CLAIM: Paul says that “all Scripture is God breathed” (2 Tim. 3:16). However, Paul says that this particular teaching on marriage is from him –not God (“I say, not the Lord…” v.12). Later, he says that he was giving his “opinion,” rather than God’s command (v.25). Are these portions of Scripture inspired or not?
RESPONSE: These comments do not invalidate Paul’s view of plenary inspiration for a number of reasons.
First, when Paul refers to “the Lord,” he is referring to the earthly ministry of the Lord Jesus. The NT often refers to Jesus as “the Lord.” For instance, in Luke 22:61, we read, “The Lord turned and looked at Peter and Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how He had told him, ‘Before a rooster crows today, you will deny Me three times’” (compare with Mt. 26:75). Here, the “word of the Lord” refers to the Lord Jesus –not God the Father. This is the sense in which Paul is writing in 1 Corinthians 7.
Second, Paul had a copy of Jesus’ words. This could be an early document, which contains Jesus’ words that would later become the four gospels (Acts 20:35; 1 Cor. 11:23ff). Paul looked through this document, and he didn’t see anything on marriage. In other words, Jesus never spoke about the subject of whether or not to get married –even though he did teach on divorce (Mt. 19).
Third, Paul differentiates between what Jesus taught on Earth, and what he is currently teaching. He distinguishes between the two. Paul writes, “But to the married I give instructions, not I, but the Lord, that the wife should not leave her husband” (1 Cor. 7:10). Of course, Jesus did teach on this (Mt. 19). However, later Paul writes, “Now concerning virgins I have no command of the Lord, but I give an opinion as one who by the mercy of the Lord is trustworthy” (1 Cor. 7:25). Of course, Jesus didn’t teach on virgins, but Paul claims that he is “trustworthy” to teach on this.
Fourth, Paul uses the word “opinion” because this subject is grey. He uses the word “opinion” because this entire section is not black and white. You can get married, if you want. He is guiding –not commanding –on this subject.
Fifth, Paul considered himself as an inspired speaker for God. Paul writes, “Things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit” (1 Cor. 2:13). Later, he writes, “The things which I write to you are the Lord’s commandment” (1 Cor. 14:37). In fact, even at the end of the chapter, Paul writes, “I also have the Spirit of God” (1 Cor. 7:40). Therefore, there is no reason to believe that Paul thought these words were uninspired.