If we search the Scriptures, we will find that depending on the circumstances, God endorses both being married and being single. Let us look briefly at what He has to say about each state.
In Genesis 2:18 we read: “And the Lord God said, ‘It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him.’” In verses 21-24 we further read: “And the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall on Adam, and he slept; and He took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh in its place. Then the rib which the Lord God had taken from man He made into a woman, and He brought her to the man. And Adam said: ‘This is now bone of my bones And flesh of my flesh; She shall be called Woman, Because she was taken out of Man. Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.’”
And so, in the second chapter of the Bible, we see that marriage was instituted between a man and a woman. There is no other combination approved by God’s Word in spite of modern-day secular legislation.
In Unger’s Bible Dictionary under the heading “Marriage” – Origin (page 817), we read the following: “Marriage is a divine institution designed to form a permanent union between man and woman that they might be helpful to one another (Genesis 2:18). Moses presents it as the deepest corporeal and spiritual unity of man and woman, and monogamy as the form of marriage ordained by God (Genesis 2:24; cf Matthew 19:5). Without the marital tie, the inhabitants of this world would have been a mixed multitude. The family circle, family instruction, and parental love and care would have been altogether unknown.”
There are many instructions to “go forth and multiply,” and this was within the institution of marriage (see for example Genesis 9:1 to Noah and his sons after the flood; 9:7; 35:11; 47:27, etc). Population was needed after the flood, and the nation Israel would be raised up through whom the Saviour, Jesus Christ, would be born from the tribe of Judah (see Genesis 49:10).
We should also note the references to Christ and the Church. In Ephesians 5:22-33, instruction is given to both husbands and wives, and in verse 32 we read: “This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church.” Revelation 19:7 sheds more light on this relationship: “Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife (the church) has made herself ready.”
In our booklet “Is That in the Bible? – The Mysteries of the Book of Revelation!,” a number of comments are made about this relationship, as follows:
“As we can see from Ephesians 5:31–32, Paul is addressing here the mystery of the relationship between Christ and His Church. He emphasizes that those who are called must come out of the ways of this world in order to be joined with Christ. Christ must be continuously living within them (1 John 2:15–17; Romans 12:2; Galatians 2:20). Paul also shows that the physical institution of marriage is pointing at a spiritual union between God and man. It is pointing at a spiritual marriage between Christ and His Church” (page 115)…
“Jesus spoke of Himself as the ‘bridegroom’ (Luke 5:34–35).When Jesus was on this earth, He taught that He would be taken away and that no ‘marriage’ would be consummated at that time.
“Note, as well, that Jesus gave a parable indicating that He, as the bridegroom, would return (compare Matthew 25:1–13). In this story, Jesus began His teaching with these very important words: ‘The kingdom of heaven shall be LIKENED to ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom’ (Matthew 25:1).
“Jesus presented this example of bridegroom and virgins (that is, the bride) as a means of instructing His Church to be ready for His return. Most importantly, the Church was to remain vigilant and not let God’s Holy Spirit (the “oil” for their lamps) fade out of their lives! He would only marry those who were ready.
“John the Baptist also referred to Jesus as the bridegroom (compare John 3:29). In his statement, John attested to the fact that Jesus was the Christ, and that he (John) was in a position of service, as if he were the friend in a marriage ceremony. This is, of course, just an analogy, because John will be in the first resurrection and therefore part of the bride.
“In a deeply symbolic series of statements, Paul instructs married members of the Church to love their mates (compare Ephesians 5:22–33). He draws on the selfless example of Christ’s love for His Church to make his point. Then, he mentions a profound truth about marriage, calling it ‘a great mystery’ (verse 32).
