   This establishes the principle that to enter God’s Kingdom we need to be born in a different way.  This is the way of faith in Messiah.

But, is the promise for NOW or is it for the future Kingdom?
The spiritual aspects occur NOW.  The physical aspects for Israel occur in the Coming Kingdom.  Both are inaugurated in Christ’s First Coming.  The emphasis of this is seen in the most familiar portion of these chapters, Isaiah 61:1-2 “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn”
This is the passage that Jesus quoted in Luke 4:18-19 in the synagogue in Nazareth at the beginning of his ministry.  He stopped reading in the middle of these verses, indicating that the judgment portions of the Messiah’s coming would be separated into the distant future, a future we still await today.

Through Christ’s BIRTH and DEATH God accomplishes what GENERATIONS of human births could not.  GOD ESTABLISHES HIS KINGDOM through CHRIST.  We become partakers of his kingdom through SPIRITUAL BIRTH, not physical birth.

The meaning of this is that we enter Christ’s Kingdom by FAITH.  Single believers are of equal significance in his Kingdom and receive greater reward because their lives can be completed devoted to making spiritual children of God.  Those who are married must devote much attention to their physical families, but single believers have a greater ability to bring forth spiritual children.

This Leads us to a Theological Perspective on Singleness and Marriage.
The OT established an ETHNIC people of God expanded by HAVING CHILDREN
We see this in the following ways:
God’s command to Adam.  Gen 1:27
God’s promise to Abraham.  Genesis 12:1-3
The births of Isaac, Jacob and the Twelve Tribes of Israel
ALL of this pointed to the most miraculous of all births – JESUS.

Now, we become His Children through FAITH.
“That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’” (John 3:6–7, ESV)
“So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” (Romans 10:17, ESV)
“since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God;” (1 Peter 1:23, ESV)

We don’t add to God’s family by having physical children.  We add to his family by bringing forth SPIRITUAL CHILDREN.  In this Christian Singles have a great advantage over married believers.

There are many reasons by which a believer might be single today.  Some have never married.  Others are divorced, or widows.  Some choose to remain celibate for service to God.  This is referred to by Jesus: “For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Let the one who is able to receive this receive it.”” (Matthew 19:12, ESV)

This is also the emphasis of 1 Corinthians 7:25–38
“I want 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. And 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. 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. If anyone thinks that he is not behaving properly toward his betrothed, if his passions are strong, and it has to be, let him do as he wishes: let them marry—it is no sin. But whoever is firmly established in his heart, being under no necessity but having his desire under control, and has determined this in his heart, to keep her as his betrothed, he will do well. So then he who marries his betrothed does well, and he who refrains from marriage will do even better.” (1 Corinthians 7:32–38, ESV)

What are the Lessons the Church Can Learn from Christian Singles?
1.  The Body grows through faith in Christ.
2.  Marriage and families are temporary and will be superceded by our ultimate union with Christ.    “For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven.” (Matthew 22:30, ESV)
“As he said these things, a woman in the crowd raised her voice and said to him, “Blessed is the womb that bore you, and the breasts at which you nursed!” But he said, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it!”” (Luke 11:27–28, ESV)
“For I feel a divine jealousy for you, since I betrothed you to one husband, to present you as a pure virgin to Christ.” (2 Corinthians 11:2, ESV)
“Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God.” (Romans 7:4, ESV)

3.  God’s purpose in marriage is to show us the beauty of our ultimate union with Christ.   Eph 5:25-27    “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.”     5:21-32   ““Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.”

4.  On earth, devotion to Christ is our ultimate goal and provides greater satisfaction than earthly relationships.  “(Christian singleness) is not a calling to extend irresponsible adolescence into your thirties.  It is a calling to do what only single men and women in Christ can do in this world, namely to display by the Christ-exalting devotion of your singleness, the truths about Christ and his kingdom that shine more clearly through singleness than through marriage.”  (John Piper)

5.  Our spiritual family is closer than our physical family.  “And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life.” (Matthew 19:29, ESV)
“But he replied to the man who told him, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” And stretching out his hand toward his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”” (Matthew 12:48–50, ESV)

Practical Considerations
1. Honor our singles.
2. In the church, young singles often desire to fellowship together.  (They can reach their peers, find potential husbands, wives  – They have similar interests and life status)
3. OLDER singles desire to with the church family and should be consciously integrated into fellowship groups for partnership, learning, teaching.
4.  Remember Spiritual Singles (unsaved spouses).  Invite their spouses.  Have faith that they will believe!  (1 Peter 3:1-2).
5.  Leadership should not be restricted to married men and women.
6.  What about Christian Single dating sites?  I believe this is a personal choice.  Some point to the example of Abraham sending his servant to search for a son for Isaac as an example that gives precedent for the use of a dating website.  My encouragement is to trust in God.  God will provide.

In 1 Corinthians 7:32 Paul writes that the unmarried man is anxious about the things of the Lord.  It is sad that most single men and women, especially those under 30 are anxious about finding a spouse!  Our devotion to Christ should be our first priority.  It should be the thing that we are focused on.  When this is in order, God will take care of providing a spouse, or providing the grace to remain single and devoted to Christ.