The letter of 1 Corinthians chapter 7 is about marriage. It is pretty straight forward, and full of advice on marriage, virgins, believers with unbelievers, and divorce. There are some statements though in this chapter that have puzzled me, and that I have been asked about by people before so I thought I would study it and share my finding's here.
1 Corinthians 7:10 To the married I give this charge (not I, but the Lord): the wife should not separate from her husband
1 Corinthians 7:12 To the rest I say (I, not the Lord) that if any brother has a wife who is an unbeliever, and she consents to live with him, he should not divorce her.
I have done posts in the past on marriage and divorce, so I will not go into those topics, rather, I would like to concentrate on the words in parenthesis: (not I, but the Lord) and (I, not the Lord). I am a fundamentalist and take the Bible as complete, inerrant, and the only source of absolute truth. I believe 100 percent and whole heartily that it is the Word of God to us. So, with that being said, how are we to understand what Paul means here in one verse saying the Lord commands, not Paul, and two verses later that Paul commands, not the Lord.
I have had questions posed to me about these verses before and you know nonbelievers love to use these verses for the argument that the bible is an old man-written book with merely the opinions of men only, not God. Well, these verses do imply that on the surface, but if we look into the whole of scripture we will find out that it's actually quite simple. In verse 10, Paul's says not I but the Lord, we can simply go back to the teachings of our Lord Jesus and see that He did teach on this topic. Matthew 5:31-32 “It was also said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ But I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of sexual immorality, makes her commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.
So we see that what Paul is talking about as far as marriage in verse 10 of 1 Corinthians chapter 7, Jesus has already taught us about during His earthly ministry. This whole chapter deals with marriage and this spot in the chapter is a topic Christ has taught about. However, when we look at verse 12 we see that Paul states "I not the Lord" and to that we simply look at the all the scripture again. And what you will find is that in all the gospels we do not have Jesus teaching specifically on the topic of unbelievers and believers who are living together married. This is talking about if a person becomes a believer and their spouse is not, well it is up the believer to stay and live in harmony with spouse, only is the spouse allowed to leave if they can't stand living with the Christian convert they are married to. What was happening in Corinth is there were Christians who felt they should leave their unbelieving spouses, and Paul addresses this issue along with many others in the book of 1 Corinthians. This was a young church struggling with carnality, and with the separating of their new faith in the Lord from their old idolatrous and pagan ways.
Do you remember who called Paul to be an apostle? In Acts 9 you see that Jesus Christ himself calls Paul to be an apostle on the Damascus road experience. So, unlike many liberals and progressives who distort and mock the scriptures, one can only come to the conclusion that Paul is writing not from his own feelings or opinions, rather is writing that which God appointed him to write. Therefore it is all inspired from God and the very commands of God. I do love how God will pen His words through men, yet allow their personalities and character to be in it. That is what makes the scriptures so true and reliable. An editor or someone trying to make this up would never allow many of the things in the Bible to be there.
If we as Christians cannot trust the scriptures, what is there we can trust? Paul said it best in 2 Timothy 3:16-17 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. (ESV)
We can trust God's Word, it's the only thing on this planet that contains absolute truth. When we come to verses that stump or trouble us, study it and investigate it. The answers are there to those who seek with a true and pure heart for God. I pray that we all draw closer to God reading His Word daily and obeying His commands always.