Some have been incorrectly led to believe that while addressing the subject of marriage, divorce and remarriage in 1 Corinthians 7, Paul is merely expressing his own opinions, rather than the inspired commands of God. Is this true? Does Paul “cast off” the guiding hand of the Holy Spirit so that he may express his own opinions on the subject? I think upon proper reflection we will see that the answer is decidedly no. Paul does not disclaim inspiration, and is in fact setting forth binding commandments of the Lord, just as binding as if the Lord had spoken them from his own mouth.
In 1 Cor. 7:12-13, while addressing their questions about those who had become Christians after marriage, Paul says, “But to the rest say I, not the Lord: if any brother hath an unbelieving wife, and she is content to dwell with him, let him not leave her. And the woman that hath an unbelieving husband, and he is content to dwell with her, let her not leave her husband.” Paul had already dealt with the never-marrieds and the widows, then those who were married, (vs. 8 -11). This leaves only one group of people about whom they had asked: those who had become members of the church after they were married. Or, put another way, people who had gotten married before becoming Christians. Their question evidently went something like this: “Must those of us who became Christians after we were already married leave our non-Christian spouses?” That’s a good question, and we can see how it would have been uppermost on their minds in that pagan society. Becoming a Christian meant a revolutionary change of life style, and it surely disrupted many marriages.
If the non-Christian spouse refused to support his mate’s decision to obey the gospel, and then perhaps interfered with her efforts to live a faithful Christian life, it could be a most difficult situation. Also, since marriage is a joining where two become one flesh, they may have been wondering whether it becomes a sort of spiritual adultery to be married to a non-Christian. So Paul answers these questions clearly. In substance, he says Christians should remain with their nonChristian spouse as long as the non-Christian spouse will permit them to live their Christian life. This is a question which had not come up in the earthly ministry of Jesus, and it is understandable that it would not generally arise until after the church was established, and members would begin to experience life as Christians in a secular society, such as Corinth.
It is inconsistent to conclude that Paul was merely giving his opinion, since he repeatedly affirms his inspiration in this epistle, and goes so far as to say, “if any man thinks himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him take knowledge of the things which I write unto you, that they are the commandment of the Lord,” (1 Cor. 14:37). In the second chapter of the same epistle, he had gone to great lengths to explain the nature of verbal inspiration, and clearly includes himself in those inspired writers who were speaking the very mind of God. So it would be incomprehensible that, in responding to one of their important questions, he would revert to a mere uninspired adviser, giving his own fallible opinions.
Further, he reaffirms in this same discussion that he is inspired, saying in 7:40 that “he thinks that he also has the spirit of God.” Again, some have incorrectly concluded that by saying he “thinks” this, he is somehow expressing doubt or uncertainty. They argue that Paul is unsure whether he is inspired! But he expresses no such uncertainty anywhere else. In fact, he confidently asserts his own inspiration, and consistently demands their recognition of the divine origin of his teaching, (2:6-16; cf. Gal. 1:11-12).
When Paul states that he believes that he has the Spirit of God, was he mistaken? If he was mistaken about this, how can we know that he was not mistaken about other matters? If Paul was not sure that he was inspired, how can we trust any of his teaching, which clearly claims to be from God, (2 Tim. 3:16)? If Paul was uncertain about his own inspiration, how could the other apostles have been sure of theirs? Yet, they confidently affirmed inspiration (2 Pet. 2:21; 1 Jn. 1:1-2) and the Lord clearly promised them such, (Jn. 16).
Paul did not disclaim his own inspiration. He differentiated between matters the Lord had already personally addressed, and those of first impression—about which he was now writing.
-by Robert C. Veil, Jr.