Often times, churches work so hard to speak to the calling and ministry of marriage that Christians who are single can begin to wonder if deep down, God wishes everyone was married. Not only that, but how we understand God’s command to Adam and Eve to “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it,1” in the garden also can lead to single Christians wondering if they are somehow disobeying God’s original command as well as lead married Christians to a sense of self-righteousness, though not in a marriage in line with the Gospel. But Jesus is clear that there can be an equal call to God-glorifying singleness in the New Covenant as there is to marriage2. Not only that, but Jesus makes statements to the Sadducees that marriage is an earthly institution that is not necessarily reflected in the post-resurrection Kingdom of God3. In the Garden of Eden, physical reproduction and spiritual reproduction were one in the same. Had Adam and Eve not sinned in the garden, their children would have been born children of God, in an intimate relationship with Him. But under the Fall, humans must be born physically and born “again” spiritually4. Therefore, Jesus, “the new Adam,” commands His disciples to be fruitful and multiply by making disciples of those who have been physically born, but not spiritually born again. Under this command, there is plenty of room for single people to be fruitful and multiply, filling the earth with people who reflect the full image of God on the earth. In fact, Paul references the reality that the ministry of marriage can actually be a distraction at times to the calling to fill the earth with disciples. And although he believes in the ministry of marriage5 he expresses his joy in being free to make disciples unhindered by the competing ministry of marriage and wishes that everyone could experience that freedom as well6. Marriage is a calling that honors God. Singleness is a calling that honors God. Neither is preferred. Neither is better or worse. Both can spiritually multiply. Both can fill the earth with people who fully reflect the image of God. As such, there is no position in the church that should have marriage as a requirement attached to it, and those living in line with the Gospel should celebrate people called to singleness every bit as much as those called to be married.
FOOTNOTES: 1 Genesis 1:28 2 Matthew 19:11-12 3 Matthew 22:29-32 4 John 3:1-15 5 Ephesians 5:22-33 6 1 Corinthians 7:28-32
For further study, see our Position Paper on Marriage.