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Thursday, March 12, 2009

A Word to Single Women from John Piper

(This is an excerpt from Piper's message "The Ultimate Meaning of True Womanhood"; listen or watch. Before listening to this message, I never considered how singleness can magnify God's love in ways marriage cannot.)

The apostle Paul loved his singleness, really loved his singleness. He loved it because it gave him such radical freedom to get arrested month after month without having a wife at home crying her eyes out, and to be beaten with rods over and over, and be lashed so that his back became jelly five times multiplied by 39, and so he could be shipwrecked at sea. Singleness is a high calling if you take it like that. He celebrated it and called many of you to follow him in it, even though marriage is meant to display the glory of Christ.

So how can that be? Why would He lure some of you out of marriage, that is out of pursuing marriage? Why would He do that if He made marriage as this magnificent portrait of His Son's covenant-keeping love with His bride so that husbands and wives, living out their unique manhood and womanhood, become a magnificent drama of that glory? Why would He lure anybody away from that, which He does? There's a very clear reason why.

In this season of history since the Fall, the natural order that God established at the beginning is not absolute. "It's not good that man should be alone. It's not good that woman should be alone." That's true. It's just not absolutely true because now sin has entered into the world, and there are other things to take into consideration besides the sheer natural order that God set up before there was sin and collapse, and thousands and millions of people to be rescued from perishing. The reason that it is not an assault on God's glory for the apostle Paul to say, "I would that you were single like I am, if you had the gift" (see 1 Corinthians 7:7).

The reason that's not an assault on God's glory is that in this world there are truths about Christ and His kingdom which can be more clearly displayed by womanhood in singleness and manhood in singleness than by womanhood in marriage and manhood in marriage. I'll give you three of them.

These are three things that your womanly singleness can say better to the world than any married woman can say by virtue of her marriage.

1) A life of Christ-exalting singleness bears witness that the family of God grows by regeneration through faith not propagation through sexual intercourse. The family of God grows by regeneration not by propagation, by faith, not sexual intercourse. The main thing we're about is growing that family. So if you never marry, and you embrace a lifetime of chastity and biological childlessness, and you receive this from the Lord's hand as a mercy and a gift with contentment, and you gather to yourself the poor and the lonely, and you spend yourself for the gospel without self-pity; you will, in your unique single womanhood, magnify Christ in ways no married woman can.

2) A life of Christ-exalting singleness bears witness that relationships in Christ are more permanent and more precious than relationships in families. If a single woman turns without bitterness and regret from the absence of her own family and gives herself to creating God's family in the church, she will find a flowering for her womanhood in ways never dreamed of, and Christ will be uniquely honored.

3) The Christ-exalting singleness of a woman bears witness to the truth that marriage is temporary and finally gives way in the end to the relationship to which it was pointing all alone, Christ and the church, the way a picture is no longer needed when you're face to face.

Marriage is a beautiful thing, and I want to bear public witness and gratitude for Noel, who will have been my wife come December 21st forty years. I want to bear public witness that she has been a gift to me that I didn't deserve. We together have labored to raise five children and ten grandchildren and are still, with tears, laboring. As parents you never ever stop being a parent, we have now learned, never stop with tears, never stop with joy.

Nevertheless, she and I would both say, we say it with deep conviction: Marriage is not the main thing. It's momentary. Otherwise Jesus would not have said, "In the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage but are like angels in heaven because they do not die anymore." My relationship with Noel has a few more years, and then she and I will experience what that was all about, ultimately, with Him.

Therefore, a single woman who lives with that final day in view, and finds Christ to be her all in all here, says something very powerfully and very clearly about her Savior.

If you're interested in signing the "True Woman Manifesto" you can do that here, which is a beautiful statement about God's special plan for women.