Question: Why would Paul advise people not to be married?


Question: Why would Paul advise people not to be married?

Paul is not condemning marriage in this chapter, but is replying to a problem regarding missionaries who desire to become married

Paul says that he wishes (see 1 Corinthians 7:7) that all men were as he was. If Paul was either a widower or a married man traveling in the ministry without his wife, why would he want others to follow his example?

One reason for Paul's advice in these matters is found in verse 29 [1 Corinthians 7:29], where he states,

this I say, brethren, the time is short: it remaineth, that both they that have wives be as though they had none.

So the reason for his counsel about marriage is that the time is short. Paul also says in 1 Corinthians 7:26

I suppose therefore that this is good for the present distress, I say, that it is good for a man so to be.

Paul does not say what the present distress is, but whatever the problem was, he is clear that his advice is in regard to a situation that was temporary. When the present crisis was over, we would expect Paul’s advice to go back to the commandment explained in verse 2 – that every man should have his own wife and every woman her own husband.

Actually, Joseph Smith suggested what the term "the present distress" referred to when he amended 1 Cor 7:29 in the Joseph Smith Version to read

For this I say, brethren, the time that remaineth is but short, that ye shall be sent forth unto the ministry. Even they who have wives, shall be as though they had none; for ye are called and chosen to do the Lord’s work.

If Joseph Smith's understanding is correct, then, contrary to the common interpretation, Paul is not condemning marriage in this chapter, but is replying to a problem regarding missionaries who desire to become married. His advice is that while they are on their missions (and he declared that the time for missionary work is short), and in view of the present distress (likely the need for committed missionaries), they should be concerned with the work of the Lord and not with family or personal matters. He then gives the reason for this admonition. He explains in 1 Corinthians 7:32 that the unmarried saints (and those who are as though unmarried) care for the things of the Lord, while a married man puts other things before the work of the Lord (1 Corinthians 7:33). Paul is simply reminding those who have been called to God’s work to put that calling first, even before earthly matters.

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