July/August 2010 - Vol. 41

Redeeming Singleness

by Barry Danylak

The Sufficiency of Christ for the 
Covenant Blessings
In the Sinai covenant being married and having offspring played a fundamental role in fulfilling the blessings of the covenant. The fruitfulness of the womb was a direct manifestation of covenantal blessing. Moreover as the narrative of Ruth aptly illustrates, the messianic seed itself was to come through the physical procreation of individual Israelites. Physical procreation was the divinely ordained means by which God in his appointed time was going to ultimately bless the world through the provision of his Son. 

In the new covenant the picture is different. All the blessings of the new covenant come to us through Christ. He is the sufficient source. All other material blessings of creation—whether the blessings of food, clothing, shelter, monetary provision, healthy bodies, marriage, family and even life itself—all these utterly pale in comparison to the blessings that God has given to us in Christ. These blessings include our full and complete reconciliation to God himself, and our glorious inheritance as members of his eternal kingdom. Nothing, and I mean nothing, can remotely compare with the glory and weight of these new covenant blessings. To suggest that to be a fulfilled or complete Christian in the new covenant requires anything more than Christ is to deny the fundamental sufficiency of Christ as the sole vehicle of covenantal blessing.

Some explanation is needed regarding what we don’t mean. We are not saying that all else in creation save our relationship with Christ is to be disparaged as worthless and of no value. Nor are we suggesting that health, marriage, children, family, wealth, career, and so on are not also blessings of God.  Every good gift comes to us from God alone (James 1:17). What we are saying is that if heaven forbid we should lose our health, marriage, wealth, or whatever, we are no less fully blessed in Christ as children of the new covenant and fully anticipating an imperishable inheritance awaiting us in his kingdom. And if we should never find a spouse, or find ourselves unable to produce a child, or find ourselves stricken prematurely with a terminal illness, we are no less blessed of God in Christ. Unlike the Sinai covenant, in the new covenant barrenness is not a sign of reproach or disobedience. Single persons whether “eunuchs” by birth, social convention, or personal choice are no less blessed as participants in the new covenant than those with the sweetest marriage and a “quiverful” of children and grandchildren.

Looked at positively as a celebration of the complete sufficiency of Christ, singleness can be a powerful witness for the gospel. Whereas in Judaism, Islam and Mormonism being married and having children are expected norms, in Christianity they are not. In choosing a life of singleness for the sake of kingdom service, one can freely demonstrate the complete sufficiency of Christ as being a fully blessed member of the new covenant, despite being without the fulfillment of a spouse and children. This is not to say that every Christian single person consciously sees his or her singleness in this way.  Christian marriages can similarly be a powerful tool for proclaiming the gospel when the husband and wife respectively seek to model their marriage in the pattern of Christ and the church described in Ephesians 5. But not every Christian spouse consciously does so.  Likewise, one’s singleness can be a powerful testimony to the sufficiency of Christ for all things when one realizes and lives out this covenantal truth. Not every single person consciously does so, but the opportunity remains.

[This article is excerpted from Redeeming Singleness: How the Storyline of Scripture Affirms the Single Life, Chapter 4, copyright  © Barry Danylak 2010, and published by Crossway Publishers. Used with permission.]

Barry Danylak is a PhD candidate at the University of Cambridge. He holds graduate degrees in mathematics, Christian thought, and biblical exegesis and is the author of several reviews and articles. He previously served as a teacher and lay leader in single adult ministries for thirteen years while working as a member of the technical staff of AT&T Bell Laboratories. He lives in Alberta, Canada.

Redeeming Singleness: How the Storyline of Scripture Affirms the Single Life, written by Barry Danylak, and published by Crossway Publishers, Wheaton, Illinois, 256 pages, available September 30, 2010.

From publisher's catalog

Danylak rescues the conversation about singleness from the sphere of experiential teaching and brings it squarely into the realm of biblical theology, where it emerges as a legitimate reflection of the sufficiency of Christ’s redeeming act.

Though marriage and procreation were fundamental to the propogation of God’s people in Old Testament times, the New Testament affirms singleness as a calling for some Christians. Redeeming Singleness expounds a theology of singleness that shows how the blessings of the covenant are now directly mediated to believers through Christ.

Redeeming Singleness offers an in-depth examination of the redemptive history from which biblical singleness emerges. Danylak illustrates the continuity of this affirmation of singleness by showing how the Old Testament creation mandate and the New Testament kingdom mandate must both be understood in light of God’s plan of redemption through spiritual rebirth in Christ.

As the trend toward singleness in the church increases, the need for constructive theological reflection likewise grows. Redeeming Singleness meets this need, providing encouragement to those who are single or ministering to singles and challenging believers from all walks of life to reflect more deeply on the sufficiency of Christ.


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