Doctrinal Matters: Difficult Passages
“I, Not the Lord, Say...”
What did the apostle Paul mean by the statement, “But to the rest I, not the Lord, say...” (1 Corinthians 7:12)? Does this phrase indicate that what Paul subsequently wrote was uninspired?
Considering how many times Paul claimed to write and preach by inspiration of God, it is irresponsible to conclude that he was denying inspiration when addressing marriages between Christians and non-Christians (1 Corinthians 7:12-16). Earlier in this letter, Paul noted that while in Corinth, his preaching was “not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God” (2:4-5). Paul contrasted human wisdom with the wisdom and power of God, and declared that he had the latter. Later, in this same epistle, Paul wrote: “If anyone thinks himself to be a prophet or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things which I write to you are the commandments of the Lord” (14:37, emp. added; cf. 7:40). Paul also claimed inspiration in his other epistles (Galatians 1:12; 1 Thessalonians 4:8,15). Even Peter alluded to Paul’s writings as being a part of Scripture, and thus inspired (2 Peter 3:15-16).
When Paul wrote that he (rather than the Lord) was addressing a particular marriage relationship, he did not mean that he was speaking without authority from God. He simply meant that he was making application of marital truths that the Lord did not specifically expound upon while on Earth. Jesus most certainly was the Master Teacher (cf. Matthew 7:28-29; John 7:46), but He obviously did not specifically address every subject under the Sun. Thankfully, through His inspired apostles and prophets, more specific truths and applications eventually were revealed. Christians have every reason to believe that such truths originated with “the Spirit of truth,” Who guided Paul and the rest of the Bible writers “into all truth” (John 16:13).