Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
September 1, 1955

Did Paul Deny His Inspiration?

Robert H. Bunting, Beaufort, South Carolina

When men begin to speak of certain parts of the Bible as uninspired, they often refer to I Corinthians chapter seven as an example. The verses usually used to teach the theory of partial inspiration are 6, 12, and 25. An example of this idea of partial inspiration is found in Albert Barnes' Commentary on I Corinthians. By the large Mr. Barnes is a conservative commentator, and one with recognized ability. Therefore it is all the more surprising to find him discussing I Corinthians 7:6 in the following manner. "Paul here does not claim to be under inspiration in these directions which he specifies." In giving a loose translation of the verse, Mr. Barnes has Paul saying, "I do not claim in this to be under the influence of inspiration; and my counsel here may be regarded, or not as you may be able to receive it." Others denying inspiration for I Corinthians 7 use the same interpretation as Albert Barnes.

The trouble with this interpretation is it does not fit the passage. Paul is not declaring a lack of inspiration for this part of the word, but uses the term "permission" with reference to the readers rather than himself. The American Standard Version translates the same word "concession." "But this I say by way of concession, not of commandment". Paul is not speaking of a lack of inspiration, but is pointing out his statements here are in the form of advice rather than commandment. Macknight brings this out very well in his translation. "But this which follows I speak as an advice, and not as an injunction." You will notice Macknight believes the sixth verse has reference to the seventh, while many other commentators believe it refers to the fifth. It makes no difference whether Paul is speaking of the preceding verse or the following; he is still not denying inspiration for this part of the chapter. Since the passage does not deny inspiration, and Paul has plainly stated what he has written has come by revelation (Eph. 3:3-5; I Cor. 14:37), it is clear this "advice" is as much inspired as any of Paul's writings. In the light of this fact, it is hard to see why anyone would want to prove a part of that written by Paul uninspired.

Another passage taken as an example of so called "uninspired writings" is verse 12. The words "not the Lord" are often construed to indicate a lack of inspiration. However, the phrase, "To the rest say I, not the Lord..." is not a declaration of uninspired writing, but a contrast in the revelation received. In verse 10 Paul says, "I give charge, yea not I, but the Lord..." This phrase is used to signify that which the Lord has commanded in person. This command, coming during the life of Christ, is found in Matthew 19:9. Although the truth expressed in verse 10 was given by the Lord while here on the earth, that which is expressed in verse 12 had come through Paul. The fact that some of Christ's commands were given directly by Him, and some were given later through the ambassadors of Christ is brought out in John 14:26. The Holy Spirit was to bring to the apostles' "remembrance" what Christ had said, as well as "teach" them "all things" not previously known. Instead of denying inspiration, the writer is pointing out Christ had given a command concerning marriage (verse 10) and now Paul (by inspiration, I Cor. 14:37) was giving a command about a brother with an unbelieving wife. To use this passage in denying inspiration would be to deny what God affirms — the verbal inspiration of the New Testament (I Cor. 2:10-13).

I Corinthians 7:25 is also held up as an example of a passage teaching a lack of inspiration. This is a strange passage to use, for it affirms inspiration rather than denies it. "Now concerning virgins I have no commandment from the Lord; yet I give my judgment, as one that hath obtained mercy of the Lord to be faithful." Paul is contrasting "commandment" with "judgment" much the same as he had contrasted "the Lord" and "not the Lord" in verses 10 and 12, but he is not denying the fact that the "judgment" is inspired. To deny this judgment is inspired, is to deny a complete inspiration of the New Testament.

The fact that this judgment has been recorded through inspiration can be seen from the later part of the verse. Paul speaks of himself as "one that hath obtained mercy of the Lord to be faithful". Chapter four and verse one of the second Corinthian letter makes it clear "mercy" and "faithfulness" have reference to Paul's handling of the revelation received. "Therefore seeing we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we faint not." The "we" refers to the apostles (see verse 7), and the "ministry" is their responsibility to reveal God's will. As a result of God's mercy they were faithful in carrying out this responsibility. The judgment of I Corinthians 7:25 is a part of that over which Paul is faithful. Thus I Corinthians 7:25 affirms inspiration rather than denies it. Paul lets us know this judgment is coming from an inspired man — "one that hath obtained mercy of the Lord to be faithful."

Macknight's commentary on this passage is very good. This comment is found on page 165 of his book Apostolic Epistles.

"Now, concerning virgins of either sex, who are in their father's families, I have not a commandment of the Lord, delivered during his ministry, to set before you; but I give my decision concerning them, as having obtained the mercy of inspiration from the Lord, to enable me to be faithful in all the precepts I deliver."

On the same page Macknight has a note which gives a further comment upon this passage.

"2. As having obtained mercy — The apostle, in other passages, terms his inspiration and supernatural gifts mercy, II Cor. 4:1 and grace, Gal. 2:9. Wherefore as by this mercy he was enabled to be a faithful apostle and steward of the mysteries of God, his judgment was not a judgment of advice, such as any wise man might give, but an inspired decision."

"All scripture is given by inspiration of God..." These words of II Timothy 3:16 apply to the seventh chapter of I Corinthians as much as they do to the rest of God's word. For one to deny the inspiration of I Corinthians seven is to set one passage against another and force the apostle Paul to deny inspiration. Let us ever keep in mind the writings of Paul are the "commandments of the Lord". (I Cor. 14:37)