In the Fulness of Time/Part 121
|By: Dr. Thomas O. Figart; ©2009|
|Singleness is certainly not for all, since this would destroy the original plan of God for the multiplication of the human race through marriage. But neither is marriage for all, and the decision is always an individual choice which should never be made lightly.|
The Third Question Concerning Marriage
- Is Singleness Preferable? Matthew 19:10-12
- Matthew 19:10-12 “His disciples say unto him, if the case of the man be so with his wife, it is not good to marry. But he said unto them, All men cannot receive this saying, except they to whom it is given. For there are some eunuchs, who were so born from their mother’s womb; and there are some eunuchs who were made eunuchs by men; and there are eunuchs, who have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake. He that is able to receive it, let him receive it.”
Though this inquiry does not appear in the form of a question, it was certainly in the minds of the disciples. They were not a little perplexed by the previous discussion. Their dilemma centered around the strictness of Jesus’ teaching about divorce and remarriage, that is: “If the case of the man so be with his wife.”
It was not that they were hearing this for the first time; back in 5:32 Jesus had said the same thing, namely, that divorce was not permissible “except it be for fornication;” but here in 19:9 it was connected with Jesus’ denial of the Mosaic concession and its flagrant abuse in Israel. Divorce was practiced even among the Pharisees. But if the strict creation mode of marriage were enforced on all, then it would follow that “it is not good [from chorein, ‘to be expedient, or profitable’] to marry.”
Concerning the Twelve, we do not know how many of them were already married, except for Peter, whose mother-in-law Jesus healed (see Matthew 8:14-15). The question of marriage with all its duties and limitations may well have been much on their minds, because they had long since been committed to follow Jesus. Just how much Peter had to be away from home is not explained. The Apostle Paul made it clear in 1 Corinthians 7 that it was no easy thing for the married person to serve the Lord, but at the same time he also made it clear that it was better to marry than to burn with inward sexual desire and remain single. This is the case for all men, believers and unbelievers, since marriage is a divine institution. The decision to marry must be carefully considered in the light of a number of factors, including employment, the care of children, and in the case of believers, whether or not it will affect service for the Lord.
Therefore, the “saying” referred to by Jesus must be the matter of expediency, or profitability, along with the self-control needed in light of marital relations and responsibilities. For some this is not a problem, since they have been born eunuchs; that is, without the desire for marriage, either because of physical limitations or the lack of emotional and sexual appeal for this relationship. This is certainly not to imply that such people are homosexual; rather, they simply prefer the single life.
Others may have been “made eunuchs by men.” In those days castration was deliberately performed on some men who were given responsibility over women in oriental harems. The Ethiopian Eunuch in Acts 8:27 is a New Testament example. Still others “have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake.” These would not necessarily be the same as those who were born eunuchs, but would include those who may have adequate desires as well as opportunities for marriage, but have deliberately submitted these desires to the Lord, depending upon the control of the Holy Spirit specifically in the realm of sexual desire, so they can give themselves wholly to the Lord. Paul admonishes this very thing in 1 Corinthians 7:32: “But I would have you without care. He that is unmarried careth for the things that belong to the Lord, how he may please the Lord.” Here in Matthew 19:13 Jesus is quick to conclude that: “He that is able to receive it, let him receive it.”
Singleness is certainly not for all, since this would destroy the original plan of God for the multiplication of the human race through marriage. But neither is marriage for all, and the decision is always an individual choice which should never be made lightly. After all, another part of God’s purpose is to call out servants to take the gospel to the whole world (Matthew 28:19-20) and only “in the fulness of time” will we know just how many single missionaries He has used to help with this task.