If sexuality and/or marriage were a necessity for righteousness, surely Jesus would have participated in them. Despite what some shows and myths allude to, Jesus was a celibate man whose twelve male disciples and many other followers became His family. He understood that those who desired to follow the will of God were His household (Mark 3:31–35). He redefined relationships beyond the biological connection.
At the same time, through all of Jesus’ teaching He did not compel His followers to be celibate or remain single. If we look at the reasoning of Paul’s singleness in 1 Corinthians 7, we find the practical logic of singleness for the sake of the gospel, not because sexuality was inherently sinful in its pleasure of the physical.
First Corinthians 7:34 presents this practicality where spouses care about their families but singles can be single-focused on God and His “things.” Because of no “distractions” (v. 35), full attention can be devoted to God and His Kingdom. Anyone with a family, children, or other dependents to take care of knows the difficulty and weight that these beloved individuals bring. It is a different ministry entirely.
Second, verse 32 speaks of pleasing God as the main focus. Hebrews 11:5, 6 informs us that it takes faith to please God. Although both the single and the married can focus on faith to please God, singles can experience a different spirituality and intimacy with God alone, which is often complemented with aloneness and isolation. Whether it is permanent or temporary before marriage, this is a wonderful locus that should be taken advantage of.
Last, Paul presents some theological threads in which eschatology is presented in 1 Corinthians 7:29 (“the time is short”) and verse 31 (“this world is passing away”). In the context of the kingdom of God and the work of Jesus in the last days, Paul presents his entire life to be an offering in imitation of the Lord Jesus Christ and in service in these times.
What is amazing is that Paul’s singleness pointed to the ministry of Jesus. One powerful aspect of Christ’s ministry can be seen in Isaiah 53. Verses 2 and 3 describe the Suffering Servant, a passage so famous that it is highlighted in the Ethiopian’s conversion story in Acts 8. This Servant takes our griefs, our sorrows, our transgressions, and our iniquities; He is even “stricken, smitten by God” (Isa. 53:4, 5). Our response is to reject Him, crucify Him, and to bury Him in a rich man’s tomb. This is one of the clearest Messianic prophecies in the Hebrew Scriptures!
Verse 10 states, “When you make His soul an offering for sin, He shall see His seed, He shall prolong His days, and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in His hand.” Though He was single, His single-mindedness to the glory, work, and mission of God caused Him to have seed, offspring, or children! In other words, this would not be propagation by procreation but by discipleship and spiritual conversion through His sacrificial ministry.
Even more amazing, Isaiah 54:1 continues in exclamation, “ ‘Sing, O barren, you who have not borne! Break forth into singing, and cry aloud, you who have not labored with child! For more are the children of the desolate than the children of the married women,’ says the Lord.” The chapter then continues to describe how nonbiological children will inherit the kingdom of God on earth (cf. 1 Cor. 4:15). How much more poetic could a description of the gospel going forth be!