Could Celibacy be a Gift from God?

Celibacy

The Forgotten Gift of God

The following is an outline of the subject Celibacy of which an article will be published next week. We decided to first publish the outline as a case study for you to do the groundwork/Bible study before the article is published. This is the first time we decided to do something like this in anticipation that our readers will begin to develop positions on their own through rigorous study of scripture. Take the time, slowly, to go over the outline and see if you can see where the eventual conclusion will lead. This is a taboo subject in almost all faith-based communities and we wanted to tackle the issue with the goal truth and the glorification of God in mind.

Outline on Celibacy

  • Introduction – Celibacy is rarely spoken about these days anymore. The mere mention of the word invokes antiquated notions of abstinence, medieval times, and chastisement. However, the main of all Christendom is the truth, regardless of consequence, and that truth can only be realized in the fidelity to scripture. So, the following lecture is meant to provide a theological and biblical basis for celibacy and its relevance, if any, to the life of a modern Christian.
  • Celibacy – What is it?
    1. “The maintenance of a state of virginity; the avoidance of all sexual relationships.”[1]
    2. “Abstention by vow from marriage.”[2]
    3. The New Testament is rife with scripture about celibacy (abstinence) in regard to the believing community:
      1. 19:10-12; 1 Cor. 7:1, 2, 7-9, 25, 26, 32-40; 1 Cor. 9:15; 1Tim.4:1-3; Rev. 14:1, 4 w/v. 2-5.
    4. The Old Testament is a bit more ambiguous about the topic of celibacy, reserved mainly for those waiting to be married. Certainly, the Song of Solomon is a call to abstinence from the women of Israel. It was not until the New Testament that celibacy took on a more regal or “gift” that if received (or some would say chosen) glorified God. This is normally lost in lectures and sermons.
    5. Could Celibacy be more sacred than marriage?
    6. Now let’s look at Sex, from a theological basis.
  • Sex – Although it is commonly thought of as only a gift, sex, and the misuse or misappropriation of it has caused more problems throughout history than any other act known to man, even murder; for sex is commonly what caused the murder.
    1. In Genesis, before the fall, we see that sex was gifted by God to man/woman (Gen. 5:4-25). Notice that we do not know how long, but Adam did spend time in Eden before God gave him a helpmate (Eve). It took Adam time to become aware of himself and his surroundings before God saw that he was ready for companionship.
      1. Knowledge of Self/Social Readiness – Once Adam was ready and mature, God made him a partner, this is where we get marriage from, the Genesis of Marriage. God gifts them sex for confirmation of commitment, expressing loyalty, surrendering oneself to another, setting up family, comfort emotionally, and physical pleasure.[3]
      2. The Fall – The fall in Eden changes things, immediately we see lust and shame enter humanity (Gen. 3:7-11). This has catastrophic implications for the purpose of sex throughout the rest of humanity. It is at this point that sex is no longer just a gift, but like so many other gifts, if not used properly can, and will become a curse. This is echoed throughout the rest of the Bible with homosexuality, adultery, rape, incest, pedophilia, fornication, etc. From Genesis on, the Bible shows one example after another of how sex brings down a man and dishonors God: Judges, Sodom and Gomorrah, (here I will open the class to a discussion of the various places in the Old Testament (and New) where sexual sin has given way to chaos.
    2. Therefore the purpose of sex, like all other gifts, is for the glorification of God’s divine choice decree that man and women are to be joined, in one flesh, for Holy matrimony. This is the only place for it, with no exceptions. In today’s world, this is a hard pill to swallow!
    3. Now let’s look to the New Testament for its remedies.
  • New Testament Doctrine on Sex.
    1. The New Testament is fairly clear on sex, much like we see in the Old Testament, only for marriage or abstain. However, their placement for celibacy has been maligned over the centuries. As we will see from the scriptures, celibacy is gifted and sacred.
    2. There are two main scriptures to look at concerning celibacy and its holiness. Most passages are for those wanting to marry. Today we look at 1 Cor. 7:7-9 and Mt. 19:10-12.
    3. 1 Corinthians 7:6-9: “Now as a concession, not a command, I say this. I wish that all were as I myself am. But each has his own gift from God, one of one kind and one of another. To the unmarried and the widows, I say that it is good for them to remain single, as I am.  But if they cannot exercise self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to burn with passion” (ESV).
      1. The strength of this passage is not its intended meaning, that is simple; if you cannot abstain from lust then marry. The power of the passage lies in the phrase, but each has his own gift from God. What Paul is telling us is that abstention from the perils and complications of sex is a gift from God.
      2. The word gift in the passage is “χάρισμα; meaning (charisma). n. neut. something is graciously given; a gift. Something that is freely given on account of favor and kindness.”[4] Celibacy is not only a choice but a gift from God to serve him as Paul serves him. This has a much different connotation then abstaining because you cannot control yourself, which is the only way most of humanity can only comprehend.
    4. Matthew 19:10-12: “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” (ESV).
      1. This is the most telling of all the scriptures about celibacy although it is the most forgotten. Most people are not even aware that Jesus spoken on this subject, I was not!
      2. Most people zero in on the word eunuch here which is not the focus of the passage. “A eunuch for the sake “of the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 19:12 HCSB) is likely a metaphor for one choosing single life to be more useful in kingdom work (cp. 1 Cor. 7:32–34).”[5]
  • It is easy to overlook this passage because in modern terms we have abolished eunuchs from our society. However, taken into consideration what Jesus is referring to is greater than most people can comprehend, he is exalting celibacy for the advancement of the Kingdom of God.
  1. The two main parts of the verse are “can receive” and “those to whom it is given.”
    • Can Receive (χωρέω) – is a double verb tense meaning cognitive knowledge. to receive ⇔ contain — to receive cognitively, conceived of as being capable of holding or containing something. Christ is emphasizing that only those how can accept this mentally and physically can contain this gift.
    • Whom it is given “(δίδωμι) – (didōmi). vb. to give, to offer. A general word for giving; in a sacrificial context, it can refer to the presentation of an offering.”[6] Christ is explaining directly to his disciples that few can comprehend this gift, but only those able to accept this should accept it as an offering for the sake of the Kingdom. Like Paul Jesus tells us that abstaining from the arena of sexual parameters that outline the uses of sex is not only gifted but should be received as a token of honor, as only a few can, who receive it.
  • Conclusion – We can see that sex was given to mankind for his/her benefit. Out of our own self-glorification, we misuse and have misused, sex for purely self-gratifying reasons causing a great schism in the power of sex. Out of God’s grace and mercy he has set parameters for his glorification in our sexual endeavors that are intended for our benefit. Those are marriage and celibacy. We have seen that the harder of those two choices is celibacy, but it is not one to be maligned or discarded to the less fortunate. On the contrary, abstaining from the pitfalls that are created out of sexual passion was not only taken from Paul and Jesus, but it was also extolled as a gift given to the few who are able to receive this favor to advance God’s great kingdom here on earth.