“Why is it a mystery? Because it is a truth hidden in the plan of God—hidden to those not called by God! Yet, God’s Church understands this mystery: Jesus Christ will marry His Church (compare, especially, verses 25–27)! Note what Paul also stated in this regard: ‘For I am jealous for you with godly jealousy. For I have betrothed you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ’ (2 Corinthians 11:2)” (pages 119-120)…
“The fact remains that Jesus Christ will marry His Church! We find this specifically promised in Revelation 19. Verse 7 states: ‘Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready.’ Understand that the wife spoken of here is comprised of ALL of the saints—ALL of those counted WORTHY for the first resurrection. Christians who live just before Christ’s return, also must be prepared—just as the parable of the ten virgins in Matthew 25 so clearly teaches.
“Carefully consider what is stated in Revelation 19:8: ‘And to her it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is THE RIGHTEOUS ACTS of the saints.’ The focus for who will be in this wedding ceremony centers on those who are righteous—that is, those who obey God! Here we gain insight to the fact that Christ will marry those who live righteous lives—something only possible through having the help of God’s Holy Spirit!” (page 121)…
“Speaking to Israel of a future time—a time when God will establish His Kingdom on the earth: ‘“And it shall be, IN THAT DAY,’ Says the LORD, “That you will call Me ‘My Husband…’”’ (Hosea 2:16). Then, in verses 19–20, we find that God promises to join Israel to Himself in an unending marriage: ‘I WILL BETROTH YOU TO ME FOREVER; Yes, I will betroth you to Me In righteousness and justice, In lovingkindness and mercy; I will betroth you to Me in faithfulness, And you shall know the LORD.’ It is important to realize that God will ‘betroth’ Israel in the future—AFTER Christ’s return and the FIRST resurrection. This shows that the ‘bride’ cannot only include those in the first resurrection” (pages 121/122).
Does this mean that marriage is the only acceptable state to God? Does God’s command from ancient times “to go forth and multiply” still apply today for every human being? Is every Christian obligated to follow through on this ancient instruction? Many men and women today may prefer to stay single for all sorts of reasons. While many of those reasons might be based on selfishness and improper motives, Paul addresses some valid concerns starting in 1 Corinthians 7:25. This was written at a time of persecution of the church, but the principles still apply today. In verse 32, Paul writes: “He who is unmarried cares for the things that belong to the Lord – how he may please the Lord.”
We read that Christ, when He was here on earth, was not married; and neither was John the Baptist. On the other hand, most of the apostles were married. As a Rabbi taught under Gamaliel, Paul (then known as Saul) seemed to have been married before his conversion, but some feel that his wife died. In any event, he was unmarried in his later life (1 Corinthians 7:8). He did not have the extra responsibilities, problems and stresses that can come with marriage and a family. He was able to devote his life to doing the Work of God. Had he been married, perhaps he might not have been so prolific in his writings and in his work of preaching the gospel? This does not mean that the apostles Peter and James—just to give a couple of examples—were in any way less productive because they were married. We read that Peter’s wife accompanied him on his travels and was undoubtedly a great help to him. However, Paul judged that in his case, it was better for him not to get married, while also emphasizing that it is not a sin to marry.
Jesus explained that some will not marry for several valid reasons, one of which is for the Kingdom of God’s sake (Matthew 19:10-12). As one observer remarked: “It is not a sin to remain single, even for your entire life. The most important thing in life is, not finding a mate and having children, but serving God.”
Of course, it would be physically impossible for everyone to be married anyway. Quoting from the “United Nations Statistics Division (in 2010)”, they state the following: “In today’s world, there are 57 million more men than women. This surplus of men is concentrated in the youngest age groups and steadily diminishes until it disappears at about age 50, thereafter becoming a surplus of women owing to their longer life expectancy. A surplus of men characterizes the world’s most populous countries – China and India – hence the large surplus of men worldwide. In most other countries, there are more women than men.”
The original question is, “Married or single – which is the ideal state?” And the answer is simple. It is that state which is best for the individual with neither necessarily better than the other. They both offer opportunities for the people of God Who wants all of His people to be happy, service-orientated and fulfilled, whether they are married or single.
Lead Writer: Brian Gale (United Kingdom)