He makes the excellent point that the only legitimate reason to be single within the church is so that you can whole-heartedly serve the body in a way that married couples with children can’t. Wow! This whole idea seems to be totally foreign to many Christian singles today. We all know of a few single missionaries who are living this out, but would this characterize the majority of singles you know? Are they more involved in serving the church than married couples? Barry’s statistics show they are not. In the world, the reason many remain single is that it allows them to pursue their own passions and ambitions without hindrances. They have time and money to have all kinds of hobbies and pursuits that married folk just can’t have. I’m afraid that is also the unspoken reason for much of the singleness in the body of Christ as well. Perhaps the number of singles have been steadily rising because there is so much more alluring opportunities for leisure in this decadent, self-absorbed culture than in the past. Just think of how much more exciting video games are now than when Pac-man on Atari was all there was.
This article is bringing us back to upholding singleness as a legitimate and even vital part of the body of Christ as a means for building up the body. If any part of the human body is not functioning, the whole body suffers. So, when the singles, a necessary part of the church body, are not living up to the call to which God designed singleness, the whole church will suffer. Some of those who will suffer are the moms of toddlers and babies who are trying to serve on committees, work in nurseries, bring people meals, when some of their work could be picked up by singles. Or, there are needs that are not being met within the church that the singles could be doing.
We’ve all heard the statement about how in the Old Testament God is a God of wrath but in the New Testament He is a God of mercy. Many Christians acknowledge this to be an entirely untrue statement of gross oversimplification. But I want to argue that Barry has made an error of the same kind. He writes:
“Third, in the Old Testament God is building his covenant people (Israel) primarily through the mechanism of physical procreation. In the New Testament God is building his people (the church) through the mechanism of spiritual regeneration.”I think this is a false dichotomy akin to the one I mentioned above (although a lot less obvious of a blunder). We have to ask ourselves if we see an either/or theme developed through the scriptures. Does God speak of himself as working primarily through one or the other, or can they go together? I do agree with Barry’s analysis that in the Old Testament there was an emphasis on the physical descendants, physical land etc. But what I don’t see is God ever revoking His plan to work through physical descendants. Instead, I see the New Testament as being more inclusive. It almost appears that Barry believes that when God radically expanded his kingdom by including us (who aren’t Jewish), he ceased working through families to expand his kingdom. For he goes on to say:
“While the Old Testament creation mandate “Be fruitful and multiply” is never reiterated in the New Testament, the Gospel mandate to “Make disciples of all nations” is there introduced.”Be fruitful and multiply doesn’t have to be reiterated because it was given many times in the Old Testament and it was never revoked. Instead, it has been added to, not replaced, by the great commission. This is one of the many ways in which the new covenant is greater than the old covenant. It’s not only that the two covenants are different, but one is actually a better covenant. By being greater, the New Covenant doesn’t remove any of the blessings and promises of the Old Covenant and replace them with different blessings and promises; but it adds to them. So I think what Barry should have written is:
In the Old Testament, God is building his covenant people primarily through the mechanism of physical procreation. But now look how amazing the New Testament is! Now God is building his people through spiritual regeneration as well! So now, not only are the married building his kingdom through raising up godly offspring, but the single people are sharing in building the kingdom through spiritual children, a concept not widely found in the Old Testament. While the Old Testament said only “Be fruitful and multiply,” the new desires that we be fruitful with physical descendants and spiritual children. This is something that the singles can share in!
How would it be a greater covenant if anything that was operative in the old was no longer operative in the new? In the OT God says:
“Did he not make them one, with a portion of the Spirit in their union? And what was the one God seeking? Godly offspring.”If we are to say that now instead of seeking godly offspring through marriage, he is seeking godly offspring through spiritual means (i.e. witnessing), aren’t we saying that God is not doing something in the new covenant that he was doing in the old?
Malachi 2:15 ESV
Barry again writes:
...marriage and procreation no longer serve the vital function in the kingdom of God as they did in ancient Israel. In the kingdom which Jesus proclaims through the gospel, marriage and procreation are neither the mechanism by which God builds his people, nor the necessary conduit to maintain one’s place within the divine blessing. (emphasis mine)To say that marriage and procreation is no longer a mechanism (at all?) by which God builds his people is a very unbiblical concept in my mind. I totally agree that it is now no longer the only mechanism, like it was in the Old Testament. But I would have a very hard time understanding how the new covenant is any greater than the old if I believed that God no longer used families as at least one of the mechanisms for building his church.
The biggest point of contention is that Barry is not acknowledging that in the new covenant, the spirit is poured out in a way that it wasn’t in the old such that the covenant has expanded and is more inclusive, not just different. Yes, singles now have a special, vital function in building God’s church that the Old Testament did not recognize, but the function of the physical family in building God’s people is neither minimized nor eliminated by the inclusion of spiritual children into God’s kingdom.