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1 Corinthians 7:10–16

“To the married I give this charge (not I, but the Lord). . . . To the rest I say (I, not the Lord) . . .” (vv. 10, 12).

Much of our study on the book of Acts this month has focused on the conversion of Saul of Tarsus, better known as the Apostle Paul (Acts 9:1–31). Paul became one of the preeminent teachers of the early church, and his writings still shape our faith and practice as part of the inspired Word of God. We have other writings from the Apostles in the New Testament, and these texts, as well as the rest of Scripture, clearly reveal to us what we must believe to be saved and the basics of what it means to please God. That does not mean that every passage of Scripture is equally clear, however. Some passages are harder to understand than others, passages that are certainly important but that do not address the essentials of the gospel. As we are learning about the Apostles in our study of Acts, it is a good idea to learn more about the Apostles’ writings and the more difficult passages therein. For the next few days, we will take a break from Acts and look at some of these texts with the help of Dr. R.C. Sproul’s teaching series Hard Sayings of the Apostles and Hard Sayings of the Bible.

One perennial issue that the church must address is the nature of Apostolic authority. Because Jesus is God incarnate and the center of the Christian faith, it can be easy to focus just on the Gospels and to neglect the rest of Scripture. Some individuals have even pitted Jesus against Paul, Peter, James, and the other Apostles, believing that they can dispense with the Epistles because they were not written by Christ.

Today’s passage has been marshaled by some people as justification for setting the teachings of Jesus against those of the Apostles. Paul does make a distinction between his words and the words of Jesus, after all. Does that mean that Paul thinks that he is not divinely inspired or that his words are of lesser authority than the words of Jesus? That cannot be the case, for the title Apostle denotes one who speaks with the same authority as the person who sent him. Thus, the Apostles speak with the authority of Jesus. Also, in 1 Corinthians 14:37, Paul acknowledges that in this letter he is writing the commands of the Lord.

Paul distinguishes between his words and Jesus’ words in 1 Corinthians 7, but not in terms of authority. He differentiates the words that Jesus spoke during His earthly ministry from those that He did not speak. All Paul means is that Jesus did not address the topic of divorcing unbelievers. Paul was speaking with divine authority; he just was not giving a teaching that Jesus delivered before His ascension.

Coram Deo Living before the face of God

Because of the unity of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, all the words of Scripture, which are inspired by the Spirit, are also the words of the Father and the Son. Therefore, all the words of the Bible are the words of Jesus, the Son of God. We cannot pit His words against the words penned by a prophet or an Apostle because He is the source of all the words in Scripture.

For further study
  • Exodus 34:27–28
  • Isaiah 6:8–13
  • Matthew 16:18–19
  • John 13:20
The bible in a year
  • 2 Samuel 12–14
  • Luke 20:1–26