July 22

“’And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery.’ The disciples said to him, ‘If such is the case of a man with his wife, it is better not to marry.’ But he said to them, ‘Not everyone can receive this saying, but only those to whom it is given. 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 19:9-12)

Jesus Christ is the most striking biblical example of an unmarried man.  Here he comments that it is better to stay unmarried than to get married and divorced for any reason other than your partner’s sexual infidelity. Unfortunately, today many people will agree with this statement—many who having sexual intimacy, and may be living with their (male or female) partner, even having children together. But Jesus is saying that it is better to remain celibate and single if you aren’t committed to staying married to one person, of the opposite sex, for the duration of yours or their life. I imagine that the number of people today who would choose to remain celibate is small, as it was then. Jesus says that only those “to whom it is given” will be able to stay single and chaste.

God, in his grace, and with the power of the Holy Spirit gives us the ability to obey his commands. It is not by our own strength that we even desire to submit to God’s rule over our lives. It is by the combined strength of the indwelling Spirit, the call of God on our lives, and the sanctified muscle we develop that we even begin to obey the Lord. Sexual obedience is especially challenging for young people, so perhaps God must give believers something to induce them to remain single. That “something” is usually called a spiritual gift, but it could also be a consequence of unfortunate event early in the life of a person, such as sexual abuse, or a medical problem. Jesus describes three types of eunuchs here: those who are somehow born without sexual ability (physically), those who were emasculated by others, (for the sake of their service to royalty usually), and men who decided to become asexual to focus on serving the Lord, for the sake of the kingdom of heaven.

As usual, my objective today is not to make a particular point, but to familiarize ourselves with the teaching of Scripture as regards marriage and singleness. Whether we study the Bible exegetically or topically, as we are doing here, our goal should be to become so familiar with God’s Word that we think, act, and live according to it, with appreciation, understanding, trust, and compliance. I don’t know about you, but I haven’t arrived there yet; I continue to look at texts like these as if they are alien to me, in spite of having the gift of singleness. But as those whose life is hidden in Christ, whatever he has said should be the most natural and easy thing for us to accept.

As you worship today in church, will you listen to God’s Word preached as that which you trust and plan to comply with? Will you encourage the couples in your church who have remained married and the singles who have faithfully trusted Christ to meet their need for intimacy?

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