Monday, August 14, 2006
Lead the Life that the Lord has Assigned
Continuing my book study, I have struggled with the latest chapter of Debbie Maken's book. Chapter 2 is entitled "What the Bible says about being single", but I am not sure if it really does say what she says it does.

The main focus for this chapter is first Jesus' teaching in Matthew 19:4-11. Martin Luther wrote that only those people who were physically unable to participate in marriage or who had received a special direction from God to be single were exempt from the creation ordinance of marriage so "apart from these groups, let no man presume to be without a spouse." Maken takes it another step further saying that "Being single without meeting the necessary criteria...is just as unbiblical as sexual activity outside marriage." Strong stuff, but I am not sure that she is justified in taking this point so far.

Paul's teaching in 1 Corinthians 7 is tackled too. I agree with her point that we have to take this passage and interpret it in light of the rest of Scripture, including Paul's own writings, where the importance and value of marriage is extolled.

Maken suggests that it was written for a particular situation faced by the Corinthian church so should not be used to form a complete 'policy' on marriage and singleness. It is difficult to know in what circumstances this letter was written. Commentators disagree on what the "present distress" might be. Some suggest that this refers to a particularly difficult period of famine and persecution faced by the Corinthian church, while others say this is the general trouble that comes with following the Lord.

John Calvin, in his commentary that "here you have two things worthy of observation. The first is, for what purpose celibacy is to be desired - not on its own account, nor on the ground of its being a state that is nearer to perfection, but that we may cleave to God without distraction - that being the one thing that a Christian man ought exclusively to look to during his whole life. The second thing is, that no snare must be put upon men's consciences, so as to keep back any one from marriage, but that every one must have liberty allowed him."

I am used to the subtle teaching within the church that there is almost a higher spiritual state achievable by single people, so I was interested to read this chapter. While I want to agree with her basic principles, I have real difficulty justifying this from Scripture. In the meantime, I will be again enouraged by Calvin who said, "the Apostle would wish those who are at present practicing chastity, to continue in it and persevere; but as they have no security for the continuance of the gift, he exhorts all to consider carefully what has been given them."

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.
I Corinthians 7:17

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