 

Bibliography

Brand, Chad, Eric Alan Mitchell, Steve Bonds, E. Ray Clendenen, Trent C. Butler, and Bill Latta. Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary. Nashville, TN: Holman Reference, 2003.

Cairns, Alan. Dictionary of Theological Terms. Greenville, SC: Ambassador-Emerald International, 2002.

Lo, Jonathan W, and Douglas Mangum. Lexham Theological Workbook. Lexham Bible Reference. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2014.

Mazzalongo, Mike. “Bible Study on Marriage – What Is a Biblical Marriage?” YouTube, April 4, 2017. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zP8c-Zbwpug.

Footnotes

[1] Alan Cairns, Dictionary of Theological Terms (Belfast; Greenville, SC: Ambassador Emerald International, 2002), 79.

[2] Chad Brand, Charles Draper, et al., eds., “Celibacy,” Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2003), 274.

[3] Mike Mazzalongo, “Bible Study on Marriage – What Is a Biblical Marriage?,” YouTube, April 4, 2017, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zP8c-Zbwpug.

[4] Jonathan W. Lo, “Grace,” ed. Douglas Mangum et al., Lexham Theological Wordbook, Lexham Bible Reference Series (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2014).

[5] Chad Brand, Charles Draper, et al., eds., “Eunuch,” Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2003), 517.

[6] Lesley Difransico, “Sacrifice,” ed. Douglas Mangum et al., Lexham Theological Wordbook, Lexham Bible Reference Series (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2014).

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