I, Not the Lord

 According to Jesus, even the Old Testament procedure for divorce (Deut 24:1–4) was only a concession to the hardness of human hearts. When introducing this teaching of the Lord Jesus Christ, Paul used the formula, “I command, yet not I, but the Lord” (7:10). What he was doing was drawing attention to the fact that divorce and remarriage in general was already a matter of settled teaching. Paul did not have to command anything new. All he had to do was to point to the teachings of Jesus, “the Lord.”

The Bible’s claim for itself is that all Scripture is God-breathed (2 Tim 3:16–17) and that Scripture originated in men of God being carried along by the Holy Spirit (2 Pet 1:20–21). These words imply that inspiration extends to the words of Scripture (verbal inspiration) as well as to Scripture in all its parts (plenary inspiration) as originally written. Whatever the Bible affirms, God affirms, and God can neither deceive nor make mistakes. Consequently, Scripture is inerrant.

The objection has been raised, however, that some verses in the Bible disavow their own inspiration. One of these passages is supposed to be 1 Corinthians 7:10, 12. The contrast between these two verses is noteworthy. In verse 10, Paul states that the commandment that he is about to issue does not come from him, but from the Lord. In verse 12, however, he specifically says that in the following verses he is speaking, but not the Lord. Is Paul suggesting that part of his message is divinely inspired, but part of it is just his own good advice? Is he disavowing the inspiration of what he writes from verse 12 onward?

The answer to this question lies in the overall context of Paul’s argument. The believers at Corinth had evidently written to Paul, asking for his instruction about certain matters. Before answering their questions, Paul took advantage of the opportunity to offer a series of admonitions and instructions concerning issues that he saw within the Corinthian congregation. Only at 1 Corinthians 7:1 did he begin to respond to the questions from the church.

The first of those questions involved the value of singleness and the mutual duties between husbands and wives within the marriage relationship (7:1–9). The second question involved the permissibility of divorce and marital separation, particularly in a situation where a believer was married to an unbelieving spouse. The question that Paul was answering probably did not envision believers deliberately marrying unbelievers, but more likely addressed the problems that would arise when one marriage partner came to Christ but the other did not.

Paul’s answer to this question is divided into two parts. The first part lays out general instruction concerning divorces and separations (7:10–11). The second part addresses specifically the question of how a believer who is in a mixed marriage should behave (7:12–16).

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